Stephen Hawking believes he’s solved a major theoretical problem regarding black holes. And I’ve decided to write about it in the hope that someone can explain it to me.

Hawking’s new theory involves what scientists call the “information paradox.” As Rachel Feltman of the Washington Post explains:

In a nutshell, the paradox involves the fact that information about the star that formed a black hole seems to be lost inside it, presumably disappearing when the black hole inevitably disappears. These things cannot be lost, according to the way we think the universe works, and physicists generally believe that they aren’t really lost. But where does the information go when the black hole that’s absorbed it goes kaput?

Basically, unless this paradox can be explained, our current understanding of the universe does not make sense. However, Hawking thinks he has an answer, which is great news, because no one wants to go back and start solving the mysteries of the universe from scratch.

“I propose that the information is stored not in the interior of the black hole as one might expect, but in its boundary, the event horizon,” Hawking said while speaking at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. “The information is stored in a super translation of the horizon that the ingoing particles [from the source star] cause. The information about ingoing particles is returned, but in a chaotic and useless form. For all practical purposes the information is lost.”

According to Feltman, Hawking went on to compare the process to burning an encyclopedia and keeping the ashes. Technically, all the information is still there, but it’s no longer of any use.

It’s sad that Hawking has to explain things in terms of book burning in order for mouth-breathing idiots like me to understand. But I’ll be damned if it didn’t work! Thanks, Steve!

(Source: The Washington Post)

Jason Mathews is Internetting way too hard. Follow him at @jasonmathews316.