Hawking’s Final Quest: Saving Quantum Theory from Black Holes

Adrian Cho | Science

When Albert Einstein died in 1955, he had spent decades on a lonely, quixotic quest: to derive a theory of everything that would unify gravity and electromagnetism—even though physicists discovered new nuclear forces as he worked. Stephen Hawking, the great British physicist who died last week at age 76, also worked until the end. But he focused on perhaps the most important problem in his area of physics, one his own work had posed: How do black holes preserve information encoded in the material that falls into them?

“He was clearly working on this big loose end, which really represents a profound crisis for physics,” says Steven Giddings, a quantum physicist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. In a final bid to solve it, Hawking and two colleagues proposed a way for information to end up scribbled on a black hole’s inscrutable verge, although others are skeptical.

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(Image: By Vadim Sadovski | Shutterstock)
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