How Black Holes Nearly Ruined Time

Black holes are mystifying objects that have captivated our imaginations since their existence was first proposed. The most striking feature of a black hole is its event horizon—a boundary from within that nothing can escape. Objects can cross the event horizon from outside to inside, but once they do, they can never cross back, nor can any information about them; anything that crosses the event horizon of a black hole is cut off entirely from the outside universe.

For many years, the existence of black holes seemed to threaten a fundamental tenet of modern physics called the second law of thermodynamics. This law helps us to distinguish the past from the future, thus defining an “arrow of time.” To understand why black holes posed this threat, we need to discuss time reversal and entropy.

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