The British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking is perhaps best known for his landmark work on black holes and, by extension, how they affect our understanding of the Universe. In the years before his death in 2018, he was still immersed in black hole theory, endeavoring to solve a puzzle that his own work had given rise to several decades earlier.

To put it succinctly, in the 1970s, Hawking discovered that black holes appear to be capable of destroying physical information – a characteristic very much at odds with contemporary quantum mechanics. Adapted from a 2016 paper that Hawking co-authored with the US theoretical physicist Andrew Strominger and the UK theoretical physicist Malcolm Perry, this animation offers a sophisticated-but-digestible—and frequently quite clever—visual presentation of Hawking’s final work, which proposes one potential solution to the “information paradox.”

(watch the video)