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 March 13, 2018

Superconductors may shed light on the black hole information paradox

Insights into a black hole paradox may come from a down-to-Earth source.

Superconductors, materials through which electrons can move freely without resistance, may share some of the physics of black holes, physicist Sreenath Kizhakkumpurath Manikandan of the University of Rochester in New York reported March 7 at a meeting of the American Physical Society. The analogy between the two objects could help scientists understand what happens to information that gets swallowed up in a black hole’s abyss.

When a black hole gobbles up particles, information about the particles’ properties is seemingly trapped inside. According to quantum mechanics, such information cannot be destroyed. Physicist Stephen Hawking determined in 1974 that black holes slowly evaporate over time, emitting what’s known as Hawking radiation before eventually disappearing. That fact implies a conundrum known as the black hole information paradox (SN: 5/31/14, p. 16): When the black hole evaporates, where does the information go?

One possible solution, proposed in 2007 by physicists Patrick Hayden of Stanford University and John Preskill of Caltech, is that the black hole could act like a mirror, with information about infalling particles being reflected outward, imprinted in the Hawking radiation. Now, Manikandan and physicist Andrew Jordan, also of the University of Rochester, report that a process that occurs at the interface between a metal and a superconductor is analogous to the proposed black hole mirror.