Natalie Wolchover in Quanta:
In 1974, Stephen Hawking calculated that black holes’ secrets die with them. Random quantum jitter on the spherical outer boundary, or “event horizon,” of a black hole will cause the hole to radiate particles and slowly shrink to nothing. Any record of the star whose violent contraction formed the black hole — and whatever else got swallowed up after — then seemed to be permanently lost.
Hawking’s calculation posed a paradox — the infamous “black hole information paradox” — that has motivated research in fundamental physics ever since. On the one hand, quantum mechanics, the rulebook for particles, says that information about particles’ past states gets carried forward as they evolve — a bedrock principle called “unitarity.” But black holes take their cues from general relativity, the theory that space and time form a bendy fabric and gravity is the fabric’s curves. Hawking had tried to apply quantum mechanics to particles near a black hole’s periphery, and saw unitarity break down.
So do evaporating black holes really destroy information, meaning unitarity is not a true principle of nature? Or does information escape as a black hole evaporates?