New Horizons in Science

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Can computer science help physicists resolve the firewall paradox?

Sunday, October 11, 2015 -
3:30pm to 4:30pm

A bit like a black hole itself, a lively debate about something called the firewall paradox is inexorably sucking in theoretical physicists who venture near it. And now it's tugging at computer scientists, who may have novel approaches to help physicists unscramble the problem. The firewall paradox is a challenge to quantum mechanics uncovered in 2012 by a group of physicists who showed that black holes may generate unresolvable contradictions between fundamental laws of physics. One of the creative suggested solutions involved quantum computing, which connects the laws of quantum mechanics to information theory and ideas about computational complexity. Scott Aaronson, a computer scientist, is now collaborating with physicist Leonard Susskind on a thought experiment that extends this work, exploring the complexity dimensions of decoding the radiation coming from a black hole. To Aaronson, a black hole is not only an extreme test of all the laws of physics but the most compact hard disk imaginable—one from which it's extremely hard to retrieve information. Social media hashtag: #BlackHoleFail


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