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← Susskind Quashes Hawking in Quarrel Over Quantum Quandary

Susskind Quashes Hawking in Quarrel Over Quantum Quandary - Comments

HourglassMemory's Avatar Comment 1 by HourglassMemory

This sort of thing actually excites me.
It makes the pursuit of the truth out there more exciting. It becomes more of a challenge and interesting.

I don't mind at all if Hawking's views are questioned. It's awkward seeing HIM being questioned, because he's put on a pedestal of academical achievement... but he could still get a few things wrong.

This conflict bewteen Susskind and Hawking is not a new thing to me. I always like seeing what both of them have to say.

Wed, 09 Jul 2008 19:39:00 UTC | #196865

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 2 by mordacious1

Debate in this area is good, I will acquire Susskind's book. I think though, that I lean towards Hawking's views about black holes.


[edit] The Holographic Principle is so new that I haven't quite got a grasp of it yet. Guess I'll "have to read the book".

Wed, 09 Jul 2008 19:44:00 UTC | #196867

DalaiDrivel's Avatar Comment 3 by DalaiDrivel


Like Startrek?!

No way! Yippee!

I'm kidding.

Interesting stuff about black holes. I read recently that the mathematical equations for black holes are the same for shower drains and waterfalls.

I found that pretty neat.

I certainly did not know however that black holes eventually evaporated and disappeared...

I can imagine a religite's spin...

"Have you ever heard of a shower drain that evaporated?"

Wed, 09 Jul 2008 20:00:00 UTC | #196869

sane1's Avatar Comment 4 by sane1

Cosmic landscape is a great book. I'll have to find his new one...

The Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics

Wed, 09 Jul 2008 20:35:00 UTC | #196874

Rational_G's Avatar Comment 5 by Rational_G

A few observations:

1. The California Literary Review deciding who's quashing who?

2. Susskind is willing to abandon the idea of experimental verification in his zeal for string theory.

3. The anthropic principle is not science.

Wed, 09 Jul 2008 20:54:00 UTC | #196877

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 6 by mordacious1

Didn't Susskind get in a big to-do with Lee Smolin about the anthropic principle?

He also has a lot of his career wrapped up in string theory, which I've always liked, but some other posters here have stated it's going down the tube. If string theory goes, alot of Susskind's work goes with it.

He's making a big thing about Hawking being wrong, but I'm not sure that's correct. I think, if I remember, that Hawking agreed that information is not "totally" lost after a black hole evaporates.

I know all you physicists out there will point out where I'm wrong, the argument between these two is out of my league, I'm afraid.

Wed, 09 Jul 2008 21:20:00 UTC | #196879

phil rimmer's Avatar Comment 7 by phil rimmer

black holes are not information-erasers but information-scramblers.

But is the scrambling a coding process or a random process? If the latter, the the information is erased. Or am I missing something?

Wed, 09 Jul 2008 21:53:00 UTC | #196886

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 8 by mordacious1


Hawking believed, as I understand it, that when black holes evaporate, no trace of the information survives. Susskind believes that the information survives, just in a different form. Does that make sense?

[edit] I think what Susskind is referring to is Hawking Radiation, and if he is, I don't see how that could amount to enough to sustain the information in a black hole.

Wed, 09 Jul 2008 22:29:00 UTC | #196893

shaunfletcher's Avatar Comment 9 by shaunfletcher

Everything always has to be a 'war' with some people doesnt it?

Wed, 09 Jul 2008 22:46:00 UTC | #196896

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 10 by Steve Zara

The holographic principle sounds pretty weird, but has a sound theoretical basis.

For example, the highest possible entropy in a volume of space is if that volume is a black hole. The entropy of a black hole is proportional to the surface area, not the volume.

However, what Susskind says is a bit far out. Just because one may be able to model the universe as a hologram, does not mean it is.

Wed, 09 Jul 2008 23:16:00 UTC | #196903

YssiBoo's Avatar Comment 11 by YssiBoo

The problem with string theory (as I understand it via Lee Smolin) is that it is a background dependent theory; the outcome of it depends on which background space you put it in. This excerpt from wikipedia summarises Smolins view:

The previous two issues are related to a more profound problem: string theory might not be truly fundamental in its present formulation because it is background-dependent â€" string theory describes perturbative expansions about fixed spacetime backgrounds. Some see background independence as a fundamental requirement of a theory of quantum gravity, particularly since General Relativity is already background independent. In response to this criticism, some string theorists disagree that background-independence should be a guiding principle[citation needed], while others hope that M-theory, or a non-perturbative treatment of string theory (such as string field theory) will turn out to be background-independent, giving as solutions the many different versions of string theory with the different backgrounds.

The problem with not knowing what string theory predicts in terms of actual experiments must be solved.

Keep in mind that although I have recently obtained my master degree in physics, it is only within applied physics so I have little first-hand knowledge of the field of theoretical physics. My knowledge of the subject comes mainly from reading Smolin, Brian Greene and Stephen Hawking. They follow the 'each equation halves the book sales'-rule so my knowledge is therefore conceptual rather than technical.

Wed, 09 Jul 2008 23:22:00 UTC | #196907

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 12 by Steve Zara

Comment #207496 by YssiBoo

The problem with string theory (as I understand it via Lee Smolin) is that it is a background dependent theory; the outcome of it depends on which background space you put it in.

I have read Roger Penrose make the same point.

Regarding the Smolin quote:
while others hope that M-theory, or a non-perturbative treatment of string theory (such as string field theory) will turn out to be background-independent,

That is another problem with String Theory - it is based on a lot of hope, rather than success.

Wed, 09 Jul 2008 23:33:00 UTC | #196912

bujin's Avatar Comment 13 by bujin

I read Michael Talbot's "The Holographic Universe" a few years ago, and it was very interesting. Right up to the point where he started using it to argue for all sorts of paranormal occurrences like time-slips, ghosts, etc...

Wed, 09 Jul 2008 23:55:00 UTC | #196916

YssiBoo's Avatar Comment 14 by YssiBoo

Steve Zara:

I think the concept of string theory is fantastic. The idea that you could potentially describe everything we see in the universe by the vibrations of a single entity is very intriguing.

In this video from TEDTalks Brian Greene (at the very end) describes a possible test for string theory which the LHC may be able to perform. The argument goes that energy may leak from "our" dimensions into the other dimensions so that we measure less energy from the collisions than we should.

But until they have conclusive evidence that string theory actually describes the world and is not just fancy mathematics, I am on the fence.

Wed, 09 Jul 2008 23:56:00 UTC | #196917

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 15 by mordacious1


That's funny, I just went to look for Talbot's book to see where the bookmark is. I quit reading after awhile too, just too far out there. The book is obviously lost in my stacks now.


Yes, I find that "each equation halves the book sales rule" applies to a lot of physics books on the market. If they would just have an appendix for the math, it would satisfy everyone (sigh).


I agree with your summation of String Theory. It is just so damn beautiful, one has to hope it is reality, but lately it appears to be going nowhere, even with Susskind pushing it. I've heard him referred to as one of the fathers of String Theory, which is a little BSy to begin with. He's done a lot of work on it in the last 2 decades, but I wouldn't call him the dad.

Thu, 10 Jul 2008 00:28:00 UTC | #196922

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 16 by Steve Zara

Comment #207511 by mordacious1

I don't really consider it beautiful. It doesn't to me have the "feel" of what a truly fundamental theory should be like. I doesn't get right down to the ultimate questions of, for example, why is there uncertainty in the universe? A string, or brane, with properties such as tension does not have a truly fundamental "feel" to me.

The kind of theory that does have that feel (although it is almost certainly wrong) is that of Mark Hadley, in which particles are knots in spacetime. The looping of time is the thing that gives rise to quantum uncertainty.

That is the kind of theory that I would like to see: It gives some idea of why there is quantum mechanics at all.

Thu, 10 Jul 2008 00:38:00 UTC | #196924

Lev-CapeTown's Avatar Comment 17 by Lev-CapeTown

You gotta love science> Answer one question and a milion new ones arise. Its so difficult to comprehend quantum physics I wish someone could break it down into a series of analogies that, each on their own, can be comprehended. Would be a good idea for a book.... You listening Steven?

Thu, 10 Jul 2008 00:57:00 UTC | #196935

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 18 by mordacious1


Yes, I've read this article about Hadley's theory before. I've also seen something similar in a book about String Theory. It is an interesting concept.

What I meant by beautiful, is that, if true String Theory would solve some essential problems in QM, and could have led to GUT. Some of the research and models are pretty cool.

Thu, 10 Jul 2008 01:15:00 UTC | #196946

fretmeister's Avatar Comment 19 by fretmeister

You know - if there is a god... then I'm going to break his face for not giving me a brain smart enough to do that kind of awesome research for a living.

This is the very best type of competition - 2 amazing intellects locked in a battle to understand the universe - never being afraid to challenge themselves or each other. It is wonderful.

On the other hand it reminds me that my job is shit. :)

Thu, 10 Jul 2008 01:56:00 UTC | #196980

Styrer-'s Avatar Comment 20 by Styrer-

The short answer is that Stephen was wrong and I was right. But that is a tremendous oversimplification and I would not like history to see it that way.

Is this not rather like saying 'I would not like you to think of a pink elephant'? :)

Fascinating stuff, in any case.


Thu, 10 Jul 2008 02:11:00 UTC | #196992

Donald's Avatar Comment 21 by Donald

Very interesting article. However, I think holograms from the edges of the universe are only one possibility. Another is that there is at least one layer of mechanism underneath the existing standard model and QM, of which we are as yet unaware. (I'm not criticising Susskind - not qualified anyway - just pointing out that, as yet, these theories, like string theory, are primarily speculation with very little that could be called observational evidence. Or is Susskind's holographic principle now mainstream, and it's just me that's not keeping up?)

Anyway, this strikes me as a thread that Oystein Elgaroy might have something to say on.

If you read this Oystein, I asked some followup questions after you replied to my question about negative gravitational energy on the "Hawkings Explosive Theory" thread. I don't know whether they are easy to answer or not, but you seem a good person to ask. Did you see the comment and the questions?,2795,-Stephen-Hawkings-explosive-new-theory,Telegraph,page5#205122

Thu, 10 Jul 2008 02:15:00 UTC | #196995

rod-the-farmer's Avatar Comment 22 by rod-the-farmer

I get a little uneasy when I read the author saying "Just buy my book" so many times.

Thu, 10 Jul 2008 02:21:00 UTC | #196996

j.mills's Avatar Comment 23 by j.mills

Shame to do all that teasing and then say so little about the holographic projection business. Hopefully someone will tell us more in the Book Nook! :)

Limerick Summary News Service!

Susskind swats Hawking with zeal!
(You'd think they could just make a deal.)
Radiation's ejected,
Information's projected,
And the universe isn't quite real.

Thu, 10 Jul 2008 02:32:00 UTC | #197002

Apathy personified's Avatar Comment 24 by Apathy personified

Peter Woit (of 'Not Even Wrong' fame) posted a mini review of this book on his blog -

As with anything string theory, the maths may work - but that doesn't mean there's a connection to reality.
I think the word 'quashes' is a bit over the top - Also, i thought the main beef was with John Preskill, who Hawking gave a copy of the Total Baseball: The Ultimate Baseball Encyclopedia when he changed his stance.

Thu, 10 Jul 2008 02:34:00 UTC | #197005

j.mills's Avatar Comment 25 by j.mills

I expect they used 'quashes' for the alliteration. Could have gone with 'queries' though.

Thu, 10 Jul 2008 02:50:00 UTC | #197013

fides_et_ratio's Avatar Comment 26 by fides_et_ratio

I'm teaching arguments for/against the existence of God to my year 11 classes. I need to know more physics to outline the 'First Cause' explanation. A member of the science department has directed me towards Bill Bryson's book. Is this a good start or are there any better suggestions?

PS Nice to see you back Steve. Have been an infrequent visitor of late, and noticed your absence before that. Hope all's well, I had wondered if all this religious enquiry had led you back down the Via Appia.

Thu, 10 Jul 2008 04:38:00 UTC | #197093

windweaver's Avatar Comment 27 by windweaver

Susskind's holographic universe ideas have been pounced on by the New Age movement. This article is typical:

Thu, 10 Jul 2008 04:42:00 UTC | #197095

Johnny O's Avatar Comment 28 by Johnny O

Stephen said that when a bit of information falls into a black hole it is permanently lost to the outside

This isn't new, Hawking has admitted he was wrong on this. Him and Roger Penrose had a bet about it years ago and he has since paid up. (A brand new set of Encyclopedia Britannica)

Thu, 10 Jul 2008 04:54:00 UTC | #197112

RobDinsmore's Avatar Comment 29 by RobDinsmore

But is the scrambling a coding process or a random process? If the latter, the the information is erased. Or am I missing something?

It's not really a coding process. Entropy just tells you how many ways a system could be rearranged and still be the same system. I think the simplified version of the idea is that the information is all the state variables needed to describe the black hole. Things like angular momentum, total spin, ie any quantum mechanical quantity that would appear to disappear in a singularity is still recorded in the black hole's entropy. When the black hole evaporates the particles emitted decrease the entropy in a way that can be accounted for.

Thu, 10 Jul 2008 04:58:00 UTC | #197119

Tyler Durden's Avatar Comment 30 by Tyler Durden


Check out:

Michio Kaku. Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the Tenth Dimension. New York: Oxford University Press

Kaku hosts some superb programs on Discovery/BBC with regard to physics.

Also, if you can find it:

Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose, The Nature of Space and Time (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1996

Thu, 10 Jul 2008 05:04:00 UTC | #197123