Under classical physics, as Preskill explained on Caltech’s Quantum Frontiers blog, Alice and Bob can both have copies of the same newspaper, which gives them access to the same information. Sharing this bond of sorts makes them “strongly correlated.” A third person, “Carrie,” can also buy a copy of that newspaper, which gives her equal access to the information it contains, thereby forging a correlation with Bob without weakening his correlation with Alice. In fact, any number of people can buy a copy of that same newspaper and become strongly correlated with one another.
But with quantum correlations, that is not the case. For Bob and Alice to be maximally entangled, their respective newspapers must have the same orientation, whether right side up, upside down or sideways. So long as the orientation is the same, Alice and Bob will have access to the same information. “Because there is just one way to read a classical newspaper and lots of ways to read a quantum newspaper, the quantum correlations are stronger than the classical ones,” Preskill said. That makes it impossible for Bob to become as strongly entangled with Carrie as he is with Alice without sacrificing some of his entanglement with Alice.
This is problematic because there is more than one kind of entanglement associated with a black hole, and under the AMPS hypothesis, the two come into conflict. There is an entanglement between Alice, the in-falling observer, and Bob, the outside observer, which is needed to preserve No Drama. But there is also asecond entanglement that emerged from another famous paradox in physics, one related to the question of whether information is lost in a black hole. In the 1970s, Stephen Hawking realized that black holes aren’t completely black. While nothing might seem amiss to Alice as she crosses the event horizon, from Bob’s perspective, the horizon would appear to be glowing like a lump of coal — a phenomenon now known as Hawking radiation.
The entanglement of particles in the No Drama scenario: Bob, outside the event horizon (dotted lines), is entangled with Alice just inside the event horizon, at point (b). Over time Alice (b') drifts toward the singularity (squiggly line) while Bob (b") remains outside the black hole.
Image: Courtesy of Joseph Polchinski
This radiation results from virtual particle pairs popping out of the quantum vacuum near a black hole. Normally they would collide and annihilate into energy, but sometimes one of the pair is sucked into the black hole while the other escapes to the outside world. The mass of the black hole, which must decrease slightly to counter this effect and ensure that energy is still conserved, gradually winks out of existence. How fast it evaporates depends on the black hole’s size: The bigger it is, the more slowly it evaporates.
Hawking assumed that once the radiation evaporated altogether, any information about the black hole’s contents contained in that radiation would be lost. “Not only does God play dice, but he sometimes confuses us by throwing them where they can’t be seen,” he famously declared. He and the Caltech physicist Kip Thorne even made a bet with a dubious Preskill in the 1990s about about whether or not information is lost in a black hole. Preskill insisted that information must be conserved; Hawking and Thorne believed that information would be lost. Physicists eventually realized that it is possible to preserve the information at a cost: As the black hole evaporates, the Hawking radiation must become increasingly entangled with the area outside the event horizon. So when Bob observes that radiation, he can extract the information.
But what happens if Bob were to compare his information with Alice’s after she has passed beyond the event horizon? “That would be disastrous,” Bousso explained, “because Bob, the outside observer, is seeing the same information in the Hawking radiation, and if they could talk about it, that would be quantum Xeroxing, which is strictly forbidden in quantum mechanics.”
Physicists, led by Susskind, declared that the discrepancy between these two viewpoints of the black hole is fine so long as it is impossible for Alice and Bob to share their respective information. This concept, called complementarity, simply holds that there is no direct contradiction because no single observer can ever be both inside and outside the event horizon. If Alice crosses the event horizon, sees a star inside that radius and wants to tell Bob about it, general relativity has ways of preventing her from doing so.