The mental image of a singularity migrating from deep within a black hole to the event horizon provoked at least one exasperated outburst during the Stanford workshop, a reaction Bousso finds understandable. “We should be upset,” he said. “This is a terrible blow to general relativity.”
Yet for all his skepticism about firewalls, he is thrilled to be part of the debate. “This is probably the most exciting thing that’s happened to me since I entered physics,” he said. “It’s certainly the nicest paradox that’s come my way, and I’m excited to be working on it.”
Alice’s death by firewall seems destined to join the ranks of classic thought experiments in physics. The more physicists learn about quantum gravity, the more different it appears to be from our current picture of how the universe works, forcing them to sacrifice one cherished belief after another on the altar of scientific progress. Now they must choose to sacrifice either unitarity or No Drama, or undertake a radical modification of quantum field theory. Or maybe it’s all just a horrible mistake. Any way you slice it, physicists are bound to learn something new.
Reprinted with permission from Simons Science News, an editorially-independent division of SimonsFoundation.org whose mission is to enhance public understanding of science by covering research developments and trends in mathematics and the computational, physical and life sciences.