Stephen Hawking just published a new solution to the black hole information paradox

Last year, British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking hinted at research he and a couple of colleagues were working on that could solve the infamous black hole information paradox, which states that information about matter that gets destroyed by a black hole, according to Einstein’s general theory of relativity, is supposed to be fundamentally conserved, according to our understanding of quantum mechanics.

Now, that paper has finally been posted online, and as hinted by Hawking back in August, the solution to this paradox could be black hole ‘hairs’ that form on the event horizon, making a kind of two-dimensional holographic imprint of whatever’s been sucked in. He says the existence of these hairs is provable, and their existence could win him a Nobel Prize.

But let’s back up a bit, because there’s a lot to wrap your head around here.

First, the black hole information paradox. The problem with black holes is that according to Einstein’s general theory of relativity, because of what we know about how gravity interacts with the Universe and everything in it, all information that crosses the boundary of a black hole – called the event horizon – is lost forever. Not even light is protected from this, which is how black holes got their name.

Then in the 1970s, Hawking proposed that the Universe is filled with ‘virtual particles’ that, according to what we know about how quantum mechanics works, blink in and out of existence and annihilate each other as soon as they come in contact – except if they happen to appear on either side of a black hole’s event horizon. As Devin Powell explains over at, in this scenario, one particle gets swallowed up, and the other radiates away into space.

“The escaping radiation steals energy from the black hole as it departs, so that the black hole loses mass over time. It eventually evaporates out of existence,”says Powell. “According to Hawking’s calculations, the lingering radiation – the only trace of a vanished black hole – contains no useful information about how the black hole formed and what it ate.”

So when a black hole disappears, according to what Hawking proposes, information is lost forever, which is a problem, because quantum mechanics states that information can never be lost. Hence the paradox.

black-hole-infoEthan Siegel/Starts with a Bang

In 1973, American theoretical physicist John Wheeler coined the phase, “black holes have no hair”, which went on to spark a great debate over whether black holes were ‘bald’ and featureless, or had ‘hair’.

The ‘hair vs no hair’ debate goes like this: if black holes are bald, it means there will be no discernible difference between any of them, regardless of what information they’ve sucked up – they all have the same mass, electric charge, and angular momentum, and no other distinguishing features.

On the other hand, if black holes have hair – or as Michael Byrne describes them at Motherboard, “minute deformities in space-time” – then we can obtain some kind of information about what an individual black hole has consumed.

Hawking has been arguing on the ‘hair’ side for years, and is now saying that it can solve the black hole information paradox.

“I propose that the information is stored not in the interior of the black hole as one might expect, but on its boundary, the event horizon,” Hawking said at a conference back in August 2015. “The message of this lecture is that black holes ain’t as black as they are painted. They are not the eternal prisons they were once thought. Things can get out of a black hole both on the outside and possibly come out in another universe.”

In the paper, which has been published online at, Hawking and his colleagues, University of Cambridge physicist Malcolm J. Perry and Harvard University physicist Andrew Strominger, argue that they’ve made some concrete, provable steps towards explaining how information can escape a black hole after being sucked in.

“We show that when a charged particle goes in, it adds a soft photon to the black hole. So it adds ‘hair’ to the black hole,” Strominger told Seth Fletcher atScientific American.

The idea is that when charged particles get sucked into a black hole, their information leaves behind a kind of two-dimensional holographic imprint on the event horizon. This means that while all the physical components of an object would be so totally obliterated by a black hole encounter, its blueprint lives on.

So as light particles (photons) are ejected by the black hole – a phenomenon known as Hawking radiation – they can pick up the information blueprint from the event horizon and carry it with them back into the Universe. “The information about ingoing particles is returned, but in a chaotic and useless form,” Hawking said in August. “This resolves the information paradox. For all practical purposes, the information is lost.”

We heard all this back in August, but now that the paper has been published online, Hawking, Perry, and Strominger’s arguments can undergo the process of peer review. As the paper has yet to be submitted to a scientific journal, the peer-review process will remain informal, with scientists welcomed to submit their criticisms.

And we’re already starting to hear them, as Devin Powell explains over at

“No one has yet reported a mistake in the calculations, but concerns have begun to pop up that the theory is at best incomplete. Sabine Hossenfelder of the Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics questions how much information the proposed soft hair could encode. She also points out that the paper does not explain how the hairs, which would disappear with the black hole once it evaporated, would transfer their information to the radiation that remains.”

“I am not at all convinced that the new idea proposed by Hawking, Perry, and Strominger solves the information loss problem,” Hossenfelder writes at her blog, Backreaction. “But it seems an interesting avenue that is worth further exploration.”

As Perry admitted, he, Hawking, and Strominger are not 100 percent sure if this is the right answer to the black hole information paradox, but their paper is now out there for their peers to pick over everything and help them figure it out. “We’re saying that it’s a step on the way,” he concludes.

For more info, head to Seth Fletcher’s interview with Strominger over at Scientific American, where the two discuss many particulars in the paper at great length. One thing’s for sure, while the details of the paper might be beyond the scope of the average person, they’re ensuring that today and the months ahead will be a great time to be alive if you’re a theoretical physicist.

13 Alternatives to Viagra That Won’t Fall Flat

Viagra is a multi-billion dollar blockbuster drug, but it has serious side effects. Thankfully evidence-based natural alternatives abound…

Erectile dysfunction is no trivial matter. In fact, Dr. Mercola correctly labeled it ‘the canary in the trousers,’ insofar as dysfunction ‘where it counts’ reflects body-wide endothelial dysfunction, a well known precursor to cardiovascular disease.

But putting aside its importance for overall health, the male ego depends in large part on the ability to ‘get it up,’ and when things don’t work out as planned, quite a lot can go wrong as far as intimacy is concerned. It has been said that when sexual issues emerge in a relationship, they take on 90% importance, but when they aren’t an issue, they only figure 10% in the overall success of the relationship.


Men, especially in the 35-45 range, also are faced with what is known as andropause, as the levels of key ‘erotic’ hormones such as testosterone and human growth human start to take a precipitous decline.

The pharmaceutical industry has capitalized heavily on this ‘change of life’ phase, with Viagra taking on a ‘pole position’ for several decades. But these pharmaceuticals have severe, if not sometimes deadly side effects. All the more reason why natural alternatives are in great need today.

So, what does the ‘hard evidence’ itself have to say on the topic of natural alternatives. Take a moment to look at what we have found:

  • L-arginine: #1 on the list is the amino acid l-arginine. A precursor to nitric oxide, this conditionally non-essential amino acid is especially important in times of trauma or stress. What makes is ‘conditionally essential’ is that while the body can normally produce adequate quantities, during times of stress (including burn trauma), the body is unable to produce sufficient quantities, at which time supplementation is of key importance. Also, when the arteries undergo what is called ‘endothelial dysfunction,’ and are incapable of dilating sufficiently, adding additional l-arginine can correct the condition by inducing nitric oxide up-regulation, subsequently increasing blood flow, which can lead to resolution of cardiovascular dysfunction, including erectile dysfunction. We have indexed no less than six clinical studies on l-arginine, either alone or in combination with another nutraceutical, indicating it can contribute to a reversal of erectile dysfunction. You can view the studies here.
  • Pycnogenol: This amazing substance has a wide range of health benefits. In fact, we have indexed over 80 evidence-based health applications here. When it comes to erectile dysfunction, pycnogenol figures as a profound synergist, working to amplify the benefits of l-arginine to the point where two separate clinical studies found the combination highly effective and safe in resolving erectile dysfunction.[1][2]
  • Panax Ginseng: This amazing Asian herb has been used for thousands of years to increase stamina and longevity. There is now a sizable body of scientific evidence supporting its traditional folkoric use, with a 2008 meta-analysis of the extant research on the topic, which looked at 7 randomized clinical trials to ascertain its value in erectile dysfunction, concluding: “Collectively these RCTs provide suggestive evidence for the effectiveness of red ginseng in the treatment of erectile dysfunction.”[3]
  • Maca: this South American tuber, both a food and medicine, and long identified as a means to increasing fertility and libido in both men and woman, was found in a 2009 clinical trial to have a significant effect “…on subjective perception of general and sexual well-being in adult patients with mild ED.”[4]
  • Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma longifolia): Like most traditional herbs, Tongkat Ali has had a variety of traditional uses, including as an “antimalarial, aphrodisiac, antidiabetic, antimicrobial, and antipyretic [fever-reducer].”[5] As far as its libido enhancing properties, two preclinical trials have found it effective in the animal model at improving sexual performance, confirming its aphrodisiacal properites.[6],[7]
  • Saffron: this sacred spice, highly prized as both a culinary ingredient and medicine, has been studied to have significant effects in reversing erectile dysfunction at doses of 200 mg a day. A 2009 study found: “Saffron showed a positive effect on sexual function with increased number and duration of erectile events seen in patients with ED even only after taking it for ten days.”[8]
  • Yohimbe: This potent herb has been found effective when combined with l-arginine to improve erectile dysfunction. A 2002 study concluded: “oral administration of the L-arginine glutamate 6g and 6 mg yohimbine combination is effective in improving erectile function in patients with mild to moderate ED.”[9] [Warning: Yohimbe and its active ingredient yohimbine is a potent nutraceutical with possible severe side effects such as hypertension. It is advisable to use it only under the guidance of a physician or medical herbalist to avoid possible side effects, especially if already using prescription drugs.]
  • Tribulis: This potent herb has libido enhancing properties for both men and women. We recently featured a study showing it helps women to increase their libido. The preclinical research on male libido is promising, with no less than three studies indicating its benefits for erectile dysfunction.[10][11][12]
  • Green Tea: A highly provocative animal study from 2008 indicates that green tea may address both the origin of erectile dysfunction by diminishing atherosclerotic progression in the corpus cavernosum of the male rat penis, subsequently indicating improvement in both erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular health.[13] This is, in fact, not the first study to show that green tea can correct endothelial dysfunction.[14]
  • Exercise: One of the best ways to improve your body image, self-esteem, and sexual vitality is through exercise. A 2009 study found that physical inactivity contributes to erectile dysfunction – essentially a no-brainer.[15]
  • A Sense of Humor: Living life with a negative attitude, especially when afflicted with a health condition, doesn’t reflect well as far as sexuality is concerned. A remarkable 2008 study found that viewing humorous films in patients with atopic dermatitis leads to short-term improvement of erectile dysfunction.[16] While we don’t know for sure if this study extends to everyone with the condition, it is instructive, perhaps, to look at a degree of levity and light-heartedness as an essential precondition to alleviating some degree of sexual dysfunction. Sex should be fun, right? So lighten up by increasing you humor and joy, whenever possible.
  • AVOID STATIN DRUGS: One of the primary precepts of functional medicine is to avoid the cause of disease, rather than just suppress the symptoms. Statin drugs are well-known to adversely affect the male gonads, as well as reducing both testosterone and libido, leading to the well known consequence of statin-induced erectile dysfunction. Take a look at these 7 clinical studies if you need convincing that this side effect is read.Were statins effective at preventing heart disease, it would be difficult to reject them. But the fact that they are cardiotoxic makes it all the more questionable to continue on them, especially considering the severe quality of life issues they generate, including erectile dysfunction. Please share with your physician our research page on the 300+ adverse effects of statins to come up with a more reasonable approach to cardiovascular disease prevention.
  • AVOID Anti-Depressants: Perhaps surprisingly, antidepressant drugs have been found to be a major cause of sexual dysfunction. A 2006 study found that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), e.g. Prozac, Paxil, are associated with sexual dysfunction in 95.6% of women and 97.9% men.[17] What a misnomer! What could be more depressing than killing your sexual desire with a pharmaceutical Band-Aid?

Ultimately, sexual dysfunction begins in the brain. Nothing can eliminate a dysfunctional relationship or a lack of intimacy that often follows from it. While natural interventions exist – Ginseng, Arginine, Tribulus, etc. – it should be remembered that that erectile dysfunction stems from more than just physiological issues. A lack of desire may reflect a lack of appreciation for one’s own self, body image, or sense of sensuality. Nonetheless, it is good to know that alternatives to pharmaceuticals like Viagra exist, and are evidence-based, safer and time-tested. Moreover, it is important to acknowledge that the ‘canary in the trousers’ often reflects cardiovascular dysfunction body-wide, and the best way to address that is through a radical transformation of the diet, focusing on a grain and dairy-free ancestral diet rich in high nutrient, low carbohydrate vegetables, tubers and fruits and berries, as well as high quality natural fats and protein sources that are consistent with our biological heritage.

Article References

Illumina Launches Firm to Pursue Gene-Based Cancer Blood Test.

Illumina Inc., seeking to build on its strength in DNA sequencing, is launching a new company that will develop and market a test to detect genetic evidence of cancer in the blood.

The San Diego maker of gene-sequencing machines said Sunday it is forming the company, called Grail, with a group of other investors, marking the latest bet that so-called liquid biopsies will become a major tool for detecting, diagnosing and managing treatment of cancer.

The test will be designed to screen people who have no cancer symptoms and detect disease at its earliest stages when the chance to cure it is highest, said Jay Flatley,Illumina’s chief executive, who is also chairman of Grail.

Illumina is the majority owner of the company, which is backed by more than $100 million in its initial financing. Arch Venture Partners is also a lead investor, with additional participation from Bezos Expeditions, Bill Gates and Sutter Hill Ventures, Mr. Flatley said. The company announced the launch on the eve of the annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference here.

Researchers have long known that evidence of tumors lurks in the blood, either in the form of circulating tumor cells or in fragments of DNA that are shed from tumor cells.  That has raised hopes for a blood test that could reliably enable doctors and patients to detect and monitor the disease without painful and sometimes misleading tissue biopsies that are commonly used to diagnose cancer. But advances in technology, including the ability to cheaply sequence tumor DNA, are just beginning to make such tests feasible.

Grail’s test will focus on detecting cancer-associated mutations in DNA fragments to screen people for evidence of disease. The company will have a “preferential economic relationship with Illumina” and its DNA sequencing expertise, Mr. Flatley said.

That will make it possible to perform the especially detailed analyses of DNA fragments needed to develop and validate the test and to market it at an affordable price. He estimated the company will have to sequence between 100,000 to 300,000 human genomes at exceptionally deep levels to develop a reliable test.

There are big hurdles. Broad screening programs for prostate and breast cancer, for instance, often raise suspicions when no cancer is present—a false-positive result—or find cancer that will never cause problems yet lead patients to undergo further tests and procedures that come with harmful side effects.

Mr. Flatley said a blood test avoids some such problems because unlike, for example, suspicious findings from mammography, which can have a variety of causes, “we are actually measuring mutations from cancer cells.”  It is “a direct measure of the cancer itself,” he said.

But he acknowledged that it is crucial to show the test “doesn’t have a high false-positive rate,” and that it can distinguish between potentially aggressive cancers and those likely to have no health consequences. The company plans to work closely with regulators and insurers in developing the test, said Mr. Flatley, adding that the price will have to come in under $1,000 initially and come down further after that.

He said Grail will spend the next year refining the test before testing it in clinical trials beginning in 2017. If all goes well, a test to detect evidence of any cancer–what he termed a “pan-cancer screening test” —could be on the market by 2019.

How to Use the Feynman Technique to Identify Pseudoscience

Last week a new study made headlines worldwide by bluntly demonstrating the human capacity to be misled by “pseudo-profound bullshit” from the likes of Deepak Chopra, infamous for making profound sounding yet entirely meaningless statements by abusing scientific language.

This is all well and good, but how are we supposed to know that we are being misled when we read a quote about quantum theory from someone like Chopra, if we don’t know the first thing about quantum mechanics?

In a lecture given by Richard Feynman in 1966, the influential theoretical physicist told a story about the difference between knowing the name for something and truly understanding it:

“This boy said to me, ‘See that bird standing on the stump there? What’s the name of it?’ I said, ‘I haven’t got the slightest idea.’ He said, ‘It’s a brown-throated thrush. Your father doesn’t teach you much about science.’ 

 I smiled to myself, because my father had already taught me that [the name] doesn’t tell me anything about the bird. He taught me ‘See that bird? It’s a brown-throated thrush, but in Germany it’s called a halsenflugel, and in Chinese they call it a chung ling and even if you know all those names for it, you still know nothing about the bird — you only know something about people; what they call that bird. Now that thrush sings, and teaches its young to fly, and flies so many miles away during the summer across the country, and nobody knows how it finds its way,’ and so forth. There is a difference between the name of the thing and what goes on.

The result of this is that I cannot remember anybody’s name, and when people discuss physics with me they often are exasperated when they say, ‘the Fitz-Cronin effect,’ and I ask, ‘What is the effect?’ and I can’t remember the name.”

Feynman went on: “There is a first grade science book which, in the first lesson of the first grade, begins in an unfortunate manner to teach science, because it starts off on the wrong idea of what science is. There is a picture of a dog — a windable toy dog — and a hand comes to the winder, and then the dog is able to move. Under the last picture, it says, ‘What makes it move?’ Later on, there is a picture of a real dog and the question, ‘What makes it move?’ Then there is a picture of a motorbike and the question, ‘What makes it move?’ and so on.

I thought at first they were getting ready to tell what science was going to be about — physics, biology, chemistry — but that wasn’t it. The answer was in the teacher’s edition of the book: The answer I was trying to learn is that ‘energy makes it move.’

Now, energy is a very subtle concept. It is very, very difficult to get right. What I meant is that it is not easy to understand energy well enough to use it right, so that you can deduce something correctly using the energy idea — it is beyond the first grade. It would be equally well to say that ‘God makes it move,’ or, ‘Spirit makes it move,’ or, ‘Movability makes it move.’ (In fact, one could equally well say, ‘Energy makes it stop.’)

Look at it this way: That’s only the definition of energy; it should be reversed. We might say when something can move that it has energy in it, but not what makes it move is energy. This is a very subtle difference. It’s the same with this inertia proposition.

Perhaps I can make the difference a little clearer this way: If you ask a child what makes the toy dog move, you should think about what an ordinary human being would answer. The answer is that you wound up the spring; it tries to unwind and pushes the gear around.

What a good way to begin a science course! Take apart the toy; see how it works. See the cleverness of the gears; see the ratchets. Learn something about the toy, the way the toy is put together, the ingenuity of people devising the ratchets and other things. That’s good. The question is fine. The answer is a little unfortunate, because what they were trying to do is teach a definition of what is energy. But nothing whatever is learned.

Suppose a student would say, I don’t think energy makes it move.’ Where does the discussion go from there?

I finally figured out a way to test whether you have taught an idea or you have only taught a definition. Test it this way: You say, ‘Without using the new word which you have just learned, try to rephrase what you have just learned in your own language. Without using the word “energy,” tell me what you know now about the dog’s motion.’ You cannot. So you learned nothing about science. That may be all right. You may not want to learn something about science right away. You have to learn definitions. But for the very first lesson, is that not possibly destructive? 

I think for lesson number one, to learn a mystic formula for answering questions is very bad. The book has some others: ‘gravity makes it fall;’ ‘the soles of your shoes wear out because of friction.’ Shoe leather wears out because it rubs against the sidewalk and the little notches and bumps on the sidewalk grab pieces and pull them off. To simply say it is because of friction, is sad, because it’s not science.”

Feynman’s parable about the meaning of science is a valuable way of testing ourselves on whether we have really learned something, or whether we just think we have learned something, but it is equally useful for testing the claims of others. If someone cannot explain something in plain English, then we should question whether they really do themselves understand what they profess. If the person in question is communicating ostensibly to a non-specialist audience using specialist terms out of context, the first question on our lips should be: “Why?” In the words of Feyman, “It is possible to follow form and call it science, but that is pseudoscience.”

Be Sure Not To Ignore Flat Feet – Five Hidden Dangers!

Straight or flat feet are very common in both adults and children. But this problem cannot be ignored because, if left untreated can cause health problems.

The human foot is a very complex and consists of 26 bones and 33 joints even, and is powered by more than 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Also, foot wears the total weight of the body making the most loaded part of the body.

Although designed to be strong and resilient, a disease that most often affects this part of the body is very common. It is a deformation or bent, feet that occur in childhood, and it should not be ignored.

Here are 5 health problems caused by the foot deformity:

  • Obesity
  • Too little movement in childhood
  • Ankle injury
  • Diabetes
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Age
Flat Arch
Flat Arch
  1. Pain in the knees is one of the most common causes of flat feet. This happens because the weight of your body is incorrectly allocated and the pressure on the bone rapidly consumes the cartilage of the knee, which again can become a big problem.
  2. Strain on the foot for a long time in an unnatural position makes muscles weak causing the foot shape to change. In addition the foot becomes wider and longer, toes are starting to be very painful.
  3. Pain during running occurs when the foot spine is placed in an unnatural position. What results in strong pain in the feet, calves is usually prolonged standing or physical activity.
  4. Pressure on certain parts of the body, including blood vessels, can lead to poor circulation. It is felt mostly when there are longer standing periods, and then pains in the hips and lower back work start to appear. In the long term, this problem can lead to the formation of varicose veins.
  5. Headache, accompanied by back pain is often caused by a combination of flat feet. Every step we take is linked to our feet. With this problem the muscles of the flat feet work at higher load, all to help stabilize the body during movement. This can cause a chain reaction of problems that range from pain in the feet, knees, and hips. Wrong posture affects circulation and muscle strain.