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Picture of the Day

Can entangled qubits be used to probe black holes?

Physicists have used a seven-qubit quantum computer to simulate the scrambling of information inside a black hole, heralding a future in which entangled quantum bits might be used to probe the mysterious interiors of these bizarre objects. Scrambling is what happens when matter disappears inside a black hole. The information attached to that matter -- the identities of all its constituents, down to the energy and momentum of its most elementary particles -- is chaotically mixed with all the other matter and information inside, seemingly making it impossible to retrieve. This leads to a so-called "black hole information paradox," since quantum mechanics says that information is never lost, even when that information disappears inside a black hole. So, while some physicists claim that information falling through the event horizon of a black hole is lost forever, others argue that this information can be reconstructed, but only after waiting an inordinate amount of time -- until the black hole has shrunk to nearly half its original size. Black holes shrink because they emit Hawking radiation, which is caused by quantum mechanical fluctuations at the very edge of the black hole and is named after the late physicist Stephen Hawking. Unfortunately, a black hole the mass of our sun would take about 1067 years to evaporate -- far, far longer than the age of the universe.

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