Gravitational waves can confirm Stephen Hawking’s theorem

An analysis of gravitational waves may have confirmed that a black hole does not shrink in size over time — as theorem developed by Stephen Hawking. MIT scientists analyzed data from ripples in the curvature of spacetime, first detected in 2015 by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO). By observing the collision of two black holes, the result demonstrated with 95% confidence that their areas did not shrink, even after merging.

In the early 1970s, the theoretical physicist devised a model called the “area theorem,” which predicts that the surface area of ​​black holes tends to increase in entropy. This surface is defined by its event horizon — the boundary layer around a black hole, dominated by gravitational forces responsible for preventing matter from escaping from the core, a region known as the no-return point.

“[Essa é] an encouraging hint that the black hole areas are something fundamental and important”, said astrophysicist Will Farr, in a statement released by the website Science News. “It’s the first time we’ve been able to account for [o teorema]”, commented Maximiliano Isi, a researcher involved in the work.

Simulation of gravitational waves from two merging black holes shows that the newly formed event horizon does not shrink in size.
Simulation of gravitational waves from two merging black holes shows that the newly formed event horizon does not shrink in size.Source: Science News/Reproduction

As a method of study, the team divided the information about gravitational waves into two moments, before and after the merger of the two black holes. They calculated their respective areas in each period and observed that the newly formed event horizon was larger than that of the initial black holes combined, a situation predicted by Hawking and in line with the general theory of relativity.

“[O trabalho] it is the most explicit confirmation of the surface area law”, highlighted Cecilia Chirenti, a scientist not involved in the research. The study will be published in the academic journal Physical Review Letters and it can help the scientific community unravel mysteries around black hole physics and the quantum realm.

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