Information gets conserved in all experiments we do outside black holes, so we kind of assume this must be some cosmic requirement (why?), and for some reason which is never properly explained we just can't accept that black holes would destroy information. Because... well, why exactly? Why is it such a problem that information would simply disappear in a black hole?
I'm no physicist, so I don't fully grasp the concept of "information" and all its intangibles myself, but just from the description given in the article:
n the Universe as we understand it, there are certain properties of matter and energy that contain information. A particle like a proton or an electron contains not only a mass, an electric charge and a spin, but also other quantum properties like baryon number, lepton number, weak hypercharge, color charge, and quantum entanglements connecting one particle to another.
- I can discern that "information" is intrinsically linked to matter and energy. I also remember from high school science that energy cannot be destroyed; it can only change states, and that mass is technically just energy in a specific form (such as gasoline in your car, the burning of which the engine converts into kinetic energy to move the vehicle down the road.) Now just what these "numbers" or "charges" are I don't know and don't care, but I also know the periodic table of the elements has a bunch of numbers like that which list their (miniscule) weight, number of orbiting electrons, and other shit like that. In other words it's a complete description of what state the energy is currently in using science geek numbers. I also remember from high school science that velocity isn't just how fast something is going, but how fast it's going and in what direction? So I can naturally work out that this must be the same kind of thing, just using crazy-ass quantum stuff I don't understand.
Now scientists are screaming because the real-world metadata is missing and they don't know where it went. Who cares? Well, I know that mass/energy can't be destroyed, only transferred. That's something everyone knows and it's pretty dang intuitive. But since the scientists can't find the information on what happens to the mass/energy in the black hole, they're flipping their wigs... and I can understand. Mass/energy is changing form when that black hole vacuums it up and utterly rips it apart down to the subatomic whatever - big surprise there. But where the hell did it go?
Now the article states that all the information goes into the black hole - duh, obviously - but the black hole itself doesn't change one bit, and that's where you SHOULD find the information encoded. To borrow the earlier analogy, when heat energy goes into an ice sculpture, it melts into a puddle. The ice sculpture and the puddle are still the same mass and all, but their states; their "information" sure as hell isn't the same, and you can see it easily. But, as the article says, "as far as we can tell, black holes are completely described by only three properties: their mass (governed by the total amount of matter and energy that went into them), their electric charge, and their angular momentum." And that's strange, because energy cannot be destroyed, so if energy is leaving source A and entering recipient B, you expect to see B changing somehow. The mass/energy entering the black hole and not coming out isn't surprising. You knock a golf ball into the hole, and you can't see it anymore. Big frikkin surprise. But if you knock sixty golf balls into that same hole, and they keep going in without overflowing - well, the damn thing must be shredding them like the monster noise in your sink to fit them all in. Stands to reason; if the matter changes state it can fit just fine. But if that's what's going on, why can't you hear the damned monster noise? It's spooky.
Or another analogy from an unsophisticated layman like myself. An F-18 drops a GBU-38/B JDAM GPS guided bomb through the window of an ISIS-held building. We know this is going to rapidly change the states of a hell of a lot of energy and matter. The F-18 circles around and flies lower to observe the spot it dropped the bomb - and the building is just sitting there, looking exactly like it did before. The F-18 pilot knows his bomb went in and, uh, changed states with great speed, but he was expecting to see the information of that change encoded on the building, somehow - smoke, flames, a big goddamn bomb hole in the roof, something. But he doesn't. The building has encoded nothing. Nothing at all. So even though he knows where the bomb went, and how it changed states... but did it? How the hell can a bomb go off and not encode the hell out of the building he dropped it on? He starts to wonder. Did the bomb actually go off? Did it even go in? He checks the desert - nope, it definitely did not miss, and a dud would still leave a mark on the ground somewhere. The only possibility is that the bomb missed the ground, and he knows damn well bombs can only fall down, so where the hell is going on!?
This is pretty intuitive to me - matter/energy not leaving the black hole isn't an issue, but the fact that we can't see any evidence of the inputs and exchanges is just freaking weird. Energy can go in and not come out, but we ought to see the damn information, one way or another. From then on out the article is pretty straightforward - someone in 1936 figured out that the bomb craters are forever extant on the Event Horizon, but then Hawking went and discovered this radiation that eventually makes black holes evaporate, and the radiation has damn-all to do with the bomb craters. You'd expect to see iron or smoke or cordite or some miniscule evidence of the bomb, like terrorists which had their states changed into many tiny pieces, but they don't. It's like the bomb never hit, even though we know it did. What the HELL is going on!? Hawkings recent suggestion is that the terrorists were asploded into such fine powder that there's no way we can tell they were once angry men with beards before interfacing with a JDAM rapidly changing mass/energy states - the radiation IS the evidence, we just can't read it.
I'm a Journalism major. Considering that even I was able to understand the import of the article, my professional analysis of Mr. Sigel's article can only be a ringing endorsement of his ability to communicate with the common man.