Science: A Stephen Hawking Hypothesis Tested

The Story:

Famed physicist Stephen Hawking died a little more than three years ago. Astrophysicists recently tested one hypothesis of his, the “black hole area theorem,” on the basis of newly available data about the merging of two black holes into one. The result of the test was in accord with Hawking’s theorem.


Non-physicists with only a casual interest in science ought to be fascinated by this test, as well as experts in the field, because it confirms something critical to the difference between real science and pseudoscience. A hypothesis in real science is always open to being tested. And it can be falsified. Had the Hawking area theorem, derived from the mathematics of general relativity been falsified by the astrophysicists’ test, it would have been “back to the drawing board” for theoretical physicists on some fundamental questions. That is how real science works.

Strange New Worlds:

Two black holes sometimes collide and merge. This creates added spin which one might have expected to lessen the area of the resulting object (in comparison to the combined area of the to pre-merger objects). But Hawking’s theorem says that the area of a black hole should always either stay the same or increase: it should never decrease. And, indeed, the newly available data analyzed by Farr and his colleagues found that the mergers studied regularly resulted in a merged black hole with a surface area greater than that of the two pre-conjunction holes added together.

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