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A new theory on black holes

DUBLIN, JULY 21. The astrophysicist Stephen Hawking said today that black holes, the mysterious massive vortexes formed from collapsed stars, do not destroy everything they consume but instead eventually fire out matter and energy ``in a mangled form.''

Professor Hawking's radical new thinking, presented in a paper to the 17th International Conference on General Relativity and Gravitation in Dublin, capped his three-decade struggle to explain an elemental paradox in scientific thinking: How can black holes destroy all traces of consumed matter and energy, as he long believed, when subatomic theory says such elements must survive in some form? His answer is that the black holes hold their contents for eons but themselves eventually deteriorate and die. As the black hole disintegrates, they send their transformed contents back out into the infinite universal horizons from whence they came.

Previously, Professor Hawking, 62, had held out the possibility that disappearing matter travels through the black hole to a new parallel universe, the very stuff of science fiction. ``There is no baby universe branching off, as I once thought. The information remains firmly in our universe,'' he said in a speech distributed ahead of his arrival. ``I'm sorry to disappoint science fiction fans, but if information is preserved, there is no possibility of using black holes to travel to other universes,'' he said. He added: ``It is great to solve a problem that has been troubling me for nearly 30 years, even though the answer is less exciting than the alternative I suggested.'' In a humorous aside, Professor Hawking settled a 29-year-old bet made with the Caltech astrophysicist John Preskill, who insisted in 1975 that matter consumed by black holes could not be destroyed. He presented Mr. Preskill a favoured reference work, Total Baseball, The Ultimate Baseball Encyclopaedia, after having it specially flown over from the U.S. ``I had great difficulty in finding one over here, so I offered him an encyclopaedia of cricket as an alternative,'' Professor Hawking said, ``but John wouldn't be persuaded of the superiority of cricket.''

AP

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