Perspective

Quantum Mechanics of Black Holes

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Science  03 Aug 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6094, pp. 538-540
DOI: 10.1126/science.1221693

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Abstract

The popular conception of black holes reflects the behavior of the massive black holes found by astronomers and described by classical general relativity. These objects swallow up whatever comes near and emit nothing. Physicists who have tried to understand the behavior of black holes from a quantum mechanical point of view, however, have arrived at quite a different picture. The difference is analogous to the difference between thermodynamics and statistical mechanics. The thermodynamic description is a good approximation for a macroscopic system, but statistical mechanics describes what one will see if one looks more closely.

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