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Susskind to discuss duel waged with Hawking over black holes

Thursday, Nov. 20, 2008, 8 p.m. McCosh 50

Stanford University physicist Leonard Susskind will discuss his 20-year battle with cosmologist Stephen Hawking over their conflicting interpretations of the behavior of black holes in a lecture at 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 20, in McCosh 50.

He will describe the clash and the resulting discoveries in a talk titled "The Black Hole War."

Susskind, the Felix Bloch Professor of Theoretical Physics at Stanford, is widely regarded as one of the fathers of string theory. His lecture will be based on events and ideas in his newest book, "The Black Hole War: My Battle With Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics." Hawking, a world-renowned theoretical physicist, is the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge.

The intellectual disagreement between the pair centered on the question of whether quantum laws hold in black holes. Hawking argued that tiny bits of information are lost when black holes evaporate.

Susskind countered that it couldn't be true, as such an event would violate the basic laws of physics. In fact, Susskind found the idea so disturbing that he publicly declared his opposition to the notion and set about, as he said in his book, to "make the world safe for quantum mechanics." In his lecture, he will describe how string theory helped him resolve the conundrum.

Susskind has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was awarded the 1998 J.J. Sakurai Prize for theoretical particle physics by the American Physical Society.

The event is sponsored by the Louis Clark Vanuxem Fund, the Department of Physics and the Princeton Center for Theoretical Science.

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