Comment on Nature article, "Fire in the hole!" (Nature 496, 20–23 (04 April 2013) doi:10.1038/496020a)

Clarification seems appropriate regarding the apparent crisis we face. My comment quoted in the article reflects the broader situation with black holes and quantum information beyond and before the work of Almheiri et. al. Some of us have argued that black holes bring forth a deep conflict between the pillars supporting our most basic description of nature, which is quantum field theory. These pillars are quantum mechanics, locality, and the principles of relativity, and unless we've made a silly mistake, one or more of these needs to be modified. In some ways the situation appears similar to the crisis faced in the early twentieth century with classical physics, which was resolved with development of the fundamentally new framework of quantum mechanics, with departure from important classical principles.

The proposed resolution that I am exploring is not alteration of quantum laws, but that the usual picture of spacetime locality is modified, such that quantum information transfers out of the black hole. Well before the `firewall' work featured in the article, I pointed out that this should be to the black hole's immediate atmosphere, but not sharply to the horizon, to avoid unpleasant effects for infalling observers ( arXiv:1108.2015 , arXiv:1201.1037 ).

While such revision of locality is certainly radical, I believe it could be the _least_ radical resolution of the conflict. In fact, locality is hard to precisely formulate in the theory of quantum gravity. And, the kind of "nonviolent" modification I propose apparently offers a way to preserve quantum mechanics and possibly a modified form of the principles of relativity, if it can be realized without further inconsistency. In contrast, in the violently nonlocal alternative advocated by Almheiri et. al., black holes become star-like objects, that no longer behave like the black holes of Einstein's relativity.

Steve Giddings