Loop Quantum Gravity - Key Concepts - Black Hole Entropy

Black Hole Entropy

In physics, black hole thermodynamics is the area of study that seeks to reconcile the laws of thermodynamics with the existence of black hole event horizons. Much as the study of the statistical mechanics of black body radiation led to the advent of the theory of quantum mechanics, the effort to understand the statistical mechanics of black holes has had a deep impact upon the understanding of quantum gravity, leading to the formulation of the holographic principle.

The only way to satisfy the second law of thermodynamics is to admit that black holes have entropy. If black holes carried no entropy, it would be possible to violate the second law by throwing mass into the black hole. The increase of the entropy of the black hole more than compensates for the decrease of the entropy carried by the object that was swallowed.

Starting from theorems proved by Stephen Hawking, Jacob Bekenstein conjectured that the black hole entropy was proportional to the area of its event horizon divided by the Planck area. Bekenstein suggested (½ ln 2)/4π as the constant of proportionality, asserting that if the constant was not exactly this, it must be very close to it. The next year, Hawking showed that black holes emit thermal Hawking radiation corresponding to a certain temperature (Hawking temperature). Using the thermodynamic relationship between energy, temperature and entropy, Hawking was able to confirm Bekenstein's conjecture and fix the constant of proportionality at 1/4:

where A is the area of the event horizon, calculated at 4πR2, k is Boltzmann's constant, and is the Planck length. The subscript BH either stands for "black hole" or "Bekenstein-Hawking". The black hole entropy is proportional to the area of its event horizon . The fact that the black hole entropy is also the maximal entropy that can be obtained by the Bekenstein bound (wherein the Bekenstein bound becomes an equality) was the main observation that led to the holographic principle.

Although Hawking's calculations gave further thermodynamic evidence for black hole entropy, until 1995 no one was able to make a controlled calculation of black hole entropy based on statistical mechanics, which associates entropy with a large number of microstates. In fact, so called "no hair" theorems appeared to suggest that black holes could have only a single microstate.

In LQG it is possible to associate a geometrical interpretation to the microstates: these are the quantum geometries of the horizon. LQG offers a geometric explanation of the finiteness of the entropy and of the proportionality of the area of the horizon. It is possible to derive, from the covariant formulation of full quantum theory (Spinfoam) the correct relation between energy and area (1st law), the Unruh temperature and the distribution that yields Hawking entropy. The calculation makes use of the notion of dynamical horizon and is done for non-extremal black holes.

The problem is that a crucial free parameter in the theory, known as the Immirzi parameter, can only be computed by demanding agreement with Bekenstein and Hawking's calculation of the black hole entropy. Loop quantum gravity predicts that the entropy of a black hole is proportional to the area of the event horizon, but does not obtain the Bekenstein-Hawking formula S = A/4 unless the Immirzi parameter is chosen to give this value. A prediction directly from theory would be preferable.

A recent success of the theory in this direction is the computation of the entropy of all non singular black holes directly from theory and independent of Immirzi parameter. The result is the expected formula, where S is the entropy and A the area of the black hole, derived by Bekenstein and Hawking on heuristic grounds. This is the only known derivation of this formula from a fundamental theory, for the case of generic non singular black holes.

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