Honestly, I think Heraclitus was the most brilliant man who ever lived. And, unlike the rest of them lazy enlightened bums,* Heraclitus wrote an entire book! And the entire book didn’t survive, but a few fragments made it to us... and gosh, what gems they are! Take these for example:
“If all things were turned to smoke, the nostrils would distinguish them.”
… and related, if even more cryptic
“Souls smell [out] in Hades.”
That, my friend, is the Law of Conservation of Information – the one that Stephen Hawking wished he did NOT bet against. The Law says that information can never be destroyed... so be careful with your words ;) Or your thoughts. Or the rest of you, because you are information, your body being a physical record of you! And while your body won't last, every bit that was ever recorded on it will survive forever on some kind of medium – any kind you can imagine, and, eventually, on your black holes. Because, eventually, there will be nothing else left in the Universe, but the black holes.
Ironically, it was the black holes that appeared – to Stephen Hawking – as breaking the Law. From the outside, they look beautifully simply, described by just two numbers – their mass and momentum. And a charge maybe. OK, three numbers then. Throw a book in it, and it would be different numbers, but still, just the three of them – the book’s content seemed to disappear without a… Wait, what are you... Seriously? That was Heraclitus' last copy! Signed too…
I'm not being dramatic, you are! You could have simply burned the damn thing to the same effect – because though, technically, its content would still be recorded in smoke and the emitted heat radiation, reading it will be out of question – one photon goes left, the other goes right and good luck seeing them ever again.
What makes the black hole option ironic is that a black hole is never really black! Instead, it glows ever so faintly with – wait for it! – Hawking radiation!
* Socrates, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, plus whole Indus Valley Civilization had but a single word written down between them! Another notable exception to book writing was Baruch Spinoza … after he got himself hard-cancelled at the age of fourteen or something.
It was, of course, so named because it was Stephen Hawking who “discovered” it. Discovered in quotes because no one ever actually seen a black hole – that would be one of the “hidden” parts of Reality that Hawking could only “see” with his mind.*
And to his mind, the radiation appeared, at first, as smooth and uncomplicated as the black hole itself, unsuitable to convey any message from the inside … An understandable mistake, granted, but betting The Ultimate Baseball Encyclopedia on it? The 8th edition? By an Englishman?
Now, you’d think that poor Heraclitus was facepalming hard in heaven but, in truth, he wasn’t – it was old news to him. That’s why he wrote “the damn thing” in the first place: He simply could not stand other humans anymore! After abdicating – he used to be king – he moved out of town, only coming back for groceries and to strike up an occasional conversation … as if to check if people started to lighten up maybe? They didn’t.
In comparison, Stephen Hawking was actually OK. His radiation solved the black hole information paradox, giving it the appearance of a smokeless fire. The “smokeless” bit is important because, eventually, the last black hole would go poof, leaving the Universe filled with static and no matter in it for the first time since the Big Bang.
This time, of course, the Universe is much older, bigger, and colder... or is it? With the matter gone, so is time. No clock means no measuring stick either: The Universe could be trillion upon trillion light-years across, or as small as a grain of sand and 10²⁷ Kelvins hot – after expanding, faster than the speed of light, for a millionth of a second … We are, with apologies to Roger Penrose, at the end of the next Big Bang inflation phase!
But worry not – none of it was lost on that white-hot grain of sand.
Our every memory, every thought, and every dream going up in smoke, engraved on a black hole or on a Big Bang – the Universe forgets nothing. It might have lost track of time, for a moment, but now it won't take any before it cools down enough for the first quarks and leptons to crystallize ... And then we rinse and repeat, and it just goes on.“This Kosmos, the same for all, none of gods nor humans made, but it was always and is and shall be: An ever-living fire, kindled by measures and extinguished by measures.” -- Heraclitus, 450 BC* And that's why Stephen Hawking never got his Nobel prize for that discovery (just like Albert Einstein didn't get his Nobel prize for the discovery of General Relativity) -- the prizes are awarded for physical experiments, never for theories... Which kinda highlights how confused we are about the meaning of "science" in general.