Lower limit on the entropy of black holes as inferred from gravitational wave observations

Ram Brustein, A. J.M. Medved, K. Yagi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Black hole (BH) thermodynamics was established by Bekenstein and Hawking, who made abstract theoretical arguments about the second law of thermodynamics and quantum theory in curved spacetime respectively. Testing these ideas experimentally has, so far, been impractical because the putative flux of Hawking radiation from astrophysical BHs is too small to be distinguished from the rest of the hot environment. Here, it is proposed that the spectrum of emitted gravitational waves (GWs) after the merger of two BHs, in particular the spectrum of GW150914, can be used to infer a lower limit on the magnitude of the entropy of the postmerger BH. This lower bound is potentially significant as it could be of the same order as the Bekenstein-Hawking entropy. To infer this limit, we first assume that the result of the merger is an ultracompact object with an external geometry which is Schwarzschild or Kerr, but with an outer surface which is capable of reflecting in-falling GWs rather than fully absorbing them. If the absence of deviations from the predictions of general relativity in detected GW signals will be verified, we will then obtain a bound on the minimal redshift factor of GWs that emerge from the vicinity of the object's surface. This lack of deviations would also mean that the remnant of the merger has to have a strongly absorbing surface and must then be a BH for all practical purposes. We conclude that a relationship between the minimal redshift factor and the BH entropy, which was first proposed by 't Hooft, could then be used to set a lower bound on the entropy of the postmerger BH.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number104009
JournalPhysical review D
Issue number10
StatePublished - 6 Nov 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Nuclear and High Energy Physics


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