1 Introduction

During the past 30 years, research in the theory of black holes in general relativity has brought to light strong hints of a very deep and fundamental relationship between gravitation, thermodynamics, and quantum theory. The cornerstone of this relationship is black hole thermodynamics, where it appears that certain laws of black hole mechanics are, in fact, simply the ordinary laws of thermodynamics applied to a system containing a black hole. Indeed, the discovery of the thermodynamic behavior of black holes – achieved primarily by classical and semiclassical analyses – has given rise to most of our present physical insights into the nature of quantum phenomena occurring in strong gravitational fields.

The purpose of this article is to provide a review of the following aspects of black hole thermodynamics:

Throughout this article, we shall set G = ℏ = c = k = 1, and we shall follow the sign and notational conventions of [99Jump To The Next Citation Point]. Although I have attempted to make this review be reasonably comprehensive and balanced, it should be understood that my choices of topics and emphasis naturally reflect my own personal viewpoints, expertise, and biases.

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