Abstract: (click to show)
The black hole entropy has been observed to generically turn negative at exponentially low temperatures \(T\sim e^{-S_0}\) in the extremal Bekenstein-Hawking entropy \(S_0\), a seeming pathology often attributed to missing non-perturbative effects. In fact, we show that this negativity must happen for any effective theory of quantum gravity with an ensemble description. To do so, we identify the usual gravitational entropy as an annealed entropy \(S_a\), and prove that this quantity gives \(S_0\) at extremality if and only if the ground-state energy is protected by supersymmetry, and diverges negatively otherwise. The actual thermodynamically-behaved quantity is the average or quenched entropy \(S_q\), whose calculation is poorly understood in gravity: it involves replica wormholes in a regime where the topological expansion breaks down. Using matrix integrals we find new instanton saddles that dominate gravitational correlators at \(T\sim e^{-S_0}\) and are dual to semiclassical wormholes involving dynamical branes. These brane solutions give the leading contribution to any black hole very near extremality, and a duality with matrix ensembles would not make sense without them. In the non-BPS case, they are required to make \(S_q\) non-negative and also enhance the negativity of \(S_a\), both effects consistent with matrix integrals evaluated exactly. Our instanton results are tested against the on-shell action of D3-branes dual to multiply wrapped Wilson loops in \(\mathcal{N}=4\) super-YM, and a precise match is found. Our analysis of low-energy random matrix spectra also explains the origin of spectral gaps in supersymmetric theories, not only when there are BPS states at zero energy, but also for purely non-BPS supermultiplets. In the former, our prediction for the gap in terms of the degeneracy of BPS states agrees with the R-charge scaling in gapped multiplets of \(\mathcal{N}=2\) super-JT gravity.