Exactly 40 years after famed theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking brought event horizons and black holes into the public eye, he is now claiming that black holes don’t actually exist. Instead of all-consuming event horizons and black holes which nothing can escape from, Hawking now proposes that there are “apparent horizons” which suck in matter and energy — but only temporarily, before eventually releasing them again.
To be clear, Hawking isn’t proposing that black holes don’t exist — just that black holes, as we’ve understood them for the last 40 years or so (thanks to work done by Hawking and others), don’t exist. The current understanding is that black holes are surrounded by an event horizon — a boundary in spacetime which only allow matter and energy to pass through one way, towards the black hole. It is, in other words, the point of no return. This is why black holes appear black — energy can’t escape, and so they produce no light and no heat. In thermodynamics terms, a black hole is a perfect black body — an object that absorbs all energy and radiation.
The problem with this theory, though, is that it’s based on general relativity. In recent years, as our understanding of quantum theory has improved, numerous conflicts have arisen, especially in places where both theories apply — such as black holes and event horizons. Basically, quantum mechanics has a big issue with the idea that event horizons completely and utterly destroy information — a big no-no in the world of quantum. Hawking’s new proposal tries to ameliorate this conflict between the two theories.