Famed theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking claims that black holes don't exist. At least not in the way we've been thinking about them for ages, Yahoo News reported.
Black holes are the source of endless fascination and speculation. Do they hold the secrets of the universe and perhaps even the key to time travel itself? We may never know the answers to those questions but Hawking thinks otherwise.
"The absence of event horizons mean that there are no black holes - in the sense of regimes from which light can't escape to infinity," Hawking writes in a new paper entitled, "Information Preservation and Weather Forecasting for Black Holes."
So, what does that mean exactly?
"Event horizons," gravitational traps from which even light cannot escape, are non-existent, according to Hawking's theory, Yahoo News reported.
Forty years after Hawking first brought the concept of black holes to public light, the debate continues today even as this "mind-bending theory" comes forward, New Scientist reported.
According to Yahoo News, in his lecture "Into a Black Hole," Hawking described how an event horizon works:
"Falling through the event horizon is a bit like going over Niagara Falls in a canoe. If you are above the falls, you can get away if you paddle fast enough, but once you are over the edge, you are lost. There's no way back. As you get nearer the falls, the current gets faster. This means it pulls harder on the front of the canoe, than the back. There's a danger that the canoe will be pulled apart. It is the same with black holes."
But now, Hawking says event horizons don't exist.
However, Hawking claims that "apparent horizons," light that could technically escape from the deep gravitational pull of a black hole, could exist. According to Yahoo News, "Put simply, an apparent horizon would only temporarily hold light and information, eventually releasing them back into space."
Though when we're discussing the nature of spacetime, "eventually" is a pretty relative term, Yahoo News reported.
"The picture Hawking gives sounds reasonable," Don Page, a physicist and expert on black holes at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada told Nature. "You could say that it is radical to propose there's no event horizon. But these are highly quantum conditions, and there's ambiguity about what space-time even is, let alone whether there is a definite region that can be marked as an event horizon."
Still, this revelation doesn't give astronauts permission to dive into black holes anytime soon.
An apparent horizon wouldn't burn you to a crisp like an Event Horizon would, but it wouldn't leave you in "good shape" either, Nature reported.
In Hawking's own words, any information or object escaping from a black hole in this scenario would be "pretty scrambled."