Stephen Hawking is well-known for his popular science writings and work in theoretical physics. His science popularization writings have made him a household name among lay public. So when he writes a paper about black holes, it is unsurprising that much buzz is generated about the paper, which he posted on January 22 and is awaiting review.
Stephen Hawking: ‘There are no black holes’ (Nature News):
Most physicists foolhardy enough to write a paper claiming that “there are no black holes” — at least not in the sense we usually imagine — would probably be dismissed as cranks. But when the call to redefine these cosmic crunchers comes from Stephen Hawking, it’s worth taking notice. In a paper posted online, the physicist, based at the University of Cambridge, UK, and one of the creators of modern black-hole theory, does away with the notion of an event horizon, the invisible boundary thought to shroud every black hole, beyond which nothing, not even light, can escape.
I highly recommend reading the actual paper by Hawking available at arXiv.org, which is currently awaiting peer review, to observe a context for the quotation from Hawking’s paper in Nature News (“There are no black holes”):
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. There are however apparent horizons which persist for a period of time. This suggests that black holes should be redefined as metastable bound states of the gravitational field.
Note: emphasis added
Some commentary on Hawking’s paper has been rather silly…
- Stephen Hawking’s Blunder on Black Holes Shows Danger of Listening to Scientists, Says Bachmann
- Black hole theory my ‘biggest blunder,’ Stephen Hawking says
…but some have
done better taken a more serious approach.
Universe Today does a very nice job of elucidating the topic.
Black Holes No More? Not Quite. (Universe Today):
In this new paper, Hawking proposes a different approach. He argues that rather than instead of gravity warping space and time into an event horizon, the quantum fluctuations of Hawking radiation create a layer turbulence in that region. So instead of a sharp event horizon, a black hole would have an apparent horizon that looks like an event horizon, but allows information to leak out. Hawking argues that the turbulence would be so great that the information leaving a black hole would be so scrambled that it is effectively irrecoverable.
If Stephen Hawking is right, then it could solve the information/firewall paradox that has plagued theoretical physics. Black holes would still exist in the astrophysics sense (the one in the center of our galaxy isn’t going anywhere) but they would lack event horizons.
This process is how science happens. We shall learn more if the paper passes review and a better-detailed resolution to the apparent information paradox is developed and presented.