Anyone who would write a paper claiming black holes don’t really exist might be viewed in the scientific community as foolish or even crazy. That’s not the case if you happen to be Stephen Hawking. 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.
The theory presents the “apparent horizon” over the event horizon associated with black holes, in that the light and matter sucking singularity slowly releases the consumed particles in the form of heat and radiation, and by the time it has released all that it has consumed, it simply evaporates and ceases to exist.
In the classical theory, nothing can escape a black hole. Nothing but quantum theory allows heat and information to be released, a full explanation would require the merging of gravity, general relativity, and the other fundamental forces of nature, or more so a “theory of everything” and that has been eluding physicists for the last century.
So what would happen if you were to fall into a black hole? Well, the end of you that’s closer to it would be stretched out because gravity is pulling it faster than the farther end, resulting in what’s called “spaghettification” being pulled into the infinitely dense core as it reaches the event horizon. This combats Einstein’s theory of relativity, and is why Hawking had made the hypothesis for the apparent horizon to be more compatible with quantum theory.
Now Hawking proposes a tantalizingly simple option. Quantum mechanics and general relativity remain intact, but black holes simply do not have an event horizon to catch fire. The key to his claim is that quantum effects around the black hole cause space-time to fluctuate too wildly for a sharp boundary surface to exist.
Black holes are the biggest rule breaker in physics. The very notion of what a black hole really is still has so many holes in the theory. And the fact it is still being discussed and corrected 40 years after Hawking’s first paper on it is a huge testament to its significance.