The British cosmologist, who is the creator of the theory of the black holes, questioned his own position on the subject, which he exposed for the first time in 1974.
According to Hawking, what is called the black hole horizon, the boundary beyond which nothing can escape, not even light, is an illusion.
He made this provocative statement in a four-page article titled Information Preservation and Weather Forecasting for Black Holes, published on January 22.
The news was surprising not only for experts and scientists, but also to the general public.
“It’s majorly provocative. It’s saying there’s no ‘black’ in black hole,” Amanda Peet, a theoretical physicist and associate professor at the University of Toronto, said. “He’s sort of saying the hole is grey instead, not just absorbing everything. It’s a very radical departure from past ideas.”
“This is the mind that originated the whole black hole information paradox in the first place,” she says, adding that while Hawking’s paper is only four pages long and lacks any calculations, physicists are paying much attention to what it describes.
Harald Pfeiffer, an expert on gravitational waves expert and faculty member at the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics, believes Hawking may have changed his ideas because his previous theory was incompatible with quantum theory.
“The picture before last week was whenever you throw things into a black hole, all the information about the properties of what you have thrown in is completely lost,” he says.
“The conflict is that with quantum mechanics, you’re never destroying information,” he explains. “If information gets completely lost and falls into a black hole, there’s no way of reversing this. So either Einstein’s theory of relativity is incomplete, or quantum mechanics is incomplete.”