According to much of the media, Steven Hawking says there’s no such thing as a black hole. This sounds really rad but is the media reflecting celebrity and titillating terminology rather than substance and veracity? Of course, Hawking is a media magnet, as are (ahem) Black Holes. Besides, didn’t Hawking write the book on black holes? Yes he wrote an influential papers on the subject. However, if you look at what he was saying then and what he’s saying now…for one thing, he’s not saying there’s no such thing as a black hole.
The actual quote from his recent paper (taken from a talk he gave in 2013) is, “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.”
Notice, there are two parts to the sentence. The media generally picked up the first and ignored the second. Here and elsewhere in the paper, Hawking is dealing with a long-held belief in cosmology – the definition of a black hole says it is a phenomenon of space-time with an event horizon, such that when the event horizon is crossed nothing (not even light) ever comes back out. In practice, we are (with current technology) limited to observing apparent horizons. The apparent horizon, according to Hawking’s current thinking, is a quantum phenomenon in which it is (theoretically) possible for energy and information to escape a black hole. So, not really a black hole in the classical sense, but still a kind of black hole – black holes do exist. More