In A Brief History of TimeStephen Hawking described how an unlucky astronaut would be "stretched like spaghetti" and torn apart by the gravitational gradient. Others have argued this unlucky astronaut would be flash-fried by a firewall of energy.  To solve this so-called black-hole firewall paradox, a whole cottage industry has popped up of black hole astronaut death theorizers, and at stake is the basis of Einstein's general theory of relativity. 

Now Stephen Hawking has proposed a breakthrough theory in a new paper - the idea that black holes can exist without an event horizon. An event horizon is thought to be the boundary through which nothing, including light, can escape. In his paper, playfully entitled "Information Preservation and Weather Forecasting for Black Holes," Hawking argues that "gravitational collapse produces apparent horizons but no event horizons behind which information is lost." (Read the paper here.)

Hawking proposes that an apparent horizon only temporarily holds matter and energy back before eventually releasing them. For an astronaut passing through a black hole, of course, the circumstances surrounding his demise would be purely theoretical. 

Hawking's paper is based on a talk he delivered remotely to a conference last year at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara, California. You can watch the video of his talk here. In the meantime, Hawking's paper awaits peer review. 

In the video below, watch as Hawking shares his thoughts with Big Think on the future prospects of mankind's survival on this planet. 

Watch the video here:

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