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Science fiction, meet reality.

Stephen Hawking just announced his new theory about what happens to objects that fall into a black hole, and it’s nothing short of astounding. Up until now, you’ve probably thought of black holes as one-way portals to hell; dark voids that can swallow entire planets and simply make them disappear. But have you ever wondered where all of that stuff goes? It turns out, so have astronomers.

The problem with the belief described above is called the “Information Paradox” (excuse us while we go on a brief trip down nerdy lane here).

Einstein’s theory of general relativity states that the physical information about material that gets sucked away in a black hole is destroyed. But then the super-complicated laws of quantum mechanics stipulate that information is eternal, trumping that earlier notion.

Hence, the paradox. But Hawking now thinks he’s figured out what happens to that information after it goes into the void.

Basically, the celebrated physicist believes black holes could be portals to other universes. So the information that enters one isn’t destroyed, it just passes through and, well, leaves. There’s just one caveat: Objects that enter a new universe can’t return to their old one.

“The hole would need to be large, and if it was rotating, it might have a passage to another universe. But you couldn’t come back to our universe,” he said at the Hawking Radiation conference in Sweden. “So, although I’m keen on spaceflight, I’m not going to try that.”

He also proposed another possible outcome for the information:

“I propose that the information is stored not in the interior of the black hole, as one might expect, but on its boundary, the event horizon.”

In other words, the information would be “saved” as a two-dimensional hologram somewhere within the void, but it would take on a chaotic and useless form.

“For all practical purposes, the information is lost,” he said.

Long story short: Black holes could be portals to other universes, but humans still wouldn’t be able to survive the trip. Not yet, anyway.

But just think, someday a whole new world of opportunities could open up (and literally suck us in).