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Over the past few days, the media has cried out the recent proclamation from Stephen Hawking that black holes, a mystery of both science and science fiction, do not exist.

Such statements send social media into conniptions, and comments quickly degenerate into satirical discussions of how you should never believe anything scientists say, as they just make it up anyway.

Science, it is often suggested, is little different to religion, with the current clergy awaiting the latest proclamation from the giants in the field. And, in modern physics, you do not get much more of a giant than Stephen Hawking. But what does this new pronouncement mean? Are textbooks to be rewritten, something that would put an immense smile on textbook publishers?

To answer, we need to take a step back and look at what we mean by black holes, and work out where Hawking's problems begin.

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