We have to take the great man's word for it. Then of course the word "nothing" has been redefined by Cosmologists. and Hawking himself is well known with the " Hawking" radiation to have reversed the idea of an all swallowing, never relinquishing Black Hole to one that slowly fades away. It could be argued that the man is humble enough to always be open to change his views from on the pre-Bang condition too. A white paper on White Holes coming too? Quote of S.H. in the article: "One can regard imaginary and real time as beginning at the South Pole, which is a smooth point of space-time where the normal laws of physics hold. There is nothing south of the South Pole, so there was nothing around before the Big Bang," Hawking said. To say there is "nothing below the South Pole" is inviting protests from many. Starting from the hole in the Ozone layer, and the Sunshine they enjoyed there, and now will become ours' in the northern hemisphere. There is a half a universe below the South Pole.( only 1/4 we can see) so, perhaps the man is giving us a hint with that metaphor. There is no such thing as nothing below the South Pole. two negatives. I do not like to be too negative about the great work shop that could have existed before the Big Beginning., and is thill out there, all around us in the future of timespace. .