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FQXi BLOGS
April 26, 2018

CATEGORY: Blog [back]
TOPIC: Stephen Hawking (1942-2018) [refresh]
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FQXi Administrator Zeeya Merali wrote on Mar. 14, 2018 @ 14:32 GMT
Credit: NASA
Many of you have woken to the sad news of the passing of Stephen Hawking — a towering figure in theoretical physics and cosmology, who inspired so many within science and beyond, with his intellectual insights into the nature of the universe, his wit, and his zest for the life that doctors once told him he would never have.

It’s difficult to overstate Hawking’s influence on the physics community. Roger Penrose, writing in the Guardian, and Martin Rees, in Nature, have written extremely accessible descriptions of the impact of his work. In the 1960s, with Penrose, George Ellis, and others, Hawking’s calculations helped to elucidate the mathematics of how the big bang marks the beginning of not just space, but time itself, from an infinitely small, dense “singularity.” Such singularities represent the breakdown of our best theories of physics and are also thought to lie at the heart of black holes, shrouded by an event horizon. It was believed that these event horizons act as one-way membranes that allow nothing that passes, not even light, to escape a black hole’s clutches. But, in the 1970s, Hawking’s work examining black holes with both general relativity and quantum theory, led him to propose that black holes can, in fact, slowly radiate particles, through the process of what has become known as “Hawking radiation.” This, in turn, suggests that black holes will slowly evaporate away — raising profound puzzles over the fate of information about the objects that fell in to the black hole.

This black-hole information paradox has yet to be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction; in fact, in recent years it has only become more confounding. But, as is often the way in science, posing questions can sometimes be as fruitful as offering solutions — and researchers are using this paradox, and its offshoots, as a handle to try to understand which of the two cornerstones of physics, Einstein’s general theory of relativity or quantum theory, has to give. Many FQXi members are today absorbed in projects that have their roots in Hawking’s work.

But Hawking’s influence goes deeper. As the bestselling author of A Brief History of Time, he directly inspired so many of us to study physics and cosmology, in the first place. I’ve lost count of the number of FQXi members who cite reading the book as a defining moment in their lives. I myself read natural sciences at Cambridge University, where Hawking was based and held the Lucasian Chair of Mathematics for many years. My fellow students and I never ceased to be excited to hear Hawking, or bump into him on the streets (quite literally, in the case of a friend, whom I recall returning to college one afternoon in a flustered state because she had cycled into his wheelchair). And while there might have been a danger that his celebrity status would give him an aura of unapproachability, he undercut this with his humour and the twinkle in his eyes. Hawking laced his public talks with jokes, managing to display comic timing despite speaking through a voice synthesiser. I personally loved him playfully claiming that the Spice Girls were his favourite group, for instance (or possibly that was entirely sincere, I’m not sure).

Later, as a science journalist, I was honoured that Hawking agreed to be interviewed by me for New Scientist and Nature, both about his own work, and to give his thoughts on that of others, even though providing comments clearly took a physical toll. But, of course, in addition to his scientific accomplishments, he will be remembered and admired for his commitment to engage the public and his refusal to be defined by the motor-neurone disease that struck him at just 21 years of age. That legacy will remain for generations to come.

Our thoughts at FQXi are with Hawking’s family, friends, and colleagues.

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Ajay Pokhrel wrote on Mar. 14, 2018 @ 15:28 GMT
He was truly one of the greatest living minds of all time and inspiring personality to millions of minds around the world.

He proves' "Where there is will, there is a way."

Rest in peace!

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Stefan Weckbach wrote on Mar. 14, 2018 @ 19:21 GMT
The problem is not that people die, but whether or not there are enough growing personalities like Hawking after him who point to some fundamental problems of mankind. The danger of self-destruction for example due to short-profit thinking and alike, or the problem of climate change and pollution.

Despite his atheism, I always liked his humor, together with his sharp thinking. He became a kind of a science God and a prototype for mankind’s struggle and victory about the limits and finiteness (in an assumed absence of a Creator).

In the picuture above he obviously enjoyed experiencing the feeling of being free from gravitation. The best about this man was for me that he always was on the search after the truth. Hopefully he now found what Goethe’s Faustus searched for, namely what does hold together all that there is and what it’s like to be really free.

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Steve Agnew wrote on Mar. 15, 2018 @ 03:21 GMT
Hawking had an insight to the universe that I did not agree with, but he really worked hard to show his truth. I admire anyone who works hard for truth...even if their truth is wrong.

Hawking's passing means that now cosmology can move on from the strictures of his interpretation and perhaps come to realize the true nature of reality...

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Joe Fisher wrote on Mar. 15, 2018 @ 14:36 GMT
Dear FQXI.org Members,

Hawking is dead and Hawking was dead wrong about the real VISIBLE Universe. There never was any finite INVISIBLE big-bang commencement of any abstract finite universe. There never has been any single finite invisible black hole in abstract finite invisible space.

Concrete evidence exists that proves conclusively that the earth had a real visible surface for millions of years before any preposterous guesswork spouting theoretical physicists ever appeared on that surface.

It logically follows that Nature must have devised the only real physical structure obtainable.

The real Universe consists only of one real single unified VISIBLE infinite surface eternally occurring in one single infinite dimension that am always mostly illuminated by finite non-surface light.

Joe Fisher, ORCID ID 0000-0003-3988-8687. Unaffiliated

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David Brown wrote on Mar. 19, 2018 @ 15:04 GMT
"... Hawking's influence ... which of the two cornerstones of physics, Einstein's general theory of relativity, or quantum theory, has to give ..." Google "hawking milgrom witten" and/or "hawking milgrom wolfram".

Stephen Hawking, Wikiquote

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Akinbo Ojo wrote on Mar. 21, 2018 @ 12:48 GMT
HAWKING'S LEGACY

Hawking’s legacy to me would be in being one of the earliest theoretical physicists to strike a blow against the Parmenidean doctrine that whatever exists cannot perish or come into being: “How could what is, thereafter perish? And how could it come into being? For if it came into being, it is not, nor if it is going to be in the future. So coming into being is...

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Joe Fisher replied on Mar. 21, 2018 @ 14:57 GMT
Dear Akinbo Ojo,

Irrefutable evidence exists that conclusively proves that the earth had a real VISIBLE surface for millions of regular Gregorian calendar years before Parmenides or Stephen Hawking ever appeared on that real VISIBLE surface.

It logically follows that Nature must have designed the only REAL VISIBLE structure of the real planet earth, and the real VISIBLE Universe the real VISIBLE earth am contained in, obtainable.

The real Universe consists only of one real single unified VISIBLE infinite surface eternally occurring in one single infinite dimension that am always mostly illuminated by finite non-surface light.

The only thing Parmenides and Hawking ever contributed was propounding abstract finite codswallop information about imaginary INVISIBLE forces.



Joe Fisher, ORCID ID 0000-0003-3988-8687. Unaffiliated

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