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Stephen Hawking, Who Examined the Universe and Explained Black Holes, Dies at 76 (nytimes.com) 307

Stephen W. Hawking, the Cambridge University physicist and best-selling author who roamed the cosmos from a wheelchair, pondering the nature of gravity and the origin of the universe and becoming an emblem of human determination and curiosity, has died at his home in Cambridge, England. He was 76. From a report: A family spokesman announced the death in a statement to several news media outlets. "Not since Albert Einstein has a scientist so captured the public imagination and endeared himself to tens of millions of people around the world," Michio Kaku, a professor of theoretical physics at the City University of New York, said in an interview. Dr. Hawking did that largely through his book "A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes," published in 1988. It has sold more than 10 million copies and inspired a documentary film by Errol Morris.

The 2014 film about his life, "The Theory of Everything," was nominated for several Academy Awards and Eddie Redmayne, who played Dr. Hawking, won the best-actor Oscar. Scientifically, Dr. Hawking will be best remembered for a discovery so strange that it might be expressed in the form of a Zen koan: When is a black hole not black? When it explodes.
A brief history of Stephen Hawking: A legacy of paradox.
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Stephen Hawking, Who Examined the Universe and Explained Black Holes, Dies at 76

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  • by ihaveamo ( 989662 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @12:21AM (#56256799)
    I reckon most of his smarts was derived from AI in the wheelchair anyways. He was probably dead for years. How would anyone know. Sort of a "Weekend at Bernie's" deal. Not as funny... just more boring and science-y. Too soon? Sorry I'm not good with Social queues.
  • by evil_aaronm ( 671521 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @12:21AM (#56256801)
    An imperfect person, he still made humanity that much better off.
    • by Luckyo ( 1726890 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @02:15AM (#56257159)

      Something to think about: he showed that even a person as crippled as he was physically could have strengths in other fields that would make it profitable for entirety of human kind to invest massively into keeping him alive.

      It makes for an interesting statement on value of human life itself.

      • I get your point, but the UK is not a subsistence society. There are people who drive around central London in £400,000 Rolls Royce phantoms as their work cars. I would like to think our society still feels it is a decent thing to help out those born into the other end of the luck spectrum.

        • There are people who drive around central London in £400,000 Rolls Royce phantoms as their work cars.

          They're all being sent back to Russia, any day now...

        • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

          One of the best inventions is universal education system, and other methods of removal of systemic obstacles. We no longer live in the society where birthright is everything. That was the time of the aristocracy, and it's long gone.

          It's telling how well we have done when "poor" are people who have housing, heating, never go hungry and can afford smartphones.

      • There was a moving interview this morning with the chairman of the (Dutch) ALS foundation, about how Hawking served as an inspiration for them. In more ways than one he was an extraordinary human being.
  • Hawking can't die. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @12:22AM (#56256807)

    He's just moved to the other side of an event horizon.

    Respects, Dr Hawking.

  • RIP, good sir. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thegreatbob ( 693104 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @12:28AM (#56256823) Journal
    And with that, the average IQ of the human species dropped a few points :.(
  • by The-Pheon ( 65392 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @12:35AM (#56256849) Homepage

    A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell [wikipedia.org]) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: "What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise." The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, "What is the tortoise standing on?" "You're very clever, young man, very clever," said the old lady. "But it's turtles all the way down [wikipedia.org]!"

    - Stephen Hawking - 1988 - A Brief History of Time [wikipedia.org]

    • by mrthoughtful ( 466814 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @04:24AM (#56257479) Journal

      Chukwa the world turtle, is swimming through the Ocean of Milk (aka the milky way(. It's only necessary to have something for the turtle to stand on if one already asserts the relatively modern idea of empty space as we know it. "turtle's all the way down is" a misinterpretation (the story a fabrication), attempting to make the believer look foolish. A sensible answer to "What is the tortoise standing on?" would be "The turtle is swimming", or "The ocean of milk, which is bottomless".

      It is about as humorous as asking a Christian creationist - "So, what day was it before Monday" - and the reply being - "Oh, every day was a Monday before that". Quite funny, if you aren't a creationist.

      If we accept the Chukwa myth on it's metaphorical basis, then it's not dissimilar from all those marbles-on-mattresses pictures used to show the curvature of space-time under gravitational fields, If we were to cross-pollinate the metaphor, we could say that the child Chukwa is swimming around a whirlpool caused by the mighty Surya-Chukwa (the sun-turtle), while the baby Chandra-Chukwa (moon) is swimming around a similar 'whirlpool' created by our own Chukwa.

      So, just because current science prefer marbles and mattresses, it doesn't make it particularly funny if someone else uses turtles and oceans. What makes it sad is when someone takes another myth and ridicules it in a short-sighted, and arrogant, manner. Moreover, the (rather tired) scientific misogyny comes out in naming the person in question as being a woman.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Fuck! That's the first time a Slashdot comment (or possibly any website comment) has caused me to re-examine my outlook on something.

        Well played.

        • Simply because everyone is giving too much credence to an unobserved hypothesis. When you don't know anything or think in depth about your existence it is easy to blow your mind.

      • So, just because current science prefer marbles and mattresses, it doesn't make it particularly funny if someone else uses turtles and oceans.

        Science prefers "marbles and mattresses" because if you put a marble on a mattress it deforms the surface so that a smaller marble nearby will fall towards it. If you put a turtle in an ocean it will not suddenly cause all the smaller turtles nearby to be pulled towards it. So the reason one analogy is preferred over the other is that marbles and mastresses work and the turtles do not and if you change the story to have the person reply "It's swimming in an ocean of milk" they don't come across as any less

    • by Geeky ( 90998 )

      The plate - or "disc" - is actually on the elephants on the turtle's back. And the turtle's name is A'Tuin. Enjoy your visit and don't go in the Mended Drum.

  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @12:35AM (#56256851)

    His life was remarkable in many ways - one of which was surviving with ALS for so bloody long.

    My dad died from complications of ALS way back in the 1990s. Having seen first-hand how the disease progresses, I marvel at how Hawking managed to live with that disease for so many decades. Yes, they called it "slow onset", but that seems to be mostly a hand-waving attempt at explaining a disease they still don't really understand. Even with support devices like a respirator, it's hard for me to wrap my head around it - those things bring with them their own complications.

    Godspeed, Dr. Hawking.

    • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @12:47AM (#56256885) Journal

      He was an inspiration to those of us who whinge and lie in bed when we get a head cold or tummy ache. Dude faced the ultimate physical challenges and seemed to go on with good spirits. Plus, from all accounts he was pretty bright.

      Walk free, Dr Hawking.

    • by sconeu ( 64226 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @12:51AM (#56256903) Homepage Journal

      I have the same feelings, 93. My wife passed away from ALS five years ago. The fact that Prof. Hawking not only survived for over 40 years with the disease, but did so much amazing science during that period is incredible.

    • by Megane ( 129182 )
      As did my dad from '78 to '85. Clearly Hawking had a variant with a much slower onset than usual. He also went full respirator, which added a lot of time along with the slow onset. But Hawking was also 76 on top of all that, and as being born is known to be fatal, we'll all go eventually.
    • Amazing (Score:4, Insightful)

      by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @08:18AM (#56258119)

      His life was remarkable in many ways - one of which was surviving with ALS for so bloody long.

      My mother died from ALS recently. Her course took about a decade which is WAY too long with that awful disease though I'm grateful I got to have her alive as long as I did. Stephen Hawking is someone I admire probably more for what he accomplished in the face of that disease than for his scientific accomplishments. And in saying that I am in no way minimizing his contributions to science. I've seen what that disease does to a person up close and even if you aren't religious (I'm not) you should pray that you never have to experience ALS. To do even a fraction of what Hawking did with that malady makes him to my mind one of the most remarkable people to have ever lived.

      • A comment like this is the reason I still come to this site. May your mother rest in peace.
        • by sjbe ( 173966 )

          A comment like this is the reason I still come to this site. May your mother rest in peace.

          Thank you. That is very kind of you.

    • "the erectile system is completely different and not under the conscious control of the mind." ...and yet our whole society hinges and twirls on this uncontrollable autonomic response. That is why aliens do not visit.

  • Why no Nobel Prize? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by BigDukeSix ( 832501 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @12:50AM (#56256899)
    How is it that Stephen Hawking won every prize there is except the Nobel? Discovering something revolutionary about black holes would seem to qualify.
    • by slew ( 2918 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @02:17AM (#56257171)

      How is it that Stephen Hawking won every prize there is except the Nobel? Discovering something revolutionary about black holes would seem to qualify.

      Unfortunately, Hawkings only theorized his signature Hawkings-radiation. Although it is an elegant theory, I don't think anyone has developed a way to validate it yet and the Nobel committee generally isn't persuaded by elegant theories that may or may not turn out to be wrong...

      Also Hawkings has been notably wrong before. He bet against the Higgs particle. He bet that information was lost in a Black Hole. He also wasn't initially convinced that the surface area of a black hole event horizon was a measure of entropy (although Jacob Beckenstein was able to convince him).

      Don't get me wrong, I think he's quite an amazing theoretical physicist in that he has a very good intuition on how things might work, but the physical world doesn't respect intuition about how the world might work, it demonstrates it to us. As a result, not all intuition about the physical world (as elegant as it may be) turns out to be correct about the world in which we actually live...

      • > Also Hawkings has been notably wrong before. He bet against the Higgs particle. He bet that information was lost in a Black Hole. He also wasn't initially convinced that the surface area of a black hole event horizon was a measure of entropy (although Jacob Beckenstein was able to convince him).

        Not only this, as smart as he may have been at Physics, he was a fucking moron about AI. He was espousing terminator-levels of fear about 'dangerous' AI development, and displaying a lack of fundamental know
        • Anyone should be able to contribute, but celebrity status forcing a disproportionate level of attention in a field someone is unfamiliar with can be extremely damaging

          I do not want to speak ill of anyone (least of all the dead), but amen to that! And that goes for the "field" of politics as well.

        • Not only this, as smart as he may have been at Physics, he was a fucking moron about AI.

          Which is not something the Nobel committee cares about at all. Linus Pauling won two Nobel prizes and he had some pretty lunatic ideas regarding Vitamin C. Just because someone is brilliant doesn't mean they are right about everything. I find it curious that the first thing you go to is to try to tear the guy down. I'm pretty sure you aren't perfect either.

      • Although it is an elegant theory, I don't think anyone has developed a way to validate it yet and the Nobel committee generally isn't persuaded by elegant theories that may or may not turn out to be wrong...

        Some researchers created an acoustic version of a black hole, that followed the same mathematical model, and exhibited Hawking radiation [nature.com].

        Not exactly the same thing, of course, but if our current modelling of black hole physics is correct, they should also exhibit Hawking radiation.

    • How is it that Stephen Hawking won every prize there is except the Nobel?

      Well, the Nobel Prize is only awarded to folks who are still living. Stephen Hawking was supposed to die "tomorrow" for most of his adult life.

      I always thought that this was the Nobel Prize committee's way of keeping him alive. They didn't want to give him the prize . . . because then he would die. The hope of receiving the prize kept him alive for so long, despite an illness that would have finished off most folks much earlier!

    • Hi did not discover a black hole. Jesus fuck.

  • by shuz ( 706678 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @12:51AM (#56256901) Homepage Journal

    It has been an incredible honor to be alive at the same time as Stephen Hawking. His idea's and his story impacted so many people around the world. The impact he made on science will likely be remembered and studied for thousands of years. The Maya, Plato, Copernicus, Einstein, Hawking. These are just a few. Hawking is now and we all got to live in his time! Thank you Dr. Hawking, you will be greatly missed and always remembered.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @12:56AM (#56256917)

    Long after rappers and reality TV stars and tinpot despots and kings and presidents are dust and forgotten, Stephen Hawkings name will be remembered.

    He joins Einstein and Newton as a giant.

    Hawking is dead, long live Hawking !

    • Yes remembrances belong to the living, and then passed on.

      RIP, Dr. Hawking. : (

    • "long live Hawking !"

      Typically, you would say that about the person taking over to replace the person that has just passed. To say it about the person that just died is nonsensical, but I guess you were trying to say something that sounded solemn.

      He will be missed though.
    • by bazorg ( 911295 )

      Long after rappers and reality TV stars and tinpot despots and kings and presidents are dust and forgotten

      I guess he was hedging his bets ...
      All my shootings be drivebys [youtube.com]

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      What does an old Apple device have to do with all this?

    • I read one of his last lectures, where he postulated about what we can know about the universe prior to the start of time. While I wish he had been able to come up with even more brilliant ideas, it does seem kind-of fitting that he explored the concept of physics of the universe outside of time before he passed. Escaping the bounds of time seems to me the most fitting definition of immortality, and Hawking got there before he died.

    • by Mal-2 ( 675116 )

      We'll always have his brilliant career as a gangsta rapper [youtube.com].

  • by NZheretic ( 23872 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @01:00AM (#56256935) Homepage Journal
    Seven reasons we love Stephen Hawking [bbc.co.uk]

    Professor Stephen Hawking unexpectedly materialises as The Guide Mark II in the new series of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. "I have been quite popular in my time," he proclaims, and he's not wrong. Here are just seven of the reasons why.

    • Coincidentally, I was listening to him count down the seconds to his battery depletion death as the guide mark II at nearly the exact time he died in real life.

  • by beheaderaswp ( 549877 ) * on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @01:01AM (#56256939)

    Usually I'm not the person to gush over a public figure or cast strangely intimate condolences at a person I've never met.

    In this case I'll make an exception.

    Back in the day- it was Dr. Hawking's book "A Brief History of Time" which drew me into a lifelong love of physics. Many books on the subject have followed. The basic knowledge of the universe learned form those books increased the quality of my life. Going to bed at night knowing what is true, what is not true, and what I do not yet know is a very comforting experience.

    His life was an example of devotion to a principle called the "Scientific Method". Perhaps the ultimate measure of truth in a world everyone thinks they know everything without the knowledge of what they do not know. For all his brilliance, like Einstein before him, he admitted he did not know everything. He was simply an explorer through an environment which could only be experienced in the mind because it is beyond the human senses.

    And he had to make a case for these truths to many people who would not accept his ideas. He did it only with logic, math, and a passion for finding what is true.

    No man lives forever. Hopefully his inspiration of others will last forever. Hopefully we will learn his lessons of science, humility, and good humor.

    He was such a good human, it was worth losing him, just to have him. Hopefully, his waveform continues elsewhere.

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      He even stated at one point that one of his ideas was wrong. I can not even accept I am wrong when I am lost and drive in the not-correct direction.

  • by rh2600 ( 530311 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @01:06AM (#56256959) Homepage
  • My Condolences to his family, first and to Humanity second. He was a giant among men, and a beacon of hope to all.

  • by bobstreo ( 1320787 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @02:23AM (#56257181)

    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm037... [imdb.com]

    He accomplished so many things in spite of his physical issues.

  • While I mourn the loss of opportunity every living year of such a genius represents... I have to admit that I am interested to see what the Big Bang Theory makes of this.

    • Whatever it is, you can rest assured that it will be some puerile pop culture joke about how geeks are unable to communicate with women. That show died several seasons ago.
  • by ET3D ( 1169851 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @04:17AM (#56257447)

    It has never occurred to me that Stephen Hawking was getting old. He's always felt kind of ageless to me. And frankly, 76 is a pretty good old age, certainly for one with ALS.

    He was an impressive individual, and I'm really glad that he was around and managed to live and contribute for so long.

  • A few more generations of physicists will have to go by before we can know Hawking's place in the ranks of the great, but his status as a popularizer of science is already established.

  • The world lost a good and decent person. Rest In Peace, Stephen Hawking.
  • It was a privilege to have lived at the same time as such an amazing man. His work will still be relevant and important for centuries to come. Now he finally has the freedom to become one with the universe.

  • by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @09:27AM (#56258467) Homepage

    In the year 2135, two scientists turned astronauts travel to a black hole to capture radiation. Their mission is a success, and they return to earth with expectations of fame and profit. They begin selling their radiation to various scientists around the world, but they are eventually arrested. What were they accused of?

    They were charged with hawking [oxforddictionaries.com] radiation [wikipedia.org].

  • Let's be clear (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OneHundredAndTen ( 1523865 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @09:30AM (#56258491)
    Stephen Hawking was, without any doubt, a world-class physicist and one of the essential scientific figures of his generation. However, a new Einstein he was not. In fact, it can be argued that he may not even be among the top ten scientists of the last third of the 20th century. More specifically, one can easily make the point that Roger Penrose has been significantly more creative and scientifically influential than he was, and that Hawking was heavily indebted to him, and to his own lamentable condition. A great physicist is gone, but let's keep things in context.
  • It was at the 300 Years of Gravity symposium. He was an incredibly cheerful guy.

    The best bit of his lecture was when he said that whenever anyone predicted the death of physics, something new and exciting came along, so he was going to predict the end of physics in the hope of making this happen.

    (Ok, CERN was a bit slow, but recent announcements from them suggest Stephen got his wish in his lifetime.)

    My second favourite bit was during the Q&A for his lecture (never published as far as I know, it wasn't ready in time for the conference book). A guy was asking him if he had considered bouncing universes. The question was long and drawn out. Stephen cut him off with a curt "no" and left it at that.

  • Years ago when I first discovered Slashdot it was genuinely a place where interesting technology and scientific issues were discussed.

    Nowadays a large and growing proportion of posts seem to be ad hominem attacks, political entrenchments and mud slinging, invective and general nastiness.

    Is this representative of the audience - or of the society we've become?

    That a world renowned physicist is the target of barbs and attacks?

    Really?

    (standing by for the barrage of 'you're a snowflake' comments that only underl

  • RIP Dr. Hawking. You will not be forgotten.
  • I am not sure what to make of it.

  • Among all of his accomplishments, he wasn't so serious... here is just one of his appearances on The Simpsons... YouTube [youtube.com]. Hilarious!

    A great man indeed. I am going to dust off my copy of A Brief History of Time now.

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