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Science

A Brief History of Stephen Hawking (newscientist.com) 48

New Scientist: The most recognisable scientist of our age, Hawking holds an iconic status. [...] He was routinely consulted for oracular pronouncements on everything from time travel and alien life to Middle Eastern politics and nefarious robots. He had an endearing sense of humour and a daredevil attitude -- relatable human traits that, combined with his seemingly superhuman mind, made Hawking eminently marketable.

But his cultural status -- amplified by his disability and the media storm it invoked -- often overshadowed his scientific legacy. That's a shame for the man who discovered what might prove to be the key clue to the theory of everything, advanced our understanding of space and time, helped shape the course of physics for the last four decades and whose insight continues to drive progress in fundamental physics today.
The New York Times: 1970 Dr. Hawking shows that the area of a black hole's event horizon -- a spherical surface marking the point of no return -- can only increase, never decrease, as stuff falls into a black hole or it collides and merges with other black holes.
1971 He suggests that mini black holes much smaller than stars created in the Big Bang could be peppering the universe.
1974 He shocks his colleagues and the world by showing that black holes will leak and explode when quantum effects -- the weird laws that describe subatomic behavior -- are taken into account.
1976 Dr. Hawking says exploding black holes add randomness and unpredictability to the universe, forever erasing information about what might have fallen into a black hole.

Quantum physicists object, saying the universe can't forget, initiating a 40-year argument about the fate of information. Dr. Hawking concedes in 2004, but does not say how information is preserved in a black hole, and the argument continues to this day.
1982 Using a mathematical conceit called imaginary time, Dr. Hawking and James Hartle, a theoretical physicist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, propose a model of a self-contained universe that has no boundary in space or time, and thus no place or time when the laws of physics break down. [...]
Further reading: Stephen Hawking is still underrated (The Atlantic); Science mourns Stephen Hawking's death (Nature); and How it all began: a colleague reflects on the remarkable life of Stephen Hawking (Smithsonian).
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A Brief History of Stephen Hawking

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  • by Oswald McWeany ( 2428506 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @03:38PM (#56261103)

    He should be censored... All that talk about naked singularities. In my Christian country singularities are always suitably clothed.

    • by thomst ( 1640045 )

      Oswald McWeany remonstrated thusly:

      He should be censored... All that talk about naked singularities. In my Christian country singularities are always suitably clothed.

      Why, exactly, is this modded Troll?

      It's clearly a joke - and a funny one, at that.

      Someone with points, please mod it accordingly ...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    2009: Hawking holds a party for time travelers, but invitations were only sent out after the party happened. Nobody showed up.

    http://www.news.com.au/technology/science/stephen-hawkings-champagnefuelled-time-travel-party/news-story/3af5baf5f25d778b7f45a33f4998dc07

  • I really hope we find evidence, even if indirect, of Hawking radiation in my lifetime. I would love to see him get a nobel prize for his work.
  • In 1988 ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by thomst ( 1640045 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @05:37PM (#56261735) Homepage

    My wife and I were lucky enough to get tickets to see Dr. Stephen Hawking "speak" at the Berkeley Community Theatre. They were free, if I recall correctly, but demand for them was understandably high, since he had recently released his best-selling book A Brief History of Time [wikipedia.org], which was still on the NYT bestseller list at the time.

    Great book, btw, if a tiny bit dated now. I recommend the illustrated, updated and revised edition [amazon.com] to everyone with an interest in the work to which Hawking devoted his life.

    Hawking was in town to present a series of lectures [berkeley.edu] on cosmology and the physics of black holes at the University of California, and he graciously agreed to also appear at the BCT for a much more general presentation to a capacity crowd of almost 3,500.

    ALS had, of course, long since claimed Hawking's ability to speak for himself - as well as almost all of his motor control - so, even then, the voice we heard was that of his voice synthesizer. Nonetheless, his personality came through in full force: by turns funny, professorial, wondering, and confiding. It was, no doubt, a canned presentation, but the man himself controlled the pace at which it unfolded - and his timing was absolutely masterful. He had the crowd hanging on his every word, and he received a standing ovation that lasted for a good five minutes or more at the end of his performance.

    We'd had to park several blocks away, so, because of downtown Berkeley's proliferation of one-way streets, we found ourselves on Shattuck Avenue, headed the opposite direction from home, and looking for a chance to get turned around, when we passed the intersection of Shattuck and Allston Way. And there, on the corner, sitting all alone in his wheelchair, obviously waiting for suitably-equipped transport to arrive and whisk him away to his hotel, was Dr. Stephen Hawking, Lucasion Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, eminent physicist, bestselling author, and pop-culture superstar.

    To this day, I still wish that we'd stopped, and offered to keep him company while he waited - but, sadly, we did not ...

    • Re:In 1988 ... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot@NoSpAM.worf.net> on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @06:53PM (#56262147)

      the voice we heard was that of his voice synthesizer

      That synthesizer is several decades old - these days we have really good voice synthesizers, but Dr. Hawking felt that that one was his "voice" and demanded that it be kept, despite improvements to the computing equipment on his wheelchair. It was also the most finicky and most power hungry, being designed in an age where we didn't have CMOS.

      There was a team who did nothing but source parts and fixed it.

      I think it was the only thing of DEC that was still being used from when it was made to yesterday.

      I hope whoever takes care of his estate destroys the thing - if only to keep that voice silent out of respect. Seems wrong to use it.

      • Er, why would they not put it in a museum somewhere? Sure, 'disable' it, but that's not what you said. Sounds like it'll do a good job of self-disabling within about 5 years if not maintained anyway.

      • by antdude ( 79039 )

        No! "It belongs in a musuem!" --Indy

  • I can't help but wondering something.

    Considering he died on Albert Einstein's birthday, and in fact at the same age of 76 that Einstein died at, what is the likelihood that he actually planned that particular day to leave the universe?

    Highly probable or just a freaky coincidence?

Stinginess with privileges is kindness in disguise. -- Guide to VAX/VMS Security, Sep. 1984

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