Stephen Hawking’s final paper is an astounding farewell
Ten days before he died, Stephen Hawking published a final paper with a way to prove or disprove the multiverse.
Stephen Hawking will never know if there really are multiple universes, but he’s left behind a hell of a parting shot: a test that could prove or disprove their existence. On March 4, a mere 10 days before he died, the theoretical physicist signed off on the final corrections for one last paper, "A Smooth Exit from Eternal Inflation.” It proposes a data-collection mission for a deep-space probe, and it lays out the math for discerning the telltale signs of a multiverse in its data. How thrilling would it be if Hawking's final formula answers one of his most provocative questions?
The paper is still under review by a “leading journal,” according to The Times, and hasn’t been published yet. It was co-authored by theoretical physicist Thomas Hertog of KU Leuven University in Belgium. Work on the paper concluded at Hawking’s deathbed, says The Times.
Hawking first arrived at the idea of multiple universes—or the multiverse—back in 1983 with the “no-boundary” theory he developed with James Hartle. Uncomfortably for Hawking, the theory predicted an infinite number of Big Bangs occurring one after the other, with each expanding from a tiny point into a full-blown universe through the process of inflation.
Universe bubbles during inflation (Image: sakkmesterke)
However, with us stuck in our universe, and other universes imperceptible to us from here, Hawking had long been frustrated by the inability to confirm or refute the multiverse.
The new paper was Hawking’s final attempt to address that experimentally. Says Hertog, “We wanted to transform the idea of a multiverse into a testable scientific framework.” Their paper asserts that evidence for multiple universes should be contained in background radiation from the beginning of time and that it should be measurable using the pair’s new equations once a deep-space probe has made certain measurements.
Hertog previews the paper at Cambridge (Image: GraduatePhysics)
“The intriguing idea in Hawking’s paper is that the multiverse left its imprint on the background radiation permeating our universe and we could measure it with a detector on a spaceship,” Carlos Frenck of Durham University tells The Times. “These ideas offer the breathtaking prospect of finding evidence for the existence of other universes. This would profoundly change our perception of our place in the cosmos.” He adds that there would be only one logical name for such a probe: “The Hawking Cosmic Probe, of course.”
Leave it to Hawking to blow our minds one final, spectacular time.
Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.
No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.
It's one factor that can help explain the religiosity gap.
- Sociologists have long observed a gap between the religiosity of men and women.
- A recent study used data from several national surveys to compare religiosity, risk-taking preferences and demographic information among more than 20,000 American adolescents.
- The results suggest that risk-taking preferences might partly explain the gender differences in religiosity.
She met mere mortals with and without the Vatican's approval.
- For centuries, the Virgin Mary has appeared to the faithful, requesting devotion and promising comfort.
- These maps show the geography of Marian apparitions – the handful approved by the Vatican, and many others.
- Historically, Europe is where most apparitions have been reported, but the U.S. is pretty fertile ground too.
A NASA astronomer explains how astronauts dispose of their, uh, dark matter.
- When nature calls in micro-gravity, astronauts must answer. Space agencies have developed suction-based toilets – with a camera built in to ensure all the waste is contained before "flushing".
- Yes, there have been floaters in space. The early days of space exploration were a learning curve!
- Amazingly, you don't need gravity to digest food. Peristalsis, the process by which your throat and intestines squeeze themselves, actually moves food and water through your digestive system without gravity at all.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.