By Amit Bhanot,
The passing of Stephen Hawking a few weeks back was significant to many people around the world. From academics to scientists, students to astronauts and world leaders, a hugely diverse range of individuals were saddened by news of the physicist’s death. However there is a positive side to his passing as he was never supposed to live past the age of 23, having been diagnosed with a critical physical illness at 19 years. What he went on to achieve in his life puts him, in my eyes, in the same league as the greatest scientist of our modern history, Albert Einstein. So it is really an opportunity to celebrate, rather than commiserate, the life and achievements of a genuine genius of our generation, and here follow some of the most notable ones;
- His work on singularities; In a singularity, gravity becomes infinite, space-time curves infinitely and the laws of physics as we know them cease to exist. Hawking helped prove their existence and theorized that the universe might have begun as a singularity.
- He co-discovered the four laws of black hole mechanics, physical properties that black holes are believed to satisfy.
- Hawking showed that black holes emit radiation, which may continue till they exhaust their energy and evaporate.
- His work on cosmic inflation; a theory in physical cosmology which proposes that following the Big Bang, the universe expanded exponentially before settling down to slower expansion. Stephen Hawking was one of the first to calculate quantum fluctuations that were created during cosmic inflation and to show how they might give rise to the spread of galaxies in the universe.
- Stephen Hawking published a model known as the Hartle–Hawking state in 1983. It proposed that time didn’t exist before the Big Bang and hence the concept of the beginning of the universe is meaningless. The Hartle–Hawking states universe has no beginning as it has no initial boundaries in time or space. It remains one of the most prominent theories on the initial state of the universe.
- Stephen Hawking, along with Thomas Hertog of CERN, proposed a theory of “top-down cosmology”. It proposed that the universe had not one unique initial state but consisted of a superposition of many possible initial conditions.
Ultimately Stephen Hawking left this world with a little more knowledge and understanding of its mechanics, and in his own good time, not that given to him by others.