And another one bites the dust. Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76.

Dr. Hawking was a Cambridge University physicist and best-selling author who pondered on and explored the cosmos. In 1988, he wrote A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes. He was also the basis of academy-award winning film The Theory of Everything, starring Eddie Redmayne.

ASL. Before discussing his achievements in the world of science, I need to point out the most fascinating thing about Dr. Hawking is his strength. Dr. Hawking was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ASL), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, back in the early 1960s. ASL is a un-curable disease that breaks down neurons to the point of minimal muscle functionality. For Hawking, the disease reduced his movement to the point where he could only flex his finger and voluntary eye movement. His mental strength, fortunately, was left untouched. He was given only a few years to live. He lived for more than fifty years.

The science. Dr. Hawking’s work can be quite intimidating if you are not a science nerd. I, for one, happily admit slight defeat in understanding science, but I happily admit matters pertaining to the universe fascinate me. I will do my best to provide brief explanations on Dr. Hawking’s work.

Post-education life began around the mid-late 1960s. He worked with Roger Penrose to expand the concepts of singularity theorem, which Hawking first introduced in his doctoral thesis. Their paper received second prize in the 1968 Gravity Research Foundation competition. Failing to accept the silver, the duo published a proof in 1970 stating if the universe were to obey Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity plus Alexander Friedmann’s models of physical cosmology, the universe would have originated from a singularity. That’ll show him.

In 1973, Dr. Hawking focused his attention on quantum theory, hoping to connect it with black holes. This came after a visit to Moscow to discuss these matters with some scientists, one of them being Alexei Starobinsky, whose work on black hole radiation was a precursor to Hawking radiation. Calculating it out, Dr. Hawking found that black holes fizzle out, seeping out radiation particles before finally exploding and disappearing. How did he figure this out? He was annoyed by the fact the calculation contradicted his second law of black hole dynamics.

Later in life, Dr. Hawking set out to figure out the massive questions of the universe, such as a singular nature to the universe and what exactly the fate of our universe would be.

The Book. A big believer in universal understanding of science, Dr. Hawking published A Brief History of Time in 1988 for the nonscientific folks (i.e. me). This book provides a simplified insight on the origin, structure, and fate of our universe. In 20 years, it sold more than 10 million copies. By 2001, it was translated into 35 languages.

Fun Facts. My mind is still boggling while trying to comprehend the concepts, equations and theories Dr. Hawking tried to work through in his career. Yes, this is counterproductive to his wish that everyone would know what’s going on in the universe. So, let’s stick to the fun facts.

  1. Dr. Hawking wanted the formula for Hawking Radiation engraved on his tombstone.
  2. In 2015, Dr. Hawking applied to trademark his name. Not sure if that ever got accepted.
  3. Dr. Hawking has been to every continent.
  4. Dr. Hawking would joking apologize for sounding American because of his synthesizer that he uses to speak.
  5. Hawking radiation led scientists on a 30-year controversy to figure out what exactly happened to things after they were sucked into a black hole.
  6. One of the only awards he hasn’t won is the Nobel Prize, but, according to him, that’s because Nobel Prizes are given to theories that can be observed and it is “very, very difficult to observe the things” he has theorized. You can read more about this in Dennis Overbye’s NYT article “Stephen Hawking Dies a 76; His Mind Roamed the Cosmos“.

Stephen Hawking may you rest in peace. Say hi to Albert Einstein and Madame Curie for me please.

Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking at NASA’s StarChild Learning Center. Photo from Wikipedia

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