Hawking’s last physics paper argues for a ‘simpler’ cosmos

Hawking’s final theory on the origin of the universe has been published in a journal.

Weeks after his death, physicist Stephen Hawking has delivered his last thoughts about the nature of the cosmos, and he says it may be simpler than often believed.

Well, simpler if you understand theoretical physics, anyway. It remains incomprehensible for the rest of us.

A paper that outlines his view, written with Thomas Hertog of the University of Leuven in Belgium before Hawking’s death in March, has been published by the Journal of High Energy Physics. Hertog had announced the new theory last year at a conference celebrating Hawking’s 75th birthday.

The University of Cambridge, where Hawking worked, announced the publication on Wednesday.

Related: Stephen Hawking dies at 76

Related: Tributes from around the world pour in for Stephen Hawking

Here’s a very simplified version of what it says. First, some background.

Scientists believe our universe sprang into existence with the Big Bang, followed by an unimaginably rapid expansion known as inflation. Within our observable universe, inflation ended long ago.

But some ideas of inflation say it never stops, persisting in other regions of the cosmos forever. This eternal inflation produces a “multiverse,” a collection of pocket universes of which our own universe is just one.

There may be an infinite number of these pocket universes. If they’re all very different, then how typical is the universe we live in, where scientists make their observations?

That’s a key question for understanding the fundamental laws of nature, and finding a way to estimate what types of universes are probable is a big challenge, said physics professor David Kaiser of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Many people have tried to tackle that question, but Hawking approached it from a point of view shaped by his long study of the intersection of quantum theory and gravity, he said.

Hawking’s paper suggests that there may be a much smaller range of possibilities for universe types than previous estimates had suggested. So “the behaviour of our own, observable universe might not be a rare outlier, but perhaps (be) relatively typical,” Kaiser said in an email.

“Naturally,” Kaiser said, “this is all rather speculative.”

Avi Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics called it “a stimulating, but not revolutionary paper.”

Related: Editorial cartoon: Stephen Hawking gone

___

The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Malcolm Ritter, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

UPDATE: Firefighter blown back from explosion at fire above Kelowna art gallery

A fire was reported at the Pope’sGallery of BC Art & Photography

Okanagan hockey player wins Gold for Canada

Vernon’s Anne Cherkowski, along with three others, trains at Kelowna’s Pursuit of Excellence

More supportive housing annouced for Kelowna

New homes with support services for people experiencing homelessness

Hometown Hockey co-host ready for West Kelowna visit

Tara Slone and Ron MacLean host the Hometown Hockey festival this weekend

VIDEO: U.S. Congress to probe whether Trump told lawyer Cohen to lie

At issue is a BuzzFeed News report that about negotiations over a Moscow real estate project

Charges upgraded against mother of murdered B.C. girl

Kerryann Lewis now faces first- rather than second-degree murder in the death of Aaliyah Rosa.

Heavy snowfall expected on the Coquihalla

Snowfall warning in effect for the Coquihalla Highway, from Hope to Merritt

Rare ‘super blood wolf moon’ takes to the skies this Sunday

Celestial event happens only three times this century

Arrest made after historic B.C. church hit by arson

The fire at the 150-year-old Murray United Church in Merritt was considered a possible hate crime

B.C. dangerous offender in court for violating no-contact order, sends letter to victim

Wayne Belleville was shocked to see a letter addressed to him from his shooter, Ronald Teneycke

COLUMN: Anger rising in Yellow Vests Canada movement

While the protests so far have been peaceful and orderly, there is also a simmering level of rage

Man blames his loud car radio, sirens for crash with B.C. ambulance

Tribunal rejects bid to recoup ICBC costs after crash deemed 100-per-cent his fault

RECALL: Salmon Village maple salmon nuggets

Customers warned not to eat product due to possible Listeria contamination

Most Read