Brief Answers to the Big Questions by Stephen Hawking
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Big questions. They are the trademark and obsession of famous Physist and Philosoph. It's the nature of our curious mind to be pondering those questions.
Foreword - Eddie Redmayne
The first time I met Stephen Hawking, I was struck by his extraordinary power and his vulnerability.
I had recently been engaged to play the role of Stephen in The Theory of Everything and had spent several months studying his work and the nature of his disability, attempting to understand how to use my body to express.
And yet when I finally met Stephen, the icon. Stephen absolutely understood the power of silence.
I ended up having three images:
- One was Einstein with his tongue out, because there’s that similar playful wit
- Another was the Joker in a pack of cards who’s a puppeteer, because I feel Stephen always had people in the palm of his hand.
- the third was James Dean. And that was what I gained from seeing him—the glint and the humour.
Generously, Stephen said he had enjoyed the film. He was moved by it, but famously he also stated that he thought there should have been more physics and fewer feelings. This is impossible to argue with.
I was touched to be asked to give a reading at Stephen’s funeral.
An Introduction - Professor Kip S. Thorne
1965, in London: Stephen deduced his result: our universe must have begun in some sort of singular state, roughly ten billion years ago.
after a black hole stops spinning, the hole can still emit particles. It can radiate—and it radiates as though the black hole was hot, like the Sun, though not very hot, just mildly warm. The heavier the hole, the lower its temperature.
The formula for calculating this temperature is now engraved on Stephen’s headstone in Westminster Abbey in London, where his ashes reside between those of Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.
There are only two types of waves that can travel across the universe bringing us information about things far away: electromagnetic waves (which include light, X-rays, gamma rays, microwaves, radio waves…); and gravitational waves.
- Electromagnetic waves consist of oscillating electric and magnetic forces that travel at light speed. When they impinge on charged particles, such as the electrons in a radio or TV antenna, they shake the particles back and forth, depositing in the particles the information the waves carry.
- Gravitational waves, according to Einstein, consist of an oscillatory space warp: an oscillating stretch and squeeze of space.
Because gravitational waves are a form of space warp, they are produced most strongly by objects that themselves are made wholly or partially from warped space–time—which means, especially, by black holes. Gravitational waves, we concluded, are the ideal tool for exploring and testing Stephen’s insights about black holes.
became convinced that the prospects for success were great enough that I should devote most of my own career, and my future students’ research, to helping Rai and other experimenters achieve our gravitational-wave vision.
On September 14, 2015, the LIGO gravitational-wave detectors registered their first gravitational waves.
By comparing the wave patterns with predictions from computer simulations, our team concluded that the waves were produced when two heavy black holes, 1.3 billion light years from Earth, collided.
I have shied away from big questions. I don’t have enough skills, wisdom or self-confidence to tackle them. Stephen, by contrast, was always attracted to big questions, whether they were deeply rooted in his science or not. He did have the necessary skills, wisdom and self-confidence.
Stephen’s answers to six of the questions are deeply rooted in his science. (Is there a God? How did it all begin? Can we predict the future? What is inside a black hole? Is time travel possible? How do we shape the future?).
His answers to the other four big questions cannot possibly be rooted solidly in his science. (Will we survive on Earth? Is there other intelligent life in the universe? Should we colonise space? Will artificial intelligence outsmart us?) Nevertheless, his answers display deep wisdom and creativity, as we should expect.
WHY WE MUST ASK THE BIG QUESTIONS