Stephen Hawking—one of the most brilliant minds ever known—left us on March 14 at the age of 76. As we discussed, he overcame significant obstacles to tackle some of the deepest questions about our universe and how it works. Like Newton and Einstein before him, his theories will be studied, referred to, and challenged for centuries. And, as it turns out, he had one last thing to add to his incredible legacy!
Hawking's final paper was published on May 2. Scientists release such papers as a way of presenting their studies or theories to the scientific community. Hawking had been working on this final one in the months leading up to his death. It looks at one of his signature topics: the multiverse.
We are not alone. (Seriously, not even close...)
To be clear, we're not going to try to explain this paper to you. We don't fully understand it. Plenty of scientists don't either. But we do think it's fun to at least take a look at what Hawking was working so hard to understand. Are you game? Let's do this!
The universe began as a relatively tiny point of matter that exploded into action—literally—in something called The Big Bang. Immediately after this, the universe grew at a mind-boggling rate. This was called inflation, and in our universe it has stopped. But many theories of inflation say that it is still occurring in parallel universes. In other words, as infinite as it is, our universe is one of an uncountable number of other universes.
Together, they are the multiverse. Multiple universes.
Okay, just how many of you are there?
Ever since the theory of the multiverse began, scientists have struggled to understand what it meant for quantum science. If there are infinite universes out there, then anything is possible. (There could be a universe out there where marshmallows are stars for all we know!) And if anything is possible, how do you come up with laws that govern all matter?
Exactly. Hawking's final goal with this paper was to, in his words, "tame the multiverse." Though it still suggests that there are many universes out there, Hawking argues two things:
- There are a countable number of universes, not an infinite number
- Our universe is a typical one, and its laws of matter are normal
Of course, this paper is all just a theory, but that's the beauty of science! Just like how Hawking took the work of Einstein and pushed it further, now it is up to others to take this final paper and explain it.
So... what are you doing this weekend? Anyone up for some light quantum physics?
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