Stephen Hawking: The Success of Creativity and Academics
Posted on: May 15, 2019.

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Many would variously recall him to be “the most renowned theoretical physicist of the 20th century”, revolutionary cosmologist, and wagering professor—celebrated for his new theories on gravity, cosmos, and black holes—who discovered incredible truths about space…

…yet only a very few would fully grasp what he did and how he did it.

A very well-known personality—drawing comparisons with Einstein himself, and considered by a thoughtful few as even beyond Einstein—who lived a life made memorable by a creative, academic intelligence, notwithstanding crippling personal challenges—the debilitating, degenerative, motor neurone disorder (MND) specifically named “Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)”—that left him severely paralysed and immobile for most of his life, having to operate from a specially-equipped, mechanized wheelchair.

The intense research projects that Professor Stephen Hawking conducted to make his ground-breaking discoveries about the universe happened through friendly wagers and arguments he had with other physicists. It was his competitive and curious nature—presented as a series of contributions to the scientific community—which radically redefined our understanding of numerous subjects and earned Professor Hawking widespread fame and respect, while he fought MND-ALS for 55 years!

In the scientific world, Quantum Mechanics “Modern Physics” and Einstein’s General Relativity “Classical Physics” are two very different styles of physics that rarely seem to overlap in scope, but respectively contain multiple, widely-accepted theories.

Hawking sought, and fought, to reconcile Modern and Classical Physics with “commonalities that connected particle physics and large-scale astrophysics” throughout his life, which he discussed in his hugely popular book, The Theory of Everything that he believed would explain ‘everything’ in the universe.

How it started…

It was late one night in 1970 when Professor Hawking developed the famous theory on black holes, while getting into bed. He realized that black holes never decrease in size but always increase, somehow consuming matter while become progressively denser and ‘darker’—based on his own relationship to thoughts and pain from his degenerative disease.

The concept that black holes are essentially ‘one-way streets’ that consume more matter and thus grow, may seem obvious to us based on present-day knowledge on black holes, but Hawking’s fully written paper in 1970 was considered revolutionary.

A black hole is an elongated oval-shaped entity in space, rarely circular, characteristically exerts an extremely powerful gravitational force whose influence can control an entire galaxy of stars, asteroids, comets, meteors, and planets and their satellites. A typical black hole has two significant parts—the “Event Horizon” or ‘point-of-no-return boundary, and the “Singularity” or centre which consumes ‘everything’ and returns ‘nothing’, including light.

Despite his eccentric pattern of thinking, part of what made Hawking so unique was that he took everybody’s ideas seriously and worked tirelessly to prove or disprove them. In one such typically friendly argument with one of his students in 1974, Hawking had tried to disprove the student’s hypothesis which claimed that “matter can escape black holes before crossing the event horizon”.

Hawking subsequently theorized that subatomic particles—protons and neutrons within the nucleus of an atom—are amongst a few specific things that could actually escape a black hole before being pulled across the event horizon. The Event Horizon would, in certain situations, even eject one of the two subatomic particles in a pair—a phenomenon which became known as “Hawking Radiation”, that stunned the entire scientific community.

How it evolved…

Stephen Hawking was a democratic and spiritual scientist, who believed in the human mind as much as he believed in the universe, and let his ideas lead him to places that typical mathematical or theoretical physicists simply would not go. Where strict science failed, Hawking deployed his typical genius—creativity, and an insatiable, almost preternatural connection to the cosmos.

Scientists argued that his theory of black holes deleting information from the universe was wrong, but Hawking worked relentlessly to defend himself, even when his brain was essentially held hostage by his body. Instead, he clarified that even if black holes did not delete data, the information outbound from a black hole would be corrupted to the extent that it is absolutely scrambled and no longer legible. His many scientific breakthroughs happened without even a hand to write down his thoughts.

Stephen Hawking changed the perspective of modern science forever, through the many theories he proposed with his competitive streak and incredible intellect. His fiercely independent and tireless mind that went to work while disproving others’ hypotheses, or defending his own from scepticism, altered the way the universe was perceived by the common man and scientists alike.

Hawking wrote papers on “the bleeding edge of science and art”, but The Theory of Everything may not be fully realized as he dreamed. Although he left behind a legacy of hypotheses and papers that will keep scientists pondering hard for decades to come, Professor Stephen Hawking had a spiritual way of perceiving the universe, and will influence astrophysics for all time.


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