What Discoveries Were Made by Stephen Hawking? - Owlcation - Education
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What Discoveries Were Made by Stephen Hawking?

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Stephen Hawking at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge.

Stephen Hawking at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge.

What Discoveries Were Made by Stephen Hawking?

Stephen Hawking's main contributions to the field of physics and cosmology lie in the studies of:

  • The Origins of the Universe
  • Time
  • The Big Bang Theory
  • Gravitational and Spacetime Singularities
  • Black Hole Radiation
  • A Universe Without Spacetime Boundaries
  • Atheism
  • The High Likelihood of the Existence of Extraterrestrial Life

1. A Universe Without Space-Time Boundaries

Stephen Hawking hypothesized, and more or less proved with mathematical and physics models, the idea that the universe has no space-time boundaries. He explained it like this:

"The Big Bang theory says that the universe of matter and energy began at a single point, which reached a critical mass, then exploded outward. The universe continues to expand. In a closed universe theory, at some point, the universe is going to 'hit the wall,' when enough energy has been expended from the original big bang, then begin to shrink again. In an open universe theory, the universe will just continue to expand indefinitely as the force of gravity becomes weaker and weaker as objects in space spread further apart."

His idea is that you can't have either space or time before the Big Bang. Therefore, the universe has no space-time boundary. Space-time boundaries are a completely human and artificial construct that do not really exist.

In 2006, with Thomas Hertog at CERN in Switzerland, Stephen Hawking proposed that the universe has no unique initial state and that working outward to predict the current configuration of the universe from one particular state, such as in the Big Bang Theory, contains a fallacy. Rather, Hawking's "top-down" cosmology says that in some ways, the present selects the past from a simultaneous superimposition of all the possible pasts.

2. Black Hole Radiation

Let's examine Hawking's discovery on black holes that emit radiation. A black hole is a collapsed star the has zero volume and practically infinite mass. Black holes are so dense that it was believed nothing could escape from them once it passed the "event horizon," or the proximity to a black hole where its gravity becomes irresistible. Stephen Hawking postulated the existence of radiation that emits through a black hole and comes out the other side. This is now accepted science, and the concept is known as Hawking radiation.

3. Probability of Extraterrestrial Life

Hawking was dearly beloved by sci-fi fans and outer-space enthusiasts because he was a strong proponent of the likelihood of extraterrestrial life.

He said, without qualification, that the balance of probability lies strongly in favor of the existence of extraterrestrial life. He postulated that Earth has already been visited by extraterrestrial life in the form of viruses and that he enjoyed imagining what more developed life forms could look like in galaxies far away.

However, he seriously doubted that there are humanoid life forms in other galaxies. Hawking said that it would be highly unlikely that life-supporting planets elsewhere would mirror lifeforms on Earth to such an extent. He blamed this on our failure to broaden our imagination when it comes to depictions of extraterrestrial life in fiction and in movies. We just can't imagine intelligent life that isn't humanoid, it seems.

Hawking thinks that, should we be visited by intelligent alien life, the occurrence might be a bad one for Earthlings:

"If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn't turn out well for the Native Americans."

He also believes the only way to ensure the continuance of the human race is by developing spacecraft capable of closed bionic systems which will support life indefinitely, should our world become uninhabitable for some reason, either naturally or unnaturally.

Before Hawking passed away in March 2018, he was working on a $100 million project searching for life in the universe.

Black hole in the universe.

Black hole in the universe.

I believe the universe is governed by the laws of science. The laws may have been decreed by God, but God does not intervene to break the laws.

— Stephen Hawking

4. Stephen Hawking on God

The quote above sort of encapsulates Stephen Hawking's stance on God and religion. Hawking's philosophical endeavors in his youth led him to discuss many theories about religion and God throughout his life. He is not religious in the ordinary sense of the word—he doesn't believe that there was a God who created the universe; he doesn't believe in any sort of afterlife; and he doesn't believe in heaven or hell.

He does, however, believe in a grand celestial order, and that there is a grand design to all the systems of the universe and to life itself.

His work on the Unification Theory of Physics led him to believe that we might never be able to come up with one universal theory. Instead, we might have to use different parts of different theories to explain different phenomena, but there is an underlying unifying factor if we could only get to it. It would explain the contradictions between the theory of general relativity and quantum mechanics. That unifying factor would be "God" to Stephen Hawking.

Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.

— Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking and Elaine Mason on their wedding day.

Stephen Hawking and Elaine Mason on their wedding day.

A Brief Overview of the Life and Times of Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking was born on January 8, 1942, in Oxford, England, to Frank Hawking, a research scientist in the field of biology, and Isobel Hawking. When Stephen was still a toddler, the family moved from London to Oxford to avoid the blitz during the Second World War.

Stephen Hawking’s free time while attending St Albans School in Southeast England was spent with his friends—a group of young, intellectual boys—designing and playing complex board games with labyrinthine rules, of which Hawking was the architect.

His first love was mathematics. Though he was an indifferent and bored student, a math teacher by the name of Dikran Tahta inspired him with a true love for higher mathematics. Many of his teachers complained that he was not involved or challenged by ordinary coursework, but those same teachers also recognized Stephen's immense talent for thinking outside the box. Mathematics gave him a medium through which to express complicated and abstract thoughts that appeared to come naturally to him. Although far from the archetype of a perfect student, he was miles ahead of his peers in his creative way of thinking.

After they tired of board games, Hawking and his friends moved on to electronics and model airplanes. In later years, they would focus their attention on religion and mysticism. As young teenagers, the boys would spend hours discussing their thoughts and feelings surrounding religion, God, the metaphysical, ESP, and the occult.

Politically, Stephen was influenced by his mother, who was involved in the Communist Party before moving toward Labour Party in the 1950s. While Hawking was never as politically active as his mother, Isobel Hawking’s political activism and involvement helped shape his interest in left-wing politics.

University Education

Stephen Hawking and his father argued over Stephen’s academic course of study at university—his father wanted him to follow in his footsteps and study medicine, while Stephen wanted to study mathematics and physics.

Hawking's father wanted him to attend University College at Oxford, but because the college had no mathematics chair or fellow, he majored in physics instead. He was often bored by the meager levels of intellectual stimulation at Oxford, but discovered and became involved in rowing in his second year. In 1962, Hawking received a bachelor's degree from Oxford at the age of twenty.

Hawking then went to Cambridge for his graduate studies in physics. In the days leading up to the commencement of his studies there, he began to experience difficulty with basic tasks, such as tying his shoelaces, and occasionally found himself acting strangely clumsy and slurring his words. However, perhaps out of denial, he said nothing and continued to act normally.

When Hawking returned home for the Christmas holidays after his first semester at Cambridge, his parents immediately noticed his bizarre behavior and insisted he undergo testing to determine the cause of his strange symptoms.

Hawking fell into a deep depression after he was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), a disease which causes the gradual deterioration of the motor neurons. Since there is no cure or treatment for ALS, most who suffer from the condition don't survive more than 10 years after being diagnosed. At the time of his diagnosis, he was given two years to live. Despite the odds, Hawking battled the terribly debilitating illness for 56 years until his death in 2018 at age 76.

Personal Life

It was his marriage to Jane Wilde, a language student, that gave Hawking the impetus to continue his studies in the graduate program at Cambridge. He once said, regarding his engagement to Wilde:

"Getting engaged lifted my spirits and I realised, if we were going to get married, I had to do a job and finish my PhD. I began to work hard and I enjoyed it."

Without that motivating influence, the world might have gone without some of the terrific discoveries Hawking contributed to the field of cosmology. The original diagnosis rattled Stephen's world, causing him to question his studies since he was expected to die so soon. However, the disease stabilized with the aid of medication, which allowed Hawking to marry and receive his Ph.D.

The two remained married for 25 years and had three children: Robert, Lucy, and Timothy. Jane helped care for Hawking and assisted him in overcoming his illness until their divorced in 1990. Hawking then remarried, this time to his personal care assistant Elaine Mason, in 1995. They divorced after 11 years of marriage in 2006, an event which stirred up controversy when reports emerged that Elaine was abusing Hawking.

Still, Hawking always described himself as "lucky," which shows his resilience and optimistic point of view. In a speech he gave on his 70th birthday, his bright outlook shined through:

"Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet," Hawking said. "Try to make sense of what you see and about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. It matters that you don't just give up."

For the latter half of his life, Hawking had completely lost his powers of speech and mostly all of his motor functions. To speak, he used a voice-generating device which was built at Cambridge and relied on the vibrations of his cheek to translate his words.

Stephen Hawking's Publications

Stephen Hawking has published many popular books in his field, and, unlike other cosmologists, his work is work is extremely accessible to everyday readers who aren't well-versed in the terminology of physics, mathematics or cosmology. His writing is clear, concise and full of humour, which is a fascinating and refreshing change since the concepts he proposes within the text are grandiose. Below is a list of some of the more accessible books Stephen Hawking has published:

  • A Brief History of Time (1988)
  • Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays (1994)
  • The Nature of Space and Time (1996)
  • The Universe in a Nutshell (2001)
  • The Future of Spacetime (2002)
  • On the Shoulders of Giants (2002)
  • The Theory of Everything (2002)
  • God Created Integers: The Mathematical Breakthroughs that Changed History (2005)
  • The Grand Design (2010)
  • The Dreams That Stuff Is Made Of (2011)
  • The Origin of (Almost) Everything (2016)

Hawking also wrote several children's books with the help of his daughter and co-author, Lucy. His writing reminds one very much of Carl Sagan's, and the two came to the same conclusion on the topic of the existence of God.

© 2012 Paradise7

Comments

LUCJAN on December 05, 2019:

why aint he believe GOD?

I Believe in Christ on November 18, 2019:

Honestly I'm not trying to be rude but I feel that there is a God who made the univers and created every thing. I'm not trying to put Stephin down in any way at all. I believe that he was wrong though in some views. RIP boi you are loved and missed.

Hamburger lips on September 18, 2019:

such an inspiration

LOL on May 20, 2019:

GO HAWKING

joe on May 09, 2019:

rip man

jebus on April 29, 2019:

was smarter than all of us

Kartik on April 17, 2019:

It a true information by Stephen hawking and its research was going in this present time by research center and it gives a secrate of the universe

Science Project Person on November 29, 2018:

yeah I liked this article a lot. Thanks for writing it

aidan on November 27, 2018:

I'm just trying to do a science project

tali on November 21, 2018:

i miss him s much

Rays on October 30, 2018:

Nice boy

user on October 22, 2018:

play used death comment. not very effective

Play on October 13, 2018:

The only man who can discover a lot of things but he cant because he is dead

hi my name is jeff on September 24, 2018:

he was a great scientist of his time indeed.

Susheel Kumar varma on September 16, 2018:

I like stephen Hawking because he was very best scientist in my world.and he was very amaizing person.

Kase on August 22, 2018:

STEPHEN HAWKING WAS AN AMASING MAN!

anmack on August 19, 2018:

So, after reading the entire article (like all articles about Hawking) i find a man with a big imagination an nothing else. Likable, admirable, role model for the disabled... yes possibly. A great scientist. Absolutely not. A bunch of unprovable postulates does not an Einstein make.

... on August 15, 2018:

rip stephen hawking

No name on August 08, 2018:

I need some more discoveries

No name on July 31, 2018:

You are the best hawking you are my best scientist.

Shreya on June 17, 2018:

Thanks it help me a lot

Ritam on June 14, 2018:

Nice.helped me a lot

truth without god on June 08, 2018:

Paradise7 thank you for taking the time and putting the effort in to make this! I don't know why people call him a fake and evil (Debunker No, Jamie) perhaps it's delusions of a god or they can't handle the truth....

Some random person on May 22, 2018:

wow what?

Some random person on May 19, 2018:

Jamie that's rude. don't do that because it makes the author feel bad. Stephen Hawking is not evil, anyway. He had actually got ALS and still kept working. Although none of his theories wasn't proved right, he had still worked hard for all of his theories. And plus, you are not the boss of everyone, so the author has the freedom to write about Stephen Hawking.

Sorry to be mean if I did. Just wanted to be nice.

Some random person on May 18, 2018:

I like it! Thank you for this blob! i think people that reads it can learn more about Stephen Hawking.

My grammar is bad...

But I'm just lazy

jamie on May 17, 2018:

hawking is a evil man so you shouldnt write this

Some random person on May 16, 2018:

You helped me a lot for my project. I like your blob.

Avacato on May 11, 2018:

Thanks a LOT helped on a school project, this guy is AWESOME on of my favorite scientist and theorist!

Irshan on May 10, 2018:

I respect him a little not fully, but scientist who has actually discovered or invented something deserves more respect than this Guy.

All you mentioned here are theories none of them are proved and established fact. I think he just got famous more because he boasts about Atheism not for his work for science.

anonymous on May 08, 2018:

how did stephen die? what did stephen hawking discover before he died?

chelsey fittel on May 08, 2018:

what did stephen hawking discover before he died on march 14 2018 . stephen hawking was a great scientist its so sad that he died .

Anonymous on May 07, 2018:

What did he discover? I can't tell by this article. I see a lot of his theories, dreams, postulations, probabilities, and so forth. Maybe these have been 'accepted' by other scientists, but were they also proven? And if so, how?

Herro on April 30, 2018:

Great article and made lots of sense for Hawking’s theories. Information on url and stuff like that however needs other information such as editor etc. It was quite difficult to write my bibliography. Shoutout to author tho for having very important info.

Herro on April 29, 2018:

Very useful

Darla Johnson on April 25, 2018:

I used this to complete much of a school project. BTW you guys should join this website called BoredPanda it's really cool.

MYA on April 25, 2018:

l thought he found more things they that ... but still well done hawkings :D

Sayeda romana on April 16, 2018:

I m just loving his thought.Nd thanks a lot for giving his information.but there is one thing I believe in Allah who can create or destroy everything,if He wants.

Nobody on April 01, 2018:

He's totally true even about his atheism.

D.Nagachandana on March 29, 2018:

1st of all tq very much for ur Information

This is helpful to do my 1st part of my project

edmore on March 26, 2018:

the man was probably wrong about his deductions on God because there is high order where everything started and is regulated

Lucious on March 23, 2018:

I completely disagree with the man when it comes to God and the existence of earth...I might not have his weight to convince anyone here.

Rahul Lakshman on March 20, 2018:

I was inspired on his thoughts

Prathmesh on March 16, 2018:

Stephen hawking is a great he was parallises person but he do his work and do invention

Bilal Khalid on March 15, 2018:

Stephen hawking was wrong, because life after death and the concept of hell and heaven is true.. May be my words have not enough power to made you believe..

zoya baloch on March 15, 2018:

Stephen Hawking....a great scientist who changed the concept of origin of universe for me.

Shankar on March 15, 2018:

Stephen Hawking is a god gifted scientist to our world. He is really great.

Pujitha on March 15, 2018:

I liked the way everything about his life is explained in the essay.

M on March 14, 2018:

Stephen hawking, King of cosmology,

My ideal parson field in science.

I'm very sad.

Alien believer on March 14, 2018:

This inspires me a lot. Thanks. God bless his soul

Anmol on March 14, 2018:

Stephen howking was such a great man in this world....

Debunker No1 on January 20, 2018:

You people are all delusional.

Steven Hawkins is a fake and the current one is very different to one that died years ago.

I dont want to insult your blindness, but the first Hawkins has a pointy chin and NO Ear lobes. The current one has a square chin, Earlobes and somehow Rabbit teeth. You are being fooled.

Catherine Giordano from Orlando Florida on July 03, 2017:

I enjoyed reading your essay about Stephen Hawking. He is a giant in the field of cosmology. I think you described his scientific conclusions very well.

Suraj Malasi on December 24, 2015:

Indeed he is a god gifted person. But Yes their is GOD & I strongly oppose his thought on the same

Hari on July 07, 2015:

Nice work. Excellent article

vijender on June 18, 2015:

Stephen Hawking is a god gifted awesome scientist

Paradise7 (author) from Upstate New York on December 27, 2014:

Thank you for the comment, Susan Lee. I couldn't agree with you more. The more we seek answers, either spiritually or through the physical sciences, the more we discover how very much everything is entangled. There are so many awesome mysteries in the heavens, on earth and everywhere in between.

SusanLee2 on December 27, 2014:

Hawking is a brilliant man with a unique mind and I thank you for this page! I am fascinated by the ideas that theoretical physics proposes. What interests me most are the ways that spirituality, religion and science all seem to intersect in unexpected ways. We have so much more to learn and discover, and Hawking has made invaluable contributions to our understanding of our reality and ourselves.

shreya litoria on November 16, 2014:

stephen hawking is great

Amaan on November 02, 2014:

Stephen Hawkins has done a very observation.

siddant on October 26, 2014:

this is truly interesting information

Paradise7 (author) from Upstate New York on December 20, 2013:

Okay in a little while. There's tons of stuff to write; most of it is a bit over my head! Thank you so much for the comment.

Aashish Rai on December 19, 2013:

He is one of the best mind on this earth. There is no word to explain about him. Thak you Paradise-7.

I want something more

Paradise7 (author) from Upstate New York on December 16, 2013:

Thank you for the comment. He is a fascinating person and one of the great minds of the 21st century.

Christy Birmingham from British Columbia, Canada on December 15, 2013:

I enjoy reading about Mr Hawking and every time I learn something new about him/his mind/his discoveries. A fascinating read!

Chris Mills from Traverse City, MI on November 21, 2013:

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your hub. I believe Hawking is an objective scientist. You have done an exemplary job of explaining his understanding of the universe.

Martie Coetser from South Africa on October 29, 2013:

Stephen Hawking's hypotheses are truly fascinating. I, too, cannot understand or explain the mathematical or physical formulae, yet I perceive them as logical facts.

Paradise, I must give you an A+ for explaining some of them in such a comprehensible style.

Paradise7 (author) from Upstate New York on September 08, 2012:

Thank you, Anne and Green Lotus, for your kind comments.

annerivendell from Dublin, Ireland on September 08, 2012:

Wow! Engaging and informative Hub. What a unique person he is. Thank you.

Hillary from Atlanta, GA on September 08, 2012:

What a wonderful Hub. Hawking's theories are not easily explained to general audiences, but you have done a brilliant job. Thanks! Rated way up.

Paradise7 (author) from Upstate New York on September 07, 2012:

Doc, yes. I think the answer to your question has something to do with chaos theory. Systems become more and more complex, until they break down. We're latecomers on the evolutionary scale...connect the dots?

drbj and sherry from south Florida on September 07, 2012:

This is a fascinating discourse, Paradise, about Stephen Hawking, a fascinating and brilliant scientist. It is interesting that he believes the only way to ensure the continuance of the human race is by developing spacecraft with closed bionic systems to support life indefinitely if our world should become uninhabitable. Does he know something we don't? Just wonderin'.

Paradise7 (author) from Upstate New York on September 07, 2012:

Thank you so much, Phil.

Phil Plasma from Montreal, Quebec on September 07, 2012:

Yep, Hawking is without a doubt a genius of our time. Excellent and informative hub, thanks for writing it, voted up and interesting.

Paradise7 (author) from Upstate New York on September 07, 2012:

Rosie, here's the answer to the IQ question:

Although Professor Hawking discounts the value of numerical IQ's, he admitted that his own is likely very high (it has been suggested as 160 or more). He also said that "People who boast about their IQ's are losers". (see link to 2004 interview)

---a possibly dramatized anecdote from Introducing Stephen Hawking (2006)---

Near the end of his term at Oxford and no doubt beginning to feel the effects of ALS, Hawking took a terrible fall down a staircase in the university hall. As a result, he temporarily lost his memory. He could not even remember his name. After several hours of interrogation by his friends, he finally returned to normal but was worried about possible permanent brain damage. To be sure, he decided to take the Mensa test for individuals with superior intelligence. He was delighted to find that he passed with flying colours, scoring between 200 and 250!

Paradise7 (author) from Upstate New York on September 07, 2012:

I wonder that, too. I don't know what his IQ was. I could try to find out for us. It must be high, very high!

Paradise7 (author) from Upstate New York on September 07, 2012:

You're very welcome. It was a challenging project since so many of the concepts I can just barely understand, myself. To try to communicate the gist of them to others is a real challenge! What a fascinating person, though! The ideas are so unique, so original in thinking...concepts of time and space that are really something to wrap your mind around!

Audrey Surma from Virginia on September 07, 2012:

I'm wondering what his IQ was? Very detailed hub that gives a thorough summary of a man's life.

Martin Kloess from San Francisco on September 06, 2012:

Wow... this must have taken some time to put together. Thank you for your hard work to bring Hawking to us.

Paradise7 (author) from Upstate New York on September 06, 2012:

Thank you for the comment, Kitty. I couldn't agree more.

Kitty Fields from Summerland on September 06, 2012:

Awesome article, paradise. What an intelligent man and provocative thinker. Thanks for writing this! Voted up and interesting.

Paradise7 (author) from Upstate New York on September 06, 2012:

You aren't a nerd, E. Loads of people love Stephen Hawking and his work. He has the knack of making the large concept accessible, even if we don't quite get the proofs of it in math and physics.

Paradise7 (author) from Upstate New York on September 06, 2012:

Thank you, Frank. I really took my time to do this one. His thinking is just so very intense, and interesting. It could have been miles longer! But I didn't think people would have the patience to read it.

Deborah from Las Vegas on September 06, 2012:

I am a total Hawkings fan, (Yes, I am a nerd), and have read all of his works (that I can understand) and find this hub absolutely a tribute to the man. Your bio is so good it should be online. This will draw a lot of attention from Google and users alike. Voted up and thank you!

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on September 06, 2012:

Paradise this was more informative than a wiki-pedia.. your overview was engaging voted interesting :)