Stephen Hawking admits the biggest blunder of his scientific career - early belief that everything swallowed up by a black hole must be lost forever
Cosmologist also predicts the end of humanity on Earth and urges continuation of space exploration
Steve Connor is the Science Editor of The Independent. He has won many awards for his journalism, including five-times winner of the prestigious British science writers’ award; the David Perlman Award of the American Geophysical Union; twice commended as specialist journalist of the year in the UK Press Awards; UK health journalist of the year and a special merit award of the European School of Oncology for his investigative journalism. He has a degree in zoology from the University of Oxford and has a special interest in genetics and medical science, human evolution and origins, climate change and the environment.
Thursday 11 April 2013
The cosmologist Stephen Hawking has described the biggest blunder of his scientific career – his early belief that everything swallowed up by a black hole must be lost forever.
Professor Hawking said that there is one thing that does in fact escape from black holes – radiation. He has previously said that his discovery of what is now known as Hawking radiation was one of his proudest achievements.
In a lecture at a hospital in Los Angeles that has pioneered research into stem-cell treatments for degenerative diseases – including his own condition of motor neuron disease – Professor Hawking described the blunder that had initially blinded him to one of his greatest insights into the Universe.
Hawking radiation is emitted from the rim of a black hole, known as the event horizon, where all the matter that is falling into the abyss is stretched out like spaghetti. Even light does not escape from a black hole – except for Hawking radiation.
Professor Hawking, 71, was paraphrasing a statement made by Albert Einstein who had altered his general theory of relativity in the early 1900s to take into account his fervent belief that the Universe was not expanding.
Einstein realised his mistake a few years later when astronomers discovered that stars were moving away at great speed, suggesting that the Universe was expanding. Einstein described the gaffe as the biggest blunder of his career.
Professor Hawking gave his hour-long lecture on Tuesday at the Cedars-Sinai Regenerative Medicine Institute where he saw first-hand the stem cell work that aims to treat the neurological disease that has kept him in a wheelchair for 50 years.
“To understand the universe at the deepest level, we have to understand why is there something rather than nothing,” Hawking said, speaking through a computer program that converts his eye and cheek movements into spoken speech. “Why do we exist? Why this particular set of laws, and not some other? I believe the answers to all of these things is M-theory.”
M-theory combines several ideas in physics and mathematics, including the suggestion that there are several dimensions in the fabric of space-time. Professor Hawking has been a staunch supporter of m-theory, believing that it will lead to a single, unified theory to explain all the laws and observations of physics.
Professor Hawking said that humans must explore space if we are to survive the coming millennium. “We must continue to go into space for humanity. We won’t survive another 1,000 years without escaping our fragile planet,” he said.
Following a tour of the medical center’s stem-cell laboratories, which are directed toward studying new treatments for motor-neuron disease, Hawking drew parallels between the centre’s work in discovering the mechanisms of disease and his quest to understand the fundamental rules of the universe.
“If you understand how the Universe operates, you control it in a way,” said the author of “A Brief History of Time,” which has sold several million copies since it was first published in 1988. Hawking held the post of Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge University until his retirement in 2009.
- 1 Isis burns thousands of books and rare manuscripts from Mosul's libraries
- 2 Scarlett Johansson new band 'already hit with legal complaint' from another The Singles
- 3 Husband and wife die holding hands within hours of each other after 67 years of marriage
- 4 The remarkable archaeological underwater discovery that could open up a new chapter in the study of European and British prehistory
- 5 'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Isis burns thousands of books and rare manuscripts from Mosul's libraries
Husband and wife die holding hands within hours of each other after 67 years of marriage
Mohammed Emwazi: Nine things we know about Isis militant 'Jihadi John'
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
'Jihadi John': Mohammed Emwazi – from British computer programmer to Isis executioner
Oscars 2015: Birdman beats Boyhood as Eddie Redmayne and Patricia Arquette win big - as it happened
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
Half of Ukip voters say they are prejudiced against people of other races
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
Aqsa Mahmood branded a 'disgrace' by her parents after claims she recruited three UK girls flying to Middle East
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
£250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you a qualified accountant with strong exp...
£230 - £260 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Do you want to stamp your footprint in histo...
£22,000 - £23,000: Beverley James: Are you looking for the opportunity to work...
£30,000: Beverley James: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for a person looki...