Less than two weeks before his death, Stephen Hawking submitted what was to become his final scientific paper. The paper, called “A Smooth Exit from Eternal Inflation,” lays the groundwork for detecting parallel universes and it could be his most important legacy.
Hawking, who died Wednesday at the age of 76 after complications of Lou Gehrig's disease, coauthored the paper along with Thomas Hertog. The paper's authors sought out prove the "multiverse" theory by describing the mathematics needed for a deep-space space probe to find evidence of the existence of other universes.
The popular "multiverse" theory suggests that many universes exist in addition to our own cosmos and, according to the paper, evidence should be measurable in background radiation. A properly equipped deep-space probe could, theoretically, measure this radiation.
In the paper, Hawking finally confronts an issue that has bothered the scientist since his 1983 "no-boundary" theory. That theory describes how our universe burst into existence during the Big Bang but also posits that, at the exact same time as our Big Bang, an infinite number of other such bangs produced an infinite number of universes. Unfortunately for Hawking, this theory could not be tested experimentally.
“These ideas offer the breathtaking prospect of finding evidence for the existence of other universes. This would profoundly change our perception of our place in the cosmos,” Carlos Frenk, a professor of cosmology, told the Sunday Times.
After the paper's review process is complete, the paper is set to be published by a "leading journal" that, so far, has remained nameless.
If the evidence Hawking's last paper suggests can be found were discovered during his lifetime, it might very well have led to his receipt of a Nobel Prize, a lifelong dream of the late scientist. Unfortunately for Hawking's legacy, the Nobel Prize cannot be awarded posthumously.
As Hawking's light fades, his final theory tragically implies that it is also the fate of our universe to simply fade into blackness.
Top photo | Multiverse image. (Wikimedia/SpeedRunnerOfPersia)
This post is Creative Commons.
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