Physicist Stephen Hawking Has Died at the Age of 76

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Renowned British theoretical physicist and Cambridge Professor Stephen Hawking has “died peacefully at his home in Cambridge” at the age of 76, according to a spokesperson for the Hawking family.

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In a statement released to several media outlets, Professor Hawking’s children Lucy, Robert, and Tim requested “time and privacy to mourn.”

“We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today,” they wrote. “He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years. His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humour inspired people across the world. He once said, ‘It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.’ We will miss him forever.”

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Hawking, one of the most significant and best-known scientists of his time, began experiencing the symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS, a degenerative motor neuron condition, at the age of 21. Doctors initially gave him only two years to live.

His disease eventually led to his near-total paralysis and confinement to a wheelchair, as well as the use of a synthetic speech device. This, however, did not dim his growing fame, and arguably enhanced his reputation as a survivor who refused to be limited by circumstance.

As noted in a 2016 BBC profile, Hawking’s biggest contributions to physics were bringing “together several different but equally fundamental fields of physical theory: gravitation, cosmology, quantum theory, thermodynamics and information theory.” In 1970, he collaborated with UK physicist Roger Penrose on a paper proposing that a full understanding of general relativity indicates that the universe began as a singularity, and later published work that offered some partial solutions to the apparent incompatibility between general relativity and quantum theory.

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In 1974, he formulated the first theoretical explanation of Hawking radiation, which proposes black holes can radiate energy and thus slowly dissipate—or in the case of primordial mini-black holes, violently explode. He later published work on the Big Bang, which took him to best-seller status in the book A Brief History of Time.

Over the course of his career, the Washington Post noted, Hawking rose to the position of Lucasian professor of mathematics at the University of Cambridge once held by none other than Isaac Newton.

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In his later years, Hawking was sometimes a controversial figure, issuing a number of dire predictions about energy consumption, robots, extraterrestrials, nuclear bombs, and climate change.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

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"... An upperclassman who had been researching terrorist groups online." - Washington Post

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davediemmartinez
Dave Diem Martinez

The below is from an NPR interview of commentator Aaron Freeman: 

You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.

And at one point you’d hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.


And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.

And you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly. Amen.

-Aaron Freeman.