Stephen Hawking's final research paper has been published, and it's mind-bending

Arturo Kim
May 4, 2018

Hawking's final paper, published posthumously in the Journal of High Energy Physics, claims that one of the fundamental assumptions of the eternal inflation theory is that Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity would still work.

But Hawking wasn't having any of it, as it doesn't work with Einstein's theory of General Relativity - admitting in an interview past year that he had "never been a fan of" the multiverse.

"However, the dynamics of eternal inflation wipes out the separation between classical and quantum physics".

"Now we're saying that there is a boundary in our past", co-author Thomas Hertog of the Belgian university KU Leven said in a press statement. They predicted the universe that emerges from eternal inflation on the past boundary is finite and far simpler than the infinite fractal structure predicted by the old theory of eternal inflation. If there aren't infinite universes, and simply many, what laws govern how many and which ones?

We've covered the theory before, relating to the "multiverse" and the dazzling postulate that there were infinite Big Bangs, one right after the other, and that we exist in a slowed-down universe which allowed for solar systems, stars, and galaxies to form.

Prof Hawking said before his death: "We are not down to a single, unique universe, but our findings imply a significant reduction of the multiverse, to a much smaller range of possible universes".

The new theory that Hawking and Hertog propose is based on string theory, notes a BBC report. "I always had the impression that he never wanted to quit and, in a way, this was Hawking".

Physicists believe the universe grew to astounding proportions in a trillionth of a second after the big bang
Physicists believe the universe grew to astounding proportions in a trillionth of a second after the big bang

Hawking, who rose to fame on the back of his bestselling book, A Brief History of Time, died on 14 March, aged 76, at his home in Cambridge.

The latest work challenges the view that our universe "is like an infinite fractal, with a mosaic of different pocket universes separated by an inflating ocean".

In their new paper, Hawking and Hertog came up with a different take. In their new paper, Hawking and Hertog say that this concept of eternal inflation is wrong.

"This paper. reduces the multiverse down to a more manageable set of universes which all look alike".

Much like popular explanations of multiple iterations of characters in comic books, theorists suggest the possibility of infinite universes - the multiverse.

"Stephen himself said that this work was the area he was most proud of", Malcolm Perry, a colleague of Hawking's, tells the Guardian. It would have been generated by the universe's initial expansion from the Big Bang. This enabled them to describe eternal inflation without having to rely on Einstein' theory.

The European Space Agency has a project underway to build gravitational wave detectors in space that should be sensitive enough to find the faint signals Hertog talks about. Using string theory, the two theorize that there is a point where eternal inflation begins, and at that point it exists in a timeless state.

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