14th March marked the death anniversary of Stephen Hawking, the legendary physicist. He lived a long and fruitful life, contributing many invaluable scientific breakthroughs to humanity despite his crippling physical condition. But the world couldn’t let him go even at the ripe old age of 76. Stephan Hawking is one of the few people who can be placed on the same pedestal as Isaac Newton and Einstein. He was a man of revolution and a pioneer of science, who took the scientific communities by storm with his discoveries. 4 years after his death, let’s remind ourselves of some of the truly unbelievable facts about him that we hope to never forget.
1. Blackhole Theory
The Stephen Hawking Black Hole theory proved mathematically that black holes exist. Einstein’s theory of relativity had predicted the existence of black holes. The Stephen Hawking Black Hole theory gave mathematical justification making it one of the most important contributions to the field of physics. He proved the existence of “singularity” i.e a single point in space and time where the laws of physics don’t work. The formation of the Big Bang began from this infinitely single point. According to him, this was the beginning of time. Also, he explained the formation of black holes. When a star dies, it shrinks into a single point that becomes a black hole.
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2. Hawking Radiation
Stephen Hawking wrote a book titled “Hawking Radiation” which laid out groundbreaking truths including the fact that black holes were not vacuum. He predicted that black holes can come in different sizes depending on the radiation of energy, named after him as ‘Hawking Radiation’.
3. Black Holes aren’t really black
“If you feel like you are in a blackhole, don’t give up. There is a way out.”
Hawking stated that black holes weren’t as black as they were painted out to be. He refuted the popular notion that light can’t escape a black hole. The particles never enter the blackholes in the first place but are stored on the exterior. The particles sucked into it do not remain there forever. Anything that enters a black hole is emitted in the form of radiation. One of his most quoted words were-“If you feel like you are in a black hole, don’t give up. There is a way out.”
4. Writing Books and Articles
Hawking wrote several books and papers using a portable computer that detected face and head movements. When he had the ability of speech, he would dictate scientific papers to a secretary. For some time, he could only communicate spelling letter by letter by raising an eyebrow when someone pointed out the correct letters on a spelling card. But with this machine, he could write 15 words per minute, dozens of scientific papers, and talk. Eventually, he began using a wheelchair and had trouble with speech. He used a speech device that uses movements of his cheek to form words. This is when he wrote books about complex concepts including quantum physics and black holes. A common man without a background in science could understand them. This includes his best-selling book “A brief history of time”.
5. Outliving his life expectancy
Possibly the most mind-numbing fact about Stephen Hawking was that he lived well past the predicted life expectancy of an ALS patient. He faced major battles with his deteriorating health. At the age of 21, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis commonly known as ALS. Having ALS leads to losing control over muscles, the inability to perform day-to-day functions like standing, walking, eating, etc. His life expectancy was predicted to be 2 years after diagnosis. But he defied all odds and pulled through to 76 years of age. After contracting life-threatening pneumonia, his wife was asked if she wanted to remove him from life support but she refused. He used the computer program attached to his wheelchair to give lectures.
6. Life beyond our planet
Hawking stated that the universe is vast and that there was a possibility of the existence of aliens. He also added that humanity must not engage in contact with them as it might result in the same consequences as when Columbus landed in America. He founded a program along with Mark Zuckerberg to find alien life. This initiative includes a search for radio and optic signals that could detect life.
7. Colonization of space
According to him, for humanity to survive, it was essential to colonize space. Humans wouldn’t last for another 1000 years due to events like wars, environmental disasters, asteroid collisions. Population growth may soon make our planet uninhabitable. Continuation of our species requires reaching out to other planets. But he was also vocal about climate change and mentions “Right now we only have one planet. We better take care of it so it can take care of us.”
Stephan Hawking gave a new insight into the outer world and also ignited important questions for our existence. Despite his failing health, he worked relentlessly for what he believed in. His grit is an inspiration to all of us. In his words, “However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.”