Stephen Hawking Finished Mind-Bending Parallel Universe Paper Days Before His Death

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Carol Kuruvilla
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Professor Stephen Hawking addressing The Cambridge Union on Nov. 21, 2017 in Cambridge, Cambridgeshire. (Photo: Chris Williamson via Getty Images)
Professor Stephen Hawking addressing The Cambridge Union on Nov. 21, 2017 in Cambridge, Cambridgeshire. (Photo: Chris Williamson via Getty Images)

British physicist Stephen Hawking may have died in March, but his legacy is still unfolding.

The prominent theoretical physicist and cosmologist co-authored a research paper about the existence of parallel universes similar to our own, which the Journal of High-Energy Physics posthumously published on Friday.

According to the BBC, the study was submitted to the open-access journal shortly before Hawking’s death.

Thomas Hertog, a co-author of the study, told the BBC that he and Hawking were wrestling with the idea that the Big Bang actually resulted in the creation of multiple “pocket universes” that exist throughout space. It was unclear to them whether the laws of physics that apply in our universe would also apply in these alternate universes.

“In the old theory there were all sorts of universes: some were empty, others were full of matter, some expanded too fast, others were too short-lived. There was huge variation,” said Hertog, a physics professor at the Catholic University of Leuven (KU Leuven) in Belgium. “The mystery was why do we live in this special universe where everything is nicely balanced in order for complexity and life to emerge?”

Hertog and Hawking’s paper uses new mathematical techniques to restore order to previously chaotic views of the multiverse, suggesting that these different universes are subject to the same laws of physics as our own.

Pallbearers carry the coffin out of Great St Marys Church at the end of the funeral of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, in Cambridge, Britain, March 31, 2018. (Photo: Henry Nicholls / Reuters)
Pallbearers carry the coffin out of Great St Marys Church at the end of the funeral of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, in Cambridge, Britain, March 31, 2018. (Photo: Henry Nicholls / Reuters)

“It reduces the multiverse down to a more manageable set of universes which all look alike,” said Hertog, whose paper with Hawkings drew on 20 years of work.

The physicists also gave other researchers a pathway to potentially detect the presence of other universes by searching for cosmic microwave radiation that is left over from the Big Bang.

Hertog said that communication became more difficult near the end of Hawking’s life ― although the physicist apparently never showed signs of wanting to quit.

Along with his recently published study, Hawking has at least two other papers that are being prepared for publication, according to the Guardian.

Hawking died at the age of 76 on March 14, due to complications from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive neurodegenerative disease. He rose to global fame in 1988, after publishing a general audience book on science, A Brief History of Time. In the world of astrophysics, he’s best known for his theories on black holes.

Hawking’s ashes will be interred inside London’s Westminster Abbey later this year, near the graves of scientists Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.

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"Women. They are a complete mystery."  -- Stephen Hawking's response when asked by <em>New Scientist</em> what he thinks about most during the day
"Women. They are a complete mystery." -- Stephen Hawking's response when asked by New Scientist what he thinks about most during the day
"The human race is just a chemical scum on a moderate-sized planet, orbiting around a very average star in the outer suburb of one among a hundred billion galaxies. We are so insignificant that I can't believe the whole universe exists for our benefit. That would be like saying that you would disappear if I closed my eyes."  -- Stephen Hawking in "Reality on the Rocks" TV series
"The human race is just a chemical scum on a moderate-sized planet, orbiting around a very average star in the outer suburb of one among a hundred billion galaxies. We are so insignificant that I can't believe the whole universe exists for our benefit. That would be like saying that you would disappear if I closed my eyes." -- Stephen Hawking in "Reality on the Rocks" TV series
"If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn't turn out well for the Native Americans... We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn't want to meet."    -- Hawking in "Into The Universe with Stephen Hawking" TV series
"If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn't turn out well for the Native Americans... We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn't want to meet." -- Hawking in "Into The Universe with Stephen Hawking" TV series
"I have no idea. People who boast about their I.Q. are losers."  -- Hawking's response when asked by <em>The New York Times</em> about his I.Q.
"I have no idea. People who boast about their I.Q. are losers." -- Hawking's response when asked by The New York Times about his I.Q.
"Yeah, well, there are some people who spend an awful lot of time talking about the interpretation of quantum mechanics. My attitude -- I would paraphrase Goering -- is that when I hear of Schrödinger's cat, I reach for my gun."    -- Hawking in the book "The Whole Shebang"
"Yeah, well, there are some people who spend an awful lot of time talking about the interpretation of quantum mechanics. My attitude -- I would paraphrase Goering -- is that when I hear of Schrödinger's cat, I reach for my gun." -- Hawking in the book "The Whole Shebang"
"I have noticed that even people who claim everything is predetermined and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road."  -- Hawking in his book "Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays"
"I have noticed that even people who claim everything is predetermined and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road." -- Hawking in his book "Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays"
"The downside of my celebrity is that I cannot go anywhere in the world without being recognized. It is not enough for me to wear dark sunglasses and a wig. The wheelchair gives me away."  -- Hawking on StarTrek.com
"The downside of my celebrity is that I cannot go anywhere in the world without being recognized. It is not enough for me to wear dark sunglasses and a wig. The wheelchair gives me away." -- Hawking on StarTrek.com
"We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the universe. That makes us something very special."    -- Hawking in newsmagazine <em>Der Spiegel</em>
"We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the universe. That makes us something very special." -- Hawking in newsmagazine Der Spiegel
"I don't think the human race will survive the next thousand years, unless we spread into space. There are too many accidents that can befall life on a single planet. But I'm an optimist. We will reach out to the stars."    -- Hawking in the <em>Daily Telegraph</em>
"I don't think the human race will survive the next thousand years, unless we spread into space. There are too many accidents that can befall life on a single planet. But I'm an optimist. We will reach out to the stars." -- Hawking in the Daily Telegraph
"Mankind's greatest achievements have come about by talking, and its greatest failures by not talking. It doesn't have to be like this. Our greatest hopes could become reality in the future. With the technology at our disposal, the possibilities are unbounded. All we need to do is make sure we keep talking."  -- Hawking in a British Telecom advertisement
"Mankind's greatest achievements have come about by talking, and its greatest failures by not talking. It doesn't have to be like this. Our greatest hopes could become reality in the future. With the technology at our disposal, the possibilities are unbounded. All we need to do is make sure we keep talking." -- Hawking in a British Telecom advertisement

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