Britain's Professor Stephen Hawking has died aged 76.
Britain's Professor Stephen Hawking has died aged 76.

Hawking’s final message to world

STEPHEN Hawking was one of the most gifted minds the world has ever known and it shined bright right to the end.

The theoretical physicist was known for bringing clarity to some of the most mind-bending ideas in science and his final days were no exception.

In one of his last public media appearances he laid out his theory on the beginning of the universe and the truth about what happened before the Big Bang.

"The boundary condition of the universe ... is that it has no boundary," Hawking told fellow physicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson on his Star Talk show, which went to air earlier this month.

In other words, there is no time before time began as time was always there. It was just different.

As he explained, amid the almost infinitely small quantum foam of the singularity before the Big Bang, time existed in a 'bent'" state. It was distorted along another dimension - always getting fractionally closer to, but never becoming, nothing.

So there never was a Big Bang that created something from nothing. It's just looks that way from our point of perspective.

As Hawking has previously said in one of his lectures: "Since events before the Big Bang have no observational consequences, one may as well cut them out of the theory, and say that time began at the Big Bang. Events before the Big Bang, are simply not defined, because there's no way one could measure what happened at them."

But there are ways to figure out what came before, he said.

Along with James Hartle of the University of California Santa Barbara, the late Stephen Hawking proposed that space and another dimension of time proposed by Quantum theory dubbed imaginary time, when put together are indeed finite in extent, but without boundary.

There's no raw physics that supports this idea, yet.

But Hawking's insight has proven right before.

What we do know is that when it comes to the Big Bang - and black holes - our understanding of physics breaks down.

The only certainty about the infinitesimally small quantum building blocks of our universe is that they are uncertain.

This image provided by the National Science Foundation shows a timeline of the universe. Scientists have detected a signal from 180 million years after the Big Bang when the earliest stars began glowing.
This image provided by the National Science Foundation shows a timeline of the universe. Scientists have detected a signal from 180 million years after the Big Bang when the earliest stars began glowing.

HAWKING'S WARNING TO THE WORLD

In recent years, Stephen Hawking had raised the alarm about the potential threat of artificial intelligence.

Speaking at the Web Summit in Lisbon in November, the famous physicist said AI has the potential to be the best or worst thing humanity has ever seen and the scary reality is we just don't know which yet.

"We cannot know if we will be infinitely helped by AI or ignored by it and sidelined, or conceivably destroyed by it," he said.

While AI could be hugely beneficial for reducing poverty, disease and restoring the natural environment, it's impossible to predict "what we might achieve when our own minds are amplified by AI".

"AI could be the worst invention of the history of our civilisation, that brings dangers like powerful autonomous weapons or new ways for the few to oppress the many."

"AI could develop a will of its own, a will that is in conflict with ours and which could destroy us. In short, the rise of powerful AI will be either the best, or the worst thing ever to happen to humanity."

Hawking warned scientists and global governments needed to focus on maximising benefits for society rather than pure capability.

"We need to employ effective management in all areas of its development," he said. "We stand on a threshold of a brave new world. It is an exciting, if precarious place to be and you are the pioneers" he told the audience of researchers and technologists.

RELATED: STEPHEN HAWKING WARNS HUMANS MUST LEAVE EARTH IN 100 YEARS

Britain's Professor Stephen Hawking has died aged 76. Picture: Andrew Cowie
Britain's Professor Stephen Hawking has died aged 76. Picture: Andrew Cowie

THE PUBLIC FACE OF SCIENCE

In many ways, Stephen Hawking was the inheritor of Albert Einstein's mantle of the genius-as-celebrity.

His most well known work is the best seller A Brief History of Time which has sold more than 9 million copies - although it's no easy read. In fact, it's been called "the least-read best-seller ever".

With Einstein, most people are familiar with e = mc2, but they don't know what it means. With Hawking, his work was too complicated for most people, but they understood that what he was trying to figure out was basic, even primal.

"He was asking and trying to address the very biggest questions we were trying to ask: the birth of the universe, black holes, the direction of time," said University of Chicago cosmologist Michael Turner.

"I think that caught people's attention."

And he did so in an impish way, showing humanity despite being confined to a wheelchair with the degenerative nerve disorder, ALS.

"The first thing that catches you is the debilitating disease and his wheelchair," Turner said. But his mind and the "joy that he took in science" dominated.

While the public may not have understood what he said, they got his quest for big ideas.

Andy Fabian, an astronomer at Hawking's University of Cambridge and president of the Royal Astronomical Society, said Hawking would start his layman's lectures on black holes with the joke: "I assume you all have read A Brief History of Time and understood it."

It always got a big laugh, he recalled.

- With AP



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