A tribute to Stephen Hawking
SME Innovation Alliance - SMEIA - was backed by
the physicist Stephen Hawking who passed away on March 14th. This date is dubbed
as Pi Day and happens to be Albert Einstein's birthday. The International
Mathematical Union has recently proposed it to be declared by Unesco as the
International Day of Mathematics.
Stephen Hawking passed away on March 14th that is dubbed as Pi Day and that
happens to be Albert Einstein's birthday. The International Mathematical Union
had recently proposed it to be declared by Unesco as the International Day of
Hawking was born on January 8th, 1942. It happened to be the date of the
300th anniversary of Galileo's death. Following the footsteps of another genius
- Sir Isaac Newton - the chair of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the
University of Cambridge in England has been held by him. He was offered to be
knighted and granted the title of "Sir" but declined the honor. Hawking became a
winner of many prizes, among them the 2013 Special Breakthrough Prize in
Fundamental Physics set up 2012 to be the most lucrative prize ever established
in science, and the Crafoord Prize, astronomy's equivalent to of the Nobel prize
that he did not receive.
Like Ludwig Boltzmann, Hawking wished a tombstone adorned with his most
famous equation. In combination with Boltzmann's constant k, Einstein's speed of
light c, Planck's constant h, and Newton's gravitation constant G, it connects
the black hole entropy S to the surface area A of the black hole event horizon.
This equation between these fundamental quantities in physics is a fine example
of mathematical beauty. The supreme example is Euler's equation between the most
fundamental numbers in mathematics: Euler's number e, pi, and the imaginary unit
In Hawking's famous book A Brief History of Time, he admitted having made a
big mistake like Einstein who claimed that the biggest mistake of his life was
to introduce the cosmological constant. Hawking's idea was at first that the
universe oscillated with a nice symmetry between expanding and contracting
phases. He applied a cosmological model
in which the contracting phase looked like the time reverse of the expanding phase. However, his colleagues proved soon to him that disorder would continue to increase during the contraction. Perhaps the last word is not said in this matter. His idea of oscillation with a nice symmetry is - like Einstein's cosmological constant - worth a second chance in a new cosmological model. Hawking was optimistic: "All we need to do is make sure we keep talking...My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all."
As a young man thinking about marriage, Hawking was told that he could expect
to die in less than five years. All kinds of support and a strong will added
more than fifty fruitful years to his life. Considered by many to be the
Einstein of our time, a speech synthesizer and a wheel-chair contributed to make
him known to the millions.
Hawking leaves three children and two remarried ex-wives. During his funeral
on March 31st, I have been writing these lines inspired by the view of
Stockholm's Observatory Hill in front of which I have lived and worked since
1985. To the left, the human curiosity is represented by the Old Observatory
built 1753, and to the right, a sculpture erected 1939 shows the centaur Chiron
raising himself from the ground. Today, it symbolizes in my eyes the triumph of
mind over matter and the now buried man's outstanding life.
Lars A Wern
Stockholm, March 31st, 2018