Stephen Hawking megathread

We were sad to learn that noted physicist, cosmologist, and author [Stephen Hawking]( has passed away. In the spirit of AskScience, we will try to answer questions about Stephen Hawking’s work and life, so feel free to ask your questions below.


* [BBC](
* [NY Times](
* [Stephen Hawking Foundation](
* [ALS Association](
* [Current Einstein megathread](/r/askscience/comments/84auuc/einstein_birthday_megathread/) for more discussion on general relativity/cosmology.

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48 thoughts on “Stephen Hawking megathread

  1. Abdiel_Kavash March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    Do we know what helped Hawking survive the disease for so long? As far as I know, he was given no more than 2-3 years to live when he was first diagnosed.

    Is there anything we have learned from his case that could eventually lead to a cure?


    (Rest in peace. A Brief History of Time was the book that first sparked my interest in astronomy and physics.)

  2. Darkjolly March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    He reached a status where you’d think he would never die

  3. Fuck_Your_Mouth March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    As someone without much knowledge in physics, how does Hawking stack up against some of the great famous physicists of all time?

  4. iadtyjwu March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    What one thing should we remember him for in your opinion?

  5. Eve_Coon March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    What are some of Hawkins lesser known accomplishments in the science field.

  6. Coonark00 March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    Are there an good documentaries out about Hawking’s work? In the last decade was he still performing research or was he serving physics in a more ambassadorial role?

  7. Torvite March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    Did Hawking have any major unfinished works at the time of his death, or had he already published most of the works relating to his primary fields of research?

  8. guy_incognito86 March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    Would anyone care to give a brief run down of the significance of Hawking’s major contributions to physics and cosmology? What do we know now about the nature of the universe that was directly demonstrated by his work?

  9. Wormteller March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    How active was Hawking in recent months (or years)? What was he most excited about or interested in these days?

  10. Crashbrennan March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    Born on the anniversary of Galileo’s death.
    Died on the anniversary of Einstein’s birth.

    There’s something poetic about that.

  11. iwasnotarobot March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    I read a comment saying that the world is a darker place for losing Hawking today.

    I say the world is a brighter place for Hawking choosing to be a part of it.

    He could have checked-out long ago. Instead he fought his disease as best as he could, and probably lived a good thirty years longer than anyone might have guessed he would.

    So mourn his passing if you must. But if he meant something to you, become a beacon in the darkness—just as he was to so many who might have looked up at the night sky and wondered.

    The world can be made better by ordinary deeds by ordinary people. This, I’m sure, is something Hawking would have agreed with.

  12. Floppy4Skin March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    This man performed the most complex mathematical operations known to man entirely in his head due to his inability to use a pencil. As an engineer myself, I can’t possibly comprehend the magnitude of intelligence that requires.

  13. Thecyberphantom March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    Do we know what his last words were?

    I know he couldn’t talk and stuff, but did he slowly due to the point where he could no longer control the machine that interpreted his words, or do we know what he wanted to say?

  14. Giddygood March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    On behalf of the human race, thank you Mr. Stephen Hawking

  15. Arquebus12 March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    I read “A Brief History of Time”, and 90% of it was stratospherically over my head…

    But the 10% that took was hugely enlightening. An icon and visionary has merged with the infinite, and I’m grateful for my brief contact with him, no matter how removed.

  16. Nekusar March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    I honestly just want to know what questions he still had about the universe and it’s workings.

  17. Thrw2367 March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    Can we get a discussion on Hawking Radiation? I’ve heard that it involves particles tunneling out of the black hole, is that a good way to understand it? How does it relate to black-body radiation? What sort of particles is it?

  18. abodyweightquestion March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    Hawking predicted the radiation that bears his name, and that black holes essentially evaporate.

    How do we use this knowledge practically? Is there any Earth-based benefits for knowing it?

  19. _chiiklez March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    What’s some quotes from Hawking that really made you think?

  20. BitKillerJone5 March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    – Stephen Hawking’s 3 favorite songs.

    “[Symphony Of Psalms]( was in fact the first piece of music Professor Hawking ever purchased. “I first became aware of classical music when I was 15,” he said. “LPs had recently appeared in Britain. I ripped out the mechanism of our old wind-up gramophone and put in a turntable and a three-valve amplifier. I made a speaker cabinet from an old book case, with a sheet of chip-board on the front. The whole system looked pretty crude, but it didn’t sound too bad. At the time LPs were very expensive so I couldn’t afford any of them on a schoolboy budget. But I bought Stravinsky’s Symphony Of Psalms because it was on sale as a 10” LP, which were being phased out. The record was rather scratched, but I fell in love with the third movement, which makes up more than half the symphony.”

    [Wieniawski’s Violin Concerto No. 1]( Hawking was actually inspired to buy a collection of Wieniawski’s music after hearing his second concerto on Radio 3 in the 1990s, but prefers the first in particular for its “haunting phrase in the first movement”.

    [Francis Poulenc’s Gloria]( is the final piece in Professor Hawking’s musical trilogy. Part of the work caused a “scandal” – in the French composer’s own words – when it was first performed in 1959 because of its unusual mixture of light-heartedness and spirituality. Poulenc later explained that he had been thinking of frescoes in which angels stick out their tongues and “serious Benedictines whom I saw playing soccer one day” when he wrote it.
    Professor Hawking first heard the Poulenc Gloria in Aspen, Colorado, during the resort’s 1995 music festival. “You can sit in your office in the physics centre there and hear the music without ever buying a ticket,” he said. “But on this occasion I was actually in the tent to hear the Gloria. It is one of a small number of works I consider great music.”

  21. FourierT March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    The world has lost a brilliant mind. May he rest in peace and may we continue his brilliant work.

  22. Fuckoff_CPS March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    Does his death affect any ongoing projects in the physics world ?

  23. CesarBDaG March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    When we teach the next generation of children who never grew up to know Hawking, what should be one thing we should teach them in terms of what Stephen Hawking did in the name of science?

  24. _wdpike_ March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    I was reading about Stephen Hawking last night, and felt inspired to go back to Univeristy. Reading this news has now confirmed this for me.

    Thank you for contributions, may you rest in peace.

  25. itsvoogle March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    “Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet” – will do professor 👍🏻✨🔭

  26. n7-Jutsu March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    How much work was put into developing his wheelchair, and in terms of technological advancement how ahead of time is it?

    Also was his death sudden, or was it something that was kept under wraps?

  27. BaconCheddarCheese March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    Can anyone say, generally, what his greatest accomplishment was to the human race? Or what he’ll be known for 50 years from now?

  28. s00perguy March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    Will he still be posthumously awarded the Nobel prize in Physics for his work on Hawking radiation? Idk if they give posthumous awards, but the man deserves the accolade for the history books.

  29. AndroniX March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    He died on the Pi day. Rest in peace you amazing being

  30. faithjoypack March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    We lost a brilliant mind. The cosmos received a brilliant mind.

  31. Munsterboy92 March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    Of all the celebrity deaths over the passed few years, I think this one hits the hardest.

    I never studied science or physics, I was just always fascinated by it and always had so much admiration for Hawking for having the will power to continue his studies and research after all these years and even show up for tv shows, movies, interviews, book signings, the list goes on.

    A man in his condition should never have been able to survive as long as he did but the advancement in space exploration and physics and human survival was far more important to him than feeling sorry for himself and waiting for Death. If it wasn’t for his love of science and the advancement of civilisation, I don’t think he would have survived nearly as long.

    He suffered for us, humanity as a whole, not just a country or a race or a social status. It’s our job to ensure his legacy lives on and his studies and theories are thought to our children and don’t get lost in time.

    RIP Stephen Hawking, I’m sure you’re in the company of better minds now wherever you are.

  32. SphmrSlmp March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    What was Stephen Hawking’s last official contribution to science before he passed away?

  33. MrBragg March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    I would have liked to go to dinner with Stephen Hawking. I wouldn’t have been able to eat, but the conversation would have been fascinating!

  34. mayhemmonkey4 March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    Now he can explore the universe. Hope he finds his answers on the other side.

  35. Nachzherer March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    Dear Mister Hawking,

    Although it appeared that your body has been a prison for some time, there was never a doubt that your mind was free, and flew higher than most able-bodied-beings’ would dare.

    Upon hearing of your death, I was initially struck with a deep sadness, as I’m sure everyone on this thread would concede. This sadness, sharp as it is, will dull, with time.

    Shortly after the cut of depression, another emotion entered the melange; it was weaker, by far, but still tangible:


    Not for myself, or any living member of the human race. In truth, I fear for a future in which you are not here to guide us. Relief for you, dear Mister Hawking.

    At least now, you’re further than ever from your carbon-based-prison. No more need to sleep, no more need to eat, to drink, to worry, to fear, to hate. Now, although your audience may have a difficult time interpreting your work (though that was quite an undertaking while you were alive!), there is nothing keeping you from your work, your research, and your dreams.

    We’re all weeping for your loss. We’re all upset. We’re all distraught. We’re all wondering what we could have done. I, myself, am reeling from the now-impossibility of sharing my thoughts on the universe with you.

    But, you’ve shared yourself with us, endlessly. It’s written, reproduced, accepted, venerated. Your single-brain has rippled throughout the planet, reaching more eyes, ears, and minds, than any bullhorn ever could.

    You’ve showed me, without a doubt, that the mysteries of the cosmos are more beautiful, intricate, and complex, than any individual answer to any individual problem.

    Thank you, Mister Hawking, from the very bottom of my heart.

  36. tech6 March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    Why did he not get Nobel prize.In his book brief history of time he mentions he would be nominated for Nobel prize if they find a black hole

  37. russiakun March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    Was he still conducting research this past decade? If so, what happens to that research as a result of his passing?

  38. DidntHaveToUseMyAK March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    I hope someone is able to take on his mantle. This is a damn shame.

  39. Arsacius March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    What are his thoughts about death? Did he talk about that?

  40. _Shropshire_Slasher_ March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    If only we had advanced enough to resleeve his stack! (Sci-fi, Altered Carbon)
    This man who showed the humankind to never give up would be the ideal candidate to continue living till he found the answers to all the questions he had and inspire humanity to keep pushing further!

  41. nk7gaming March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    What made it possible for Hawking to be able to communicate?

  42. lordbrion March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    Given how quick we are to move on and forget in this turbulent age of (mis)information, I truly hope with my heart that humanity remember him as one of the most brilliant minds of our age, and also that his life story serves as a prime example that regardless what the circumstances of your life may be, you can overcome, achieve and surpass whatever challenges life brings you and rise above.
    May you find the answers and explanations for all the questions your curious mind formulated, and may it bring you peace. Rest in peace Stephen.

  43. skapaneas March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    Dying at International π-day seems fitting, never the less it is a sad day for humanity and science.

  44. Edenhashishcentre March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    I met Stephen Hawking when i was seven years old at a fireworks party at trinity college Cambridge, i was with my parents and grandad who was the head chef at the time and so I wondered round as kids do at social functions and remember he was seated in his wheel chair watching the fire works and it was a nice memory, i was too shy to say anything and remember

  45. wisecrab March 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.

    And at one point you’d hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.

    And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.

    And you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly.

    Commentator : Aaron Freeman for NPR

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