Newly published paper reveals Hawking's final theory about Big Bang

LONDON • Professor Stephen Hawking's final theory on the origin of the universe has been published, the University of Cambridge said.

The paper, co-authored by the world-famous British scientist and Professor Thomas Hertog from KU Leuven in Belgium, was submitted for publication in the Journal Of High Energy Physics 10 days before Prof Hawking's death on March 14 at the age of 76, the university said on Wednesday.

It suggests that our universe may be one of many similar to our own, the BBC reported. It also points a way forward for astronomers to find evidence of the existence of parallel universes, the BBC said.

In the 1980s, the Cambridge scientist, along with US physicist James Hartle, developed a new idea about the beginning of the universe.

This resolved a difficulty with Albert Einstein's theory that suggested that the universe began nearly 14 billion years ago but said nothing about how it began.

Instead, the Hartle-Hawking idea used a different theory called quantum mechanics to explain how the universe arose from nothingness.

But as physicists analysed the idea, it emerged that it carried with it the implication that the Big Bang would create not just one universe - but an endless supply.

If there are infinite types of universes with infinite variations in their laws of physics, then the Hartle-Hawking theory cannot predict what kind of universe we should find ourselves in. Prof Hawking joined forces with Prof Hertog to try to resolve this paradox.

The result is the fruit of 20 years' work, the BBC said. It has solved the puzzle by drawing on new mathematical techniques developed to study another esoteric branch of physics called string theory.

The new Hawking-Hertog assessment indicates that there can only be universes that have the same laws of physics as our own. That conjecture means that our universe is typical and so observations we make from our viewpoint will be meaningful in developing our ideas of how other universes emerged.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2018, with the headline 'Newly published paper reveals Hawking's final theory about Big Bang'. Print Edition | Subscribe