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Stephen Hawking

Essay by   •  December 1, 2010  •  Research Paper  •  1,649 Words (7 Pages)  •  2,176 Views

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Stephen Hawking has been hailed as one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists since Albert Einstein. Hawking was born on January 8, 1942, which as he likes to point out is the 300th anniversary of Galileo's death. Hawking originally studied at Oxford University in England studying physics even though he would have preferred math. He moved onto Cambridge University to work on his PhD in cosmology. Hawking's career has focused upon the cosmic entities known as black holes, and has extended to specialized areas such as quantum gravity, particle physics, and supersymmetry.

A field of study that Stephen Hawking is known for is cosmology. Cosmology is the metaphysical study of the origin and nature of the universe. A brief synopsis of Hawking indicates that, according to Hawking, "there is 'no place for a creator', that God does not exist." In his quantum cosmology, he indicates, "there would be no singularities at which the laws of science broke down and no edge of space-time at which one would have to appeal to God or some new law to set the boundary conditions for space-time . . . The universe would be completely self-contained and not affected by anything outside itself. It would neither be created nor destroyed. It would just BE . . . What place, then, for a creator?"(Smith 2005)Theists have argued against this position, specifically, "that even if Hawking's physical laws are true, that fact does not entail that the God of classical theism does not exist or even disconfirm the classical theistic hypothesis." It would appear that Hawking did not inhibit himself to simply one theory when asking the question where did we come from and why. Rather, he points out that "if we do discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable in broad principle by everyone, not just a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists, and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason - for then we would know the mind of God."(Smith 2005)

Next to cosmology, Hawking is one of many physicists who are seeking out a flawless theory of Quantum Gravity. This topic is listed under the "Stephen Hawking" Wikipedia entry as one of Hawking's primary fields of research. Quantum Gravity is defined by Christopher Wanjek in Astronomy Today as, "...the long-sought missing link between Einstein's General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, the two incongruous pillars of modern physics." Hawking expended large amounts of effort attempting to come up with a unified theory that would accurately marry the two predominating theories of our time.

After extensive searching of a vast multitude of information available on the internet, one will find that it seems that Hawking did come to his own conclusion about the presence of Quantum Gravity. It appears that Hawking rested on a theory of Euclidean Quantum Gravity, which, "... refers to a Wick rotated version of quantum gravity, formulated as a quantum field theory." (Wikipedia 2005) The Wikipedia entry goes on to elaborate that the theory is defined by the use of four-dimensional Riemannian manifolds, which are assumed to be boundary-less, connected, and compact. "Following the usual quantum field-theoretic formulation, the vacuum to vacuum amplitude is written as a functional integral over the metric tensor, which is now the quantum field under consideration." (Wikipedia 2005) Assuming that this "physics stub" found within Wikipedia is accurate and up-to-date this leads one to the conclusion that Euclidean Quantum Gravity has opened the door to even larger amounts of future research into the field.

Hawking's work with Quantum Gravity was also highly correlated to his work with Quantum Field Theory (QFT), in a curved space-time. The Wikipedia entry for this field relates that QFT in a curved space-time is often viewed as the, "... first approximation of the inaccessible theory of quantum gravity." Hawking used this Quantum Field Theory to postulate that black holes would indeed radiate a type of thermal spectrum, which could possibly aid their detection. (Wikipedia 2005)

More recently, scientists at NASA think that they may have developed a way to view proof of Quantum Gravity, if it does indeed exist. This year, NASA is scheduled to launch their Gamma-Ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST), which "...may be able to detect for the first time the effects of quantum gravity in the speed of gamma-ray burst photons..." (Wanjek 2005) Two scientists as NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center theorize that the gamma-ray bursts which will be detected by GLAST might possibly be "...powerful enough and distant enough to see the highest of the high-energy photons traveling slightly more slowly than lower-energy photons, weighed down by the effect of quantum gravity." (Wanjek 2005) Only time will tell, but one thing is certain; Hawking and other Quantum Gravity researchers will be keeping their eyes peeled for the results.

In the 1970's Hawking proposed that during the big bang, 13.7 billion years ago, local pockets of the Universe could have been dense enough and under enough pressure to form small black holes. According to his theory, these primordial black holes could have had masses as large as the Earth or as small as a single raindrop. (Freedman, 2005) Basically, he believes that the beginning of real time was a singularity and all of the matter in the Universe would have been on top of itself. At this point, the laws of physics would have been broken down. The restructuring of the laws and even the matter of the Universe define the Universe as it is today. This point, otherwise known as the Big Bang, would indicate the beginning of real time. Since the laws of physics were broken down, the Universe after the Big Bang does not depend on anything that may have happened prior to its occurrence. (Hawking, 1998)

However, the ideas presented by Hawking are more complicated than that because they include another type of time in a four-dimensional model known as the Euclidean Space-Time. He proposes that there is an imaginary time that has no beginning and no end, it just is. If real time is a horizontal line, to the left is the past and to the right is the future. Imaginary time

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