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Stephen Hawking turns 75. Congratulations! Here’s what to celebrate.

8 Jan 2017, 05:00 UTC
Stephen Hawking turns 75. Congratulations! Here’s what to celebrate.
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If people know anything about physics, it’s the guy in a wheelchair who speaks with a computer. Google “most famous scientist alive” and the answer is “Stephen Hawking.” But if you ask a physicist, what exactly is he famous for?Hawking became “officially famous” with his 1988 book “A Brief History of Time.” Among physicists, however, he’s more renowned for the singularity theorems. In his 1960s work together with Roger Penrose, Hawking proved that singularities form under quite general conditions in General Relativity, and they developed a mathematical framework to determine when these conditions are met. Before Hawking and Penrose’s work, physicists had hoped that the singularities which appeared in certain solutions to General Relativity were mathematical curiosities of little relevance for physical reality. But the two showed that this was not so, that, to the very contrary, it’s hard to avoid singularities in General Relativity.Since this work, the singularities in General Relativity are understood to signal the breakdown of the theory in regions of high energy-densities. In 1973, together with George Ellis, Hawking published the book “The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time” in which this mathematical treatment is laid out in detail. Still today it’s one of the most relevant ...

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