Stephen Hawking’s 6 Greatest Discoveries and the 1 Insane Thing That Will Echo Through Eternity

On March 13, 2018, the world lost one of its most courageous heroes. Stephen Hawkings lost his long battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He left behind a series of discoveries that we may not even know the true gravity of for another century, but more importantly, he left us with the greatest gift of all. Take a look at all of his greatest accomplishments and the one insane thing that will permeate through time.

1. The Penrose-Hawking Singularity

Roger Penrose standing in front of a white wall.

Roger Penrose made some great discoveries along with Hawking. | Festival della Scienza via Flickr

In graduate school, Hawking did path-breaking work on singularities, a principle in physics where gravity becomes infinitely large and space-time becomes infinitely dense. This creates what is known as a singularity. Singularities were hypothesized by Albert Einstein in general relativity, but they were proven by Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose.

Next: Hawking created laws for a lawless subject.

2. The 4 laws of black holes

A computer generated black hole.

There was a lot to learn about black holes. | Raiden via Instagram

Black holes were an enigma to so many physicists because of their extreme complexity. In a black hole, it seems that all known rules of physics break down completely. Stephen Hawking, along with Jacob Bekenstein, set forth four rules by which black holes are governed using principles of thermodynamics. The work they did ended up setting in motion a slew of theories about the most complicated parts of our universe.

Next: He was able to prove something that everyone thought was possible. 

3. Hawking radiation

A black hole in space.

Hawking almost didn’t believe the theory himself! | TitoOnz/iStock/Getty Images

When black holes were first conceived, it was naturally believed that nothing, not even light, could ever escape the immense gravity. Rightfully so, because once you get close enough, it would take an infinite amount of energy to pull away from the infinite amount of gravity.

Hawking was able to prove that radiation can escape a black hole. Some particles spring into existence for a short period of time and then annihilate each other. A black hole can separate those particles before they destroy each other and shoot one off into space as radiation. The theory was so crazy that even Hawking himself thought he made a mistake.

Next: The other thing Hawking radiation proved is terrifying to think about.

4. Black holes decrease in mass

Stephen Hawking on stage.

He made ground-breaking discoveries. | Jemal Countess/Getty Images

We realize that sounds boring, but stay with us. Those particles that pop into existence and destroy each other are a positive mass particle and a negative mass particle. They are the balance of an equation. What Hawking was able to prove is that negative mass particles are the ones that drop into the black holes. Those negative mass particles actually destroy an equal amount of mass in the black hole. That means that over time, the black hole gets nibbled away.

Eventually, that will become a runaway property of the black hole. When things start to run away in physics, a serious amount of energy is released. Essentially, the black hole explodes. It is one of the biggest explosions in the universe.

Next: Hawking also contributed to the most well-known theory in current times.

5. The big-bang theory

Steven Hawking in front of a screen.

Hawking made difficult theories understandable to the average person. | Tonyrdj via Instagram

The big-bang theory was first proposed by a Catholic priest named Georges Lemaitre. His theory still had a lot of holes, so to speak, that needed to be explained. The universe had to expand rapidly in order to continue its expansion perpetually. That’s where cosmic inflation comes into play. In the immediate moments following the big bang, the universe expanded exponentially to near the size it is today in milliseconds. Hawking was the one to calculate those quantum fluctuations during the inflation period.

Next: Hawking also explained what happened before the big-bang. 

6. The Hartle-Hawkings state

British theoretical physicist professor Stephen Hawking speaks to members of the media.

He answered this tough question. | Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

Everyone wonders what it was like before the big-bang. Stephen Hawkings and James Hartle were able to surmise that before the big-bang, there was nothing. It’s a little nihilistic, but also very cool to think about. There was no such thing as time or matter in the same way we think of it, in the Hartle-Hawkings state. If you are confused about what goes on inside a black hole, don’t even try to venture into this dimension.

Next: His greatest contribution is something that you don’t realize, but should appreciate every day.

7. His spirit is the greatest contribution of all

Stephen Hawking sitting in front of a tablet during a presentation.

Fans will remember him for more than his research. | Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images

You never really think about the impact a person has on the world beyond the credits they are given throughout their lives. Hawking’s had all of these amazing discoveries that we mentioned and more, but his greatest contribution can’t really be quantified. Stephen Hawking was able to take the most complex ideas and theories in the universe and explain them in the simplest ways possible.

That made it so others could understand it better and they would become more enthused about the subject. From his teachings, his works, his books, and his lectures, Hawking created an entire generation of scientists that will forever change the face of our universe and our understanding of it. His courage and strength to live past the disease that crippled him is a testament to his purpose for humanity.

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