This morning on 3.14, we woke with the news that Stephen Hawking, world-renowned visionary physicist, has passed at the age of 76. Hawking was born on the auspicious date, January 8th, the 300th anniversary of Galileo’s death. And he passes today on the anniversary of Albert Einstein’s birth. 3.14
First, there was Galileo Galilei, the Italian physicist and astronomer whose most famous discovery some 400 years ago was that the Earth revolves around the sun. He’s also well known for his discovery of the four massive moons of Jupiter, now knows as the Galileian moons. He discovered these moons with his own version of the newly invented telescope. This, among many other discoveries and inventions that contribute to the modern science world we know today make Galileo still a household name.
Then, Einstein came along in 1905 and determined that the laws of physics are the same for all non-accelerating observers, and that the speed of light in a vacuum was independent of the motion of all observers. This was the theory of general relativity. It introduced a new framework for all of physics and proposed new concepts of space and time. Ten years later, he determined that massive objects cause a distortion in space-time, which is felt as gravity, known as special relativity. Has that lost you? Try this interactive guide to understand: http://spark.sciencemag.org/generalrelativity/
Einstein’s theory led Hawking to begin thinking about the Big Bang theory: the idea that the universe began as a tiny speck that subsequently expanded. Nowadays this is more widely accepted, but at the time it was still up for debate.
Hawking realized that the Big Bang was rather like the collapse of a black hole in reverse and that a black hole can only increase, never decrease, in size. He went further to determine that a black hole can never be split into smaller ones – even, say, through the collision of two black holes. Over time, he learned that his initial black hole theories weren’t entirely accurate. They could get smaller, they could have matter in them, that matter could explode, more black holes can be created, information about particle mass can be stored and lost in these black holes, which would destroy gathering scientific answers. His answers to these challenges and contributions to its answers created modern quantum gravity physics and Hawking is considered one of the greatest minds of his time.
Oh, and did we mention today is the math-inspired National Pi Day?
It is indeed.
So, raise your Pi fork for these genius scientists whose paradigm-shifting discoveries that redefined the known laws of the universe.
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