In my mind, the legacy of Stephen Hawking is two times: they were both a great scientist who came with some of the most radical ideas of our time and a great communicator who managed to take the world on a remarkable scientific journey. He found people around the world to talk and think about complex science.
Some of his early works were related to Einstein’s theory of general relativity, which takes space and time and squash them together, which we call spacetime. If you look at the universe, then in this way you see all kinds of strange phenomena, including black holes. Before Stephen’s work was thought that anything could not escape black holes, but his theoretical work gave rise to the theory of Hawking radiation, which allowed some radiation to leak from a black hole, causing them to slow down. Speed allows decay and eventually evaporation.
Stephen also worked on the name of the Grand Theory of Cheeses – the same principle which would explain everything in the universe on a small and large scale. In physics, we have made great progress in understanding our universe. At a very small scale, we have quantum mechanics about how we work things, and on the grand cosmological scale we have general relativity as to how things work. But Stephen, along with others, was trying to go ahead to find a theory connected to both of these domains. It was a big challenge, and I can not think of getting a better person to take it.
I always felt Stephen was working on a higher operating system than all of us, and in that respect, he was a champion for us in the understanding of the universe. We were not always involved in our research, but boy Were happy that he was out there, used to do it and used to do searches.
Part of its initial research was on singularity, though we think that the big bang had begun and was present at the center of the black hole. It is a musical instrument, even in the form of a physicist, because it is so foreign to the everyday world that we live in. Stephen has entered us into the world and what is going on beyond, he took out the most obscure material in the universe and made it accessible. As a scientist and a science communicator, he was a great inspiration for me and many other physicists who wanted to join the search to understand what is in the universe.
I am very happy that Stephen was alive to detect gravitational waves before 2016. They were estimated from Einstein’s theory of general relativity, but it took a century to catch up for the technology, so that we could detect them. Gravitational wave detectors are giving us a better understanding of black holes, which are difficult to study because even their gravity can not resist the bridge. Now we have the means to investigate and understand some of the concepts that came with Stephen. I’m glad they knew that this was the new tool in our toolbox.
We still do not have the technology to verify some Stephen’s big ideas. But with Einstein, and others who are well ahead of their time, I think that for many years we will mention their work and heritage.
Maggie Adrein-Pockock University College London is a space scientist and researcher partner.