Stephen Hawking liked to boast about the fact that he was born exactly 300 years after Galileo died. After a long battle with a rare type of motor neuron disease that left him almost completely paralyzed, he died last week, exactly 139 years after Albert Einstein was born. Dr. Hawking dedicated his life’s work to discovering the secrets of the universe, as he leaves behind theories that will continue to challenge our views about the universe for years to come. Here are 5 Things Stephen Hawking Taught Us About Life:

 

1. Black Holes Can Explode

Black Hole

A stellar-mass black hole in orbit with a companion star located about 6,000 light years from Earth. The black hole named Cygnus X-1 formed when a large star caved in. This black hole pulls matter from the blue star beside it. Credits: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss

You’ve probably heard that black holes suck in everything in their wake, and are lost forever. In 1974, Hawking discovered through a series of intricate mathematical calculations that black holes are vast energy sources that vibrate with particles of radiation. Once they reach a critical point, they eventually explode and give back to the universe the entire mass of energy that it had once absorbed. A cosmic reincarnation, in a way. And perhaps, pointing to the origins of the universe.

 

2. Humour is Important

Life would be tragic

 

Dr. Hawking had a legendary sense of humor, and his colleagues never knew if they hear “a deep pearl of wisdom or an off-the-wall joke” laboriously typed out from Hawking’s voice computer.

 

3. Humans May Only Have 600 Years to Live on Earth

Hawking warned that our planet was stressed beyond its means — with the threat of climate change, overpopulation and its drain on the planet’s finite resources, he said that we must “boldly go where no one has gone before.”

Read more: We Are Entering the Sixth Great Mass Extinction

 

4. The Universe Has No Boundaries

Hubble telescope

A 2012 image from the Hubble Space Telescope showing a seemingly endless array of galaxies. CreditNASA

In 1982, Dr. Hawking and theoretical physicist Dr. James Hartle proposed a theory that modelled a self-contained universe with no space-time boundaries. And no place or time when the laws of physics breaks down:

“In their picture of cosmic history, space-time is like a globe of the Earth. Time starts at the North Pole and goes south as the universe gets fatter. Asking what came before the Big Bang, in this case, is like asking what is north of the North Pole, they said. Moreover, just as nothing weird happens at the North Pole of the Earth, nothing strange happens to the laws of physics at time zero. Earth abides and so does physics, obviating the need for a creator” (via nytimes.com)

 

5. The Grand Unified Theory

In his book A Brief History of Time, Hawking explains that small particles such as atoms and subatomic particles behave differently than huge bodies like planets and stars. He delved into the connection between how it’s possible that such different sets of laws can coexist, which still leave scientists pondering.

 

Perhaps Neil deGrasse Tyson said it best: “His passing has left an intellectual vacuum in his wake”. Rest in peace, Dr. Hawking.

Neil Degrasse Tyson

 

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