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Stephen W. Hawking
(8 Jan 1942 - 14 Mar 2018)

English theoretical physicist and cosmologist.


Stephen W. Hawking Quotes on Universe (19 quotes)

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A lot of prizes have been awarded for showing the universe is not as simple as we might have thought.
— Stephen W. Hawking
In A Brief History of Time, (1988, 1998), 80.
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All of my life, I have been fascinated by the big questions that face us, and have tried to find scientific answers to them. If, like me, you have looked at the stars, and tried to make sense of what you see, you too have started to wonder what makes the universe exist.
— Stephen W. Hawking
From website for PBS program, Stephen Hawking's Universe (1997).
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Even if there is only one possible unified theory, it is just a set of rules and equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe? The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the questions of why there should be a universe for the model to describe. Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing?
— Stephen W. Hawking
A Brief History of Time (1998), 190.
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Hubble's observations suggested that there was a time, called the big bang, when the universe was infinitesimally small and infinitely dense. Under such conditions all the laws of science, and therefore all ability to predict the future, would break down. If there were events earlier than this time, then they could not affect what happens at the present time. Their existence can be ignored because it would have no observational consequences. One may say that time had a beginning at the big bang, in the sense that earlier times simply would not be defined. It should be emphasized that this beginning in time is very different from those that had been considered previously. In an unchanging universe a beginning in time is something that has to be imposed by some being outside the universe; there is no physical necessity for a beginning. One can imagine that God created the universe at literally any time in the past. On the other hand, if the universe is expanding, there may be physical reasons why there had to be a beginning. One could still imagine that God created the universe at the instant of the big bang, or even afterwards in just such a way as to make it look as though there had been a big bang, but it would be meaningless to suppose that it was created before the big bang. An expanding universe does not preclude a creator, but it does place limits on when he might have carried out his job!
— Stephen W. Hawking
A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes (1988), 8-9.
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I don’t think there is one unique real universe. ... Even the laws of physics themselves may be somewhat observer dependent.
— Stephen W. Hawking
…...
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If we do discover a complete unified theory, it should be in time understandable in broad principle by everyone, not just a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason—for then we would know the mind of God.
— Stephen W. Hawking
A Brief History of Time (1988), 191.
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My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all.
— Stephen W. Hawking
In the Washington Post, April 15, 1988.
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Science predicts that many different kinds of universe will be spontaneously created out of nothing. It is a matter of chance which we are in.
[Answer to question: You've said there is no reason to invoke God to light the blue touchpaper. Is our existence all down to luck?]
— Stephen W. Hawking
'Stephen Hawking: "There is no heaven; it's a fairy story"', interview in newspaper The Guardian (15 May 2011).
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Something to remember. If you have remembered every word in this article, your memory will have recorded about 150 000 bits of information. Thus, the order in your brain will have increased by about 150 000 units. However, while you have been reading the article, you will have converted about 300 000 joules of ordered energy, in the form of food, into disordered energy, in the form of heat which you lose to the air around you by convection and sweat. This will increase the disorder of the Universe by about 3 x 1024 units, about 20 million million million times the increase in order because you remember my article.
— Stephen W. Hawking
An afterword to his three-page article discussing thermodynamics and entropy, in 'The Direction of Time', New Scientist (9 Jul 1987), 49.
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The eventual goal of science is to provide a single theory that describes the whole universe.
— Stephen W. Hawking
…...
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The increase of disorder or entropy with time is one example of what is called an arrow of time something that gives a direction to time and distinguishes the past from the future. There are at least three different directions of time. First, there is the thermodynamic arrow of time—the direction of time in which disorder or entropy increases. Second, there is the psychological arrow of time. This is the direction in which we feel time passes—the direction of time in which we remember the past, but not the future. Third, there is the cosmological arrow of time. This is the direction of time in which the universe is expanding rather than contracting.
— Stephen W. Hawking
In 'The Direction of Time', New Scientist (9 Jul 1987), 46.
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The quantum theory of gravity has opened up a new possibility, in which there would be no boundary to space-time and so there would be no need to specify the behaviour at the boundary. There would be no singularities at which the laws of science broke down and no edge of space-time at which one would have to appeal to God or some new law to set the boundary conditions for space-time. One could say: 'The boundary condition of the universe is that it has no boundary.' The universe would be completely self-contained and not affected by anything outside itself. It would neither be created nor destroyed. It would just BE.
— Stephen W. Hawking
A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes (1988), 136.
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The universe is governed by science. But science tells us that we can’t solve the equations, directly in the abstract. We need to use the effective theory of Darwinian natural selection of those societies most likely to survive. We assign them higher value.
[Answer to question: What is the value in knowing “Why are we here?”]
— Stephen W. Hawking
'Stephen Hawking: "There is no heaven; it’s a fairy story"', interview in newspaper The Guardian (15 May 2011).
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There are something like ten million million million million million million million million million million million million million million (1 with eighty zeroes after it) particles in the region of the universe that we can observe. Where did they all come from? The answer is that, in quantum theory, particles can be created out of energy in the form of particle/antiparticle pairs. But that just raises the question of where the energy came from. The answer is that the total energy of the universe is exactly zero. The matter in the universe is made out of positive energy. However, the matter is all attracting itself by gravity. Two pieces of matter that are close to each other have less energy than the same two pieces a long way apart, because you have to expend energy to separate them against the gravitational force that is pulling them together. Thus, in a sense, the gravitational field has negative energy. In the case of a universe that is approximately uniform in space, one can show that this negative gravitational energy exactly cancels the positive energy represented by the matter. So the total energy of the universe is zero.
— Stephen W. Hawking
A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes (1988), 129.
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There may only be a small number of laws, which are self-consistent and which lead to complicated beings like ourselves. … And even if there is only one unique set of possible laws, it is only a set of equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to govern? Is the ultimate unified theory so compelling that it brings about its own existence?
— Stephen W. Hawking
Lecture (1987), 'The Origin of the Universe', collected in Black Holes And Baby Universes And Other Essays (1993), 99.
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Today scientists describe the universe in terms of two basic partial theories—the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. They are the great intellectual achievements of the first half of this century. The general theory of relativity describes the force of gravity and the large-scale structure of the universe, that is, the structure on scales from only a few miles to as large as a million million million million (1 with twenty-four zeros after it) miles, the size of the observable universe. Quantum mechanics, on the other hand, deals with phenomena on extremely small scales, such as a millionth of a millionth of an inch. Unfortunately, however, these two theories are known to be inconsistent with each other—they cannot both be correct.
— Stephen W. Hawking
A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes (1988), 11-2.
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We see the universe the way it is because if it were different, we would not be here to observe it.
— Stephen W. Hawking
In the Washington Post, April 15, 1988.
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What I have done is to show that it is possible for the way the universe began to be determined by the laws of science. In that case, it would not be necessary to appeal to God to decide how the universe began. This doesn't prove that there is no God, only that God is not necessary. (17 Oct 1988)
— Stephen W. Hawking
Der Spiegel (17 Oct 1988). Quoted in Clifford A. Pickover, Archimedes to Hawking (2008), 483.
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When I discuss intelligent life in the universe, I take this to include the human race, even though much of its behavior throughout history appears not to have been calculated to aid the survival of the species.
— Stephen W. Hawking
In 'A Step Backward For Civilization', The Washington Post (16 Feb 2014), Sec. A, 21.
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See also:
  • 8 Jan - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Hawking's birth.
  • Booklist for Stephen Hawking.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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