I Am An Astrophysicist. Here’s What Step…

I Am An Astrophysicist. Here’s What Stephen Hawking’s Final Paper Was Actually About

“The questions that they’re attempting to answer are still valid, open questions, and the best this paper can do — if it’s correct and relevant, and it may be neither — is provide suggestions towards an answer. The approach is largely based off of work that Hartle, Hawking, and Hertog have done in the past, the dS/CFT connection pioneered by Chris Hull and others, along with string-inspired work done by Andrew Strominger and his collaborators. None of this is based off of any realistic cosmological models; these are toy models that they are calculating in, and then reasoning-by-analogy with what we actually know exists. Like most theoretical work in the very early stages, there are interesting ideas that are presented, the work and calculations are highly speculative, and there is not necessarily a connection with reality. But there’s a non-zero chance that one is real. And in theoretical physics, a novel idea with a chance is worth infinitely more than no new ideas at all.”

There have been a lot of incredible claims floating around the media about what’s going on with Stephen Hawking’s final paper, which was submitted earlier in March, less than two weeks before he died. Some are claiming it will help us detect the multiverse, others claiming that it will tell us how the Universe will end. The truth is much more sobering, however: it discusses issues involving the dynamics of inflation. There are incredible questions we’re trying to understand about the Universe, such as: did inflation begin, or was it eternal; will it continue indefinitely into the future; does it inevitably lead to a multiverse; did time and space begin with a singularity? These are very important, and Hawking’s final paper was the construction of a toy model that argued “yes” for the final question. But it has nothing to do with the hype surrounding it.

Let’s not deify our heroes; let’s allow their good work to stand on their own merits. And most importantly, let’s be honest about what they did. Here’s the truth.