Before Stephen Hawking Died, He Revised Multiverse Theory One Last Time

Katie Ramirez
May 3, 2018

The Cambridge physicist was renowned for his theory that the universe had no boundaries and time had no beginning. The pair's theory is sophisticated (and quite speculative) but not all that hard to explain.

"It has been a glorious time to be alive and doing research into theoretical physics", he said during his 75th birthday celebration back in July. This eternal inflation produces a "multiverse", a collection of pocket universes of which our own universe is just one.

"The usual theory of eternal inflation predicts that globally our universe is like an infinite fractal, with a mosaic of different pocket universes, separated by an inflating ocean".

However, in their co-publication, Hawking and Hertog say that despite being formed amidst radically different laws of physics, the individual universes may not be that different from one another.

Prof Hertog, from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KT Leuven), said: "It's a very precise mathematical notion of holography that has come out of string theory in the last few years which is not fully understood but is mind-boggling and changes the scene completely".

Much like popular explanations of multiple iterations of characters in comic books, theorists suggest the possibility of infinite universes - the multiverse.

Hertog said details in the patterns of primordial gravitational waves could show whether Hawking's Final Theory is on the right track. Instead, these multiverses likely have different rules of physics, and their own, smaller-scale inflation might still be occurring.

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"These ideas offer the breathtaking prospect of finding evidence for the existence of other universes", Carlos Frenk, a professor of cosmology at Durham University who saw an early version of Hawking's final theory, told The Times.

The paper outlines a new idea about inflation, which is one of the theories physicists use to try to make sense of the Big Bang.

"The problem with the usual account of eternal inflation is that it assumes an existing background universe that evolves according to Einstein's theory of general relativity and treats the quantum effects as small fluctuations around this". Doing so allowed them to bypass Einstein's theory of general relativity, which breaks down in previous versions of eternal inflation.

The new paper is based on work done by Hawking and U.S. physicist James Hartle in the 1980s.

In string theory, the holographic principle proposes that a volume of space can be described on a lower-dimensional boundary; so the universe is like a hologram, in which physical reality in 3D spaces can be mathematically reduced to 2D projections on their surfaces.

For more information on this data, have a peek at ARXIV in the Cornell University Library where the paper "A Smooth Exit from Eternal Inflation?" can be found.

With that in mind, some scientists, including Hawking and Hertog, take that to mean the eternal inflation theory can't be considered without some modification. His ashes will be interred at Westminster Abbey near the grave of Sir Isaac Newton in November.

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