Brilliant British physicist Stephen Hawking died overnight at age 76. Hawking’s family confirmed his passing in a statement, saying that the professor died peacefully in his home in Cambridge, England in the early hours of the morning on Wednesday, March 14th.
We would like to remember some of his wonderful quotes this day:
- “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? “
- “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.”
- “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.”
- “The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manner, but that they reflect a certain underlying order, which may or may not be divinely inspired. “
- “We should seek the greatest value of our action.”
- “The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”
- “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”
- “It is not clear that intelligence has any long-term survival value. “
- “One cannot really argue with a mathematical theorem.”
- “It is a waste of time to be angry about my disability. One has to get on with life and I haven’t done badly. People won’t have time for you if you are always angry or complaining.”
- “I relish the rare opportunity I’ve been given to live the life of the mind. But I know I need my body and that it will not last forever.”
A list of Hawking quotes would be incomplete without mentioning some of his more controversial statements.
He frequently said that humans must leave Earth if we wished to survive.
“It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster in the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand or million…Our only chance of long-term survival is not to remain inward-looking on planet Earth, but to spread out into space.” — August 2010
“[W]e must … continue to go into space for the future of humanity…I don’t think we will survive another 1,000 years without escaping beyond our fragile planet.” — November 2016
“We are running out of space and the only places to go to are other worlds. It is time to explore other solar systems. Spreading out may be the only thing that saves us from ourselves. I am convinced that humans need to leave Earth.” — June 2017
He also said time travel should be possible, and that we should explore space for the romance of it.
“Time travel used to be thought of as just science fiction, but Einstein’s general theory of relativity allows for the possibility that we could warp space-time so much that you could go off in a rocket and return before you set out. I was one of the first to write about the conditions under which this would be possible. I showed it would require matter with negative energy density, which may not be available. Other scientists took courage from my paper and wrote further papers on the subject,” he told Parade in 2010.
“Science is not only a disciple of reason, but, also, one of romance and passion.”
The theoretical physicist was also concerned that robots could not only have an impact on the economy but also mean doom for humanity.
“The automation of factories has already decimated jobs in traditional manufacturing, and the rise of artificial intelligence is likely to extend this job destruction deep into the middle classes, with only the most caring, creative or supervisory roles remaining,” he wrote in a 2016 column in The Guardian.
“The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race,” he told the BBC in 2014. Hawking added, however, that AI developed to date has been helpful. It’s more the self-replication potential that worries him. “It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever-increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.”
“The genie is out of the bottle. I fear that AI may replace humans altogether,” Hawking told WIRED in November 2017.
An avowed atheist, Hawking also occasionally waded into the topic of religion.
“Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.” — The Grand Design, by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow
“I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail…There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.” — 2011 interview with The Guardian
“Before we understand science, it is natural to believe that God created the universe. But now science offers a more convincing explanation. What I meant by ‘we would know the mind of God’ is, we would know everything that God would know, if there were a God, which there isn’t. I’m an atheist.” — 2014 interview in El Mundo
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