But Dr. Hawking was not interested in being anyone’s metaphor. “I’ve always found a way to communicate,” he once told me. He was not about to surrender his narrative or anything else without a good fight.
There were, for example, what have been called the “black hole wars.” His breakthrough calculation had come with a huge price tag for physics. When black holes exploded, all the information about what had fallen into them would be erased.
“God not only plays dice with the universe,” Dr. Hawking said in 1976, paraphrasing Einstein and outraging many physicists for whom it is an article of principle that they can untangle the history of the universe, “but sometimes he throws them where they can’t be seen.”
And so the fight was on.
Two years later, Dr. Hawking, who made an art form of admitting his mistakes, said he had been wrong.
But it turned out that nothing had been settled. Also like Einstein, even when he made a mistake Dr. Hawking was being productive.
How and if information gets in or out of a black hole is now one of the thorniest, most profound and hotly debated questions in physics. Its resolution, most agree, will likely require a — dare I call it Einsteinian — revolution in how we view space and time. The universe, they say, might be a hologram.
It is hard not to perceive, peeking out from behind the math and inscrutable space-time diagrams on which this debate takes place, the need and desire of all humans for some kind of reassurance that death be not final, that something is left behind.
The black hole has now claimed Dr. Hawking from his life on the boundary of oblivion. And there is indeed something left behind: a mischievous grin and a great, great mystery.
Source link : https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/14/science/stephen-hawking-life.html
Publish date : 2018-03-14 16:17:30