In March of this year, the world mourned the passing of legendary physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking. His vast contributions to the field don’t need to be rehashed here, but his work advanced the understanding of the origins of the universe, the nature of black holes and the very makeup of the cosmos. Though severely physically disabled at the end of his life from ALS, Hawking and his collaborators Thomas Hertog and James Hartle were still knee-deep in developing an alternative theory of the universe—that the universe is approximately uniform on the largest scales. Alexander Hellemans sat down with Hertog to discuss this latest work [see “A Conversation with Thomas Hertog: One of Stephen Hawking’s Final Collaborators”].
What strikes me about Hawking, and the many other researchers in the field, is the relentless drive to keep going, especially in one of the most mysterious, and sometimes, mindboggling areas of inquiry. It’s the kind of obsessive “rage to master” that psychologists observe in savant child artists.
Elsewhere in this issue, Lee Billings covers the growing debate among physicists who are trying to reconcile two data sets that tell divergent stories about how fast our universe is expanding [see “Cosmic Conflict”]. The biggest discoveries in physics are still ahead of us, and their pursuers keep raging on.