Beloved physicist Stephen Hawking passes away at 76

March 14, 2018 by  
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Stephen Hawking , the brilliant and iconic British scientist who inspired countless millions with his intellect and humanity, has died at 76. After being diagnosed with a degenerative motor neuron disease similar to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) at age 21, which left him nearly completely paralyzed, Hawking found strength in humor and the boundless exploration of science. “My goal is simple,” he famously said. “It is complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all.” His achievements as an astrophysicist include his theoretical prediction that black holes emit radiation, (sometimes referred to as Hawking radiation), his work on gravitational singularity theorems in the framework of general relativity, and his 30-year tenure as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, a position once held by Sir Isaac Newton. Throughout his life, Hawking traveled the world, inspiring and teaching others, and worked to make science accessible. His 1989 classic A Brief History of Time was written for a mainstream audience on a subject with which few were familiar, emphasizing Hawking’s drive to bring science to the people. Hawking also wrote a series of children’s books with his daughter Lucy to help young people discover their love for science. Hawking’s approach to accessibility was framed by his own physical disability , which left him unable to physically speak. Using a vocal synthesizer controlled by finger movements, and later his cheek muscle, Hawking found his voice again and used it. When asked why he did not update his voice as artificial speech technology had advanced, he replied , “My old system worked well and I wrote five books with it, including ‘A Brief History of Time’. It has become my trademark and I wouldn’t change it for a more natural voice with a British accent. I am told that children who need a computer voice want one like mine.” Related: Stephen Hawking reveals what existed before the Big Bang Hawking wielded his sense of humor to connect with others and to motivate himself in trying times. “Keeping an active mind has been vital to my survival, as has maintaining a sense of humor ,” Hawking observed in a 2013 documentary . “I am probably better known for my appearances on The Simpsons and on The Big Bang Theory than I am for my scientific discoveries.” In his guest appearance on the former television series, Hawking found scientific inspiration from Homer Simpson. “Your theory of a doughnut shaped universe is intriguing, Homer,” Hawkings said in a 1999 episode. “I may have to steal it.” As one of the longest surviving people with ALS, Hawking credited humor with his longevity. “When I turned 21, my expectations were reduced to zero,” he said in 2016 . “It was important that I came to appreciate what I did have . . . It’s also important not to become angry, no matter how difficult life is, because you can lose all hope if you can’t laugh at yourself and at life in general.” Via Washington Post Images via Wikimedia

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Beloved physicist Stephen Hawking passes away at 76

Newly discovered exoplanet may be the best place to search for extraterrestrial life

April 19, 2017 by  
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Today researchers at Harvard-Smithsonian made an exciting announcement: a newly discovered planet may be the best candidate yet for finding life outside of our solar system. Earlier this year, scientists identified seven planets orbiting a star that looked ideally-placed for hosting life, but we really don’t know enough about those planets to say with any real conviction. On the other hand, LHS 1140b is close enough that we have more data, which gives it even more potential as a site for alien life. Researchers at Harvard-Smithsonian say that LHS 1140b stands out because of its dimensions. “What really sets this planet apart from others that have been discovered is that we know the mass and the radius of the planet,” said Jason Dittmann, a researcher at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics . The exoplanet is in the Cetus constellation, which is relatively close at just 40 light years away. Related: Astronomers Reveal the Most Livable, Earth-Like Planet Ever Discovered LHS 1140b is large enough to have the gravity it needs to have an atmosphere, and it orbits a star right within the habitable zone. It also has a circular orbit, which means it is a safer place for life to form since there are fewer collisions and extremes compared to planets with oblong orbits. The exoplanet is closer to its star than Earth, with an orbit of just 25 days, but its star is much cooler than our own. The findings were published in the journal Nature , and scientists hope to gather more info soon about the exoplanet with future studies using new James Webb telescope technology . Via Cnet

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Newly discovered exoplanet may be the best place to search for extraterrestrial life

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