Stephen Hawking submitted a new research paper just two weeks before his death, detailing his thoughts and predictions on how our universe would end.
Hawking and his co-author, Thomas Hertog, wrote the paper on his deathbed. Titled "A Smooth Exit from Eternal Inflation," it focuses on the existence of a multiverse and the methods that could be used to detect it. Hawking believed that a device affixed to a spaceship could prove the existence of other universes sprouting from the same Big Bang as ours.
Hawking's latest findings were groundbreaking. According to a report by DailyMail, the work would have made him eligible for a Nobel Prize if he had been alive to claim it, a rare honor that Hawking never achieved.
Hawking first proposed the existence of a multiverse in 1983, in a paper written with James Hartle. He explained that the Big Bang event, which most physicists agree created our universe, resulted an infinite number of other "big bangs," each producing their own universe in turn.
This theory, that the universe inflates or expands exponentially and then settles down to a slower pace of expansion, has never been tested in a meaningful way. In their new paper, Hertog says that he and Hawking were looking for a way to put the idea of a multiverse into a "testable scientific framework."
As for the future of humanity in the cosmos, Hawking suggests that the Earth will inevitably fade into darkness when the stars in our universe run out of energy. Many cosmologists dispute this theory, including Professor Neil Turok, the director of Canada's Perimeter Institute. He expressed confusion as to why Hawking was so interested in the idea.
Still, many scientists see this as the breakthrough that the field of cosmology needs at this time. A testable theory can be difficult to come by for cosmologists.
"The intriguing idea in Hawking's paper is that [the multiverse] left its imprint on the background radiation permeating our universe and we could measure it with a detector on a spaceship," explained Carlos Frenk, a professor of cosmology who was intrigued by Hawking's final paper.
Hawking passed away March 14 at the age of 76. The famed physicist and acclaimed author made innumerable contributions to humankind, and also became a beloved figure in pop culture, representing the power of the mind and triumph over limitations. His children announced his passing in a statement published by the BBC.
"We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today. He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years," the statement read.
The family praised his "courage and persistence" and said his "brilliance and humor" inspired people across the world.
"He once said, 'It would not be much of a universe if it wasn't home to the people you love.' We will miss him forever," they added.