If you don’t know who Stephen Hawking, my dear, I have the following question: what world do you live in? The guy, in addition to being a theoretical physicist and British cosmologist, is one of the most renowned scientists of the current generation. In addition, he held the position of Lucasian professor of mathematics at the University of Cambridge (formerly Isaac Newton). So far, everyone can see him as one more in the crowd of researchers, if not for one detail: Hawking suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which prevents him from doing the activities he has always enjoyed.
Even though he was very paralyzed, the physicist never stopped acting: he decided to dedicate himself to writing. His main fields of research are theoretical cosmology and quantum gravity, through works such as “A Brief History of Time: from the Big Bang to the Black Holes” and “The Universe in a Nutshell”.
Now, after completing 70 years of age and almost five without publishing a book, Stephen Hawking broke the silence and launched in 2010 the title “The Grand Design” (“The Great Project”, which arrived in Brazil last year), in partnership with also the physical Leonard Mlodinow. The book proposes new perspectives on the universe, which may not be just one, but several. With that, a discussion started among scientists about some teachings of the work. See some of them in the topics below.
Note: the book “O Grande Projeto” is available in the main retail stores in Brazil.
1. The universe created itself
This was, without a doubt, the biggest controversy raised by Hawking in “The Great Project”: the idea that the universe may have been perfectly created by itself, without the need for the figure of God to explain its appearance. The two scientists guarantee that this hypothesis is physically justified, since the universe may have arisen from a state where nothing existed, that is, from scratch. Due to laws like gravity, as they explain, we can assume that galaxies are able to regulate their mechanisms independently.
2. Quarks are never alone
Quarks, as well as lptons, are the most basic particles in the universe, as they constitute matter. The quark is the only one among these particles that interacts through all four fundamental forces (gravity, electromagnetism, weak nuclear force and strong force), in addition to two of its six types being proton and neutron forming. Hawking and Mlodinow suggest that the attraction between quarks works in the following way: the greater the distance between two quarks, the more the strength that keeps them together grows. Therefore, they are always together, and there are no free quarks in nature.
3. Pitgoras ‘theorem in Pitgoras’
Whoever studied mathematics in high school, knows that this was one of the most basic notions of learning created by Pitgoras about the sides of a triangle, stating that a + b = c. However, Hawking and Mlodinow suggest that Pitgoras was not the author of these formulas on collared and hypotenuse. According to physicists, the ancient Babylonians already applied these mathematical notions to centuries before Pitgoras was born, in 570 BC. Ç.
4. Theory of fish in the round aquarium
A few years ago, the authorities in Monza (Italy) prohibited the entire population from creating fish in aquariums, as it was classified as harmful to animals, which would have a distorted view of reality due to the curvature of the glass. About this, physicists raised the following question: how can we know what the true view of reality is? How can we guarantee that we are not ourselves seeing the world through something like a curved aquarium, which permanently distorts what we consider “real”?
5. General relativity
Hawking and Mlodinow reinterpreted some points of the old theory of relativity, formulated by Albert Einstein. It explains how matter and energy influence the environment and cause curvatures in spacetime (which gives rise, for example, to gravity and black holes). Among other features, the theory states that time flows more slowly when we approach a massive body, such as a planet or star. At the time when the law spread through the scientific world, there was the idea that it applies only to major events in the universe, such as black holes, for example. However, physicists explain that the law is automatically taken into any time and space measurement system – such as a GPS – and, without general relativity, measurements would give inaccurate results over kilometers of distance.
6. Theory of the whole
A theory of the whole, as the name suggests, is any one that unifies all physical phenomena in the universe under a single mathematical pattern. According to Hawking and Mlodinow, the only theory of the whole valid to explain our environment would be Theory M. The idea says that the universe would be composed of strings that vibrate at different frequencies and determine the dimensions in which the galaxies are positioned. With this theory, there would be three, but eleven dimensions, which give rise to more than one universe.
7. The past a possibility
If we can only know that a particle traveled from point A to point B, but we did not observe the path it took to reach its destination, it is possible to conclude that it simultaneously made all possible paths to build the trajectory. This is a principle of quantum mechanics, which explains: if any event in the past has not been observed and recorded, it is as indefinite as a future event. Thus, it cannot be said that it happened in a certain way, but in all possible ways at the same time. Crazy, isn’t it?
8. The out of the light
Every second, a common 1 watt incandescent lamp emits a quintile of photons, the elementary particle of light. It can be said, in a primary way, that the photons are like small packages into which the light is emitted. Scientists further investigate the properties of a photon, which behaves both as a particle and as a wave.