Press Release

Hawking muses on ultimate theory of the universe

By SpaceRef Editor
January 30, 2003
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Hawking muses on ultimate theory of the universe

In a live broadcast from England to several classrooms at MIT,
physicist Stephen Hawking described scientists’ search for a
complete theory of the universe, ultimately concluding that
“maybe [such a theory] isn’t possible.”

“Some people will be very [disappointed] if there is not an
ultimate theory,” Hawking said. “I belong to that camp, but
I have changed my mind.” We will “always have the challenge
of new discovery. Without it, we will stagnate. Long may the
search continue.”

The broadcast, which was marred by technical problems with
video and especially audio, was also available as a webcast.
It was sponsored by the Cambridge-MIT Institute (CMI), a
three-year-old strategic alliance between the University of
Cambridge in England and MIT. CMI’s mission is to deliver
education and research that enhance the competitiveness of
U.K. business.

Hawking essentially gave a brief history of particle physics,
focusing on the key scientists and theories in the field from
Aristotle to Stephen Weinberg (a Nobel laureate born in 1933).

The Maxwell and Dirac equations, for example, “govern most
of physics and all of chemistry and biology,” Hawking said.
“So in principle we should be able to predict human
behavior, though I can’t say I’ve had much success myself,”
he said to chuckles from the audience.

The human brain contains too many particles for us to do the
equations necessary to predict behavior, he continued. We
may someday be able to predict the behavior of the nematode
worm, however, “which may be comforting.”

All of the theories developed so far to explain the universe
“are both inconsistent or incomplete,” Hawking said. He went
on to discuss why it may not be possible to develop one
complete theory of the universe, basing his argument on the
work of Kurt Gödel. The Czech mathematician showed that
within any branch of mathematics some propositions cannot
be proven true or false.

Hawking, author of the best-seller “A Brief History of Time,”
is the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University
of Cambridge.

SpaceRef staff editor.