In this March 3, 1989 file photo British
astrophysicist Dr. Stephen Hawking, 47, answers newsmen with the help of
his computer and the assistance of his then wife Jane, in Paris. (AP
Photo/Lionel Cironneau, File)
Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking is assisted off the
tarmac at the Kennedy Space Center by his caregiver, Monica Guy, as he
is applauded by members of the flight crew after completing a
zero-gravity flight, Thursday, April 26, 2007. (AP Photo/Peter Cosgrove,
In this Monday, Nov. 28, 2016 file photo Pope Francis
greets physicist Stephen Hawking during an audience with participants at
a plenary session of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, at the Vatican.
(L’Osservatore Romano/pool photo via AP, File)
In this Thursday, May 15, 2008 file photo former
South African President Nelson Mandela, right, meets with British
scientist Professor Stephen Hawking, left, in Johannesburg. (AP
Photo/Denis Farrell, File)
London (AP) -
Stephen Hawking, whose brilliant mind ranged across time and space
though his body was paralyzed by disease, died early Wednesday, March
14, a University of Cambridge spokesman said. He was 76 years old.
peacefully at his home in Cambridge, England.
theoretical physicist of his time, Hawking wrote so lucidly of the
mysteries of space, time and black holes that his book, “A Brief History
of Time,” became an international best seller, making him one of
science’s biggest celebrities since Albert Einstein.
“He was a great
scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on
for many years,” his children Lucy, Robert and Tim said in a statement.
“He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy
will live on for many years. His courage and persistence with his
brilliance and humour 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.”
Even though his
body was attacked by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, when Hawking
was 21, he stunned doctors by living with the normally fatal illness for
more than 50 years. A severe attack of pneumonia in 1985 left him
breathing through a tube, forcing him to communicate through an
electronic voice synthesizer that gave him his distinctive robotic
But he continued
his scientific work, appeared on television and married for a second
As one of Isaac
Newton’s successors as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge
University, Hawking was involved in the search for the great goal of
physics - a “unified theory.”
Such a theory would
resolve the contradictions between Einstein’s General Theory of
Relativity, which describes the laws of gravity that govern the motion
of large objects like planets, and the Theory of Quantum Mechanics,
which deals with the world of subatomic particles.
For Hawking, the
search was almost a religious quest - he said finding a “theory of
everything” would allow mankind to “know the mind of God.”
consistent unified theory is only the first step: our goal is a complete
understanding of the events around us, and of our own existence,” he
wrote in “A Brief History of Time.”
In later years,
though, he suggested a unified theory might not exist.
He followed up “A
Brief History of Time” in 2001 with the more accessible sequel “The
Universe in a Nutshell,” updating readers on concepts like super
gravity, naked singularities and the possibility of an 11-dimensional
Hawking said belief
in a God who intervenes in the universe “to make sure the good guys win
or get rewarded in the next life” was wishful thinking.
“But one can’t help
asking the question: Why does the universe exist?” he said in 1991. “I
don’t know an operational way to give the question or the answer, if
there is one, a meaning. But it bothers me.”
The combination of
his best-selling book and his almost total disability - for a while he
could use a few fingers, later he could only tighten the muscles on his
face - made him one of science’s most recognizable faces.
He made cameo
television appearances in “The Simpsons” and “Star Trek” and counted
among his fans U2 guitarist The Edge, who attended a January 2002
celebration of Hawking’s 60th birthday.
His early life was
chronicled in the 2014 film “The Theory of Everything,” with Eddie
Redmayne winning the best actor Academy Award for his portrayal of the
scientist. The film focused still more attention on Hawking’s remarkable
credited that celebrity with generating new enthusiasm for science.
and his longevity helped prove to many that even the most severe
disabilities need not stop patients from living.
Richard Green, of
the Motor Neurone Disease Association - the British name for ALS - said
Hawking met the classic definition of the disease, as “the perfect mind
trapped in an imperfect body.” He said Hawking had been an inspiration
to people with the disease for many years.
Although it could
take him minutes to compose answers to even simple questions Hawking
said the disability did not impair his work. It certainly did little to
dampen his ambition to physically experience space himself: Hawking
savored small bursts of weightlessness in 2007 when he was flown aboard
a jet that made repeated dives to simulate zero-gravity.
Hawking had hoped
to leave Earth’s atmosphere altogether someday, a trip he often
recommended to the rest of the planet’s inhabitants.
“In the long run
the human race should not have all its eggs in one basket, or on one
planet,” Hawking said in 2008. “I just hope we can avoid dropping the
basket until then.”
earned prominence for his theoretical work on black holes. Disproving
the belief that black holes are so dense that nothing could escape their
gravitational pull, he showed that black holes leak a tiny bit of light
and other types of radiation, now known as “Hawking radiation.”
“It came as a
complete surprise,” said Gary Horowitz, a theoretical physicist at the
University of California, Santa Barbara. “It really was quite
Horowitz said the
find helped move scientists one step closer to cracking the unified
major scientific contribution was to cosmology, the study of the
universe’s origin and evolution. Working with Jim Hartle of the
University of California, Santa Barbara, Hawking proposed in 1983 that
space and time might have no beginning and no end. “Asking what happens
before the Big Bang is like asking for a point one mile north of the
North Pole,” he said.
In 2004, he
announced that he had revised his previous view that objects sucked into
black holes simply disappeared, perhaps to enter an alternate universe.
Instead, he said he believed objects could be spit out of black holes in
a mangled form.
That new theory
capped his three-decade struggle to explain a paradox in scientific
thinking: How can objects really “disappear” inside a black hole and
leave no trace, as he long believed, when subatomic theory says matter
can be transformed but never fully destroyed?
Hawking was born
Jan. 8, 1942, in Oxford, and grew up in London and St. Albans, northwest
of the capital. In 1959, he entered Oxford University and then went on
to graduate work at Cambridge.
Signs of illness
appeared in his first year of graduate school, and he was diagnosed with
ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease after the New York Yankee star
who died of it. The disease usually kills within three to five years.
According to John
Boslough, author of “Stephen Hawking’s Universe,” Hawking became deeply
depressed. But as it became apparent that he was not going to die soon,
his spirits recovered and he bore down on his work. Brian Dickie,
director of research at the Motor Neurone Disease Association, said only
5 percent of those diagnosed with ALS survive for 10 years or longer.
Hawking, he added, “really is at the extreme end of the scale when it
comes to survival.”
Jane Wilde in 1965 and they had three children, Robert, Lucy and
Jane cared for
Hawking for 20 years, until a grant from the United States paid for the
24-hour care he required.
He was inducted
into the Royal Society in 1974 and received the Albert Einstein Award in
1978. In 1989, Queen Elizabeth II made him a Companion of Honor, one of
the highest distinctions she can bestow.
He whizzed about
Cambridge at surprising speed - usually with nurses or teaching
assistants in his wake - traveled and lectured widely, and appeared to
enjoy his fame. He retired from his chair as Lucasian Professor in 2009
and took up a research position with the Perimeter Institute for
Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario.
Jane in 1991, an acrimonious split that strained his relationship with
their children. Writing in her autobiographical “Music to Move the
Stars,” she said the strain of caring for Hawking for nearly three
decades had left her feeling like “a brittle, empty shell.” Hawking
married his one-time nurse Elaine Mason four years later, but the
relationship was dogged by rumors of abuse.
in 2004 after newspapers reported that he’d been beaten, suffering
injuries including a broken wrist, gashes to the face and a cut lip, and
was left stranded in his garden on the hottest day of the year.
Hawking called the
charges “completely false.” Police found no evidence of any abuse.
Hawking and Mason separated in 2006.
Lucy Hawking said
her father had an exasperating “inability to accept that there is
anything he cannot do.”
“I accept that
there are some things I can’t do,” he told The Associated Press in 1997.
“But they are mostly things I don’t particularly want to do anyway.”
widely, he added, “I seem to manage to do anything that I really want.”
undated image provided by João Zilhão in February 2018 shows perforated
shells found in sediments in the Cueva de los Aviones near Cartagena,
Spain. The artifacts date to between 115,000 and 120,000 years ago. New
discoveries in some Spanish caves give the strongest evidence yet that
Neanderthals created art. (João Zilhão via AP)
New York (AP) -
From the murky depths of Spanish caves comes a surprising insight:
Neanderthals created art.
proposed before, but experts say two new studies finally give convincing
evidence that our evolutionary cousins had the brainpower to make
artistic works and use symbols.
The key finding:
New age estimates that show paintings on cave walls and decorated
seashells in Spain were created long before our species entered Europe.
So there’s no way Homo sapiens could have made them or influenced
Neanderthals to merely copy their artwork.
Until now, most
scientists thought all cave paintings were the work of our species. But
the new work concludes that some previously known paintings - an array
of lines, some disks and the outline of a hand - were rendered about
20,000 years before H. sapiens moved into Europe.
That’s a surprise
that “constitutes a major breakthrough in the field of human evolution
studies,” said Wil Roebroeks of Leiden University in the Netherlands, an
expert on Neanderthals who didn’t participate in the new work.
Now, he said in an
email, Neanderthal “ownership of some cave art is a fact.”
The second study
provided evidence that Neanderthals used pigments and piercings to
modify shells some 115,000 years ago, which is far earlier than similar
artifacts are associated with H. sapiens anywhere. That shows
Neanderthals “were quite capable of inventing the ornaments themselves,”
said Paola Villa of the University of Colorado Museum in Boulder, who
also didn’t participate in the new work.
in Europe and Asia before disappearing about 40,000 years ago, around
the time H. sapiens moved into Europe from Africa.
released Thursday by the journals Science and Science Advances,
focused on determining the ages of previously known artifacts.
One team of
European researchers concentrated on painted artwork in three caves in
northern, southern and west-central Spain. They carefully removed tiny
bits of rocky crust that had formed on the artwork surfaces and analyzed
them in a lab. Results indicated artwork from all three were around
65,000 years old, much older than the arrival of H. sapiens in Europe,
which occurred some 45,000 to 40,000 years ago.
The artwork is
rudimentary, but a study author, Dirk Hoffmann of the Max Planck
Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, said it’s
symbolic. One work is a collection of lines that look like a ladder, and
others include red dots and disks on curtain-like rock formations.
Another is a stenciled outline of a hand, made by spewing pigment over a
hand held against the wall, Hoffmann said.
Making the hand
stencil involves so many steps, including preparation of the pigment,
that it’s clearly a deliberate creation, he and other authors wrote in
the paper. What’s more, a number of hand stencils seem to have been
placed with care rather than randomly, so they are certainly “meaningful
symbols,” the authors wrote.
The other study
sought to find the age of shells that had been colored and punctured in
another cave, in southeast Spain. Previous studies had estimated an age
of 45,000 to 50,000 years old, too young to rule out a link to H.
For the new work,
researchers analyzed rock that had formed above where the shells had
the shells were around 115,000 years old. That is some 20,000 to 40,000
years older than comparable artifacts in Africa or western Asia that are
attributed to H. sapiens. The finding shows Neanderthals shared symbolic
thinking with H. sapiens, and suggests the two species were
“indistinguishable” in terms of overall mental ability, the researchers
Nobody knows what
the shells symbolized. Maybe they indicated membership in a group like a
clan, said Joao Zilhao of the Catalan Institution for Research and
Advanced Studies in Barcelona, Spain, who did the study with Hoffmann
Not all experts
were convinced by the studies. Harold Dibble, an archaeologist at the
University of Pennsylvania who studies Neanderthal behavior, wondered if
the shell color and holes could have occurred naturally. And he said
he’d like to see the dating in the cave art paper confirmed by another
Warren Sharp of the
Berkeley Geochronology Center in California, an expert on the dating
technique used in both papers, said he found the results of both studies
to be “very solid.”
They show “we are
not the only ones capable of ‘modern’ behavior,” he wrote in an email.
FILE - In
this Dec. 12, 2006, file photo, made available by NASA, astronaut Robert L.
Curbeam Jr., left, and European Space Agency astronaut Christer Fuglesang,
participate in a spacewalk during construction of the International Space
Station. Under President Donald Trump’s 2019 proposed budget released,
Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, U.S. government funding for the space station would
cease by 2025. (NASA via AP, File)
Marcia Dunn & Seth Borenstein
Cape Canaveral, Fla. (AP) - The
Trump administration wants NASA out of the International Space Station by
2025, and private businesses running the place instead.
Under President Donald Trump’s 2019
proposed budget released Monday, U.S. government funding for the space
station would end by 2025. The government would set aside $150 million to
encourage commercial development and use future savings to aim for the moon.
Many space experts and legislators are
expressing concern. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat who rocketed into
orbit in 1986, said “turning off the lights and walking away from our sole
outpost in space” makes no sense.
Retired NASA historian and Smithsonian
curator Roger Launius notes that any such move will affect all the other
countries involved in the space station; Russia is a major player, as is
Europe, Japan and Canada.
NASA has spent close to $100 billion on
the orbiting outpost since the 1990s. The first piece was launched in 1998,
and the complex was essentially completed with the retirement of NASA’s
space shuttles in 2011.
MIT astronautics professor Dava Newman,
who was the deputy NASA chief under Barack Obama, called the space station
“the cornerstone of space exploration today” but said the Trump
administration’s proposal makes sense because it is doing long-term
The president proposes shifting large
chunks of money from the space station, satellites studying a warming Earth
and a major space telescope toward a multi-year $10.4 billion exploration
plan aimed at returning astronauts to the moon in about five or six years.
“We’re building capability for the
eventual human exploration of deep space and the moon is a stepping stone,”
NASA’s acting chief financial officer Andrew Hunter said in a Monday news
The president’s budget proposal,
including NASA’s portion, was obsolete even before it was made public, but
it provides a view into the administration’s priorities. Congress earlier
this month passed a spending package that set limits through the end of the
next budget year.
The same budget proposal proposes to
pull the plug on WFIRST, a space telescope mission that NASA said is
“designed to settle essential questions in the areas of dark energy,
exoplanets, and infrared astrophysics.”
And for the second straight year, the
Trump administration proposes killing five missions that study Earth,
especially its climate and the effects of carbon dioxide. The president also
plans to end education programs in the space agency.
Private businesses already have a hand
in the space station project. The end of the shuttle program prompted NASA
to turn over supply runs to the commercial sector. SpaceX and Orbital ATK
have been making deliveries since 2012, and Sierra Nevada Corp. will begin
making shipments with its crew-less mini shuttles in a few years.
SpaceX and Boeing, meanwhile, are
developing crew capsules to fly astronauts to and from the space station
within the next year. These commercial flights will represent the first
astronaut launches from U.S. soil since NASA’s shuttles stopped flying.
A complete transfer to the commercial
sector is a different matter, however. Mike Suffredini, a former space
station program manager for NASA who now runs Axiom Space in Houston and
aims to establish the world’s first commercial space station cautioned that
the U.S. government needs to have a direct hand in the International Space
Station until it comes down. No company would accept the liabilities and
risks associated with the station, he said, if the sprawling complex went
out of control and came crashing down.
His company’s plan is to attach its own
compartments to the existing International Space Station and, once the
decision is made to dismantle the complex, detach its segment and continue
orbiting on its own.
Altogether, the administration’s
proposed budget, along with an addendum, seeks to increase NASA’s budget
slightly to $19.9 billion.
While the budget plan said it places
renewed support on returning humans to the moon, followed by human
expeditions to Mars and elsewhere, no precise timeline and few details are
provided. The supersize Space Launch System rocket being built by NASA to
send astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit - along with its Orion crew capsule -
would get $3.7 billion under this budget. A test launch of this system would
remain on track for 2020, with a first crewed launch around the moon three
years later, according to budget details.
In an agency-wide address, NASA’s
acting administrator Robert Lightfoot said it was a “very exciting” budget
with lots of potential, despite some hard decisions. Among them: the
proposed end of WFIRST, a telescope with 100 times the field of view of the
Hubble Space Telescope. WFIRST was a mission that the National Academies of
Science listed as the decade’s No. 1 priority for future NASA astrophysics
The WFIRST telescope’s cost estimates
have ballooned to $3.6 billion and Hunter said it just got too expensive.