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Hawking on the end of theoretical physics, how we reviewed A Brief History of Time, solving your own paradox

16 Mar 2018 Hamish Johnston
A Brief History of Time

The sad death of Stephen Hawking has inspired us to look back into the archives of IOPscience to rediscover the breadth and depth of writing that we have published by and about Hawking.

Is the end in sight for theoretical physics?” by Hawking appeared in 1981 in Physics Bulletin, which was the predecessor to Physics World. He investigated whether by 2000 “we might have a complete, consistent and unified theory of the physical interactions which would describe all possible observations”. His answer was “maybe”.

What did Physics Bulletin make of A Brief History of Time when the bestseller was published in 1988? Editor Kurt Paulus begins his review “A ‘popular’ book by Stephen Hawking is something to look forward to, and this one does not disappoint.” While Paulus describes the book as an “exciting” read, he laments “It is…a pity that not more of Hawking the person comes through explicitly.” Clearly, the celebrity status that the book subsequently brought to Hawking has allowed his personality to shine far and wide.

Incredibly, one of the most famous books about physics was given second billing in that issue of Physics Bulletin, with the lead review focusing on a tome called The Social Construction of Technological Systems.

The last time Physics World wrote about new research by Hawking was less than two years ago, when he published a paper along with Malcolm Perry and Andrew Strominger about a potential resolution of the black-hole information paradox. The paradox emerged in the 1970s after Hawking used quantum mechanics to describe events at the edge of a black hole. About 40 years on, and his solution involves soft hairs on a black hole.

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