Mysteries of Stephen Hawking’s doodle-filled board

(ORDO NEWS) — A new museum exhibit hopes to reveal the secrets behind the scribbles, jokes and coded messages on a blackboard that legendary physicist Stephen Hawking has kept intact for more than 35 years.

The board dates back to 1980, when Hawking, along with fellow physicists, participated in a conference on superspace and supergravity at the University of Cambridge in the UK.

In an attempt to develop a cosmological “theory of everything” – a set of equations that combines the rules of general relativity and quantum mechanics – Hawking’s colleagues used the board as a pleasant pastime, filling it with a hodgepodge of half-finished equations, puzzled puns, and incomprehensible scribbles.

Surviving more than 40 years later, this obscure board is on public display for the first time as the centerpiece of a new exhibition dedicated to Hawking’s office, which opened February 10 at the Science Museum in London.

Physicists and friends of Hawking, who died in 2018 at the age of 76, from all over the world will visit the museum in the hope that they can decipher some of the hand-drawn scribbles.

What, for example, does “stupor symmetry” mean? Who is the shaggy, bearded Martian, drawn large in the center of the board? Why does a hanging-nosed squid climb a brick wall? What’s inside a tin can labeled “Exxon supergravity?”. We hope that the great minds of mathematics and physics will be able to answer this question.

The plaque joins dozens of other items, including a copy of the physicist’s 1966 doctoral dissertation on the expansion of the universe, his wheelchair, and a signature jacket given to him by the creators of The Simpsons in honor of his many appearances on the show.

The exhibition will run until June 12 at the Science Museum in London, before moving on to visit several other UK museums.

Hawking was born in England on January 8, 1942. While studying cosmology at the University of Cambridge in 1963, he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Hawking was then only 21 years old and was expected to live for another two years. He continued to live and work for more than five decades, publishing groundbreaking work on black holes, the Big Bang theory, and general relativity.


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