Stephen Hawking’s Most Provocative Moments, From Evil Aliens to Black Hole Wagers

In the 1970s, Stephen Hawking, who died in March at age 76, turned the physics world upside down when he announced that black holes aren’t so black after all, and that some light can in fact escape the singularity’s edge, called the event horizon.

That bombshell, which inspired a whole new way of looking at black holes through a quantum lens, would certainly not be the last time Hawking made shocking pronouncements about the nature of the cosmos

For his final paper, submitted to the Journal of High-Energy Physics just 10 days before his death and published this week, Hawking and colleague Thomas Hertog at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium propose a new theory about what happened in the aftermath of the big bang, and what that means for the existence of multiple universes existing alongside our own.

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Here, we revisit more of the most famous wagers and provocative statements that Hawking made during his more than 40 years of public life.

Decades of Black Hole Bets

To those familiar with Hawking’s work, which focused on the mysteries of black holes, it may be surprising that Hawking once bet against their existence. But the mischievous cosmologist had a long history of high-profile scientific wagers—many of which he has lost.

On December 10, 1974, Hawking made a bet with Caltech theoretical physicist Kip Thorne over whether Cygnus X-1, a massive x-ray source in our galaxy, was a black hole. Both were fairly certain it was. But when push came to shove, Hawking bet against Cygnus X-1.

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