Stephen Hawking’s ideas about the origins of the universe — which have long been at the centre of physics and cosmology — are wrong, says one of his closest friends.
Professor Neil Turok, director of the Perimeter Institute in Canada, has long questioned Hawking’s vision of the Big Bang, when space, time and matter are thought to have burst into existence.
Now he has published research suggesting that the basic maths behind Hawking’s views is incorrect and that science must rethink the origins of the universe.
“Our research implies that we either should look for another picture to understand the very early universe, or that we have to rethink the most elementary models of quantum gravity,” said Job Feldbrugge, one of Turok’s co-authors.
Hawking’s views date to the 1980s, when he and James Hartle published mathematical research suggesting that the universe emerged smoothly from an infinitesimally small point.
However, in a paper entitled No Smooth Beginning for Spacetime, Turok and his colleagues re-examined Hawking’s work using new mathematical techniques to show that the energies within such a universe would be so wild and fluctuating that it would immediately destroy itself.
The maths Turok used was not around when Hawking produced his theories, he said.
Turok, who was once a professor of applied maths and theoretical physics working with Hawking at Cambridge, offered a new theory for the universe: “the Big Bounce”. This suggests the universe is locked in a perpetual cycle of big bangs in which it expands, then contracts to a tiny point before exploding outwards again.