Scientific Colloquium
May 1, 2024,  3:00 P.M.
Building 3, Goett Auditorium

"On the Origin of Time"

Perhaps the biggest question Stephen Hawking tried to answer in his extraordinary career was how the universe could have created conditions so perfectly hospitable to life.

Pondering this mystery led him to study the big bang origin, but his early work ran into a crisis when the math predicted many big bangs producing many universes, most far too bizarre to harbor life.

Holed up in theoretical physics departments across the globe, Hawking and I worked shoulder to shoulder for twenty years, to develop a novel quantum framework for early universe cosmology that could account for the emergence of life. At the heart of our cosmogony lies a physical theory that predicts that time and indeed physics itself fade away back into the big bang.

In this colloquium I recount our quest to get a grip on the origin of time, and the bold new take on some of the universe’s fundamentals we are being led to.

About the Speaker:

Thomas Hertog is a theoretical cosmologist and long-time collaborator of Stephen Hawking. He received his doctorate from the University of Cambridge, joined the University of California at Santa Barbara as a research fellow in 2002 and became fellow at CERN, Geneva, in 2005. Currently Hertog is professor at the Institute for Theoretical Physics of the KU Leuven in Belgium, where he studies the quantum nature of black holes and the big bang. He also leads Belgium's participation in the ESA/NASA flagship mission LISA dedicated to the detection of gravitational waves. Hertog is the author of On the Origin of Time: Stephen Hawking's Final Theory (Random House, 2023), a monograph in which he advances a fundamentally evolutionary conception of physics.

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