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On the origin of time: A quantum beginning

28th March 2023, 7:00 – 8:30 pm

Perhaps the biggest question Stephen Hawking tried to answer in his life was how our universe could have created conditions so perfectly hospitable to life. Pondering this mystery led Hawking to study the big bang origin, but his early work ran into a crisis when the maths predicted many big bangs producing a multiverse – countless different universes, most of which would be far too bizarre to harbour life.

Holed up in the theoretical physics department at Cambridge, Stephen Hawking and his friend and collaborator Thomas Hertog worked shoulder to shoulder for twenty years on a quantum theory of the big bang that could account for the universe’s life-friendly character.

As their discovery journey took them deeper into the big bang, they were startled to find a deeper level of evolution in which physical laws transform and simplify until particles, forces, and even time itself fades away. 

Once upon a time, perhaps, there was no time. This led them to a revolutionary idea: the laws of physics are not set in stone but are born and co-evolve as the universe they govern takes shape. 

Join Thomas Hertog in exploring how he and Stephen Hawking published this final theory together, proposing their radical new Darwinian perspective on the origins of our universe. In doing so, Thomas offers a striking new vision that ties together more deeply than ever, the nature of the universe’s birth with our existence. This new theory profoundly transforms the way we think about our place in the order of the cosmos and may ultimately prove Stephen Hawking’s biggest legacy.

Copies of Thomas’ latest book ‘On the Origin of Time: My journey with Stephen Hawking into the Big Bang‘ will be available to purchase at the end of the talk.

Event type

This is a theatre event, where the speaker and audience are together in our Theatre.

This event will not be livestreamed.

By booking to attend events at the Royal Institution, you confirm that you have read and accept the Ri’s event terms and conditions. You also agree to abide by our code of conduct, and help to create a great experience for yourself and your fellow participants. 

About Thomas Hertog

Thomas Hertog is an internationally renowned cosmologist. He received his doctorate from the University of Cambridge and joined the University of California at Santa Barbara in 2002. Currently he is professor at the Institute for Theoretical Physics of the University of Leuven and member of the International Solvay Institutes in Brussels.

Thomas has been a key collaborator of the late Stephen Hawking since 1998. Together they developed a new theory of the big bang origin of the universe. He lives with his wife and their four children in Bousval, Belgium.

Timing

Doors to the theatre will open at 6.30pm. The event will begin at 7.00pm.#

Membership

Harwellians can sign up for RI membership for FREE here.