Stephen W. Hawking: Death of the Greatest Myth in the History of Physics
Why, despite all the raves, Stephen Hawking wasn't all he was cracked up to be.
A little over four years ago, Time magazine published, "Hawking: Is He All He's Cracked Up To Be?" Key quotes from the first few paragraphs:
"But it’s the discoveries that really catapulted Hawking into the pantheon of physics greatness, right? Trapped in an increasingly useless body, he could, as Caltech physicist Kip Thorne says in the film 'move at lightning speed through the universe, seeing things nobody else could see.' He is, as most of us know, the greatest physicist since Einstein.Except that he isn’t. 'Rubbish,' Hawking himself responded, when I posed this proposition to him during a 1993 interview. 'It’s mere media hype.'"
I woke up Wednesday morning, after have a fitful sleep during the night. It was just about 9 AM EST when the phone rang and I was asked when was the last time I heard the news.
"I just woke up and I'm not really awake yet."
"So you haven't heard the news yet?"
"What news?" I asked, fully expecting it to be some political event with major ramifications.
"Stephen Hawking died last night."
"Oh great," I replied knowing that now I wouldn't get any of the work done I had planned for the day, let alone the fact that my favorite foil, because of whom I had gained a good deal of my credibility in theoretical physics, was gone. What the hell...
I never met Stephen Hawking, but I wrote the only book that is a critical review of his work, and image, Space Warps and Time Tunnels: The Infamous Legacy of One Stephen W. Hawking, in the wake of detecting more mistakes that he'd made than anyone else and having been the only person in the world to stand-up to his 2008 proclamation that the LHC at CERN wouldn't find the Higgs Boson and he'd back that with a $100 bet. Not even Peter Higgs did that, considering it beneath him and felt content to just bash Hawking's work. My bets were on Higgs being right and I said so, because I knew something about Hawking that others didn't — he was an arrogant smart ass, going all the way back to his days at Oxford before he was stricken with ALS. If anything, the diagnosis forced him to get serious with his studies since, until then, he rarely studied and thought he was smarter than his professors. So, not being a particle physicist, I trusted Higgs' opinion. I chose right. In reviewing material for this article, I ran across this quote from Higgs:
"He has got away with pronouncements in a way that other people would not. His celebrity status gives him instant credibility that others do not have."
The man was spot on, as can be seen from this quote by science editor, Steve Conner of the Independent:
"Professor Higgs was speaking for many when he suggested Professor Hawking had hogged the limelight. Although particle physicists may have cause to feel aggrieved by Hawking's apparent arrogance, the feeling is in fact shared in private by many cosmologists, who get exasperated by the media's constant reference to him as the greatest scientist since Einstein or Newton."
I just emailed Bloomberg's Adam Minter, to that fact, after Minter did a whitewash of Hawking's betting habits.
When I wrote my book on Hawking, I thought I could do it all in 200 pages. I was wrong. It took nearly twice that and I had to add a chapter at the last minute just to include his latest antic which was the Higgs could destroy the universe if CERN screwed around too much, which launched an explosion of conspiracy theories about CERN from the lunatic fringe of Christian apologists, the biggest being the late Cris Putnam, whom I took on prior to his death in 2016 and inadvertently exposed as an unabashed liar. In the process of writing the book, I discovered a major screw-up that Hawking had done, which was right in front of everyone's face in the physics community, that escaped their notice. In the chapter, "The Ireland Gambit,"I revealed that although everyone in the physics community hated Hawking's black hole paradox, due to the fact that his equation violated causality, none of them caught the obvious to me — irony that maintaining causality is exactly why Hawking invented his Chronology Protection Conjecture which was his argument against time travel to the past. As always, it was another, unexpected example of Hawking talking out of both sides of his mouth and still being wrong.
Speaking about time travel, though many have been duped by Hawking's quips and antics (he asked the dumbest question in the history of physics — "where are all the time travel tourists?" as if time travelers would be dumb enough to reveal themselves, and he held a party for time travelers as if they would actually show-up when they didn't for the big MIT bash in 2005. There are very clear and distinct reasons in physics for both, but Hawking never got them). Hawking was never correct on the subject of time or time travel and made zero discoveries in either area. Since both of those subjects are my fundamental areas of research, and my passion, it gave me the opportunity to do my duty to promote accurate science and show him up, time after time after time.
As it would turn out, J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, sometime around 1960 said that, "There are children playing in the street that could solve some of my top problems in physics, because they have modes of sensory perception that I lost long ago." I had already detected a series of major errors in Kip Thorne's concept of using wormholes for time travel, as written in his book, Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein's Outrageous Legacy, and determined that the reason behind the errors was psychological — Thorne and his peers were not used to thinking conceptually which is different than thinking mathematically. It provided for hidden assumptions to be missed and was the subject of my very first presentation at a science conference, the 2004 International Mars Society Conference in Chicago.
I decided in late 2007 to test high school physics students with Oppenheimer's theory, which I had dubbed the Oppenheimer Strain. My thinking was that their minds weren't used to thinking in the rigid ways that aging PhDs had been, and were free to look at problems in fresh, unique ways.
The very first Oppenheimer Strain project was done with high school physics students from Bexley High School in Ohio. My prediction of the number of students that would get the right answer was dead on for both the classes that participated — five each. For some, the surprise was that girls did better than the boys. They caught a flaw that Stephen Hawking, in his attempt to show Thorne was wrong, had missed. I made arrangements for the students to be recognized for their achievement, by the mayor of their town and city council.
The Mad Scientist Paradox was a time travel scenario featured in Into The Universe with Stephen Hawking. Basically, a mad scientist has a wormhole time machine through which he can connect to the past by a minute. He takes a gun, and shoots himself in the past through that wormhole. In the video we see him in the past, getting shot through that wormhole that he has in the room with him. To me the flaw was both obvious and proof positive that time travel was permanently above Hawking's pay grade. However, there was another problem in the video, which is pertinent to Hawking's Chronology Protection Conjecture, to begin with. The issue of feedback through a wormhole to the past involving closed time-like curves. I had already resolved the issue for a presentation I gave to a class at the Ohio State University, using a gedankenexperiment, but the presentation from the Hawking special introduced a rock band producing feedback as Hawking's example of how it could build up and destroy the wormhole. Like he had already begun to do, Hawking handed me the perfect opportunity to prove him wrong, once again.
The following year, I decided to do a presentation for another high school physics class, this time focusing on both aspects of the Mad Scientist Paradox — the screw-up with the wormhole time machine as well as the feedback issue. This time, six students got the right answer on the wormhole problem and I did a student involved demonstration of how Hawking was wrong about the feedback loop. This was executed with me taking taking the role of the rock band, with a solid body electric guitar. If the closed time-like curve led to a parallel universe, as predicted by the many-worlds theory, there would be no feedback build up. The experiment worked — the first ever physical experiment to prove Hawking wrong, until later that year, when the Higgs was discovered. Later, I wrote a paper on it,Experimental and Theoretical Analysis Of Chronology Protection Conjecture Failing On The Discovery Channel.
I might add that last year I determined that any closed time-like curve would cause the participatory aspect of the universe, posited by John Archibald Wheeler, to cause into existence a new, parallel universe copy of the past and as such, terminate any chance of Hawking being right. This stems from my physical experiments that have been validating Wheeler's work and others.
However, I wanted to know if Oppenheimer had been exactly correct. Up until that time, I had dealt strictly with high school physics students, but could actual children, who might play in the street as opposed to driving through them, stand-up to the challenge? I decided to try with students from the OSU Wexner Medical Center Math and Science Club — a small group of 4th, 5th and 6th graders on whom I tested the problem with the wormhole time machine. Remember — the mad scientist shoots himself through a wormhole to the past and we see him fall and lie dead on the floor. There he is, dead with his equipment and machine creating the wormhole that connects to the past. The same one that he's just been shot through by his future self. Get it? Well the majority of those little kids did just as Oppenheimer predicted. How can the mad scientist in the past be shot by his future self through a wormhole, which on his end connects to the past? Like the kids said — "you can't walk out and in door...". The scenario requires a opening for the wormhole from the future to be in the past — a second wormhole in the room. Conceptually, the scenario as depicted, was a train wreck. It showed Hawking's lack of understanding multiply connected spaces — at least in this instance, and I knew why. He never took it seriously.
When I arranged for the children to be recognized for their extraordinary accomplishment, of proving Oppenheimer's idea spot on, I was surprised at the ceremony to get a recognition of my own, not only for my STEM education efforts but for catching the error in Hawking's Mad Scientist Paradox, itself.
Later, when my book came out, I decided to do a video proving the Mad Scientist Paradox wrong with my taking the role of the rock band that Hawking had used.
Toward the end of his career, it became more than obvious, to educated observers, that Hawking's prospects for doing anything else serious in physics, were slim and none. There was an outright rebellion when he suggested that black holes didn't exist after all, at least not with event horizons, and he left the topic behind to continue talking about the threat of aliens, discovering intelligent life in the universe and his fears of an AI take over. I publicly mocked him (and Elon Musk) over their fears of AI, because they were both late to the party — the weapons to kill AI already secretly exist and the intention to stop AI from taking over, by militant action, went all the way back to the 80s. However within the last year, I joined both Musk and Hawking in recognizing AI development as dangerous, not because of the fear that they couldn't be stopped, but because of what I believe is ultimately behind it — the means to rid the Earth of the majority of the human population down to a "manageable" size. More on that in, "Digitalcentrism and the Coming AI Apocalypse," an upcoming Futurism.media article I'm penning now.
Hawking also caused controversy over his statements about heaven being a fairy tale for people who are afraid of the dark, and other atheist sentiments. Just as I expected, this was brought up on Twitter in the wake of his passing, as both sides dealt with the idea of where he is now. I'm not even going to get into his tendencies towards misogyny or the blatant way he killed a black man in an illustration on chronology protection conjecture, for laughs — as a thinly veiled racist joke. You'll have to read The Future of Spacetime to see it and then my book, to get its meaning and the back story on how CalTech lawyers had to lie to defend it, as well as how Hawking thought it was funny to paraphrase the Nazi, Hermann Goering, when he said, "When I hear of Schrödinger's cat, I reach for my pistol" but it was actually Nazi playwright, Hanns Johst from his play, Schlageterthat Hawking was quoting. Well, if he's gonna quote a Nazi, you'd think he'd get the right Nazi...
The most disturbing thing about Hawking is how his cult of personality inspired people to worship him and attack anyone who was critical of his work, completely unaware that Hawking was only viewed as a god by them and not everyone else. As one of the scientists in Steve Conner's piece said, "To criticize Hawking is a bit like criticizing Princess Diana — you just don't do it in public," which obviously doesn't apply to me. His biggest fans are people who never did understand what he was talking about and this was egged on by a media equally as vapid. His most ardent fans believe that he made discoveries, invented things and conducted experiments that he never did. This tweet, for example, by some woman who calls herself "Oxford Diplomat" —
@OxfordDiplomat, March 14:
"Thank you for the knowledge, the data you gave us. Thanks for all the experiments you made us. Who could live without it, I ask in all honesty? What would life be? Without a neutron or atom what are we? So I say thank you for the physics, for giving it to me. #stephenhawkins "
Hawking never did any experiments and like many of his fans, she can't even spell his name right!
Sure enough, there's a parade of morons on Twitter in full strength, with their emotional tributes to the hero they worship, whose name they can't even spell in spite of the fact that in many cases, it's right there on the little memes they posted —#StephenHawkins #StephenHawkings #StephenHawkin, #StevenHawking, #StevenHawkin#StevenHawkings, #StevenHawkins, #StephenHaking, #StephenHakings#StevenHaking
Nor have they ever understood anything that he said. I know. I wrote an entire chapter on them and the horror that I felt when I realized at TED.com, the average Hawking acolyte has never read through a Hawking book because they can't understand it and that's why they bestow godhood on him. And because they can't understand him, why should anyone else dare but to genuflect at the mere mention of his name — totally and completely unaware that they don't have enough grey matter to be legally 1,000 miles within a physics book!
I thinkPeter Coles of the University of Nottingham said it best — "There is a tremendous gulf between the public perception of the significance of Hawking and the scientific evaluation of his contribution."
In other words, the idea that he is the super genius of all time is, to put it in Hawking's own words to Michael Lemonick at Time magazine, "Rubbish...It’s mere media hype."
Yet, throngs of the clueless made their presence known on Twitter for all to see their ignorance, by using a quote from Daniel J. Boorstin which became highly ironic with their attributing it to Stephen Hawking. Much like when Hawking thought he was paraphrasing Goering.
"The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge".
And so it is fitting that he was remembered as such, since Hawking did, as well as his fans, trade on such illusions, right down to the last line in that Jaguar commercial he did.
"And we all drive Jaguars. Ha, ha, ha..."
No. Actually, I don't think he did...Obviously.