Posts Tagged ‘Cosmology’

Happy Birthday, Stephen Hawking!

Stephen Hawking Research Topic via ProQuest eLibra

“Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future,” Steve Miller wrote in his 1976 hit, “Fly Like an Eagle.” And so, time has once again quickly slipped into a new year.  Many long to forget 2016 with its spate of notable personality deaths.  Instead of lamenting the year past, let’s begin by wishing an early happy birthday to a man who became a “cultural icon” by writing about the beginning of time and the universe.

This coming Sunday marks the 75th birthday of the one of the most prominent scientists of our time, Stephen Hawking.  Dr. Hawking is well known for in scientific circles as a theoretical physicist and cosmologist which has led to a pop culture following outside that realm.  Dr. Hawking is a favorite scientist of Dr. Sheldon Cooper on TV’s The Big Bang Theory.  An intimate portrait of the man was made into a 2014 movie, The Theory of Everything, starring Eddie Redmayne who won the Best Actor Academy Award for his portrayal of Hawking.

Born January 8, 1942 in Oxford, England, Hawking knew from a very young age he wanted to study mathematics.  Unable to pursue a degree in mathematics at University College, his father’s alma mater, Stephen studied physics and gained first class honors at graduation. This led to graduate research in cosmology and a PhD in applied maths and theoretical physics at Cambridge.  It was during his studies, at age 22, he was diagnosed with a slow-progressing form of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).  Despite his physical limitations, Dr. Hawking has not let his disease limit him professionally.  For thirty years, from 1979 to 2009, he served as the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, a position once held by Isaac Newton.

In 1988 Hawking achieved worldwide acclaim with his bestselling book, A Brief History of Time.  He wrote the book to make topics in cosmology like the Big Bang and black holes more understandable and attainable.  Ever the research scientist, Professor Hawking continues to research and lecture on topics related to mathematics, cosmology and theoretical physics.  A current area of interest is the search for extraterrestrial life in the universe.


The Academy Awards: A Most Biographical Year

Academy Awards

Academy Awards Research Topic [Screencap via eLibrary]

It’s that time of year: awards season. The Golden Globe Awards have been presented recently and the Academy Awards, the 87th to be exact, will be given on February 22. Cinephiles will gather round televisions to root for their favorite movies and actors just as Patriots and Seahawks fans did two days ago. The Oscars are Hollywood’s “Super Bowl.”

The race for Best Picture this year is particularly noteworthy. Of the eight nominees, four are biographical—two Americans fighting for country in different ways and two British scientists making strides and becoming leaders in their fields.

The movie Selma stars David Oyelowo as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and focuses on his leadership during the Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches in 1965.  These marches helped lead to the passage of the Voting Rights Act.  Signed into law by President Johnson on August 6, 1965, the Act barred racial discrimination in voting.

American Sniper is the story of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, the most productive military sniper in US history with 160 confirmed kills. Bradley Cooper portrays Kyle who served four tours of duty in the Iraq War.  Sadly, Chris Kyle was shot and killed in 2013 by a veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder whom he was helping.

Stephen Hawking is widely known for his work in cosmology.  In The Theory of Everything, Eddie Redmayne depicts Stephen Hawking’s romance, marriage and life with his first wife Jane as well as his education and work in astrophysics. All the while, he struggles with onset of motor neuron disease (Lou Gehrig’s Disease, ALS) which he continues to battle to this day.

Alan Turing may be the least known of those whose stories have been put to screen this year.  Benedict Cumberbatch stars in The Imitation Game as the man who would become known as the Father of Computer Science. Turing’s work at Bletchley Park breaking the German Enigma code during World War II helped save countless Allied lives and was influential in the development of modern computer science.

To learn more about these remarkable men, look no further than eLibrary.  A great jumping off point for your research is Research Topics.  You can easily find these by clicking on Find your Research Topic here on the Basic Search page.

Research Topics


Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity Published

Illustration of the Distortion of Space-Time Caused by the Sun's Mass

In April 2004 NASA sent into space the Gravity Probe B satellite on a mission to prove a couple of postulations published 98 years ago this week by a man considered by many the greatest intellectual mind ever. On May 4, 2011, seven years after the probe was launched, the experiments finally confirmed two predictions by Albert Einstein‘s theory of general relativity: the warping, or curving, of space and time (space-time) around Earth; and frame-dragging, the amount of space-time that is dragged around Earth by its rotation. Thursday, March 20th, marks the landmark date when Einstein published those arguments, and others, under his theory of gravity in “The Foundation of the General Theory of Relativity.”

Gravity Probe BEven though Einstein worked these theories out mathematically, to get a practical sense of what these principles meant, there are two analogies most frequently used. First, with the warping of space-time around a large mass, imagine a large, heavy ball (representing the Sun) placed in the center of a thin, stretched sheet of rubber (representing space). The ball presses down in the middle of the sheet causing a depression, or curvature. When another smaller ball (representing Earth) is tossed onto the sheet it will circle and roll toward the larger ball. Einstein posited that gravity was not some mysterious gravitational force, as Isaac Newton thought, but merely smaller objects traveling through space along a curve toward the larger ones with enough mass that warps space around them. With frame-dragging, think of Earth as being immersed in honey. As the Earth rotates, the honey around it would swirl. And so it would with space and time.

Although measuring these two effects by the Gravity Probe B has led to practical applications in the improvement in aeronautics and GPS technologies, for astrophysicists and cosmologists it has fueled further interest in black holes. It is believed that objects with much more mass than our earth or sun can warp space-time fabric so much that they can create a hole where space itself falls into and where even light cannot escape.

Is gravity nothing more than the motion of objects around other, more massive objects which distort and curve the fabric of space-time?  Are there objects so massive where even light cannot escape? To dig deeper into these questions, and more on Albert Einstein and his theory of general relativity, visit eLibrary and view the resources below.

Research Topics:

Albert Einstein
Black Holes
Isaac Newton

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Black Holes
Light & Special Relativity