The recent passing of world-renowned theoretical physicist, science communicator, and frequent comedian Professor Stephen Hawking didn’t just lead to an outpouring of grief and remembrance. News outlets and scientific journals were also moved to republish or highlight the very last of the pioneering scientist’s acts and works, from his final academic paper to his ultimate interviews.
BBC News followed suit, and has just released the text of his interview with Pallab Ghosh, one of the organization’s science correspondents. Focusing on the recent detection of gravitational waves from the collision of two neutron stars, it touches on the importance of this particular discovery, as well as what it means for the wider field of astrophysics.
As it happens, this conversation back in October of last year turned out to be his final broadcast interview before his death.
Although part of the interview was televised around the time of the discovery of the neutron star collision, much of it remained on the cutting room floor. Fortunately, the BBC decided to publish the entirety of the encounter for the first time this week.
You can read the interview in full here, and listen to it using the Soundcloud link below, but here are some of the highlights.
Hawking on the neutron star collision: “It is a genuine milestone… It gives a new way of determining distances in cosmology. And it teaches us about the behavior of matter with incredibly high density.”
Hawking on how it relates to black hole formation: “The fact that a black hole can form from the merger of two neutron stars was known from theory. But this event is the first test, or observation.”
Hawking on how it relates to space-time: “Gravitational waves are a new way to search for a signature of possible modifications of general relativity… We are still rubbing our eyes, or rather ears, as we have just woken up to the sound of gravitational waves.”
Hawking on astronomically forged treasures: “The collision of neutron stars is one way of producing gold. It can also be formed from fast neutron capture in supernovas.”
Ghosh on interviewing Hawking: “For me, he was at his most enthralling when he was on 'home turf' – talking about the physics he so loved and bending our minds with the implications of new discoveries. And I was so touched and honored to hear from his staff that he had always enjoyed our encounters.”
[H/T: BBC News]