Just two weeks before his death, renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking finished his final work: a theory explaining how humans might detect parallel universes.
Hawking's paper, called A Smooth Exit from Eternal Inflation, is currently under review by a prominent scientific journal.
The new paper seeks to resolve an issue thrown up by Hawking’s 1983 “no-boundary” theory which described how the universe burst into existence with the big bang.
According to that account, the universe instantaneously expanded from a tiny point into a prototype of what we live in today, a process known as inflation.
But the theory also predicted an infinite number of big bangs, each creating their own universe, a “multiverse”, which presented a mathematical paradox because it is seemingly impossible to measure.
Hawking's theory proposed a way to find traces of multiple big bangs:
Carlos Frenk, professor of cosmology at Durham University, told The Sunday Times: The intriguing idea in Hawking’s paper is that [the multiverse] left its imprint on the background radiation permeating our universe and we could measure it with a detector on a spaceship.
Professor Thomas Hertog, from KU Leuven University in Belgium, worked with Hawking on the theory.
“This was Stephen: to boldly go where Star Trek fears to tread,” he said.
“He has often been nominated for the Nobel and should have won it. Now he never can.”