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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index H > Stephen W. Hawking Quotes

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Stephen W. Hawking
(8 Jan 1942 - )

English theoretical physicst and cosmologist.


Science Quotes by Stephen W. Hawking (28 quotes)

[On President Bush's plan to get to Mars in 10 years] Stupid. Robots would do a better job and be much cheaper because you don't have to bring them back.
— Stephen W. Hawking
Interview with Deborah Solomon, 'The Science of Second-Guessing', in New York Times Magazine (12 Dec 2004), 37.
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[Question: Do you feel that scientists correct themselves as often as they should?]
More often than politicians, but not as often as they should.
— Stephen W. Hawking
Interview with Deborah Solomon, 'The Science of Second-Guessing', in New York Times Magazine (12 Dec 2004), 37.
Science quotes on:  |  Correction (20)  |  Often (4)  |  Politician (12)  |  Scientist (237)

[Question: What do you think was the most important physics idea to emerge this year?]
We won't know for a few years.
— Stephen W. Hawking
Interview with Deborah Solomon, 'The Science of Second-Guessing', in New York Times Magazine (12 Dec 2004), 37.
Science quotes on:  |  Emergence (17)  |  Importance (106)  |  Knowledge (679)  |  Physics (156)  |  Thinking (166)  |  Year (69)

A lot of prizes have been awarded for showing the universe is not as simple as we might have thought.
— Stephen W. Hawking
In A Brief History of Time, (1988, 1998), 80.
Science quotes on:  |  Award (3)  |  Discovery (360)  |  Simple (25)  |  Universe (291)

All of my life, I have been fascinated by the big questions that face us, and have tried to find scientific answers to them. If, like me, you have looked at the stars, and tried to make sense of what you see, you too have started to wonder what makes the universe exist.
— Stephen W. Hawking
From website for PBS program, Stephen Hawking's Universe (1997).
Science quotes on:  |  Answer (96)  |  Autobiography (48)  |  Existence (150)  |  Fascination (15)  |  Question (159)  |  Star (132)  |  Universe (291)  |  Wonder (64)

Consideration of particle emission from black holes would seem to suggest that God not only plays dice, but also sometimes throws them where they cannot be seen.
— Stephen W. Hawking
'The Quantum Mechanics of Black Holes', Scientific American, 1977, 236, 40.
Science quotes on:  |  Black Hole (8)  |  God (234)  |  Nuclear Particle (2)

Einstein was wrong when he said, 'God does not play dice'. Consideration of black holes suggests, not only that God does play dice, but that he sometimes confuses us by throwing them where they can't be seen.
— Stephen W. Hawking
In The Nature Of Space And Time (1996, 2010), 26.
Science quotes on:  |  Black Hole (8)  |  Confusion (22)  |  Dice (8)  |  Albert Einstein (174)  |  God (234)  |  Play (22)  |  Seeing (29)  |  Suggestion (13)  |  Throw (11)

Even if there is only one possible unified theory, it is just a set of rules and equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe? The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the questions of why there should be a universe for the model to describe. Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing?
— Stephen W. Hawking
A Brief History of Time (1998), 190.
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Hubble's observations suggested that there was a time, called the big bang, when the universe was infinitesimally small and infinitely dense. Under such conditions all the laws of science, and therefore all ability to predict the future, would break down. If there were events earlier than this time, then they could not affect what happens at the present time. Their existence can be ignored because it would have no observational consequences. One may say that time had a beginning at the big bang, in the sense that earlier times simply would not be defined. It should be emphasized that this beginning in time is very different from those that had been considered previously. In an unchanging universe a beginning in time is something that has to be imposed by some being outside the universe; there is no physical necessity for a beginning. One can imagine that God created the universe at literally any time in the past. On the other hand, if the universe is expanding, there may be physical reasons why there had to be a beginning. One could still imagine that God created the universe at the instant of the big bang, or even afterwards in just such a way as to make it look as though there had been a big bang, but it would be meaningless to suppose that it was created before the big bang. An expanding universe does not preclude a creator, but it does place limits on when he might have carried out his job!
— Stephen W. Hawking
A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes (1988), 8-9.
Science quotes on:  |  Big Bang (24)  |  God (234)  |  Edwin Powell Hubble (13)  |  Time (170)  |  Universe (291)

I have sold more books on physics than Madonna has on sex.
[Hawking adopted this statement from a remark made to him by his former post-doc, Nathan Myhrvold.]
— Stephen W. Hawking
The Illustrated A Brief History of Time, Updated and Expanded Edition (1996), Foreward.
Science quotes on:  |  Book (100)

I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.
— Stephen W. Hawking
'Stephen Hawking: "There is no heaven; it's a fairy story"', interview in newspaper The Guardian (15 May 2011).
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I think the next [21st] century will be the century of complexity. We have already discovered the basic laws that govern matter and understand all the normal situations. We don’t know how the laws fit together, and what happens under extreme conditions. But I expect we will find a complete unified theory sometime this century. The is no limit to the complexity that we can build using those basic laws.
[Answer to question: Some say that while the twentieth century was the century of physics, we are now entering the century of biology. What do you think of this?]
— Stephen W. Hawking
'"Unified Theory" Is Getting Closer, Hawking Predicts', interview in San Jose Mercury News (23 Jan 2000), 29A. Answer quoted in Ashok Sengupta, Chaos, Nonlinearity, Complexity: The Dynamical Paradigm of Nature (2006), vii. Question included in Hans-Joachim Schellnhuber, Nicholas Stern and Mario Molina , Global Sustainability: a Nobel Cause (2010), 13. Cite from Brent Davis and Dennis J. Sumara, Complexity and Education: Inquiries Into Learning, Teaching, and Research (2006), 171.
Science quotes on:  |  20th Century (11)  |  21st Century (3)  |  Basic (18)  |  Biology (83)  |  Build (23)  |  Complete (13)  |  Complexity (51)  |  Condition (68)  |  Discovery (360)  |  Expectation (26)  |  Fit (12)  |  Governing (3)  |  Happening (23)  |  Knowledge (679)  |  Law (273)  |  Limit (34)  |  Matter (135)  |  Normal (11)  |  Physics (156)  |  Situation (21)  |  Thinking (166)  |  Together (15)  |  Understanding (231)  |  Unified Theory (3)

I want my books sold on airport bookstalls.
— Stephen W. Hawking
Interview with Deborah Solomon, 'The Science of Second-Guessing', in New York Times Magazine (12 Dec 2004), 37.
Science quotes on:  |  Book (100)  |  Success (114)

If we do discover a complete theory, it should be in time understandable in broad principle by everyone ... Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason—for then we would know the mind of God.
— Stephen W. Hawking
A Brief History of Time (1988), 191.
Science quotes on:  |  Answer (96)  |  Complete (13)  |  Discovery (360)  |  Discussion (17)  |  Exist (13)  |  God (234)  |  Layman (8)  |  Philosopher (67)  |  Principle (97)  |  Reason (173)  |  Scientist (237)  |  Theory (353)  |  Triumph (21)  |  Understanding (231)  |  Universe (291)

Let me describe briefly how a black hole might be created. Imagine a star with a mass 10 times that of the sun. During most of its lifetime of about a billion years the star will generate heat at its center by converting hydrogen into helium. The energy released will create sufficient pressure to support the star against its own gravity, giving rise to an object with a radius about five times the radius of the sun. The escape velocity from the surface of such a star would be about 1,000 kilometers per second. That is to say, an object fired vertically upward from the surface of the star with a velocity of less than 1,000 kilometers per second would be dragged back by the gravitational field of the star and would return to the surface, whereas an object with a velocity greater than that would escape to infinity.
When the star had exhausted its nuclear fuel, there would be nothing to maintain the outward pressure, and the star would begin to collapse because of its own gravity. As the star shrank, the gravitational field at the surface would become stronger and the escape velocity would increase. By the time the radius had got down to 10 kilometers the escape velocity would have increased to 100,000 kilometers per second, the velocity of light. After that time any light emitted from the star would not be able to escape to infinity but would be dragged back by the gravitational field. According to the special theory of relativity nothing can travel faster than light, so that if light cannot escape, nothing else can either. The result would be a black hole: a region of space-time from which it is not possible to escape to infinity.
— Stephen W. Hawking
'The Quantum Mechanics of Black Holes', Scientific American, 1977, 236, 34-40.
Science quotes on:  |  Black Hole (8)  |  Helium (6)  |  Hydrogen (25)  |  Light (117)  |  Star (132)

My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus.
— Stephen W. Hawking
Interview with Deborah Solomon, 'The Science of Second-Guessing', in New York Times Magazine (12 Dec 2004), 37.
Science quotes on:  |  Age (60)  |  Everything (38)  |  Expectation (26)  |  Reduction (22)  |  Zero (9)

People who boast about their I.Q. are losers.
— Stephen W. Hawking
Interview with Deborah Solomon, 'The Science of Second-Guessing', in New York Times Magazine (12 Dec 2004), 37.
Science quotes on:  |  Boast (6)  |  People (72)

Science is beautiful when it makes simple explanations of phenomena or connections between different observations. Examples include the double helix in biology, and the fundamental equations of physics.
[Answer to question: What are the things you find most beautiful in science?]
— Stephen W. Hawking
'Stephen Hawking: "There is no heaven; it's a fairy story"', interview in newspaper The Guardian (15 May 2011).
Science quotes on:  |  Beauty (88)  |  Connection (39)  |  Difference (135)  |  DNA (50)  |  Equation (46)  |  Example (21)  |  Explanation (88)  |  Fundamental (59)  |  Make (10)  |  Observation (264)  |  Phenomenon (114)  |  Physics (156)  |  Science (875)  |  Simple (25)

Science predicts that many different kinds of universe will be spontaneously created out of nothing. It is a matter of chance which we are in.
[Answer to question: You've said there is no reason to invoke God to light the blue touchpaper. Is our existence all down to luck?]
— Stephen W. Hawking
'Stephen Hawking: "There is no heaven; it's a fairy story"', interview in newspaper The Guardian (15 May 2011).
Science quotes on:  |  Chance (77)  |  Creation (129)  |  Difference (135)  |  Kind (27)  |  Matter (135)  |  Nothing (89)  |  Prediction (48)  |  Science (875)  |  Science And Religion (159)  |  Spontaneity (4)  |  Universe (291)  |  Which (2)

The media need superheroes in science just as in every sphere of life.
— Stephen W. Hawking
Interview with Deborah Solomon, 'The Science of Second-Guessing', in New York Times Magazine (12 Dec 2004), 37.
Science quotes on:  |  Life (460)  |  Media (3)  |  Sphere (12)  |  Superhero (2)

The quantum theory of gravity has opened up a new possibility, in which there would be no boundary to space-time and so there would be no need to specify the behaviour at the boundary. There would be no singularities at which the laws of science broke down and no edge of space-time at which one would have to appeal to God or some new law to set the boundary conditions for space-time. One could say: 'The boundary condition of the universe is that it has no boundary.' The universe would be completely self-contained and not affected by anything outside itself. It would neither be created nor destroyed. It would just BE.
— Stephen W. Hawking
A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes (1988), 136.
Science quotes on:  |  Law (273)  |  Quantum Theory (36)  |  Space-Time (8)  |  Universe (291)

The universe is governed by science. But science tells us that we can't solve the equations, directly in the abstract. We need to use the effective theory of Darwinian natural selection of those societies most likely to survive. We assign them higher value.
[Answer to question: What is the value in knowing "Why are we here?"]
— Stephen W. Hawking
'Stephen Hawking: "There is no heaven; it's a fairy story"', interview in newspaper The Guardian (15 May 2011).
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The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manner, but that they reflect a certain underlying order, which may or may not be divinely inspired.
— Stephen W. Hawking
A Brief History of Time (1998), 127.
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The world has changed far more in the past 100 years than in any other century in history. The reason is not political or economic but technological—technologies that flowed directly from advances in basic science. Clearly, no scientist better represents those advances than Albert Einstein: TIME’s Person of the Century.
— Stephen W. Hawking
'A Brief History of Relativity'. Time (31 Dec 1999).
Science quotes on:  |  20th Century (11)  |  Economics (19)  |  Albert Einstein (174)  |  Politics (52)  |  Technology (98)

There are something like ten million million million million million million million million million million million million million million (1 with eighty zeroes after it) particles in the region of the universe that we can observe. Where did they all come from? The answer is that, in quantum theory, particles can be created out of energy in the form of particle/antiparticle pairs. But that just raises the question of where the energy came from. The answer is that the total energy of the universe is exactly zero. The matter in the universe is made out of positive energy. However, the matter is all attracting itself by gravity. Two pieces of matter that are close to each other have less energy than the same two pieces a long way apart, because you have to expend energy to separate them against the gravitational force that is pulling them together. Thus, in a sense, the gravitational field has negative energy. In the case of a universe that is approximately uniform in space, one can show that this negative gravitational energy exactly cancels the positive energy represented by the matter. So the total energy of the universe is zero.
— Stephen W. Hawking
A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes (1988), 129.
Science quotes on:  |  Energy (103)  |  Gravity (59)  |  Matter (135)  |  Nuclear Particle (2)  |  Universe (291)

Today scientists describe the universe in terms of two basic partial theories—the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. They are the great intellectual achievements of the first half of this century. The general theory of relativity describes the force of gravity and the large-scale structure of the universe, that is, the structure on scales from only a few miles to as large as a million million million million (1 with twenty-four zeros after it) miles, the size of the observable universe. Quantum mechanics, on the other hand, deals with phenomena on extremely small scales, such as a millionth of a millionth of an inch. Unfortunately, however, these two theories are known to be inconsistent with each other—they cannot both be correct.
— Stephen W. Hawking
A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes (1988), 11-2.
Science quotes on:  |  Gravity (59)  |  Quantum Physics (15)  |  Relativity (33)  |  Theory (353)

We should seek the greatest value of our action.
[Answer to question: So here we are. What should we do?]
— Stephen W. Hawking
'Stephen Hawking: "There is no heaven; it's a fairy story"', interview in newspaper The Guardian (15 May 2011).
Science quotes on:  |  Action (57)  |  Greatest (23)  |  Seeking (17)  |  Value (63)

What I have done is to show that it is possible for the way the universe began to be determined by the laws of science. In that case, it would not be necessary to appeal to God to decide how the universe began. This doesn't prove that there is no God, only that God is not necessary. (17 Oct 1988)
— Stephen W. Hawking
Der Spiegel (17 Oct 1988). Quoted in Clifford A. Pickover, Archimedes to Hawking (2008), 483.
Science quotes on:  |  God (234)  |  Law (273)  |  Necessity (78)  |  Universe (291)



Quotes by others about Stephen W. Hawking (2)

Do these models give a pointer to God? The steady-state universe, the Hawking model... and the infinitely oscillating model decidedly do not. One might almost regard them as models manufactured for a Society of Atheists.
'From Entropy to God', in K. Martinas, L. Ropolyi and P. Szegedi (eds.) Thermodynamics: History and Philosophy: Facts, Trends, Debates (1991), 386.
Science quotes on:  |  Atheist (6)  |  God (234)  |  Model (31)  |  Steady-State (2)  |  Universe (291)

Walking the streets of Tokyo with Hawking in his wheelchair ... I felt as if I were taking a walk through Galilee with Jesus Christ [as] crowds of Japanese silently streamed after us, stretching out their hands to touch Hawking's wheelchair. ... The crowds had streamed after Einstein [on Einstein's visit to Japan in 1922] as they streamed after Hawking seventy years later. ... They showed exquisite choice in their heroes. ... Somehow they understood that Einstein and Hawking were not just great scientists, but great human beings.
Foreward to Alice Calaprice, The Quotable Einstein (1996), xiii-xiv.
Science quotes on:  |  Albert Einstein (174)  |  Great (62)  |  Hero (10)  |  Japan (2)  |  Scientist (237)


See also:
  • todayinsci icon 8 Jan - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Hawking's birth.
  • booklist icon Booklist for Stephen Hawking.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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