He popularized black holes and the deep questions of the cosmos
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Physicist Stephen Hawking, a black hole whisperer who divined secrets of the universe’s most inscrutable objects, died March 14 at age 76. In addition to his scientific research, Hawking, a professor at the University of Cambridge, was known for his popular science books, including the best-selling A Brief History of Time, which captivated readers with lucid explanations of the universe’s birth and the physical laws that rule the cosmos.
In one of his best-known discoveries, Hawking determined that black holes are not truly black. Instead, they emit a faint haze of particles, known as Hawking radiation (SN: 5/31/14, p. 16). This discovery, which arose at the interface of gravity and quantum mechanics, had remarkable consequences. It suggested that black holes are not eternal, but eventually evaporate. That led to a conundrum known as the