Stephen Hawking: 'There is no heaven; it's a fairy story'In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, the cosmologist shares his thoughts on death, M-theory, human purpose and our chance existence
In the interview, Hawking rejected the notion of life beyond death and emphasised the need to fulfil our potential on Earth by making good use of our lives. In answer to a question on how we should live, he said, simply: "We should seek the greatest value of our action."
His talk will focus on M-theory, a broad mathematical framework that encompasses string theory, which is regarded by many physicists as the best hope yet of developing a theory of everything.
M-theory demands a universe with 11 dimensions, including a dimension of time and the three familiar spatial dimensions. The rest are curled up too small for us to see.
Evidence in support of M-theory might also come from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at Cern, the European particle physics laboratory near Geneva.
One possibility predicted by M-theory is supersymmetry, an idea that says fundamental particles have heavy – and as yet undiscovered – twins, with curious names such as selectrons and squarks.
Confirmation of supersymmetry would be a shot in the arm for M-theory and help physicists explain how each forces at work in the universe arose from one super-force at the dawn of time.
Another potential discovery at the LHC, that of the elusive Higgs boson, which is thought to give mass to elementary particles, might be less welcome to Hawking, who has a long-standing bet that the long-sought entity will never be found at the laboratory.
Hawking will join other speakers at the London event, including the chancellor, George Osborne, and the Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz.
Science, truth and beauty: Hawking's answers
What is the value in knowing "Why are we here?"
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.
You've said there is no reason to invoke God to light the blue touchpaper. Is our existence all down to luck?
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.
So here we are. What should we do?
We should seek the greatest value of our action.
You had a health scare and spent time in hospital in 2009. What, if anything, do you fear about death?
I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I'm not afraid of death, but I'm in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first. 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.
What are the things you find most beautiful in science?
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."
It is a common, fundamental science glitch to all science discussing a finite universe:
In the talk, he will argue that tiny quantum fluctuations in the very early universe became the seeds from which galaxies, stars, and ultimately human life emerged.
In the beginning there cannot be fluctuations - because these are the result of impacting interactions with other things which have yet not emerged. Note how he evades the pivotal question of what causes fluctuations of a first entity in a finite realm! Like Dawkins, Hawlings is talking about a man driving a car - before the car appears. Starting at a cozy, later mid-point as a beginning is a slight of hand casino science.
Check mate - or correct me!