You might not want anyone to read the work you put together as a university student — I sure don’t. But we’re not Stephen Hawking, world-famous physicist, whose PhD thesis you can now read for free online.
The University of Cambridge has made Hawking’s work, “Properties of Expanding Universes”, free for anyone, given extraordinary demand. After all, it’s the most requested item in their online Open Access repository, according to a news release. Hawking told Cambridge that he made the decision hoping to “inspire people around the world to look up at the stars and not down at their feet”.
People seem to like this Stephen Hawking guy. His book, A Brief History of Time, has sold 10 million copies. He’s made pop culture appearances far and wide, from The Big Bang Theory to The Simpsons. He’s the subject of the Oscar-winning film, The Theory of Everything. But he’s known in science for exploring more esoteric topics in physics. Perhaps his most famous idea is “Hawking radiation”, the theory that links the mathematics of gravity with quantum physics to conclude that black holes evaporate by spitting out particles from their surface.
The thesis discusses some of the most talked-about points in physics, specifically the “implications and consequences of the expansion of the universe”. Such expansion causes difficulties to one theory of gravitation and has implications for how gravity radiates through the universe, moving its energy along as waves. It also describes the inevitability of singularities, regions of infinite density and zero volume found in the centres of black holes or the start of the universe.
These ideas continue to spark debate. Meanwhile, Hawking himself, at 75 years old, is still a living public figure despite his 50-year-long struggle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (“Lou Gehrig’s Disease” or ALS), a disease whose victims rarely survive a decade.
The news release comes alongside increasing interest in the Open Access movement, allowing us to access published science papers for free. Open Access hasn’t been without controversy as shady scientific journals have attempted to game the system to make a quick buck. Cambridge encourages its students to make their PhDs open access when they deposit it online, according to the release.
So, if you have some free time, enjoy the light reading of a preeminent physicist’s 120-page PhD thesis.
The BBC reports that Cambridge’s download website has been crashing intermittently due to the heavy traffic, lol. At least 30,000 have tried to download the PDF. Honestly, I preferred Hawking’s later stuff.