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Stephen Hawking Ponders the Universe
Stephen Hawking
						Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, Cambridge University
In addition to his achievements as one of the world's leading cosmologists, Stephen Hawking is renowned for bringing the ideas of cosmology to a broad audience. Twenty years after the publication of his best-selling A Brief History of Time, which created enormous interest in cosmology around the world, his new book A Briefer History of Time is now being published in Japan.  
						Over the last two decades, advances in observation technology have allowed us to make great strides in the verification of theories about the cosmos. At JAXA, the basic methodology of space exploration is verification and demonstration, whereas Dr. Hawking uses imagination and theorization to unveil the mysteries of the universe. The approaches may differ, but we share the same passion for space. JAXA's Prof. Hisashi Hirabayashi, who specializes in radio astronomy, interviewed Dr. Hawking.
Stephen Hawking
						Stephen William Hawking was born in Oxford, England on January 8, 1942, 300 years to the day after the death of Galileo.
						In 1957, he went to University College, Oxford, where he studied physics and cosmology, later pursuing graduate studies at Cambridge University. At the age of 32, in 1974, he became the youngest ever member of the Royal Society, and since 1979 he has held the post of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge. He has been granted 12 honorary degrees.
						During his graduate studies, Dr. Hawking learned that he had ALS, and he has lived in a wheelchair ever since. In 1985, a tracheotomy during a bout of pneumonia took away his speech, and he began to speak through a computer. Despite his condition, Dr. Hawking has advanced revolutionary theories, including black-hole evaporation and the no-boundary proposal, the latter of which adapts quantum theory to the theory of relativity. After Einstein, he is one of leading theoretical physicists of all time, and has had a great impact on cosmology.

The Thrill of Discovery
——What made you choose physics and cosmology?

I studied physics and cosmology because I wanted answers to the big questions: Why are we here? Where did we come from? I would encourage other young people to do the same. There's nothing like the thrill of discovery, when you find something that no one knew before.

——What are you working on now?

I am working on black holes, and on how the very early universe led to what we have today. And especially, I'm working on how the universe was spontaneously created out of nothing and on how information gets out of black holes.

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——Have you ever seen the data of Japanese X-ray satellites, such as ASCA? What do you think of X-ray astronomy and astrophysics in Japan?

The data from the Japanese and other x-ray satellites are very useful for detecting black holes. Black holes do not give off x-rays themselves, but they are often surrounded by a disk of gas, which is spiraling down into the black hole. The gas gets very hot, and radiates x-rays. In this way, we have observed large numbers of black holes, ranging in diameter from a few kilometers to millions of kilometers. Japan has a fine tradition of theoretical work in astronomy, stretching back many years. Observational and x-ray astronomy came later, but are now very active.

ASCA Photo, An image of the central galaxy captured by ASCA SIS ASCA (Advanced Satellite for Cosmology and Astrophysics, formerly ASTRO-D), a Japanese X-ray astronomy satellite (left)
An image of the central galaxy captured by ASCA SIS (right). Scientists believe there is a supermassive black hole at the core.

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