Why Stephen Hawking avoided end-times talk in Japan

This week Professor Stephen Hawking produced a lecture on the beginning of time, available free on the internet. In this lecture, he mentioned an event in his recent history in which he was asked to exclude part of a talk he'd been scheduled for. The part he'd been asked to exclude was on the possibility and timing of the end of the universe as we know it.

"When I gave a lecture in Japan, I was asked not to mention the possible re-collapse of the universe, because it might affect the stock market," said Hawking. "However, I can re-assure anyone who is nervous about their investments that it is a bit early to sell: even if the universe does come to an end, it won't be for at least twenty billion years. By that time, maybe the GATT* trade agreement will have come into effect. "

This was part of Hawking's latest free-to-view lecture series online. It went by the name of "The Beginning of Time," and was – and likely is – available at Hawking dot org. This lecture centered on the point at which it's generally believed that our universe began. That point of singularity at which all of what we know burst forth.

"At a singularity, all the laws of physics would have broken down," wrote Hawking. "This means that the state of the universe, after the Big Bang, will not depend on anything that may have happened before, because the deterministic laws that govern the universe will break down in the Big Bang."

Hawking said that the universe likely evolved from the Big Bang "completely independently of what it was like before." The very fabric of what we understand as reality would have, could have, been completely different. "The Big Bang is a beginning that is required by the dynamical laws that govern the universe," said Hawking. "It is therefore intrinsic to the universe, and is not imposed on it from outside."

To learn more about the beginning of our universe – and further back through what was – head to Hawking dot org. The lecture is a masterpiece, without question. Behold the legendary mind that we are so impossibly lucky to be living with in this time, at this moment in the history of our reality.

*GATT NOTE: GATT is the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Originally signed in Geneva on the 30th of October, 1947, GATT and its successor, the WTO trade agreement have had a number of "trade rounds" since inception. These rounds took place in 1947, 1949, 1950, 1956, 1960, 1964, 1973, 1986, and 2001. Each successive round took a larger number of months to discuss and sign. The first took around 7 months, and the 1986 round took 87 months. The 2001 round is still not signed – as Hawking mentioned above.