Professor Stephen Hawking could have a very unorthodox epitaph on his headstone.
The physicist, who died today aged 76, wanted a tricky sum called ‘Hawking’s equation’ etched onto his grave.
This equation relates to Hawking’s most important discovery, which showed black holes emitted a glow that was dubbed Hawking Radiation.
The S in the equation relates to entropy, or the measurement of the amount of chaos and disorder in the black hole system, whereas the ‘h’ is the Plank constant and ‘G’ Newton’s constant.
The A refers to the area of the event horizon – the point of no return beyond which escape from a black hole is impossible – while ‘c’ is the speed of light and ‘k’ is Boltzmann’s constant.
Here’s how Hawking described the equation: ‘In particular, I wondered, can one have atoms in which the nucleus is a tiny primordial black hole, formed in the early universe?
‘To answer this, I studied how quantum fields would scatter off a black hole. I was expecting that part of an incident wave would be absorbed, and the remainder scattered.
But to my great surprise, I found there seemed to be emission from the black hole. At first, I thought this must be a mistake in my calculation. But what persuaded me that it was real, was that the emission was exactly what was required to identify the area of the horizon with the entropy of a black hole.
‘I would like this simple formula to be on my tombstone.’