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Surprising Science

Stephen Hawking: The Afterlife is a Fairy Tale

Stephen Hawking recently said that the afterlife is a fairy tale for people “afraid of the dark”. He compares the mind to a computer—once its component parts stop, the whole operation ceases.

What’s the Latest Development?

Never afraid to defend and extrapolate on the implications of scientific investigation, Stephen Hawking recently said in characteristic frankness that there is no afterlife. When the brain shuts down, experience and sense perception simply cease to be. Those who believe otherwise are afraid of death, according to Hawking, who was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease when he was 21 years old. Perhaps he is numb to the prospect. “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,” he said.

What’s the Big Idea?

While skepticism of the afterlife is certainly no new idea, Hawking’s computerized voice ripples through the media as perhaps the most notable man of science on Earth. Through his research on black holes, he has revolutionized our understanding of the cosmos. Hawking’s arguments are based on the M-theory, says Ian O’Neill, “an extension of string theory, where 11 dimensions are calculated to exist; our 4-dimensional spacetime is therefore only part of the story. The first step in proving the foundations of M-theory could come from the Large Hadron Collider where supersymmetry particles may be discovered.”


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