That was in 1998, at Cambridge University. Stephen Hawking, already world famous, had invited the student to be one of his doctoral students.
Thomas Hertag, a professor at the Catholic University of Louvain, recalls: “There was a click between us. This connection was never interrupted even though the famous cosmologist lost the use of speech due to Charcot disease.
For twenty years, the two worked closely together to develop a new vision that disrupted the way science conceived the universe. This would be the “latest theory” of Stephen Hawking, who died in 2018 at the age of 76.
Thomas Herdag reveals it fully for the first time in his book “The Origin of Time”, published in the UK and France in the spring of 2023.
In an interview with AFP, the author described his collaboration with his mentor and friend. Hawking describes how he realized his book A Brief History of Time, which has sold more than 10 million copies, was written from a ‘wrong perspective’.
The universe responds to a “pattern.”
From the beginning, Hawking answered the question that had tormented him. “The universe we observe responds to a design,” he told her through his dialog box, which gave him a robotic voice.
“The laws of physics prove that the universe is habitable,” Thomas Hertag develops.
This remarkable chain of favorable conditions extends from the delicate balance that allows atoms to form the molecules needed for chemistry, to the expansion of the universe, which allows the emergence of vast structures such as galaxies.
“From its violent birth, the universe appeared in a structure that was wonderfully adapted to the development of life – something that would not happen until billions of years later,” the scientist writes.
A “fashionable” answer to this conundrum is the multiverse, which has recently become popular in cinema. According to the 47-year-old cosmologist, the theory attempts to explain the apparently patterned nature of the universe, making it one of countless others.
But Hawking recognizes that “diversity is a great quagmire of contradictions that drags us down.” The multiverse and “A Brief History of Time” are also “attempts to describe the creation and evolution of our universe from what Stephen calls a ‘divine perspective,'” Herdock continues.
For 15 years, the two scientists have appealed to the strangeness of quantum theory to propose a new theory, from a new perspective.
“I thought it was over”
In 2008, Hawking lost the ability to use his chat box and became isolated. “I thought it was over,” says Mr. Herdog. But the two developed a “somewhat magical” non-verbal connection and were able to continue working.
He stood in front of the physicist, looked him in the eye and asked questions. Hawking “had a wide range of facial expressions, from intense disagreement to intense excitement.” The connection was, in his view, “impossible to distinguish” from either his or Hawking’s views.
Belgian Thomas Herdog worked with Stephen Hawking for 20 years: “He is a party animal, there is no transition between science and parties”
Their theory focuses on what happened in the first moments after the Big Bang. They suggest that the laws of physics co-evolved with the universe, rather than a subsequent eruption of pre-existing laws.
So if you go far enough back in time, “the laws of physics simplify and disappear,” says Herdog. “Eventually, even the dimension of time evaporates”.
The laws of physics and time would have evolved as did biological evolution—the title of his work refers to Darwin’s “Origin of Species.”
“Biology and physics are two stages of evolution”. However, this theory is difficult to prove because the first years of the universe are hidden in the “mist of the big bang”.