Saturday’s Google Doodle pays homage to the late Stephen Hawking, perhaps the most famous scientist of his time, who sought to explain the universe to millions.
The renowned British theoretical physicist and cosmologist’s work focused on increasing our understanding of black holes — dying stars that’ve collapsed on themselves, forming a core of such density and strong gravitational attraction that nothing, not even light, can escape.
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Saturday is Hawking’s 80th birthday (he died in 2018), and to honor his contribution to science, Google has dedicated a video Doodle to Hawking that prominently features a black hole in the center of the illustration. In the 2-minute-long, pixilated video, a computer-generated voice similar to Hawking’s recounts his distinguished life, including quotes on life and the universe that reflect his unwavering optimism.
The video depicts how he continued to advance his research despite suffering from a form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which gradually paralyzed him following his diagnosis at age 21. He stunned many by living more than 50 years beyond the two years doctors had predicted.
His family, which approved of the computer-generated voice narrating the video, told Google that he would’ve been delighted to see the story of his life told in a brief but creative video.
“He would have found it important to show that he never allowed the challenges of his physical condition to limit his power of expression nor his determination to make an impact on the world in which he lived,” his family said. “We hope that his example offers inspiration and hope globally to all who face great challenges at this difficult time.”
One of his greatest contributions was the theoretical prediction that black holes emit radiation that would eventually evaporate, often referred to as Hawking radiation. At first, he thought his 1970 discovery was actually the result of a mistake in his calculation. But he was eventually persuaded that his formula was accurate.
Hawking was also a prolific author, who wrote to explain the origin and expansion of the universe to readers unfamiliar with scientific theories. His 1988 book A Brief History of Time was enormously popular, selling more than 10 million copies and being translated into 35 languages. It also spawned similar books by Hawking, including The Universe in a Nutshell and A Briefer History of Time.
The Doodle was illustrated by Doodler Matthew Cruickshank, who said his visual approach was greatly influenced by the evolution of computer graphics over Hawking’s lifetime.