Niels Bohr Lecture by Thomas Hertog

Niels Bohr Lecture by Prof. Thomas Hertog

On the Origin of Time

Abstract: Perhaps the biggest question Stephen Hawking tried to answer in his extraordinary career was how the universe could have created conditions so perfectly hospitable to life. Pondering this mystery led him to study the big bang origin, but his early work ran into a crisis when the math predicted many big bangs producing many universes, most far too bizarre to harbor life. 

Holed up in theoretical physics departments across the globe, Hawking and I worked shoulder to shoulder for twenty years, to develop a fresh vision of the universe’s birth that could account for its mysterious biophilic design. At the heart of our cosmogony lies a novel quantum framework for early universe cosmology that predicts that time and indeed physics itself fade away back into the big bang, leading to a Darwinian-like perspective on cosmogenesis.

In this colloquium I recount our quest to get a grips on the origin of time, and the bold new take on some of the universe’s fundamentals we have been led to. 

Short Bio: Thomas Hertog is a theoretical cosmologist who was for many years a close collaborator of Stephen Hawking. He received his doctorate from the University of Cambridge and is currently professor at the Institute for Theoretical Physics of the KU Leuven. 

In his research Hertog strives to better understand the nature of spacetime and the life cycles of black holes and the universe as a whole. As part of his ERC project, Hertog developed a novel holographic framework for early universe cosmology. He also brought together a multidisciplinary team that spearheaded Belgium’s involvement in gravitational-wave projects such as ESA’s LISA mission and the Einstein Telescope project.

Hertog is an acclaimed science communicator. He has curated several art-science exhibitions and is the author of On the Origin of Time, a monograph in which he has advanced a fundamentally evolutionary conception of physics borne out by the theory of the universe’s birth he developed with Stephen Hawking.

Coffee, tea and cake will be served outside Aud. 3 at 15:45