World-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking dedicated his life to the pursuit of knowledge, and his work will live on for quite some time. The famous thinker passed away back in March, but his final paper was still in the process of being reviewed at the time of his death. Now, after running the gauntlet that all research papers have to endure, his very last piece of work has been published, and it’s a real mind-bender.

The paper, which is titled A Smooth Exit From Eternal Inflation?, focuses on some of the most fundamental questions we have about the universe. Hawking explains some of his theories on how we might determine whether or not parallel universes exist, and tackles the technological requirements standing between mankind and the answer.

The work attempts to explain how, if the Big Bang created multiple parallel universes, we might determine what laws of physics are present throughout them, if any. If an infinite number of universes was created, do the laws of physics even apply to them, and how do we exist in our own universe if that is the case? It’s some truly mind-blowing stuff, and the paper isn’t exactly an easy read. I mean, just look at this:

The usual theory of inflation breaks down in eternal inflation. We derive a dual description of eternal inflation in terms of a deformed Euclidean CFT located at the threshold of eternal inflation. The partition function gives the amplitude of different geometries of the threshold surface in the no-boundary state.

That’s just a chunk of the summary of the paper. Put on your thinking caps if you feel like diving in deeper.

Ultimately, Hawking an co-author Thomas Hertog arrive at a theory that a finite number of universes may exist, rather than the endless number that is often talked about. Of course, the paper is largely built on a foundation of other theories that have yet to be proven, and it’s far from conclusive in any of its would-be “answers.”

Still, it’s a meaningful addition to the ongoing work of physicists who are always hunting for new ways to either prove or disprove the existence of additional universes, and could serve as a starting point for more concrete work going forward.

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