A new museum exhibit hopes to uncover the mysteries behind the doodles, jokes and scrambled messages on a plaque that legendary physicist Stephen Hawking left untouched for more than 35 years.
The plaque dates from 1980 when Hawking was attending a conference on superspace and supergravity at Cambridge University in the UK with fellow physicists The guard.
As they attempted to develop a cosmological “theory of everything” — a set of equations that would combine the rules of general relativity and quantum mechanics — Hawking’s colleagues used the blackboard as a welcome distraction, filling it with a mishmash of half-finished, confusing equations Puns and inscrutable doodles.
The baffling plaque, which still stands more than 40 years later, has just been put on public display for the first time, as the centerpiece of a new exhibition about Hawking’s office that opened at the Science Museum of London on February 10. The museum will welcome physicists and friends of Hawking – who died in 2018 aged 76 – from around the world in hopes they might be able to decipher some of the hand-scribbled scrawls.
For example, what does “stupor symmetry” mean? Who is the shaggy-bearded Martian drawn in large in the center of the panel? Why does a floppy-nosed squid climb over a wall? What’s in the tin can labeled “Exxon Supergravity”? Hopefully the world’s great thinkers in math and physics can rise to the occasion with answers.
The plaque joins dozens of other Hawking artifacts on display, including a copy of the physicist’s 1966 doctoral thesis on the expansion of the universe, his wheelchair, and a personalized jacket given to him by the creators of The simpsons to honor his numerous appearances on the show.
The exhibition will run at the Science Museum in London until June 12 before hitting the road with stops at several other museums in the UK The guard.
Hawking was born on January 8, 1942 in England. While studying cosmology at the University of Cambridge in 1963, he was diagnosed with motor neuron disease, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
At just 21, Hawking would only live two years. He lived and worked for more than five decades, publishing seminal work on black holes, the big bang theory, and general relativity.
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This article was originally published by Live Science. Read the original article here.