Regret among scientists as Physics Nobel for black holes eludes Stephen Hawking

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Scientists greeted the news that the Nobel Physics Prize was awarded Tuesday for research on black holes with regret that the accolade came too late for world-renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, who died in 2018.

British mathematician Roger Penrose was awarded half of the 10 million Swedish kronor (about $1.1 million, 950,000 euros) prize money for mathematically proving in the 1960s that black holes could exist according to the theory of general relativity.

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Penrose, an emeritus professor at the University of Oxford, worked alongside Hawking for years, and experts lamented the fact that it had taken the Nobel committee so long to recognize their work.

“It’s a shame that Penrose and Hawking didn’t get the Nobel before now,” Luc Blanchet, from the Paris Institute of Astrophysics and director of the National Centre for Scientific Research, told AFP.

“This prize comes two years after (Hawking’s) death yet their work took place in the 1960s and its importance was recognized since the 1980s.”

Hawking, who died in March 2018 after a long neurodegenerative illness, dedicated much of his life to explaining the existence of black holes, space’s enigmatic monsters.

After meeting in London early in their careers, Hawking and Penrose worked together on the origins of the universe.

Martin Rees, a British astronomer and fellow of Trinity College Cambridge, said the pair were “the two individuals who have done more than anyone else since Einstein to deepen our knowledge of gravity.”

“Sadly, this award was too much delayed to allow Hawking to share the credit with Penrose,” he said.

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