The Big Bang and Black Holes: In Celebration of Stephen Hawking's Birthday

Two online public outreach lectures about the science of our Universe were delivered on Friday, 8th January 2021 by Professor Sir Roger Penrose, recipient of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics, and Professor Eiichiro Komatsu, Director of the Max-Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Munich. Sir Roger Penrose was one of Stephen Hawking’s earliest and most important collaborators, with whom he proved an all-encompassing theorem about how matter collapses to a singularity in both the Big Bang and Black Holes, that is, points in space where mass is seemingly compressed to infinite density and zero volume. Professor Komatsu played a leading role in the NASA WMAP satellite project that mapped the whole cosmic microwave sky for the first time, revealing a blueprint of the primordial seeds that Stephen Hawking had helped predict. Sir Roger and Eiichiro took us on a journey through space and time, looking forward to new insights from future experiments.

After the lectures a panel of young experts – postdoctoral fellows and PhD students – remained on the livestream to answer questions from members of the public.


Roger Penrose will describe his Nobel prize-winning work showing that Einstein’s general theory of relativity leads to the formation of black holes, something that Einstein himself did not believe happened in the real world. He will then go on to discuss his work with Stephen Hawking on broader types of singularities, also encompassing the Big Bang at the beginning of the Universe. Among other ideas, he will present his conformal cosmology proposal in which the Big Bang becomes only an apparent singularity.


The Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) gives a photographic image of the Universe when it was still an “infant”. Its detailed measurements have given us a wealth of information such as the composition and history of the Universe. We are now using it to test our ideas about the origin of the Universe. The CMB research told us a remarkable story: the structure we see in our Universe such as galaxies, stars, planets, and eventually ourselves originated from tiny quantum fluctuations in the early Universe. But is this picture true? In this lecture Eiichiro Komatsu will review the physics of CMB and key results from recent experiments, while discussing future prospects for quest to find out about our origins.

The lectures were livestreamed on Cambridge University's YouTube and Facebook channels:

They were also livestreamed on the CTC's own YouTube channel, along with the panel discussion afterwards:

Films of the individual talks can be found here:

Eiichiro Komatsu: "Where are we from? Clues from the light of the fireball Universe?"

Roger Penrose: "Black Holes, Cosmology, and Spacetime Singularities"

This event is organized by the Stephen Hawking Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at the University of Cambridge, in conjunction with the Ludwig Maximillian University, Munich, as part of the Cambridge-LMU Strategic Partnership. We are grateful for support from Intel Corporation and Four Winds Creative.

We are pleased to be organising and promoting these lectures in partnership with the Stephen Hawking Foundation.

Images courtesy of R. Penrose, Physical Review Letters, American Physical Society and NASA WMAP satellite.
Rocketed Black Hole - Simulation: Ulrich Sperhake, Kacper Kornet, Paul Shellard, Hawking CTC; Visualization: Carson Brownlee, Jim Jeffers, Intel.