“Despite a devastating neurological disease that put him in a wheelchair and ultimately made it difficult for him to speak or feed himself, Hawking maintained active research at the frontier of physics and cosmology until his death,” theoretical physicist and mathematician Frank Wilczek told NOVA Next. “Several of his students and postdocs are leaders in those fields today. He also had a passion to share his enthusiasm for science and opinions on big issues to the public, where he won a huge, devoted following.”

One of his assets that most endeared him to the public was the way he brought comic relief to the most daunting, existential questions facing humankind.

“Hawking had one of the world’s great senses of humor, and the fact that he lived to the age of 76 demonstrates that he once again got the last laugh,” Carroll said.

Black holes are the most enigmatic and exotic objects in the universe. Learn more about them in "Black Hole Apocalypse," streaming online .

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