World-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76.

Prof Hawking was known for his work with black holes and relativity, and wrote several popular science books including A Brief History of Time. In 2013, he was awarded Special Fundamental Physics Prizes for his massive contributions to quantum gravity and universe theories.

Last year, Prof Hawking made video appearances at the Global Mobile Internet Conference (GMIC) and the 2017 Tencent WE Summit respectively in Beijing. At GMIC, he shared his hopes and fears about the rise of artificial intelligence.

"I believe that the potential benefits of creating intelligence are huge, perhaps with the tools of this new technological revolution, we will be able to undo some of the damage done to the natural world by industrialization," he said.

At Tencent WE Summit, Prof Hawking warned that overpopulation and extreme energy consumption will turn Earth into a fire ball by the year 2600. Thus, he promoted the interstellar space migration project Breakthrough Starshot, launched in 2016 together with Russian billionaire Yuri Milner and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, as the best way out.

"The idea behind this innovation is to have the nanocraft ride on the light beam. Such a system could reach Mars in less than an hour, or reach Pluto in days, pass Voyager in under a week and reach Alpha Centauri in just over 20 years,” said Hawking.

At the age of 22, Hawking was diagnosed with a rare form of motor neurone disease. It left him wheelchair-bound and largely unable to speak except through a voice synthesiser. His life story was portrayed in film, recently by Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything, which charted his rise to fame and relationship with his first wife, Jane.

Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the web, was one of the first people to pay tribute to Prof Hawking. "We have lost a colossal mind and a wonderful spirit. Rest in peace, Stephen Hawking," he said.


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