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Education The Internet United Kingdom Science

Stephen Hawking's Thesis Crashes Cambridge Site After It's Posted Online (bbc.com) 79

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: Demand for Stephen Hawking's PhD thesis intermittently crashed part of Cambridge University's website as physics fans flocked to read his work. Prof Hawking's 1966 thesis "Properties of expanding universes" was made freely available for the first time on the publications section of university's website at 00:01 BST. More than 60,000 have so far accessed his work as a 24-year-old postgraduate. Prof Hawking said by making it available he hoped to "inspire people." He added: "Anyone, anywhere in the world should have free, unhindered access to not just my research, but to the research of every great and enquiring mind across the spectrum of human understanding. It's wonderful to hear how many people have already shown an interest in downloading my thesis -- hopefully they won't be disappointed now that they finally have access to it!" The 75-year-old's doctoral thesis is the most requested item in Cambridge University's library. Since May 2016, 199 requests were made for the PhD -- most of which are believed to be from the general public rather than academics. The next most requested publication was asked for just 13 times. The Cambridge Library made several PDF files of the thesis available for download -- a high-resolution "72 Mb" file, digitized version that's less than half the size, and a "reduced" version that was even smaller -- but intense interest overwhelmed the servers. Here's the first paragraph of Hawking's introduction: "The idea that the universe is expanding is of recent origin. All the early cosmologies were essentially stationary and even Einstein whose theory of relativity is the basis for almost all modern developments in cosmology, found it natural to suggest a static model of the universe. However there is a very grave difficulty associated with a static model such as Einstein's which is supposed to have existed for an infinite time. For, if the stars had been radiating energy at their present rates for an infinite time, they would have needed an infinite supply of energy. Further, the flux of radiation now would be infinite. Alternatively, if they had only a limited supply of energy, the whole universe would by now have reached thermal equilibrium which is certainly not the case. This difficulty was noticed by Olders who however was not able to suggest any solution. The discovery of the recession of the nebulae by Hubble led to the abandonment of static models in favour of ones which were expanding."
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Stephen Hawking's Thesis Crashes Cambridge Site After It's Posted Online

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  • Wow! (Score:5, Funny)

    by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Monday October 23, 2017 @06:01PM (#55420581) Homepage Journal
    60,000 hits? That is amazing. How can a website cope with such high numbers? They need to use "AI" to speed it up.
    • Re:Wow! (Score:5, Funny)

      by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Monday October 23, 2017 @06:15PM (#55420635)

      60,000 hits? That is amazing.

      . . . those Cambridge Boys have got the smarts! They can figure out all the various forces shaping our universe, and important stuff like that.

      Unfortunately, the Cambridge Boys seem to have vastly underestimated the power of the force of a good 'ole fashioned Slashdotting . . .

      Stephan Hawking could post his toenail clippings, and the demand for those would be overwhelming . . .

    • 60,000 hits? That is amazing. How can a website cope with such high numbers? They need to use "AI" to speed it up.

      It's a classical old-school Institution. The server is probably a SparcStation 2 in the stacks, behind the Journals from 1976.

    • Now I'm wondering just how serious "slashdotting" was back in the day. By modern standards, it was probably nuthin'.

    • The "heads" of MIT's IT dept should have known better...on the other hand...which...there isnt another hand...with all due respect...these people are supposed to be the most intelligent on the planet next to NASA's director of research where...most of MITs students end up.
    • 60,000 hits? That is amazing. How can a website cope with such high numbers? They need to use "AI" to speed it up.

      You'd think they would have heard of cache. But then again some of these high IQ boys can't even tie a shoelace!

    • nonono. ai is the wrong technology here. they need 'big data' and the 'clowd'.
  • by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Monday October 23, 2017 @06:24PM (#55420667) Journal

    Sounds like this might have been a good application for bittorrent. Have only magnet links on the campus website.

    • Yes, and uploading copies of all the various renderings of the document to archive.org [archive.org] would have given them this, time-honored robust hosting via an ordinary HTTP GET request, from a secure site that doesn't require Javascript to use (contrary to the Mega download link someone else posted to /. elsewhere in this story), made a "download" URL available one could put anywhere (even their own website without alerting most users the data was actually coming from archive.org such as a requirement to go through

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Why is Edwin Hubble credited with the idea of an expanding universe? The idea was first proposed by Georges Lemaître, a Catholic priest in Belgium who published a paper on it in 1927, two years prior to Hubble. Although Hubble did provide very useful observational evidence to support the theory, it is inaccurate to attribute the theory to him.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Why is Edwin Hubble credited with the idea of an expanding universe?

      He isn't. Hubble's fame comes from finding an elegant way to demonstrate it.

    • Why is Edwin Hubble credited with the idea of an expanding universe? The idea was first proposed by Georges Lemaître, a Catholic priest in Belgium who published a paper on it in 1927, two years prior to Hubble. Although Hubble did provide very useful observational evidence to support the theory, it is inaccurate to attribute the theory to him.

      I was taught in school that it was Lemaitre who first came up with the Big Bang theory. He is a useful example for both sides to show that science and religious belief can co-exist, despite the fact the Big Bang theory bears no resemblance to the Bible's creation myth(s).

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Why is that is science paper that is 50 years old is finally free?

    • Re: 1966? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's quite recent that universities have moved away from print copies of theses and dissertations in favor of electronic copies. I believe it has always been free, just as a print copy. I suspect that nobody has gone back to scan in most printed theses and dissertations, so they just sit in a library somewhere. Because of the demand for Hawking's dissertation, the university has scanned a copy and posted online. It was probably free the whole time, just in print form. I doubt there's interest in scanning mo

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Printed copies were still used when I submitted my phd in 2006, though there was an option to submit an electronic version in addition to the mandatory printed one. Printed theses used to be (are?) available at the library for reading but obviously only in dead-tree form unless/until someone bothers to scan them.

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        It's quite recent that universities have moved away from print copies of theses and dissertations in favor of electronic copies. I believe it has always been free, just as a print copy. I suspect that nobody has gone back to scan in most printed theses and dissertations, so they just sit in a library somewhere. Because of the demand for Hawking's dissertation, the university has scanned a copy and posted online. It was probably free the whole time, just in print form. I doubt there's interest in scanning mo

  • Wikipedia defines a crash as when a computer program "stops functioning properly and exits". A crash is generally a non-recoverable state. Are you sure you don't mean the site was overloaded?

    More interesting is the website "intermittently crashed". I think we'll need Mr Hawking to explain the mechanics behind a program that is both crashed and not crashed. It must be that quantum physics stuff.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Well it's on one of them new fangled quantum computers. It's both fast and slow, smart and dumb, hot and cold, ...
      Oh wait that's my wife.

    • Processes that crash get respawned with the same name but different PID, so just because the site eventually starts working you can still say it crashed. Learning how computer systems work from Wikipedia is a bad idea, but coming here and getting snarky based on the limited knowledge you derive from that behaviour is just plain foolhardy.
  • Olbers, not Olders (Score:5, Informative)

    by careysub ( 976506 ) on Monday October 23, 2017 @06:49PM (#55420793)

    This difficulty was noticed by Olders who however was not able to suggest any solution. The discovery of the recession of the nebulae by Hubble led to the abandonment of static models in favour of ones which were expanding."

    Thus "Olber's Paradox" [wikipedia.org]. Text recognition error?

  • by markdavis ( 642305 ) on Monday October 23, 2017 @06:53PM (#55420809)

    >"The Cambridge Library made several PDF files of the thesis available for download -- a high-resolution "72 Mb" file, digitized version that's less than half the size, and a "reduced" version that was even smaller"

    Why not just provide TEXT or a vectorized PDF? OCR it and do some clean up and then, compressed, it would be what, a few hundred kilobytes, if that? This isn't rocket science :)

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Theses and dissertations generally contain quite a few figures that can't and shouldn't be reduced to text. They may well include tables that won't make sense if improperly formatted. Given the field and type of work being done, I strongly suspect there are a lot of equations included that would need to be properly formatted in order to make sense. For a single dissertation, it's definitely possible for someone to review it and ensure that figures, tables, and equations are handled properly. However, we sho

      • I don't disagree with what you are saying, especially about the volume and such. But, obviously, Hawking is famous and demand for his single document could certainly justify someone performing an OCR of the text with bitmap of the figures, as needed. Good work for a intern or graphic design student :)

        • by jabuzz ( 182671 )

          Further a "proper" PDF where the text is in fact text and not a bitmap is a lot more useful than a bunch of scanned images because it can be searched.

    • by Vroem ( 731860 )
      It’s typewritten and all formulas are handwritten. Check it out on one of the mirrors below.
  • Link (Score:5, Informative)

    by krray ( 605395 ) on Monday October 23, 2017 @08:49PM (#55421173)

    Here's a link to a copy of the original 72M version:
    https://mega.nz/#!dgRUgLhS!OcP... [mega.nz]

  • "Stephen Hawking's Thesis Crashes Cambridge Site "

    Well, there's a lot of gravity in that thing.

  • News for nerds, stuff that matters. Slashdot is reporting on the slashdot effect!

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