The beginning and the end of time

October 7, 2023Den Grå Hal Copenhagen
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Doors open: 19:00
Start programme: 19:30
Den Grå Hal
Refshalevej 2

The coming episode of Science & Cocktails will take you all the way to the beginning of the universe and all the way to the end of time. Superstar theoretical physicists Thomas Hertog and Erik Verlinde will be your guides in this journey through the universe and its mysteries. Before you'll be hearing sounds from Toby Ernest.

What is dark energy (and how does it affect our Universe)? What is an event horizon? Does our Universe have an event horizon? What happens to space and time at an horizon? Are space and time fundamental (or do they emerge from something else)? What role does quantum mechanics play in explaining the beginning and end of time?

Tickets: Seated tickets are paid. Standing is free and on a first-come, first-served basis.

On the origin of time by Thomas Hertog

Perhaps the biggest question Stephen Hawking tried to answer in his extraordinary life was how the universe could have created conditions so perfectly hospitable to life. Pondering this mystery led Hawking to study the big bang origin. But his early work ran into a crisis when the math predicted many big bangs producing many universes, most far too bizarre to harbor life.

Holed up in the theoretical physics department at Cambridge, Stephen Hawking and I worked shoulder to shoulder for twenty years, developing a new theory of the birth of the cosmos that could account for the emergence of life. Peering into the extreme quantum physics of cosmic holograms and venturing far back in time to our deepest roots, we were startled to find a deeper level of evolution, in which physics itself transforms until particles, forces, and even time itself fades away. Once upon a time, perhaps, there was no time?

On the end of time by Erik Verlinde

Our Universe expands and keeps expanding due to the presence of a mysterious substance called “dark energy”. As a result, the Universe has a horizon, like that of a black hole, at which the expansion velocity exceeds the speed of light. From our point of view space and time cease to exist at this cosmological horizon. At that point the gravitational laws take the same form as the laws of thermodynamics. I will argue that space and time, together with the gravitational force, should therefore be seen as being emergent from an underlying microscopic description of Nature. This new perspective on our cosmos promises to solve the mysteries associated with dark energy and explain other understood gravitational phenomena. It also means that a very long time in the future our notions of space and time will eventually disappear.

Event held in English with the generous support of the Novo Nordisk Foundation.


  • 19:00–   19:30
    Doors open for cocktails
  • 19:30–   20:15
    Toby Ernest– 
  • 20:45–   21:20
    Thomas Hertog– 
  • 21:20–   21:55
    Erik Verlinde– 
  • 21:55–   23:30
    DJ and cocktails

Talk by

Thomas Hertog

Thomas Hertog is a Belgian cosmologist at KU Leuven university and a key collaborator of Professor Stephen Hawking. He received his master’s degree in physics from the KU Leuven and his doctorate from the University of Cambridge. He joined the University of California as a research fellow in 2002 and became fellow at CERN, Geneva, in 2005. In 2011 he returned to Belgium where he is currently professor at the Institute for Theoretical Physics of the KU Leuven. Hertog is also guest professor at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, Santa Barbara, visiting senior fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge, and affiliate member of the International Solvay Institutes for Physics, Brussels.

At the KU Leuven Hertog leads a research team that investigates the physical nature of black holes and the big bang. In this context he has a longstanding interest in gravitational waves — ripples of spacetime once predicted by Einstein. Hertog leads Belgium’s participation in the European Space Agency’s first gravitational-wave mission and in Einstein Telescope, a future gravitational-wave observatory underground that may well be a game changer for Belgium.

He has recently wrote the book "On the Origin of Time" about his theory of the origin of the universe and his journey with Stephen Hawking.


Talk by

Erik Verlinde

Erik Verlinde is a Dutch theoretical physicist and string theorist. The Verlinde formula, which is important in conformal field theory and topological field theory, is named after him. His research deals with string theory, gravity, black holes and cosmology. Currently, he works at the Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of Amsterdam.

At a symposium at the Dutch Spinoza-institute on December 8, 2009 he introduced a theory of entropic gravity. In this theory, gravity exists because of a difference in concentration of information in the empty space between two masses and its surroundings; he also extrapolates this to general relativity and quantum mechanics. He said in an interview with the newspaper de Volkskrant,"On the smallest level Newton's laws don't apply, but they do for apples and planets. You can compare this to the pressure of a gas. Molecules themselves don't have any pressure, but a barrel of gas has." It appears that Verlinde's approach to explaining gravity leads naturally to the correct observed strength of dark energy.

He received the Spinoza Prize in 2011, the most prestigious research award in the Netherlands.

Black Holes Gravity and the Edge of the Universe

Music by

Toby Ernest

Under the stage name Toby Ernest, the Danish songwriter Tobias Buch-Andersen is known from his time as lead singer in the cult trio The Late Great Fitzcarraldos and for his collaborations with artists such as Coco O, Laid Back, Kasper Bjørke, Scratch Massive and Rumpistol.
For the past 12 years, Toby Ernest has lived in Los Angeles, which has led to collaboration with various American artists, including Jack Name (Mexican Summer) and Big Search, with whom he released two records on Danger Mouse's label '30th Century Records'. Now, however, he has returned safely home to Danish soil and is looking forward to sharing his debut album.

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