The universe seems suspiciously hospitable to life. If you tweaked the strength of its forces or the amount of matter and energy, life most likely couldn’t exist. But why are the laws of physics so convenient for us? Were they ultimately created by a designer?

These were questions Stephen Hawking set out to answer in collaboration with physicist Thomas Hertog in 1998. And after working on the problem for two decades, they eventually managed to find an answer, Hertog explains in an article.

The theory is based on the strange rules of quantum mechanics, which rule nature on the scale of atoms and particles. It also takes the perspective of an observer existing within the universe, rather than outside it – as physical theories usually do. By using this approach and looking backwards in time, Hertog and Hawking discovered that the laws of physics could actually have changed and evolved randomly over time – no need for a designer.

Meanwhile, research suggests that judge-only rape trials – as being proposed in Scotland – won’t necessarily boost conviction rates. And interviews conducted with red-wall voters show they want more than tough talk and flag waving – the Labour party should take note.

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Science Editor

Hawking and the author. Photograph: Thomas Hertog and Jonathan Wood

Stephen Hawking and I created his final theory of the cosmos – here’s what it reveals about the origins of time and life

Thomas Hertog, KU Leuven

The enigma at the centre of our 20-year collaboration was how the Big Bang could have created conditions so perfectly hospitable to life


Jurors who believe rape myths contribute to dismal conviction rates – but judge-only trials won’t solve the problem

Lee John Curley, The Open University; James Munro, The Open University

A Scottish pilot will see rape trials conducted without juries in what could set a dangerous precedent.

Keir Starmer talks to children in Scunthorpe. Alamy/PA/Stefan Rousseau

Labour take note: red-wall voters want an ambitious plan for renewal – not tough talk and flag waving

James Morrison, University of Stirling

Labour strategists seem determined to cast Starmer as the sensible ‘adult in the room’, but in order to win lost areas he needs to be much more radical than that.

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