the death of Carl Sagan in 1996, the mantle of “best known scientist in
the world” seems to have passed to Englishman Stephen William Hawking. He
was born on 8/1/1942, the 300th anniversary of Galileo’s death.
beyond the esoteric walls of cosmology and theoretical
physics rests on two factors. One is his 1988 book A
Brief History of Time, which has sold over ten million
copies (a handful of whose owners, it’s said, have
actually read it). The other is the fact that he is a
victim of the degenerative motor neurone disease known in
America as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
as little shock, then, to discover that hundreds of references to Hawking
and his work on the Internet.
better place to begin than his personal site,
Hawking’s Homepage? Maintained and updated regularly by his graduate
assistant, this site predictably covers two main aspects of his life and
work: his career in physics and his crippling disabilities.
from a brief bio section entitled A Brief History of Mine, one
feature of his physics work covered is a selection of transcribed recent
lectures given by Hawking (some “popular“, some very technical), such as:
|The Nature of Space
Does God Play Dice?
Rotation, Nut Change and Anti de Sitter Space.
highlight is a series of reporters’ questions. Many are very ill-advised,
so Hawking’s replies are fun to read. For example,
Q. How do you deal with the way you
are described all the time by journalists?
A. I don’t pay much attention to how journalists describe me. I know
it is media hype. They need an Einstein-like figure to appeal to.
But for them to compare me to Einstein is ridiculous. They don’t
understand either Einstein’s work, or mine.
Q. What do you say to
the comment “Isn’t it a shame that such a brilliant mind is trapped
inside a useless body?”
A. I have never heard anyone say “Isn’t it a shame that such a
brilliant mind is trapped inside a useless body?” If I did, I would
treat it with the contempt it deserved.
Q. Can the study of Physics take you beyond physical limitations?
A. Of course Physics can take one beyond one’s physical limitations,
like any other mental activity. The human race is so puny compared
to the universe that being described as disabled is not of much
Q. What sort of music do you like and why?
A. I mainly listen to classical music: Wagner, Brahms, Mahler, etc.,
but I like pop as well. What I want is music with character.
admirers are legion, so I have selected just three sites as representative
of the widespread Net homage paid to him.
his atheism, Hawking is respected by many Christians, such as Dr. Henry
“Fritz” Schaefer III, Professor of Quantum Chemistry, University of
Georgia, part of whose lecture,
Stephen Hawking, the Big Bang, and God
is on the Web and is well worth reading.
different site — this one is for schoolchildren and their teachers — is
called Stephen Hawking’s Universe. It’s part of the PBS site. While
little is specifically about Hawking himself, there are many cosmological
questions addressed, e.g.,
Strange Stuff Explained
Things to Do in the Dark
Ask the Experts.
my favourite Hawking fan site is Psyclops’
Stephen Hawking Pages,
run by one Nick Donaldson. It was here I learned these two vital new
|Hawking appeared in
Descent, Episode 252 of Star Trek: the Next Generation,
playing poker in the Holodeck with Data, Einstein and Newton, and
He has also guest-starred in The Simpsons.
some kind Bikwil reader bring me up-to-date on these episodes,
please? Have they been screened in Oz yet?