'I think therefore I am.'  Descartes            'I AM THAT I AM.'  Exodus.3.        'I am what I am.'  La Cage aux Folles

18 May 2011

Stephen Hawking

Another of the beautiful people
 Stephen William Hawking who turned 70 in 2012 was born on 8th. January 1942 (exactly 300 years after the death of Galileo) in Oxford, England. 
His mother Isabel was a member of the Communist Party in England in the 1930's.  His family were from London, but  during WWII Oxford was considered safer. At eight, his family moved to St Albans, 20 miles north of London. At eleven he  went to St Albans School and by 13, Hawking's hero was the atheist philosopher and mathematician, Bertrand Russell. He  went to University College, Oxford, his father's old college. Stephen wanted to do Mathematics, but it was not available at  University College, so he studied Physics. After three years and little work he gained a first class honours degree in  Natural Science. He then went to Cambridge to do research in Cosmology, no-one else was working in that area at Oxford  at the time. His supervisor was Denis Sciama, although he had hoped to get Fred Hoyle who was working in Cambridge.  After gaining his Ph.D. he became first a Research Fellow, and then a Professorial Fellow at Gonville and Caius College.  After leaving the Institute of Astronomy in 1973 Stephen came to the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical  Physics, and from 1979 has held the post of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics. The chair was founded in 1663 with  money from the will of the Rev. Henry Lucas, who was the Member of Parliament for the University. It was first held by  Isaac Barrow, and then in 1663 by Isaac Newton. Professor Hawking has twelve honorary degrees, was awarded the CBE in  1982, and was made a Companion of Honour in 1989. He has received many awards, medals and prizes and is a Fellow of  The Royal Society and a Member of the US National Academy of Sciences. 
'I am quite often asked: How do you feel about having ALS? The answer is, not a lot. I try to lead as normal a life as possible.'  The most important event of his life occurred on December 31, 1962. He met his future wife at a New Year's Eve party. One month later, he was diagnosed with ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and was given only two years to live. Stephen Hawking is a medical miracle. He married Jane Wilde in July of 1965, has three children and a grandchild. Jane Hawking has a doctorate in Medieval Portuguese Literature and is a Christian. 

'I have had motor neurone disease for practically all my adult life. I caught pneumonia in 1985. I had to have a tracheotomy operation. ....David Mason, of Cambridge Adaptive Communication, fitted a small portable computer and a speech synthesizer to my wheel chair. This system allowed me to communicate much better than I could before. I can manage up to 15 words a minute. I can either speak what I have written, or save it to disk. I can then print it out, or call it back and speak it sentence by sentence. Using this system, I have written a book, and dozens of scientific papers. I have also given many scientific and popular talks.'

His 1988 book 'A Brief History of Time' has sold in excess of ten million copies.
         Albert Einstein's theory of relativity appeared to acknowledge the threat of an encounter with God and grudgingly accepted what he called "the necessity for a beginning" and "the presence of a superior reasoning power." But he never accepted a personal God. - Stephen Hawking has worked on the basic laws of the universe and with Roger Penrose he showed that Einstein's General Theory of Relativity implied space/ time had a beginning, The Big Bang, and an end, black holes. This indicated a necessity to unify General Relativity with Quantum Theory. One consequence of this is that he discovered that black holes should not be completely black, but should emit radiation, evaporate and disappear and that the universe has no edge or boundary in imaginary time, thus the way the universe began was determined by the laws of science.
    Hawking appears to have a problem with, and says much about God and the Catholic Church.  
  " He (the Pope) told us that is was all right to study the evolution of the universe after the big bang, but we should not inquire into the big bang itself because that was the moment of Creation and therefore the work of God."

The Pope had said in an Address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on 3 October 1981.
"Cosmogony itself speaks to us of the origins of the universe and its makeup, not in order to provide us with a scientific treatise but in order to state the correct relationship of man with God and with the universe. Sacred Scripture wishes simply to declare that the world was created by God, and in order to teach this truth, it expresses itself in the terms of the cosmology in use at the time of the writer. The sacred book likewise wishes to tell men that the world was not created as the seat of the gods, as was taught by other cosmogonies and cosmologies, but was rather created for the service of man and the glory of God. Any other teaching about the origin and makeup of the universe is alien to the intentions of the Bible, which does not wish to teach how heaven was made but how one goes to heaven."

Leon Lederman, a Nobel Prize winner wrote - 
 "In the very beginning, there was a void, a curious form of vacuum, a nothingness containing no space, no time, no matter, no light, no sound. Yet the laws of nature were in place and this curious vacuum held potential. A story logically begins at the beginning, but this story is about the universe and unfortunately there are no data for the very beginnings--none, zero. We don't know anything about the universe until it reaches the mature age of a billion of a trillionth of a second. That is, some very short time after creation in the big bang. When you read or hear anything about the birth of the universe, someone is making it up--we are in the realm of philosophy. Only God knows what happened at the very beginning."
Hawking is the most famous physicist in history who has not won the Nobel Prize. This is because the Swedish Royal Academy demands a discovery must be supported by verifiable experiment or observation. His work, to date is highly speculative and remains unproved. Science is just beginning to verify the existence of black holes, let alone verify any of his more radical theoretical proposals. If some of his research turns out to be wrong, he will still have had a profound impact on scientific thought. Einstein was wrong about all sorts of things, but still one of the greatest geniuses.
Stephen Hawking made a guest appearance 19th June 1993 on Star Trek- The Next Generation playing poker in the Holodeck with Data, Einstein, and Newton in the episode "Descent " and he also wrote the foreword to "The Physics of Star Trek" by L. M. Krauss. He has also lent his voice several times to the animation series 'The Simpsons' and 'Futurama'.
Then on the 5th April 2012 he guested on the comedy "The Big Bang Theory" correcting a mistake by fellow theoretical physicist Sheldon.

Recently while watching yet another documentary on this remarkable human I realised that in 1968 a friend and I spent over a year at university discussing Quasars, Pulsars and Black Holes. (not part of my studies I might mention)  All of these where new discoveries in the sixties. It is when I realised that as everything seems to have an opposite, the world is a large instance of negatives and positives that cancel each other out. From nothing we came and to nothing we can go. Current theory is that the vast apparent emptiness of space is full of negative and positive entities coming into being and crashing into each other and ceasing to exist. Is everything a web of strings?
Just think about it.
The first of 10 parts of his programme The Theory of Everything.

The 2004 film "Hawking' with the great Benedict Cumberbatch playing Stephen Hawking. 

Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything

Other Scientist's Biographies here.
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