Archive for May, 2011

The great popularizer of modern physics Stephen Hawking sits down for a nice interview with the New York Times. Hawking is best known as the author of A Brief History of Time,  but he has also written a number of other popular books. He also happens to be a real scientist, once the Lucasian Chair of Mathematics, a position occupied by Isaac Freaking Newton himself. Hawking has been instrumental in the development of theory surrounding black holes, has a type of radiation named after him, and is also one of the longest living survivors of A.L.S. By sheer fact of what he has accomplished with such a debilitating condition, Hawking deserves an enormous amount of respect.

From the interview:

Like Einstein, he is as famous for his story as for his science.

At the age of 21, the British physicist Stephen Hawking was found to have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease. While A.L.S. is usually fatal within five years, Dr. Hawking lived on and flourished, producing some of the most important cosmological research of his time.

In the 1960s, with Sir Roger Penrose, he used mathematics to explicate the properties of black holes. In 1973, he applied Einstein’s general theory of relativity to the principles of quantum mechanics. And he showed that black holes were not completely black but could leak radiation and eventually explode and disappear, a finding that is still reverberating through physics and cosmology.

Dr. Hawking, in 1988, tried to explain what he knew about the boundaries of the universe to the lay public in “A Brief History of Time: From Big Bang to Black Holes.” The book sold more than 10 million copies and was on best-seller lists for more than two years.

Today, at 69, Dr. Hawking is one of the longest-living survivors of A.L.S., and perhaps the most inspirational. Mostly paralyzed, he can speak only through a computerized voice simulator.


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