Stephen Hawking (1942-2018)

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Stephen Hawking, the groundbreaking theoretical physicist, passed away peacefully at his home in Cambridge early Wednesday at the age of 76. Although I suspect many of our children know him only through the TV show “Big Bang Theory,” he was truly one of the great minds of our time.

Hawking had a rare early-onset slow-progressing form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s that gradually paralyzed him over the decades, but he fought every day to stay alive and working. Even after the loss of his speech, he was still able to communicate through a speech-generating device, initially through use of a hand-held switch, and eventually by using a single cheek muscle. His grit and tenacity inspired people all over the world, and as the European Space Agency wrote, he “showed us there are no limits to achieving our dreams”

One of his greatest impacts was bringing his complex theories to the general public through his bestselling book, “A Brief History of Time.”

His contributions to his field were enormous: the existence of singularities and the theory that the universe might have started as a singularity, the second law of black hole dynamic, new ideas in quantum gravity and quantum mechanics, and the concept that the universe had no boundary in space-time – before the Big Bang, time did not exist and the concept of the beginning of the universe was meaningless. You physicists out there will understand this better than I.

Someone said that with his death, a star on earth blinked out. I would like to think another one blinked in, out there, in our heavens. I hope Hawking is finding the answers to his questions.

33 thoughts on “Stephen Hawking (1942-2018)

  1. My favourite Hawking “thing” was when he sent his students to repeat Ernest Rutherford’s splitting of the atom experiment, using nothing other than what they could find at their local rubbish/trash pit! A lovely tribute, thanks Noelle.

    • Absolutely, Norah, and I hadn’t realized he died on Pi Day! True serendipity! I loved his appearances on various TV shows – he had a great sense of humor and clearly loved to play!

    • Thanks, Robbie. My favorite picture of Hawking is when he was weightless on what they call the ‘Vomit Comet,” a plane that takes you way up and then plummets down, allowing the passengers a minute or so of weightlessness.The expression on his face was pure joy!

    • Absolutely – I can;t imagine how devastating that diagnosis was (although the movie with Eddie Redmayne was pretty good showing it). What a outstanding example of the strength of the human spirit.

    • I think he had a blast doing those shows, Christoph. There was a mischievous side to him – the expression on his face when he was weightless in the ‘vomit comet’ was priceless!

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