Professor Stephen Hawking, possibly one the most brilliant physicists and minds of our time turns 71 today. He is at the forefront, probing the cosmos looking for the origins of our universe and it’s ultimate fate. Along with studying the basic laws that govern our universe, black holes, quantum gravity and the nature of time itself, he produced the international bestselling book A Brief History of Time, as well as modern classics such as The Universe in a Nutshell, and most recently the ground breaking work The Grand Design, in which he reveals a controversial new theory. These, among many other publications, lectures and documentaries have brought an appreciation of physics to millions around the world.
Being diagnosed with ALS, a form of the incurable Motor Neurone Disease in 1963 shortly after his 21st birthday, he was given just two years to live by doctors, yet he went on to gain over a dozen honorary degrees and a CBE in 1982 and has continued to receive many awards, medals and prizes. Although being confined to a wheelchair due to the ALS it has not stopped him from lecturing widely and making appearances on Star Trek: The Next Generation and The Simpsons, with his hope of going into space becoming reality with plans to take a trip into orbit with Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic project. Becoming a celebrity, but ever the academic, he uses the numerous public appearances to raise awareness regarding potential global disasters, such as global warming, with the longterm survival of humanity very firmly in mind, stating that “Getting a portion of the human race permanently off the planet is imperative for our future as a species.”
We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.”
– Stephen Hawking
Below is a TED talk by Hawking that logically highlights the fragility of our civilisation and demonstrates his very serious concern about our survival, and also shows his sense of humour. (If you haven’t seen any TED talks before then go and have a look, you are missing out.)
Hear is one final quote that he made in a speech during birthday celebrations last year:
Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.”
– Stephen Hawking