Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Master of the Universe

Stephen Hawking has died, aged 76. When he was 21 and diagnosed with a severe form of motor neurone disease, his doctors gave him two years to live. He sure showed them. Perhaps the greatest theoretical physicist of all time, certainly the most well-known, prolific and gifted physicist of the modern age, he held the Lucasian Chair at Cambridge, formerly held by Sir Isaac Newton, formulated theories of singularities within general relativity, proposed a union of quantum and relativistic physics and proved that black holes emit radiation (now called Hawking radiation).

Hawking would habitually make wagers with his fellow scientists on the most leading edge hypotheses, and would be wrong as often as right. He was never afraid to accept when he was wrong and work on new information to formulate new theories. A firm believer in the Many Worlds Interpretation, Hawking hypothesised multiple pasts for the universe and was still working on ideas at the very edge of understanding when he died. He also had a wicked sense of humour, an eye for the ladies, and was a huge fan of Star Trek and Red Dwarf, like all right-thinking people. The very last contribution he made to popular culture was an appearance as the voice of the Guide Mk. 2 in the latest series of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. He died one week after it was first broadcast.

One of the true greats, who will be remembered for his contributions to science for centuries to come.

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