An irrational day
Physicist Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76.
Hawking’s children Lucy, Robert and Tim issued a statement on Wednesday, March 14th, in which they said “We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today.”
“He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years. His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humour inspired people across the world.” “He once said: ‘It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.’ We will miss him for ever.”
Hawking was diagnosed with motor neurone disease aged 22, and advised he could expect to live just a few more years. However, the disease progressed more slowly than predicted and Hawking married, kept working and became a titan of both hard and popular science.
His hard science saw him develop theories on black holes and gravity that went a long way towards reconciling classical and quantum mechanics.
His prominent place in popular science came about after his book A Brief History of Time became an unexpected best-seller after its lucid and accessible explanation of time, space and science’s search for a “theory of everything” resonated with the public.
So did Hawking's life story: the stricken-but-still-brilliant scientist in a tricked-out wheelchair was someone the world wanted to know. His synthesised voice became his trademark and his wheelchair something of a symbol of the possibilities afforded by technology.
But he also ruffled a few feathers within the scientific establishment with far-fetched statements about the existence of extraterrestrials, time travel, and the creation of humans through genetic engineering.
He has also predicted the end of humanity, due to global warming, a new killer virus, or the impact of a large comet.
I'm not nearly as cut up about Prof. Hawking's passing as many of the Twitterati seem to be, mostly because I think that he had suffered more than enough from a lifetime spent with his mind trapped in a broken and immobilised body. He is free at last, and that is all to the good.
I also find the cult of celebrity surrounding him more than a little puzzling, given that he was a geek with a capital K, but then again, nerdiness has been "in" for the last couple of decades as a way to mock and emasculate men and promote the "strawng induhpendant wimmenz" narrative throughout the media, so maybe it isn't that surprising.
At any rate, may God rest his soul now.