Monday, April 20, 2009

A Brief Comment on Prof. Stephen Hawking

I just came across this news story on Yahoo:

It's about the hospitalization of Stephen Hawking, 67, writer of books such as the best-selling A Brief History of Time. He has long been considered one of the foremost minds in the realm of theoretical physics. I admit I haven't read any of his books; I have read exerpts of his work and selected interview segments. I also saw his guest appearance several years ago on Star Trek: The Next Generation, in which he played a holographic representation of himself. Yes, I am a nerd. He was also referenced in "Weird Al" Yankovic's parody "White and Nerdy."

Now, I don't know much at all about theoretical physics. Even on subjects about which I'm knowledgeable, I don't know that I'd be able to hold an intelligent conversation with him. Doubtless we disagree on important issues, particularly on spiritual subjects. Still, I admire this man's mind. Not just his intelligence, mind you, but his strength of will. He's 67 years old. He's lived with ALS (or Lou Gehrig's Disease) since he was 21. He is almost completely paralyzed and can only speak with a computerized voice synthesizer, yet he has lived far longer than most ALS patients, held one of the top science chairs at Cambridge University (one of his predecessors was Sir Isaac Newton!), written best-selling books on difficult intellectual subjects, and traveled the world lecturing on those subjects. He has one of the most debillitating conditions possible, and yet he has reached one of the rarest positions in history, a popularizer of new scientific ideas.

So thank you, Stephen Hawking, for your inspiring determination and example, and I wish you all the best and a speedy recovery.

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