Dr. Stephen Hawking; Man of Mystery

Dr. Stephen Hawking has been considered to be more brilliant then Einstein. Dr. Hawking was born on January 8 1942 in Oxford, England on the 300th anniversary of Galileo’s death. Is this a coincidence? After his studies at St. Albans School, he attended University College, Oxford. He wanted to study Mathematics, but because it was unavailable at Oxford, he concentrated on Physics and earned a degree in Natural Science three years later. Stephen went on to Cambridge to do research in Cosmology. After attaining his Ph.D., he became a Professorial Fellow at Gonville and Caius College. He left the Institute of Astronomy to become a professor at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at Cambridge. He has held the post of Lacasian Professor of Mathematics since 1979. In the early 1960’s, Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with the dreadful disease Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (A.L.S.), an incurable degenerative neuromuscular disease, also known as Lou Gerhig’s Disease. He has been paralyzed unable to use every muscle in his body. The only muscles he has use of are those around his eyes. This explains why Hawking has become a theoretician rather than a “hands-on” scientist. He spends hour after hour in his wheelchair pondering complex ideas and formulating mind bobbling equations in his head.

Dr. Hawking’s work is primarily in the field of general relativity and in particular on the physics of black holes. He uses his theory on the origin of black holes to help explain the creation of the universe. In 1971 he suggested the formation (following the big bang), of numerous objects containing as much as 1,000,000,000 tons of mass but occupying only the space of a proton. These objects, called mini- black holes, are unique in that because of their immense mass and gravity, they are ruled by the laws if relativity, while their minute size requires that the laws of quantum mechanics apply to them also. In 1974, Hawking proposed that, in accordance with the predications of quantum theory, black holes emit subatomic particles until they exhaust all their energy and finally explode. Hawking’s work spurred efforts to theoretically delineate the properties of black holes. It was previously thought that nothing could be learned about black holes. Now we know that each black hole starts out as a star about ten times the size of the sun. Over time, the star burns all its nuclear fuel and explodes. Some of the star’s matter is expelled and the remainder forms an incredibly dense mass with enormous gravitational pull known as a black hole. Black holes are really not holes at all. They don’t have an opening at the top or bottom and are invisible to the naked eye. The boundary or horizon of a black hole is the point at which the gravitational field has enough force to pull in surrounding debris from the universe. It’s like a giant magnet. Because not even light that enters these holes can escape to be reflected back to earth, scientists previously thought these exploded stars disappeared into holes (black holes). His work was also important because it showed these properties’ relationship to the laws of classical thermodynamics and quantum mechanics.

If this isn’t confusing enough for you, Dr. Hawking has also published papers on “ The Large Scales Structure of Spacetime”, “ General Relativity: An Einstein Centenary Survey”, “ 300 Years of Gravity”, and “ The Nature of Space and Time”. His books include “A Brief History of Time”, and “ Black holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays.”

His ideas and proposals about space have been widely accepted. He has been awarded twelve honorary degrees, was awarded the CBE in 1982, and was made a Companion of Honor in 1989. These are just a few of the awards, medals and prizes that Dr. Hawking has received. His proposals have always questioned what we don’t know. He has proposed that there is no end of time in the universe. He has also discussed the existence of space and time warps and the concept of predicting the future. He has been the first to give us explanations for ideas that we have never been able to explain. His papers cross into areas which we have not been able to explain so far. He has told us that we can’t predict the future because of factors like natural phenomena. There is little room for controversy on the topics that Dr. Hawking researches. This is because there is no one else with the sheer brilliance of Dr. Hawking. Most people cannot understand his theories. He has been one of the first to try and explain the creation of the universe, the existence of God, and time travel. He does tread on the feet of believers in the Biblical creation of the universe (although Dr. Hawking does believe in the existence of some form of a God or higher being). He upset the psychic community when he suggested that you cannot travel through time; that there is no possibility for reincarnation and that there is no way to predict the future. He questioned whether or not the ‘big bang theory’ which has been widely accepted is true. He suggested ‘ that there was never a start and there would be no end, but just change – a constant transition of one ‘universe’ giving way to another through glitches in space-time.” Dr. Hawking, delighted the scientific community with these proposals. He gave proof that the existence of these “ bizarre ideas of human kind’ couldn’t exist. He is one of the most widely respected scientists in the world, and not a lot of people question what Dr. Hawking has suggested.

Dr. Hawking is a firm believer in science helping society. This is mainly because he relies on science to help him sustain life. Dr. Hawking suffers from Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He uses a computer to form all of his sentences and the computer even talks for him. He relies on an electric wheelchair to help him get around. Stephen Hawking believes that there will always be advances in science and it is up to society to ensure that these changes are used for the betterment of society. Society must be informed of the advances in science in order to involve itself in decisions and not leave these important decisions to only a few experts.

The historical frame of Stephen Hawking’s research is at a time when Germany was reunited and during the breakup of the Soviet Union and the virtual collapse of Communism. He fears the effect of nuclear weapons on society. A civil war could result in the former Soviet Union involving nuclear weapons. This could destroy all human life within days. He wants society in involve itself by pressuring governments to agree to large arms reductions. Hawking is also involved in science related issues like global warming, food supply and the greenhouse effect. These are all issues that face society today and involve science in their solutions.