Wednesday, March 14, 2018


Physicist Stephen Hawking, popularizer of black-hole science and cosmology, author of A Brief History of Time, and a voice of caution regarding intelligent alien life, has died at the age of 76. While his ALS deprived him of much of a physical life, Hawking enjoyed an immensely rich inner life, often expressed in his many publications. I've read A Brief History of Time at least twice, but I can't claim to understand it, this despite Hawking's best efforts to keep math out of his explanations of cosmology. I think the phrase "thermodynamic arrow" makes an appearance in the book, and the concept is used in conjunction with the notion of why time (and cause-effect along with it) flows in a particular direction. Beyond that, I recall having a feeling that the ideas in History were simultaneously too big and too subtle for me to grasp.

Hawking was more than a scientist: he was a pop-culture icon. I fondly recall Hawking's brief appearance as himself during a holodeck scene involving poker in "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (here's the scene in question). I remember watching Eddie Redmayne's performance as Hawking in "The Theory of Everything," which offered some insights into the man's personal life. Hawking's passing is a real blow; the world is a bit dimmer today. I offer my condolences to Hawking's loved ones and inner circle, and I wish the good professor godspeed as he takes his place in the firmament of great scientific minds.

RIP, Dr. Hawking.

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