Sunday, January 8, 2012

Happy Birthday Stephen Hawking

Today is the 70th birthday of Dr. Stephen Hawking, quite possibly the smartest person alive.

I'm saddened to hear that he missed his own birthday celebration due to further complications of his illness.  In a recorded speech for the gathering, he again urged human colonization of space.  "I don't think we will survive another thousand years without escaping beyond our fragile planet," he said.

"So what's this guy ever done for us?" the Kip Haggis-types of the intellectual vacuum that is America might ask.  Well, let's take a look.  While the rest of us indulged in profligacy, he completely revolutionized our idea of how galaxies are formed and delved into the quantum nature of gravity.  He was the first to demonstrate how quantum fluctuations, the tiny variations in the distribution of matter, cause the rise and spread of galaxies across the universe.  More than that, there is probably no other scientist who has contributed more to the understanding of the exact hows and whys of black holes.  He has defined for us concepts such as "event horizon," "gravitational singularity," and "wave function of the universe."  For decades now, he has done all of this while confined to a wheelchair and speaking through an electronic voice due to his affliction with ALS.  Talk about perseverance.  And just what is any of that worth?  To quote Dr. Hawking himself: "If you understand how the universe operates, you control it in a way."

Despite all of his groundbreaking theories and discoveries, there is one universal conundrum that Hawking has not been able to crack:  "Women. They are a complete mystery," he said.

You're not alone in that, Steve.  Wherever you are, I hope that the year ahead will be one of prosperity and good health.

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