Who will take his place? Who will be the Stephen Hawking of my children's generation?
As a society we should work hard to find, celebrate and give a platform to the Stephen Hawking-s and the Carl Sagan-s of tomorrow. The impact of such "celebrity scientists" (I do not use that term pejoratively) is far greater than the measure of the work they have done. It is how they inspire an entire generation to seek out knowledge, understanding and fill us all with a sense of humility, awe and wonder.
In Tyson's defense, the new Cosmos was damn near perfect and had none of the elitism that I detected. Just a love of knowledge and history.
I disagree. Out of all pop-sci educators there's three that just about everyone who likes science knows: NDT, Bill Nye, and Carl Sagan.
He does. When he has a decent Scientific guests on his podcast, he is very deferential but when he is alone, he is very elitist.
Only to intellectuals.
He may not have been a great researcher, but his ability to explain to the common person (impromptu) is a lot better than Hawking's. Other than Sagan, I cannot think of anyone that good. Their styles are different, but both are/were great.
Elitism is overall fine as long as it doesn't get in the way or make you look like an asshole. And unfortunately, Neil Degrasse Tyson seems to be leaning towards the "asshole elite".
Still, he's a good speaker, there are tons of people who are inspired by his style. I think a kinder, gentler, less pedantic (exactly the right word) person needs to become the next "science champion".
Stephen Hawking was a good balance of inspiration, and expertise. He was "elite" without quite being pedantic or asshole-ish.
That's true, but I don't really see why it's a problem. As long as he's not spreading misinformation or anything, being entertaining is a skill, and he's using it towards constructive ends.
How many HN articles are published every week about how people-skills are undervalued?
It's just hard to take him seriously as a science spokesman.
I think Mr. Tyson is a phony. He does not deserve, nor does he know how, to bring science to the "masses".
Edit: I mean come on! Dude played keyboard in a couple bands.
As scientific progress becomes increasingly interdisciplinary, communication becomes increasingly valuable both within teams and with the greater public.
I would be perfectly happy seeing tens of enthusiastic and brilliant physicists stepping up to become the celebrity scientists of the upcoming generation, rather than just one or two.
Until they surface, however, the responsibility falls upon each and every one of us to stoke the fires of passion and wonder in our fellow humans.
I started watching Niel deGrasse Tyson's Cosmos reboot the other day, and the first episode is definitely worth a watch for everyone reading this thread. It was also covered in Business Insider: http://www.businessinsider.com/inspiring-story-young-neil-de...
You don't need a platform or a massive following to ignite a spark of curiosity in another person. Small acts of kindness and encouragement can last a lifetime.
I mean, I'm a lukewarmist, not a denier, but since the 90s people have been saying "science advocacy" when they mean "advocacy for my politics". Everyone's (correctly) for Darwinism and contra modern creationism but no one seems to be in favor of IQ advocacy.
And I mean advocacy for the low IQ cohorts that are being technologied out of a social role. But hey, you would have to admit IQ exists.
But while I think the people like Nye and Tyson are important, someone more in Hawking's mold needs to be a genuinely novel contributor. I'd put Leonard Susskind's name in the hat.
I nominate Brian Greene from Columbia University! Rhodes Scholar, mind-bending types of work in theoretical physics, cofounder of the World Science Festival, frequent appearances on fancy-schmancy podcasts and television shows. Definitely all the makings of a science hero.
You just need to look around, and then do your best: volunteer at school or uni, post Kerbal Space Program let's plays, or use a top to explain angular momentum to a 2nd grader.
We can't rely on one or two celebrities and then sit on our hands. We take our telescope across Africa and inspire a few kids at a time, all the time.
I am not very optimistic about another Stephen Hawking or an Einstein. How many of the best minds of our generation are attracted to Physics or Mathematics or Astronomy especially graduate level / Phds ? Some of the folks are getting into computer science but that doesnt help discoveries in cosmology.
I amateurishly evaluate Terry Tao on an order of a Poincaré. He's the actual "genius" thing concept person.
It's one of the finest things one can do. In today's climate of dystopian science fiction, we could all use some awe and wonder.
Against all odds, he lived a full and amazing life. It somehow feels even more painful to lose a man who cheated death. It just gives you that feeling that they can somehow live forever, until the moment when the illusion is shattered.
And underneath it all is that unshakable feeling. Memento mori. Slowly my childhood heroes will drift away until there's none left. Then it will be my turn to drift away.
I miss him already. The world is always going to be a little sadder without him. Though, maybe I can still make it to his party.
A RECEPTION FOR TIME TRAVELLERS
PROFESSOR STEPHEN HAWKING
To be held in the past, at
THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE
Gonville & Caius College, Trinity Street, Cambridge
Location: 52˚ 12' 21" N, 0˚ 7' 4.7" E
12:00 UT 28 JUNE 2009
NO RSVP REQUIRED
it beat him yet, Longinus' Lance
now the bet is in our hands
perhaps we'll get another chance:
Wise for ever, still funny now
The party's on the day of Tau
He chose a funny day to die
A perfect day: the day of Pi.
I'll miss him and his wonderful stories of the cosmos.
Good luck in your goal to accomplish what you can.
I would like to attribute my desire to live "forever", at least to some extent, to cosmic perspective.
One day the universe might make me bored, but today is not that day, and I suspect tomorrow isn't either.
I don't ever expect that day to come, but if I thought it was near I'd be very afraid indeed.
The first one is like you don’t remember it, like you don’t remember a lot in your life that you know happened. With the second one you’ll never have the experience of feeling you don’t remember it and you know that.
It’s akin to the difference between one day you realising you forgot most of your life, and you now discovering you have Alzheimer’s and will never again hold a moment in memory. To your present self the former is not scary, but the latter is.
> For most of the history of the universe, I did not exist. I have considerable experience with that.
On the contrary, you have zero experience with not existing because experience implies an impression was made, even if you don’t consciously realise it. Not existing has made (and will make) no difference to you whatsoever, and as such provides no experience, preparation, or comfort.
It is the thought of not existing that makes a difference. It won’t by the time I don’t exist, but it does now.
As a side note, if someone can recommend some good philosophy books on this, I’d appreciate it. I thought the branch that studies it might’ve been ontology, but I’ve read a bit of Sartre’s Being and Nothingness and realised what he’s talking about it not exactly what I’m looking for.
The thing is, after a mere billions of years, you managed to consolidate into a form and became alive. Not a bad deal.
But to be dead, is to wait a trillion years for something to happen, only for it to turn out at the end you have to wait a trillion years more, and then you have to continue this forever.
It's been awhile since I read it, but ... In The Zen of Physics, David J. Darling argues that if some other collection of atoms has a consciousness like our own, that is no different than ourselves. (His idea of consciousness is something like patterns in the brain, which is distinct, if reliant, from a collection of atoms.) We would have no memory of our past experiences, but in a real sense we would be alive again. His arguments are a bit more elegant than I have presented here. And there is some question to whether an identical consciousness with different memories is really you or me, but it would mean that waiting for trillions of years isn't necessarily the case.
This, of course, assumes that consciousness is an emergent phenomena. It is possible that consciousness is not emergent from brain processes, but is a fundamental property of the universe that the brain has somehow harnessed because it is an evolutionary advantage. (Physics of Consciousness: The Quantum Mind and the Meaning of Life by Evan Harris Walker is a fun read on this idea.) In which case, in some form you would exist as long as the universe exists, and always have.
As an aside, for those without consciousness (i.e. the dead and the unborn) time does not exist, so both "to wait" and "forever" are impossible. :)
So if I cloned you, you would fully consider the other clone as "yourself" and "me"? I doubt it. The metaphysics are really complex here. A better attempt (if any can be made) is that the 'self' is both an evolving bodily mass AND an evolving sense of memories and perceptions. Ultimately there's good rational that self/me is just a non-real tool that allows you to operate in the world. You can not 'not believe' in self as you're human brain requires it, and animals do just fine without thinking of self (driven by nature). A better strategy is to minimize the view of self in order to reduce confusions caused by 'staring too intently in the mirror', but yet it's also useful to evaluate oneself as a separate actor.
Also I think you can have Consciousness without having a notion of defined self though, like a collective consciousness or a dolphin/octopus/crow form of awareness.
I'd recommend this lecture from Shelly Kagan.
This cheered me up a bit, thanks!
I want human society to include births, children, growing up, dating, marriage and raising families. I want my children and our species generally to have a dynamic, continuously renewing culture. I just don’t see how those things are compatible with immortality. Just don’t see how I can weigh personal immortality against the lives of perhaps millions of people that could live in my place, choose myself over them and maintain any sort of moral credibility.
(P.S. we're not anywhere near close to using our current resources completely or efficiently, so please stick around and help us get a little closer!)
eg "Wake me up when we get there, or if anything interesting/important comes up on the way."
The cost of mortality is having Albert Einstein around for a meager 76 years, instead of hundreds or thousands. Multiplied by all the other great minds our species has produced, this is an incredible cost that, in my opinion, vastly outweighs your assumptions about the cost of immortality.
In my opinion, culture can only be threatened by homogeneity, but even print, radio, television, film, and internet haven't managed to kill it. Immortality will necessitate and possibly facilitate cultural change. First, because our culture will have to adapt to accepting immortality. Second, because immortal beings will likely become bored. We really have no indication that culture will stagnate or die. I suspect it will slow, but I suspect most things will slow when we are no longer so bound by time. And, due to resource issues, immortality will likely require (and possibly result in) a great diaspora of humanity. More humans, living in more places, having more experiences, and being more separated, means a more diverse culture, even if a lot of those humans are the same humans.
Finally, immortal humans will likely be far better caretakers of resources. They will have personal incentives to make sure there are enough resources, that those resources are renewed, and that they are used in a way that preserves the planet. Humans have a very difficult time even conceptualizing what the world may be like for their great-great-grandchildren (and modifying their behavior accordingly), but they understand fear for their personal safety far better.
That’s the point—there are dozens of Einsteins born every year, and growing up as children amidst the new theories actually makes them stronger than 130 year old Einstein would be.
If you are really concerned about Einstein’s immortal embodiment, you would see that he is alive, and he is 10 years old and he lives in an abusive household in a bad school district. Go find him (her?) and get her into a good physics classroom and make sure she has a safe place to eat dinner and do her homework.
Keeping Hawking alive is both harder and less valuable.
Our laws and economic system currently lead to extreme inequality. That would have to seriously change to allow for immortality.
But if Steve Jobs clone 2.0 is 400 years old and still turning over his $200b at 10% per year, and 9% of that is getting redistributed while the average person is generating 1% then that's still ultimately better for humanity. The reason it needs to be a progressive wealth tax is to limit power accumulation.
And we need better international coordination. In this future scenario the super rich that take their marbles and go home will be banned from travelling into the countries that co-operate. The super rich act like they gain nothing of value from our social safety nets, but they do. Happy liberal cities cost money. I don't want a world where the Koch Brothers can leisurely enjoy a city like Toronto, Paris, or Tokyo without contributing a dime to the others around them that made them rich.
Combined with cognitive decline, that makes it hard for 150 year old tycoons to grow new revenue...
Although under capitalism (property law) rent-based revenues will typically grow large scale holdings even without smart development.
Not sure if/how those two forces add up.
Up to now, most scientists have been too occupied with the development of new theories that describe what the universe is to ask the question why. On the other hand, the people whose business it is to ask why, the philosophers, have not been able to keep up with the advance of scientific theories. In the eighteenth century, philosophers considered the whole of human knowledge, including science, to be their field and discussed questions such as: did the universe have a beginning? However, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, science became too technical and mathematical for the philosophers, or anyone else except a few specialists. Philosophers reduced the scope of their inquiries so much that Wittgenstein, the most famous philosopher of this century, said, “The sole remaining task for philosophy is the analysis of language.” What a comedown from the great tradition of philosophy from Aristotle to Kant!
However, if we do discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable in broad principle by
everyone, not just a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists, and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we would know the mind of God.
-- Stephen Hawking
“We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.” (Hawking)
† within the constraints of some universal logic
Maybe there is even a sense of "thinking" ahead to understand which path will be shorter before making the choice.
It is our imagination that gives facts like math equations meaning.
And then realized after a few paragraphs that this is Stephen Hawking writing it? Be honest.
I just think there has been such a transition from books to online comments and forums that everything is picked apart and commented by a far larger group of people than in the past.
The man was a legend. His books were inspiring. Can today's blog posts and tweets be the same going forward? Just some thoughts I had while I read that.
RIP Steven Hawking, inspiration to millions!
I got A Brief History of Time and read it, and it's almost cliche to say so, but it changed the course of my life. It's not the only book that affected me, but it was pivotal. George Gamow's little book also was available, and some good Asimov stuff, but otherwise nothing really.
So I went to university in the big city (Saskatoon!) and studied physics, and they had a whole library of physics books! You'd think it was like heaven, but a lot of those books were crap or hard to read. Hawking showed how one can aim for a book that's interesting-and-good and actually achieve it. A few others managed to do the same. There are probably 20 actually-good and readable physics books in the whole world, and his books are a few of them.
1) That science was graspable, even by me, given enough time to reflect (and a good teacher helps).
2) That science requires sparks of creativity, in addition to all of its methodology, and that being a scientist can involve being creative.
This seems to still be the case, I recently spent some time visiting my moms place in a small town in Ontario, Canada and visited the old library. I was looking at the biography section of the local library and outside of the usual mob or famous actors selection the three choices among the "great minds" were bios of: Isaac Newton, Hypatia, and Stephen Hawking.
Even if his ideas may only be poorly grasped by the general population he still ranks among the greatest and most accessible minds in history wherever you may live, and we're all better off thanks to him.
'Elegant universe' is a little denser. It's about as accessible as string theory gets, and that's surprisingly accessible. It also surveys a lot of scientific knowledge. For example, it has a very intuitive explanation of how knowing about the constant speed of light (Einstein) makes time travel possible. Also, it explains open questions that string theory is trying to solve, which are the big, TOE questions in physics currently.
Hard to beat Hawkins though. He heavily influenced and inspired these guys, an proved that hard science is interesting for everyone. Goodbye Professor. You will be missed.
Bill Bryson normally writes travel books, so the way this book is written is not your standard science approach. This book in particular is very entertaining since the topic is out of the authors comfort zone.
A Short History of Nearly Everything is actually my favourite book to read while travelling, funnily enough.
What stands out that I could read in the 1980s? I mentioned George Gamow's little book: One Two Three . . . Infinity: Facts and Speculations of Science.
Many Carl Sagan books were available by then. Ask Google.
Isaac Asimov wrote about everything, but his monthly essays in the Fantasy & Science Fiction (magazine) often covered some physics topic. I love how he tells the story: Always about the person, the time, the ideas, the meanings of the words, good analogies. He made it all seem so simple, but I know now that he was a master and loved it (and bragged about it too). Those essays were often collected into paperback collections, and my high school library got them.
Asimov also wrote a History of Physics book. Really thick and long. I read it for a book report for English class, because I was a total nerd and it seemed like a fun project. Most others read a comic book because those passed as "non-fiction" (for real).
One of the better textbooks is Introduction to Electrodynamics by David J. Griffiths. That one stands out in my mind.
Now I know what I'm doing this afternoon, thanks!
I'm just one of many, but he unmistakably and uniquely affected my life for the better.
Growing up, I read Brief History of Time and Universe In A Nutshell dozens of times each. I relished the jokes I got, and I won't forget him.
I also weep for him, knowing he never got the Nobel prize he wanted so very much.
I haven't shed a tear for many people in their passing, but I have for him.
Thank you for opening my eyes to the wonders of the universe. You are an irreplaceable part of who I have become today.
Two things forever stick out in my memory.
#1 - That he told jokes during his lecture. To be wheelchair bound, facing a degenerative condition... and still have humor. Inspiring.
#2 - The respectful silence. At least at the lecture I attended, he live keyed his entire speech. This meant the synthesizer would speak, followed by 20 or 30 seconds of absolute silence as he buffered the next few sentences. I remember not a soul spoke in that time above a whisper.
And he deserved every ounce of respect.
He was "typing" one bit at a time?
How can he type the entire sentence so quickly?
I also just started typing that in present tense ('tracks'...) and had to pull myself up. :(
Wow, I wonder whether they provided it before (or) after MS acquisition.
This would have been circa-2004, and I want to say at the time he had a less predictive but more physical system.
It seems somehow unfair to have him taken away in the middle of all that.
EDIT: Fond memories of walking around Cambridge University two decades ago with my cousin, and she casually pointed to a building and said "Oh, Stephen Hawking works in there". Seemed so mundane to think that such important works were going on in some nondescript building that I just happened to be walking past. I always envisaged him working on a totally different plane from the rest of us mere peons.
It's a sad loss for science, but he's also now freed from a body he was becoming increasingly locked in, with less and less ability to communicate over time.
His passing is perhaps more humane - I don't know though, humaneness is in the eye of the person living it.
Well, now he lost any kind of ability to communicate.
He is one of the very rare human beings whose names will never be forgotten.
First, when their body stops functioning. Second, when their body is buried (or cremated). And the third and final death is when their name is uttered for the very last time in human history.
I am fairly confident Stephen Hawking will have only died two deaths.
1) When your body dies
2) When you the last person who remembers you dies
3) When the last thing you impacted is gone
Now existence has returned to a state as if you had never been at all.
If we put Sagan with Darwin we should not forget to add Margulis to this list also.
I’d go so far as to say that SET changed my worldview. I’d always looked at evolution solely through the cold, brütal lens of selective pressure and competition.
SET showed us, however, that symbiosis (i.e. fundamental cooperation) is right up there with competition... kind of a countervailing force within the story of evolution.
I don’t know why, but I take great emotional comfort in that. Perhaps, being non-religious, it allows me to see something humane(?) encoded in the rulesets that govern change.
I wanted to say: connect him, obviously
To think when he started out black holes were just a myth. He got to witness not only their acceptance and his own vindication but actual gravitational waves as well!
It's weird; I individually understood both achievements but never thought about their combination that seriously until it was worded like this. Very well put.
We miss you already, Mr. Hawking.
Somehow reminded about that New Generation episode with Newton, Einstein and Hawking.
Rest in peace.
After a pause, the answer came: “They both suck.”
Stephen's sense of humor has always cracked me up.
and was on not only The Simpsons, but Futurama as well!
Stephen Hawking replied: "Yes, and also one, where you are funny."
he also did some recording for the pink floyd for the division bell album and that was later reused in their final album.
his voice is in talkin' hawkin' from endless river and keep talking from the division bell.
But even ignoring the challenges he crushes he would have been an amazing human being.
Above the morning lark.
It turns out that despite his physical limitations he actually did eat normal solid foods. This was in 2011.
Come on guys, think this through. Hawking. Eating. Movement.
I'm sure he would have appreciated this joke though and how it got at least two of you ;)
The timing would even work for the incident to involve the real Richard Feynman. Though, I can't find anything to suggest the story is true.
People like Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan, Nikola Tesla and even Elon Musk today, that make us look up, innovate and think way out there, bring us together and remind us we are all on this planet together and can do amazing things if we choose to put our energy towards it.
Tesla, Hawking, and Sagan are lumped together because they were brilliant scientists who's work furthered humanity. Those are attributes that we wish for others to emulate, so we put them on a pedestal.
Over the last few decades our society (usa) has been shifting slowly slightly further towards an everyone-for-themselves (and unequal) type of culture. So Elon's story, as described above, is another example of intelligence used in pursuit of human furtherment, that many would want similarly put on a pedestal for emulation.
He may not be a scientist, engineer or inventor but he inspires and empowers scientists and inventors so that counts for something.
Even if his ego should potentially have cosmic objects orbiting it.
The booster rockets returning to Earth in unison and on the barge originally, both were amazing moments that were almost as impactful as the space race accomplishments during the Apollo program. Definitely exciting that it is a reality that is happening not just hope, Musk has amazing teams and funding but he is using all that to accomplish these things instead of just getting richer, risking his personal wealth many times over for these goals.
Sagan would probably be thrilled with SpaceX.
Then you have Tesla electric cards rocking the electric car / battery industry and making it business ready today.
Nikola Tesla would be thrilled with Tesla and battery power to lessen reliance on the electric grid.
Then you got solar homes and batteries along with the SpaceX accomplishments in rocketry, that you can start to put together and see the uses for interstellar travel and harsh planet settlement.
Hawking would be thrilled at the interstellar travel part as he has been warning humans to look for other places for years and thinks we must be interstellar within hundreds of years to survive.
Musk is more of a business focused guy but he is making people look up and is accomplishing these tasks by challenging big competitors and ultimately his products will be good for Earth. That is amazing in my book.
Feynman liked making everyone interested in science and talked to people with the aims of understanding not just being smart, he'd be thrilled that Musk is bringing amazing scientific achievement to regular people's lives.
IMO, the google founders have had a far larger impact on the world than Elon, however, they don’t promote themselves endlessly.
Musk is definitely one of those, just in a different way.
One of these is certainly not like the others.
May he rest in peace.
He has died on the date of Albert Einstein's birth, the 14th of March.
I think you don't deserve the downvoting you are getting even though the timing of your question is not great, you're still trying to understand what the natural progression of ALS is.
I actually had no idea he was that old. Maybe he looked younger than he was because he had no wrinkles.
For a lot of people that die natural deaths they could have lived longer if they had kept fit. It just gets really hard to either do or justify when everything hurts and gets harder to do year over year. Or when you are confined to a wheelchair since your early 20s, were told you would only live two years, and then beat that prognosis 27 times over.
But if you are able, even small amounts of cardio exercise could dramatically extend your health and lifespans in old age.
But after a certain point, that cause of death starts looking pretty meaningless. Everything is failing at once; if you hadn't died of your actual cause of death, you would have died shortly afterwards from another one. In that sense, you do "just die" of old age.
That said, his original prognosis was that he wouldn't reach his 25th birthday, so he hasn't really done too bad.
Those who live in the shadow of death are often those who live most.
My lowest points are when life becomes too easy. When I start to miss the point of living.
I quit my job and moved to a new country because I was becoming complacent, repeating the same thing every day.
It's the moments closest to death when we are truely alive. Whether it's being struck by a disease, as Stephen Hawking tragically was all those many years ago, or climbing a mountain (and in my cause, getting stuck).
Any newspapers who don't do this will lose the all-important race for publication to newspapers that do.
They are often written many years in advance. As an example, the Guardian's obituary for Billy Graham  was published ten years after its writer died.