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Stephen Hawking has died (bbc.com)
6015 points by Cogito on March 14, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 436 comments

For a second I just couldn't believe this was real. Stephen Hawking was one of those people that inspired me towards a career in science, as well as a pursuit of discovering what mysteries of the universe I could uncover within my (cosmically short) lifetime. He did this not through some major life-altering speech I heard from him (although his talks and lectures were quite interesting), or through some grand quote that I read online, but rather through the fact that he carried with him the enthusiasm that comes with looking up, seeing a vast universe looming all around us, and finding that inner spirit--that inner sense of wonder--that drives us forward in an attempt to make sense of it all. Rest in peace Stephen Hawking; you will be missed.

I agree completely.

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.

Neil Degrasse Tyson is clearly vying for the slot but seems to make science seem more elitist, more pedantic (read literally any of his tweets) and thus appears to miss the point entirely

Tyson doesn't have the academic credentials that Hawking or someone like Richard Feynman does. The power of Hawking and Feynman is that they both were at the top of their fields, but took the time to make the foundations of their science accessible to the common man. Tyson has done great things, but he's not quite there.

I don't think Tyson needs to be there. Tyson is an educator and that's how he labels himself. He's not a researcher/theorist like Hawking and Feynman.

I thought Tyson's COSMOS was really well done but doesn't hit its stride until the 4th episode or so. I loved it almost as much as Sagan's COSMOS. The only "problem" with it was that the original was so good, and such a first of its kind, it's virtually impossible to top. I think Tyson's version was as good as it could be.

I couldn’t watch it. Too much hype. Sagan was so much more relaxing to listen too.

What about Michio Kaku? Google always shows him along side when searching for Tyson.

Kaku is not in the first rank of theorists. He knows the physics, but he's primarily a popsci figure. Hasn't produced original research in decades.

I've heard he's not very personable[0], and that's important for pop-scientists.

[0]: https://youtu.be/EnMMirZBMlc

He's already 71, so he's still a face to the same people as Hawking was.

I feel like this might have more to do with modern social media and celebrity culture, especially Twitter culture, than with Tyson himself. It's toxic. It's really hard to move in that realm with out adopting some of its sensibilities and tone.

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.

Tyson is intellectually underwhelming and doesn't seem to understand the limitations of his own knowledge. He's made his fame for speaking with the mannerisms of a preacher; and for remaking (in science a necessity) the Carl Sagan classic. He's already being forgotten by mainstream culture, which is not worse for it.

> He's already being forgotten by mainstream culture, which is not worse for it.

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 doesn't seem to understand the limitations of his own knowledge

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.

>Tyson is intellectually underwhelming

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.

A season 2 of the Cosmos reboot is under development BTW. :)

The new Cosmos had way too much animation. Hopefully season 2 is without Seth McFarlane so we can get some inspiring science without cartoons (which detracts from the inspiring quality, imo).

I think Neil Degrasse Tyson is overall net-positive, but I'm definitely not liking his style.

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.

Agreed. I feel like he started off great but as he grew more famous has made it very much all about himself.

Similar issue with Bill Nye, I think, though he's definitely not on the same level.

Mr.Wizard far surpassed Nye, even back in the day. There was never any competition. Nye was always an entertainer first, science teacher second.

> Nye was always an entertainer first, science teacher second.

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?

I think the problem is this trait mentioned by the parent post has carried through to what Nye's been doing now, and I'll personally add that current content produced by Nye doesn't seem productive in any way, whatsoever. In fact, I think Nye has gotten to a point where he actively shuns anybody with an argument against his beliefs, regardless of whichever side is correct. He'll even push his own agenda for certain topics unnecessarily, which is pretty ridiculous.

Such as? I haven't seen him promote anything that wasn't the general consensus among scientists.

Nye acted for years on Almost Live, a comedy show. He's also got an ME degree, not an advanced science degree.

It's just hard to take him seriously as a science spokesman.

ME is an advanced science degree.

ME is short for BSME, Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering.

I honestly do not like Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Go to his twitter feed. See how very smart he is. See how he comments on everything as if he has some magical scientific insight to the banal that transcends what "the average joe" thinks about. See his ego swell when confronted with an obviously impaired Katy Perry. See his patronizing outlook on life and realize he will never measure up to the man who sincerely wanted to bring universal discoveries to the average man, who sincerely believed the average man was capable of understanding if it weren't for all the pre-requisite mathematics and it's symbolic alienness.

I think Mr. Tyson is a phony. He does not deserve, nor does he know how, to bring science to the "masses".

If your voice sounded as cool as his you would want to listen to yourself speak all the time too.

Bryan Cox is great. Young (um...not old, maybe), knows how to be real, has proper cred as a scientist.

Edit: I mean come on! Dude played keyboard in a couple bands.


His enthusiasm is awesome. He loves science, and you can very easily tell just by watching him.

I work at CERN, so Brian Cox is an obvious choice as far as I'm concerned. Tangentially, Adam Steltzner (the engineer who lead the Entry Descent and Landing of Curiosity) is another one of those "used to be a rockstar" types.

Brian Cox is superb. He has the ability to explain complex things using simple language.

It doesn't have to be any one person, either.

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.

Jim Al-Khalili is an awesome science communicator - his BBC documentaries are inspiring and his enthusiasm contagious. The BBC in general has much more engaging science communicators than the US does. (Of course, Feynman lectures are still wonderful, and Phillip Morrison had some documentaries in the 80s that I remember fondly.)

What the world needs now is someone in that role for climate change who can capture an interpretation of that body of science the way that Hawking and Sagan captured the public attention around the big bang and other highly complex abstract concepts in the physics of Astronomy & Cosmology.

If you had said "climate science" I would agree.

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.

I don't think you're going to get another Hawking. His story is hard to match because the guy basically shrugged off ALS and flourished for 50 years. The MC Hawking jokes are funny because they're true.

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.

> Who will take his place? Who will be the Stephen Hawking of my children's generation?

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.

If there is not one person who will be it, then we must make our own. You don't need to inspire all people everywhere in one go, so you don't need 12 million followers to do that.

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.

RIP Prof. Stephen Hawking.

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.

Two words: Terry Tao.

I amateurishly evaluate Terry Tao on an order of a Poincaré. He's the actual "genius" thing concept person.

It's worth reading the popsci works of Steve Weinberg. He's older than Hawking, so not in the junuior generations. But he's still alive, a gifted expositor, and a genuinely first rate physicist. He's basically the person who assembled the Standard Model.

> 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.

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.

The hero’s get smaller. I remember talking to my advisor, a Macarthur fellow, and he wondered why we didn’t have any giants today.

What about Jacob Barnett? He is very young but currently doing research at Perimeter Institute.

If string theory ever catches on, Brian Greene would be the guy.

That's an awesome eulogy. I tried to describe to my son this morning the kind of man Stephen Hawking was and struggled - I wish I had read this first!

I explained it to my son just like his own quote; "look up to the stars and not your feet". Be inspired and be curious.

That man was my hero. If I achieve a fraction of what he accomplished in his life, I will be incredibly proud.

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.

    Hosted by
    To be held in the past, at
    Gonville & Caius College, Trinity Street, Cambridge
    Location: 52˚ 12' 21" N, 0˚ 7' 4.7" E
    12:00 UT 28 JUNE 2009

I like to entertain the (not-serious) fantasy that people actually did show up to his party, but Hawking didn't tell anyone because sci-fi reasons.

He fooled Death, staved off it's dance

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.

"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee." -John Donne

I'll miss him and his wonderful stories of the cosmos.

I've been long familiar with that poem, but for the first time today I realize that its connected to our nature in how we're brought into the world. The long succession of mother and fathers springing forth new life. No human has ever just sprung up independent from prior human life or some lesser organism.

“We do not "come into" this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree. As the ocean "waves," the universe "peoples." Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe.” - Alan Watts, I highly recommend his talks

Are you the a_poem_for_your_sprog of Hackernews?


> Combined date and time in UTC: 2018-03 14T12:33:18+00:00

> 2018-03-14T12:33:18Z

> 20180314T123318Z


depends on how you do your date formats, march 14, 3.14.

Since there is no 03/14/2018 in that format, yes. :)


That was hard to read, your love for the man is so clear.

Good luck in your goal to accomplish what you can.

It was both Professor Hawking and Carl Sagan that tought me how brief and unlikely our lives truly are. It was their cosmic perspective that helped me end my fear of death. While we want more time and see the death of others as tragic, I do feel less afraid of that time coming knowing how fortunate I have been to live.


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.

I think a good way to say it might be: I'm not afraid of death, I'm afraid of not existing.

I do not fear non-existence. For most of the history of the universe, I did not exist. I have considerable experience with that. Dying appears to be unpleasant, though.

In the context of your existing self, non-existing before and after existing are quite different thoughts.

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.

I have a lecture to recommend: Shelly Kagan on Death by Yale. It's amazing and probably the most important course for anyone willing to open up to ideas around the notion of self and existence. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2J7wSuFRl8&list=PLEA18FAF1A...

For most of the universe’s history you did exist, but were dead, scattered into atoms all across space.

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.

Are we talking about atoms when we are talking about ourselves? I don't think so. I am not the same collection of atoms from moment to moment. There may not be an atom in my entire body that is original to my body; and there are vastly more atoms in my body now than then. When I say "me" I don't really mean my body or even my brain, even if that's where "me" is. We are really talking about our consciousness.

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. :)

> Darling argues that if some other collection of atoms has a consciousness like our own, that is no different than ourselves.

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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2J7wSuFRl8&list=PLEA18FAF1A...

Regarding your first paragraph, I don't think that necessarily implies consciousness as an additional thing (not that consciousness doesn't require some explanation that is not forthcoming). You could be talking about a configuration of matter. Not an exact configuration, but one that would be recognizable to a powerful pattern matcher.

I think this is a wonderfully poetic viewpoint. It somewhat reminds me of the general tone of the Tao Te Ching.

This cheered me up a bit, thanks!

Well, you existed. You just were not assembled in quite the same manner.

Like Lego; you build something and play a while... then all the pieces go back in the box 'til next time.

This is a common sentiment that fails to take into account the fact that, once you DO exist, you have a desire to continue existing which you did not have prior to your existence.

Yes, but given today's technology (and my lack of faith in a suitable deity), I do not have confidence in continuity after corporeal death.

My daughter, when she was 6, said it best. "I don't want to lose my sights."

Time. Afraid of time. At least at this point in it.

Very well said. Really like the way you framed it.

I would like to live indefinitely, but I do not want to. The cost to human society and our natural resources of a species of immortals is too much.

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.

If you're immortal, then the "climb on a starship for 1000 years" deal starts looking a lot better. That would open up a lot of new resources to turn in to living people with lives to experience.

(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!)

Your starship would have to be something similar to Rama[1] for me to even consider it. A thousand years on anything similar to an upscaled contemporary spacecraft sounds like torture.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rendezvous_with_Rama

Well, there's the "suspended animation" possibility thing too.

eg "Wake me up when we get there, or if anything interesting/important comes up on the way."

Our existing lifespans are arbitrary. They are largely based on the length of time needed to procreate and ensure a successful subsequent generation or two; and on our ability to overcome that limitation. Saying, "I would not take immortality treatments if they were available" is different from "I will not accept medical help for my heart condition" only by a matter of scale. Having more humans on the planet and for longer does come with challenges, including resource usage issues, but it also comes with the tools to conquer those challenges and other benefits besides.

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.

If Einstein lived forever and society reorganized around sustaining the elderly instead of having children, there would be no Hawking.

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.

"When one tries to rise above Nature one is liable to fall below it... Consider, Watson, that the material, the sensual, the worldly would all prolong their worthless lives. The spiritual would not avoid the call to something higher. It would be the survival of the least fit. What sort of cesspool may not our poor world become?" — Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure of the Creeping Man


None of that precludes the case in which you’re the one immortal in existence, and you are immortal by chance and not choice[1]. And you could live in a way that has zero impact on the natural resources of the planet[2], or even a positive one.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Man_from_Earth

[2]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_Impact_Man

It would be compatible if we left the earth.

Right now the only thing that somewhat limits the accumulation of wealth by the wealthiest in our society is that they eventually die. Even if they pass it on to their offspring, those offspring are often ill-equipped to run their parent's business empire. Eventually the dynastic wealth fades away and others can take their place. If people could live forever there would be no limits on how much wealth individuals could concentrate in their hands. It would be like the meths in Altered Carbon. I don't want to live in a world where Jeff Bezos possesses more wealth than the bottom 90% of the planet.

Our laws and economic system currently lead to extreme inequality. That would have to seriously change to allow for immortality.

Ultimately, we should just have a redistributive, progressive wealth tax with a basic income and optional state provision of staples like Healthcare. It's the only longterm stable system that sets incentives correctly. We should also completely ban negative things that cause feedback loops, like high net worth individuals subverting the political process via money.

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.

That is part of the solution, but you're dreaming if you think you can tax people at 90% and expect them to continue to produce. I've packed up and relocated for less. I've also turned down work that I otherwise would have accepted, just because I know the government will take half. There would have been no Steve Jobs (at least not in the US) at 90% marginal tax rates.

I don't want to tax income, I want to tax wealth.

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.

The other huge check on older wealthy players is “the world moves on”. Often the latter phase of their life they are collecting rent on outdated business models. That is profitable for many years, but not forever. Later generations often switch to a forward thinking competitor.

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.

Sure, but you have to balance the potential bad with the fact that humans have an inborn drive to continue existing, and that death has profoundly negative effects that induce unnecessary suffering. If Jeff Bezos was your son and he was afflicted with a terminal disease, you'd have a very different outlook on his potential death, no matter what views you held at a high level societal perspective.

Even if there is only one possible unified theory, it is just a set of rules and equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe? The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the questions of why there should be a universe for the model to describe. Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing? Is the unified theory so compelling that it brings about its own existence? Or does it need a creator, and, if so, does he have any other effect on the universe? And who created him?

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

A reminder he stated he was an atheist, so I take his words on god with a grain of salt.

“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)

To an atheist physicist God probably means the universe or the forces that govern the universe. They share many of the same properties, like being all powerful†, outside of time and space and being creators, not the created.

† within the constraints of some universal logic

I agree, though to be clear - the difference between religion and science is that religion affords god with cognitive intent. I'd be surprised to hear if Hawking believed that the force that we might describe as god has qualities of compassion and judgement as well as having set forth the rules that govern atomic motion.

That's a tougher one, but maybe the universe has such an intent also. Take the principle of least action. It seems like systems take the path from A -> C that's shortest in total even if the chosen A -> B and B -> C are both longer than alternatives.

Maybe there is even a sense of "thinking" ahead to understand which path will be shorter before making the choice.

He has later clarified that ”mind of God” was figurative and from an atheist angle more like ”the reason for creation”.

> Before we understand science, it is natural to believe that God created the universe. But now science offers a more convincing explanation. What I meant by 'we would know the mind of God' is, we would know everything that God would know, if there were a God, which there isn't. I'm an atheist.

Causality is an artefact of the universe. From a philosophical standpoint we would need to establish that why is the key question or we are chasing a socks theory of feet. And that is assuming that why is about causality rather than intention. To paraphrase this abstract's ending, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason - for then the mind of God would be knowable.

If we do come up with a grand unified theory that spawns the existence of everything that's completely self contained and self describing, and it ends up being something like x + y = z, what does that really explain? Why? It's because x + y = z, that's why! Once we boil it down to that why becomes meaningless. Everything ultimately has the same reason why.

I have a feeling that the deeper we get, the more physics will be based on “magical numbers”. We have already come across some. But yes, it is extraordinary how the most pure and simple physics with numbers from quantum randomness can create something like this. Very weird to me.

And why does it matter if everything has a root cause or not? Whether the universe is ultimately deterministic and computable, or uncomputable, or not deterministic at all?

It is our imagination that gives facts like math equations meaning.

I think why everything but x+y=z would be x+y=z. But why x+y=z would still be open unless it is self referential.

Did anyone start reading this comment expecting the usual downvotes and controversy?

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!

Reading the first sentences I thought that'd become that weird semi-philosophical speech on death which you hear from some people in funerals. Internet is too big to digest, and in a blog or comment there is not much things which can prove you that the writer has some authority on what he's saying, whereas the name of a known scientist on an actual paper book that costs money to print is authority.

"There is certainly a scientific approach to art. In science, endeavors often require as much or more creativity as they do logic. All this stands to reason; art and science are not the same, but both serve to advance us forward, each on their own, and in service to each other." - Unknown [1]

[1] http://www.actinginbalance.com/on-art-and-science/

I'm very fond of the way he left religions out of the way when trying to explain that a God-like mind may exists above our universe.

Unfortunately these questions will keep haunting mankind ..always ..every time! Golden words by Hawking... May his soul Rest In Peace

wow, what a 100,000ft view of that timeline. He definitely had rich rich perspective on things. Thanks for sharing.

Growing up in the middle of nowhere, Canada in the 1980s, the library didn't have many good science books. When Hawking's book got published, it was the only thing available like that anywhere around. Remember, this is before you could get any book in existence within one month via Amazon. There was no Amazon.

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.

A Brief History of Time changed my life too. My dad gave it to me when I was about 13 years old. It taught me 2 big things that I had not yet realized:

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.

> it was the only thing available like that anywhere around. Remember, this is before you could get any book in existence within one month via Amazon

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.

Can you share the names of other physics books that you think are good & readable ?

'A short history of nearly everything' is extremely readable. Written by a comedic writer. It surveys much of scientific knowledge roughly narrated as a history of scientific discovery and the development of science.

'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.

> 'A short history of nearly everything' is extremely readable. Written by a comedic writer.

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.

Bill Bryson is the author of "A short history of nearly everything" and it is a very good book!

At risk of being pedantic, his name was Hawking, not Hawkins.

I've been told that Roger Penrose's The Road to Reality is awesome if you already know enough math. If you're an engineer, for example, you shouldn't have problems. Unfortunately, my personal level of mathematical maturity is too low and I've never made it past the first ten chapters. Maybe some day with more effort. :/

Second that. It's an awesome book that explains pretty much everything when it comes to physics. As for the math, it's true that they're hard but you should really give it another try since the second part of the book has less equations and more text.

I've heard good things about that one. I should get it. It came much later than the 1980s, of course.

"Chaos" by James Gleick is about the same age as Hawking's book. The story of discovery there gives a great idea of the adventure in science.

Feynmann's "QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter" is a popular science book which contains a small amount of approachable mathematics. It's a good choice if you want something a little more meaty.

I really liked Kip Thorne's Black Holes & Time Warps. Some overlap with Brief History of Time in content, but much bigger and detailed but still reasonably accessible (I thought).

There's a very good book called E=mc^2: A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation written by David Bodanis. I think I read it at about 16 and it was very approachable.

The others are suggesting Bill Bryson, Brian Greene, Lee Smolin and Leonard Susskind books but they came quite a bit later. Good suggestions though.

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.

I find Brian Greene’s books to be well done and engaging.

Asimov on Physics. Pretty much Asimov on anything.

Susskinds "Theoretical Minimum" series of books is quite readable.

"An Introduction to the Meaning and Structure of Physics", by Leon N Cooper, also another Nobel laureate in Physics. Filled my mind with wonder when I read it some 15 years ago.

Many of Lee Smolin's books are phenomenal, and despite being very indepth into their subject matter, are easy and enjoyable to read. Trouble With Physics is my favorite.

"Einstein's Telescope" however, is fairly dry and a bit out of date now as well.

I haven't seen Carlo Rovelli's books mentioned. Especially 'Seven brief lessons on physics'.

The Feynman lectures on Physics

Lee Smolin's "The trouble with physics" is pretty good.

MURRAY 5TH FLOOR QB981.H377 1998

Now I know what I'm doing this afternoon, thanks!

Now that you mention it, i think i got the "multimedia" edition of that as part of the bundle when i bought a CD-ROM upgrade kit back in the day.

“I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I’m not afraid of death, but I’m in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first.”

-- Stephen Hawking

He died in π-day that also happens to be Albert Einstein's birthday.

It would destroy my sense of Hawking's rationally to imagine him using a month-day-year date ordering. ;o)

He would use year, month, day of course. The only format that makes sense. Shortened to month, day.

And Albert Einstein died at the age of 76 as well. What a coincidence.

hmm... too many 'coincidences' for people who know how to fiddle with time

Stephen Hawking was born 8 January 1942, exactly 300 years after the death of Galileo.

He did so much. RIP Stephen. Thanks for what you shared with us.

One of the true greats, RIP Stephen

Stephen Hawking was very special to me. He's a large part of why I chose a life in science in general and physics in particular.

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.

I had the honor of attending one of his lectures at CWRU in undergrad.

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.

"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."

He was "typing" one bit at a time? How can he type the entire sentence so quickly?

Yes. Here's some info on his setup. It tracked the motion of his cheek, which he could still control, to stop on a letter. It scanned through the alphabet and he had to pull it up at the right time.


I also just started typing that in present tense ('tracks'...) and had to pull myself up. :(

“I can also give lectures. I write the lecture beforehand then save it to disk. I can then use a part of the ACAT software called Lecture Manager to send it to the speech synthesiser a paragraph at a time. It works quite well and I can try out the lecture and polish it before I give it.”


>"ACAT includes a word prediction algorithm provided by SwiftKey, trained on my books and lectures"

Wow, I wonder whether they provided it before (or) after MS acquisition.

My understanding is that over the years his input setup has changed as his physical capabilities deteriorated.

This would have been circa-2004, and I want to say at the time he had a less predictive but more physical system.

Oddly, this news struck me harder than other recent deaths of celebrity musicians that I was huge fans of. I guess Professor Hawking always had that aura of timelessness around him, and everyone just knew he was doing important work that would change humanity's understanding of the universe and our place in it.

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.

You're quite right. I saw him once, giving a supervision in the Core of the Centre for Mathematical Studies. He walked among us ;)

He was 76, for a man not expected to make it out of his 20's I think he did okay.

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.

>> he's also now freed from a body he was becoming increasingly locked in, with less and less ability to communicate over time.

Well, now he lost any kind of ability to communicate.

Well, two-way communication, sure. But his words and ideas will continue to be communicated for a very long time.

He is one of the very rare human beings whose names will never be forgotten.

It is said that a person dies three deaths:

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.

I was under the impression it was:

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.

It could be. I first heard my version on a podcast (of course, I forgot which one), but looking around it is attributed to a Stanford professor David Eagleman: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/336070-there-are-three-deat...

Arguably he's probably there with Newton, Sagan, Darwin and Einstein

I guess that a man that was self-declared atheist would not appreciate the religious concept of "all good people go to heaven when die". I can understand that is a comforting social convention in any case.

In before or instead of Sagan possibly? I was not particularly aware of Sagan before the internet, whereas I imagine Hawking has been a household name in much of the world for decades?

Shouldn't downvote this. Carl Sagan is nowhere as famous as the other three, probably except the US.

Sagan is a special case. Will be remembered (mainly) as a very good science communicator. Not so many people connect it with a famous and top-class scientist woman. The work of his first wife, Lynn Margulis, changed forever the concept of evolution.

If we put Sagan with Darwin we should not forget to add Margulis to this list also.

Aside: My first encounter with Margulis’s Serial Endosymbiosis Theory blew my mind.

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.

My rule of thumb is whether or not you get your name attached to some physical phenomena. ie: Newtonian Physics, Hawking Radiation, etc.

That's a fair yardstick

> Not so many people connect it

I wanted to say: connect him, obviously

Although Sagan was a great educator, Maxwell and Feynman deserve much more credit than him.

Few have accomplished as much while overcoming so little compared to Hawkings. Hawkings is and will always be a hero.

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!

>> Few have accomplished as much while overcoming so little

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.

Shouldn't it be "while overcoming so much"?

I think the intent was to say that few people have accomplished as much as he has, and they have overcome little compared to him.

His work will be built upon to make the next greatest discovery, but I don't think there will be a man this accomplished in the next few decades.

We miss you already, Mr. Hawking.

>but I don't think there will be a man this accomplished in the next few decades.

Somehow reminded about that New Generation episode with Newton, Einstein and Hawking.


Perhaps just as shocking to me as this news was the fact that he was 76! Given his accomplishments and youthful demeanor in his recent communications this totally caught me off guard. That, and the fact that he lived way longer that expected, given his circumstances. Objectively a triumph. In addition to his obvious, scientific exploits, hopefully the money raised in 2014 for ALS will ensure future scientists won't have to endure such hardship.

Rest in peace.

“What do Sheldon Cooper and a black hole have in common?” Hawking asked the fictional Caltech physicist whose IQ comfortably outstrips his social skills.

After a pause, the answer came: “They both suck.”

Stephen's sense of humor has always cracked me up.

He made so many cameos: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Hawking_in_popular_cul...

and was on not only The Simpsons, but Futurama as well!

John Oliver asked: "Is there a universe where I am smarter than you?"

Stephen Hawking replied: "Yes, and also one, where you are funny."

The Futurama one had me laughing for weeks every time I thought about it.


Only person to play themself on Star Trek.

Hawking holes!

I, for one, will always remember him for his feature on the hit single "Satisfaction".


never noticed that was him.

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.

I could not find any source telling he had anything in common with this song.

An inspiring role model in so many aspects, RIP to one of the greatest minds. I strongly believe that his perseverance through his circumstances is even more admirable than his research. It's so easy to become bitter and jaded when a shocking event like that occurs. At the best, you make peace and live as happy a life as you can...but to stand tall and rebuke Fate, defy all odds and even banish almost certain Death for decades through sheer willpower and passion for knowledge is something else. And to hold that tiny, bright flame against an unrelenting torrent for 55 years, always curious, always following his passion...the world lost one of the greats tonight.

I agree that his perseverance is the most admirable. I try and put myself in his shoes and it's daunting to say the least.

But even ignoring the challenges he crushes he would have been an amazing human being.

Dost thou love hawking? Thou hast hawks will soar

Above the morning lark.

– Shakespeare

I accidentally ate Stephen Hawking's lunch once at a conference at Caltech.

That really caught me off guard! Elaborate a bit more please.

Please explain more...

I was at a conference at Caltech. Someone set up boxes of food for lunch. Someone at my table grabbed one and started to eat. I noticed that it said "Stephen Hawking Lunch Gluten Free / Vegan" on it - it was already half-eaten, and I figured it'd be too good an opportunity to pass on, so I decided to eat some of stephen hawking's lunch, literally.

It turns out that despite his physical limitations he actually did eat normal solid foods. This was in 2011.

Surely you're joking mr. richardfeynman.

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 ;)

Hawking's condition worsened steadily throughout his life. While he was wheelchair-bound by the end of the 1960s, he was still capable of speaking until the 1980s. In the 1970s, he was already an accomplished scientist and would probably have been capable of eating a normal lunch.

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.

It seems that in 1970s when he was at Caltech he already barely could talk, but who knows.

By the late 1970s he was quite difficult to understand, but consider that he began his graduate studies in 1962.

Sometimes the RNG of the Universe creates people with intelligence, innovation and insight that are one in a billion that make the world better than it was before in immense ways, Stephen Hawking is one of those mountain movers.

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.

Serious question, why is Elon Musk lumped in with Tesla, Hawking, and Sagan? Musk's achievements are assisted by the fact that he has tens of thousands of engineers at his companies and he gets credit for every one of their ideas, all their work, and all the life they give up for his dreams. He didn't found Paypal (his company merged with it), he didn't found Tesla (kicked out one of the original founders), and he didn't come up with the idea for the Hyperloop either. So, why is a CEO who benefits and takes credit for the effort of others lumped in with individuals?

Because Musk is a self-made man who gathered a huge amount of wealth, and then multiple times risked it all in attempts to further the species, instead of just continuing to hoard wealth at the expense of the rest of us.

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.

For what it's worth Musk doesn't seem to claim that he knows or does anything. He talks about his companies and what awesome things they will do, large teams of motivated and inspired scientists and engineers that share the dreams he does and for once have the money and mandate to go and make them happen.

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.

Maybe I should have said Feynman but Musk definitely has done great things and is making people think that Mars travel might be a reality. He is making us look up, making people dream and working to make it a reality.

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.

Musk is an incredible self-promoter. He talks about how he is going to save the world, critics just don’t understand or just want to see him fail, and his words bounce around an ideological echo chamber where the facts of his claims don’t matter.

IMO, the google founders have had a far larger impact on the world than Elon, however, they don’t promote themselves endlessly.

Without Elon Musk, do you think humanity would currently be in possession of reusable rocket boosters? (Regardless of Page and Brin's accomplishments.)

Yes. The space shuttle had reusable boosters. Retro rockets for landings were used in th Apollo and Viking programs.

Can you link to a specific rocket booster that was reused? Doesn't count if it's a retrorocket helping slow down some capsule that also has a parachute.

People who "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."

Musk is definitely one of those, just in a different way.

Sounds kinda like Edison.

I also don't think Musk should be lumped in with those other luminaries, but Musk isn't the one doing that categorization, so nothing against him. It's just people and their penchant for hero worship

Hyperloop is a really, really dumb idea. It's funny you bring it up like it's a positive.

> People like Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan, Nikola Tesla and even Elon Musk

One of these is certainly not like the others.

>One of these is certainly not like the others.

May he rest in peace.

Musk is more like Thomas Edison.

AFAIK Musk never claimed to be an inventor.

I was scared no one would mention Elon Musk. I actually came to this thread, did cmd-f and typed Musk just to check.

One in a billion iS usually an overly generous assertion. In this case, it might be under-generous.

I read A brief history of time when I was 11. Since then every single time I have reread the book I have found something new. I waited every Monday night for his show into the universe with Stephan Hawkins. He was the reason I became more curious and skeptical about nature of things. My hats off to this amazing conscious being made from stardust.

I read the book at a similar age and I remember it made a strong impression on me.


Stephen Hawking was born on the date of Galileo's death, the 8th of January.

He has died on the date of Albert Einstein's birth, the 14th of March.

Source:- https://twitter.com/spectatorindex/status/973807157182332928

Do we know what killed him? All of these articles have very little information. Was it the natural progression of ALS or some other kind of disease?

In ALS and other degenerative neuromuscular disorders one loses the ability to swallow effectively and protect against aspiration along with the inability to speak. People affected by this, like my grandfather, will usually require a feeding tube to allow enough calories without risking aspiration. However, even with this, we are constantly relying on our epligottis and swallowing reflexes to prevent microaspirations of saliva and oral bacteria. Because of this, people with ALS are at extremely high risk for pneumonia, which would be my first guess as being most likely. His was lucky in that his ALS was a subtype that didn't progress as rapidly as most do.

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.

At 76, I think it's fair to say he just died.

I actually had no idea he was that old. Maybe he looked younger than he was because he had no wrinkles.

Nobody "just dies". Most "natural deaths" are still heart failure. The rest are other kinds of organ failure.

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.

It's true that an autopsy will show a cause of death for anyone. In that sense, you don't "just die".

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.

In the UK, old age isn't a legal cause of death for people under 80.

It's called being colloquial, jeez

Yes, and given his adulthood-long health problems, it's a bit of a miracle he lived as long as he did. Amazing man.

I'm sure we'll find out more in due course. Right now, it's 4am and all we have is a statement from the family. I'm sure they have much better things to be doing right now.

That said, his original prognosis was that he wouldn't reach his 25th birthday, so he hasn't really done too bad.

Like black holes, very little information ever escapes death.

He was a living triumph. Lived and achieved beyond what his body would allow.

What a beautiful mind. He played a big role in who I am today - I majored in Physics and later in engineering because of his book. He inspired me to understand science and use it to improve the world.

From that obituary, this line resonates:

Those who live in the shadow of death are often those who live most.

That quote resonates a lot with me.

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).

If you don't mind sharing, how are you right now?

This reads like a pre-prepared obituary. No additional information regarding his death.

Pre-prepared is exactly how most obituaries are written. Newspapers keep such pre-prepared obituaries of famous people on-hand so that they can publish them instantly if that person happens to die.

Any newspapers who don't do this will lose the all-important race for publication to newspapers that do.

And because obituaries are pre-prepared, they're sometimes mistakenly pre-published.

On at least one occasion that I can recall, an obituary for Steve Jobs was published prematurely. As you can imagine, this caused a minor panic before retraction.

> Pre-prepared is exactly how most obituaries are written

They are often written many years in advance. As an example, the Guardian's obituary for Billy Graham [1] was published ten years after its writer died.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/feb/21/billy-graham-o...

And in celebrating someone’s life, the specific details of their death aren’t so important anyways.

"It would not be much of a universe if it wasn't home to the people you love."

-- Stephen Hawking

I think in the back of my mind I always thought of Hawking as being immortal. He lived for over 50 years with a debilitating terminal illness, and yet his accomplishments so vastly exceeded the capabilities of his body. It’s hard to believe he was capable of dying.

A Brief History Of Time expanded my mind like few other books. Thank you Dr. Hawking.

While people are going to focus on his impact in physics and science in general, and rightfully so, I've experienced a greater impact from his life.

I had a close friend of mine who was wheel chair bound. For him Hawking demonstrated the possibility of people accepting him for who he was and enjoying his company irrespective of any perceived differences. He wanted to interact, have friends, build relationships, and this was something that was more expected as a result of Hawking's public profile.

Ultimately he served as not just a role model, but someone who expanded awareness that those in wheelchairs were people too.

At risk of being voted down I will say that the time in which Hawking has worked has been a "dark ages" for physics in my mind. (As a physics PhD; and I don't blame Hawking for this, rather the rest of the environment.)

Circa 1970 the number of physics PhD's produced has outstripped the number of permanent jobs in physics, sometimes by a factor of 30:1!

One result of that is that physicists have to make it through a keyhole to get established. Another change that has happened since then has been a profound disconnect between theory and experiment. Back in the day, Einstein could make a prediction about light being bent by the Sun and have it be confirmed in his own lifetime.

The "modern" physics superstar like Hawking or Witten just doesn't do that. When neutron oscillations were finally detected after years, it is almost forgotten who to give credit for for the theory because it is really just a conjecture that some matrix element isn't zero. Even in condensed matter there is the spectacle of seeing theoreticians dogpile on the problem of cuprate oxide superconductivity for 20 years without making any progress until an experimentalist noted stripes in the electron density.

The result of it is that you get ahead by getting the approval of much older physicists, not by understanding the world.

As for Hawking himself, his ideas about information loss in black holes, the wavefunction not being unitary and all that were just plain bad ideas that held back quantum gravity by 30 years or so.

I'm a tech worker not a scientist, but I think I understand. What frustrates me more than groupthink itself is when a group of people who consider themselves truth seekers somehow considers themselves immune to groupthink.

RIP to one of the great. Not only he was one of the genius minds of our time, but he also was an important symbol of perseverance for all of us.

I always thought Stephen Hawking to be an epitome of what could science possibly do. The way he had used technology to remain alive as well work productively for so long is really mesmerising.

One of my close friend recently lost his entire vision due to optic nerve atrophy. And since then he is sort of lost and we used Stephen Hawking example many times to cheer him and overcome his new disability. And it works as well.

It hurts me a lot to realise now that one of the greatest dreamer of our time is simply gone now.

Sadly his brief period has come to an end.

RIP Stephen Hawking.

Right up there with Einstein, Bohr, Tesla as one of the most brilliant humans to ever live. Learning about Hawking radiation for the first time forever changed how I looked at this thing we call existence. Thanks, Stephen.

My grandmother had ALS. I remember when my mother went to tell me about her disease she gave me his book[1]. It helped me in two ways, to research more about the disease, many articles were about him, and to learn more about the universe.

Rest in peace. https://www.amazon.com/Universe-Nutshell-Stephen-William-Haw...

As a kid my first introduction to Hawking was on a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode.

This deserves a black bar. This man I’m sure inspired almost everyone here in some way. Odd to think he’s dead. I thought he’d live forever...

Not my first introduction to him, but it was great to see him there. Despite being soft sci-fi, Star Trek - TNG in particular - was always a show about wonders of science at heart.

Incidentally, Stephen Hawking was the only person to play himself in Star Trek.

>> I thought he’d live forever...

In one of his universes, he does.

"Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious."

- Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking defined an entire generation. Say what you will but he created a culture far beyond that of just a physicist. He was both parodied and revered.

At least humanity will buy and read more Stephen Hawking books from now on. We must feel more special only by sharing the our timeline with this brilliant mind. More great discoveries and light will be in the future, we will exist to provide proof of the visionaries.

A man with truly inspiring perspectives... of the cosmos and of the self.

"In fact, my disability has been a help in a way, it has freed me from teaching or sitting on boring committees and given me more time to think and do research. Theoretical physics is one of the few fields in which being disabled is no handicap — it is all in the mind." -Stephen Hawking

On Pi Day, no less. RIP.

Much more significantly, it's Einstein's birthday.

Nature couldn't have chosen a better day to honour both.

Hawking plays The Guide Mark II in the new BBC radio dramatization of book 6 of the Hitchhiker’s Guide “trilogy”: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p060hy01

A wonderful, somehow fitting, celebration.

There aren't that many humans that have made such a dent in the world as Stephen Hawking.

He will not be forgotten.

Rest in peace.

On his website I found this TED talk by Peter Diamandis where Hawking fulfils his dream of going to space on the zero-g aeroplane. He was 65 at the time.

They did several more parabolas than planned, 8-10 min of weightlessness each time. He loved it. Still images only, but it's great to see him out of his wheelchair and floating in space.


Born on the same day as Galileo died and died on the same day as Einstein was born.

'Stars were aligned' :) I guess.

Just the Birthday Problem in action.

Pouring a glass and will read some of his papers again tonight. So sad. Great inspiration. Great hero.

Let's celebrate his amazing life.

"The diagnosis of motor neurone disease came when Hawking was 21, in 1963. At the time, doctors gave him a life expectancy of two years.[253][254]"

It must be quite taxing to have been given that diagnosis at such a young age, and then live to a relatively old age. I wonder how that marginally impacted his view on life, work and relationships.

Sad he didn't get the Nobel.

Very sad news for the physic and science community in general his book A brief history of time made me understand black holes.

He was an amazing inspiration to me and I am sure many others. I raise a glass tonight to a very special human being.

It's really beautiful how the entire world [1] has in unison recognized the life of this great man. There's something uncanny, sort of cinematic, about the information of his death radiating out across the globe and "lighting" us up as we consider what an incredible human being he was.

[1] Maybe not the "entire" world, but all the news orgs I checked had news of his death on their front page as of 2-3 minutes ago:

Al Jazeera // CNN // Fox News // ABC (Australia) // France 24 // DW (Germany) // reddit // HN // NY Times // BBC // WaPo // the Guardian // the Japan Times // Xinhua (China)

Stephen Hawking (along with Richard Feynman) are the reasons for my interest in the Sciences. There's nothing I can say now to thank him, but I will always cherish his works.

"Nothing is better than reading and gaining more and more knowledge" - Stephen Hawking

I mean no disrespect, but I find it bitter-sweetly amusing that, of all days, he died on Pi Day


That is no disrespect. It's an homage to pi.

Gone but never to be forgotten. He just finally found the Fry Hole...I mean, Hawking Hole.


I wish I had the words, and know that I won’t. But there was a time when A Brief History made me feel a little less alone in those socially awkward years, and I’m eternally indebted for that.

Rest in peace, good sir. You’ve earned it.

I can’t explain why, but I’ve never felt so appreciative of the HN black bar

I have never met this man and yet I feel deep loss and gratitude. I feel personally enriched by his life.

I liked the movie, "The Theory of Everything", which allowed for more people to learn about this phenomenal human being. [1] I also liked his appearances in shows (like The Big Bang Theory). We would've looked forward to a lot more from him! He will be missed!

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Theory_of_Everything_(2014...

One of my most enduring memories is putting on the audio book for "A Brief History of Time" to listen to on a long drive home with my brother.

I'd read and listened to it before, but sitting there watching my brother listen to it for the first time, I realised just how clearly and succinctly Hawking mapped out the ideas and way of thinking I use to try and find my place in the universe.

I'm quite grateful I had the opportunity to read it.

Dr. Hawking has had a profound influance on my life, and I presume the same for many others on HN. For some reason I found solace today in this song "Page One", which I'm just going to leave here:


RIP, he did a lot to popularize science.

Let's look at a different angle: He lived to 76 years old, a man with a disease that once gave you a few years at most. 76 is more or less a full life today. With all the challenges and stresses, we (or a lot of us) do live in great times. Even the greatest King could have died from a cut on his finger a few centuries ago...now penicillin is given for free even in USA.

I believe his longevity was little to do with any special treatment and more to do with the strain/variety of the disease.

My brother in law contracted Motor Neuron, was given 2 years to live, and died after 2.5 years, the last year of which was not really living.

Up until then I had never understood that Stephen Hawking was actually in one sense amazingly lucky.

RIP, an amazing fellow.

RIP Stephen Hawking

I'm one of those million of lives you have inspired. I brought A Brief History of Time with my first salary. Thank you for everything.

If you haven't read it yet, give 'A Brief History of Time' a read. Even if you're not a big book reader, it's only about 250 pages. Great way to pay respects to this legendary man.


He's the perfect example of how much you can achieve even on borrowed time. There's never a reason to truly lose hope

Wasn't he still working on physics? If so, I prefer the terminology of Erdős, he hasn't died, he has merely left.

He absolutely was. Personally I think one of the saddest things about this is that Susskind has lost his greatest (friendly) intellectual rival. Those two spending years arguing with each other over the information paradox was absolutely fantastic. (And personally I’ve always felt that Hawking was the perfect counter weight to how strongly opinionated Susskind is)

Reading that headline it took me a moment. His books shaped my interest in science, and were wonderful to read and enjoy, even to push on family members. A monumentally inspiring person, not just for his scientific accomplishments, but also for how incredibly he handled the hand he was dealt.

He will be missed, dearly.

Im truly gut wrenched hearing about this. Such an inspirational person. Thank you God for giving us Hawking

I hope that he has actually transcended to some higher dimensions, joining other great minds like Einstein and Bohr, and that they are actually playing around with even more advanced forms of physics, peering into black holes and quarks like they were toys.

A truly sad day for us all. He was a person who showed us that we can do amazing things even when we're up against debilitating diseases. He was an inspirational person who is up there with the greats and will be remembered for eons to come.

He proved the body is just a carrier for the mind.

We owe him, Sagan, Feynman and a few others a debt of gratitude for writing and speaking about their discoveries to the general public. Without their realization that more people should be aware of this stuff, no popular science!

I'm going to provide a slightly different perspective from what I've seen, not just here but in other communities as well.

I've seen a lot of people talking about how his death was such a horrible thing, how it saddens them. I don't see it that way. Sure, the world was a better place with his expertise, but the man had been suffering for decades with one of the most horrifying diseases in the world, and in the end I'm just glad that he's not suffering anymore. I hope that, wherever he is, he's finally free.

I am not sad for him, I am sad for us.

"I don’t think we will survive another 1,000 years without escaping beyond our fragile planet,..."

This mission statement for humanity is what I will keep with my inner compass.

RIP Stephen Hawking

Talk about beating the odds.

He showed ALS who's boss! He demonstrated that when you have a purpose and the will to live one can overcome their limitations.

He inspired me and countless of others.

R.I.P. Dr. Hawking.

I absolutely back what you say about Hawking but having a lot of money and a team of dedicated medical specialists at your disposal does help. Let's have a moment's thought for the non-public figure ALS sufferers who don't have those resources available nor a huge number of well-wishers across the world to keep up their spirits.

Is an horrible disease and we must understand, crush and defeat it as soon as possible.

I remember being in the fifth grade and finding my dad’s copy of “A Brief History of Time” and thinking to myself “wow that’s an interesting title..” I read it all (barely understanding any of it really cause I was 10) to my hearts content. That book taught me how to ask questions and think differently. I am so so grateful to have inhabited the Earth the same time Stephen Hawking did. Thank you for igniting my curiosity. Rest In Peace.

76 years isn't a bad run, and it's amazing for someone with ALS (which also took my uncle a couple years ago). And he did much more with that time than most of us would even be able to countenance. He was a modern-day Einstein, in the sense that his tremendous contributions to science have made him the face of science itself in the public eye.

It's just like Hawking to check out on Pi Day.

You ignored what life presented you, And strived to achieve your goal. You took the time to share with us, The universe, big and small.

You reminded us what makes a man, Comes from deep inside. With your wicked sense of humour, And your persistence to survive.

We thank you for all that you did, And for all that you will do. You may no longer live amongst us, But we will still look up to you.

RIP Stephen Hawking, 1942-2018.

RIP one of the greatest physicists in human history

Like many here he was an inspiration for me too, I read his books at an early age and along with others it got me inspired to pursue scientific studies. It also helped me come to terms with the fear of death and eventually see the odds of sentient life and appreciate the ride without the egotistic entitled feeling that sparks that fear in the first place.Rip Stephen.

FWIW, Stephen Hawking's son works in the tech industry. He is a software engineer at Microsoft. See https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/real-life-stories/stephen-hawk...

can we just give his family some privacy? Jeez...

R.I.P Stephen. He was such an inspiration to a lot of people and probably will be for a lot of people in the future.

Thank you for everything

There are few people that will be remembered for centuries and centuries to come, but I'm pretty sure that Stephen Hawking is one of them.

Rest in peace Dr. Hawking, the scientific community and all the science enthusiasts in the world will hold your contributions and the story of your life dearly in their hearts.

Aw man. I don't have anything profound, but I always smile when I read this XKCD - https://xkcd.com/799/

Best tribute I've read, from his collaborator Roger Penrose: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/mar/14/stephen-hawk...

I can think of no higher praise then that he changed the course of so many of our lives personally and of humanity's understanding of the universe as a whole. Though small in physical stature he has become a truly giant set of shoulders upon which many more shall stand. Thank you for everything.

I'd like us to take a moment to recognize how excellent his website is:


Straight to the point. Easy to navigate. The most modern addition is the facebook like button, but even that is unobtrusive.

I can't say I feel qualified to make the sorts of truly inspiring tributes I'm reading so far. I just want it known that one more person appreciates all he's done to motivate people such as myself to look up at the stars and pursue a career chasing them.


Stephen Hawking was a great physicist and an inspirational person. He'll be missed dearly.

May he rest in peace. As a kid, I loved reading "a brief history of time". To me, both Hawking and RFP have been influential in discovering my passion for the sciences. A great loss for sure, but at a beautiful age, especially considering ALS.

"And however difficult life may seem, there's always something you can do and succeed at."

-- Stephen Hawking


Though part of me is glad that he's now relieved from the pain of existence, the other part wishes that he should've lived long enough for his conscious to be uploaded into a perpetual medium; to find answers for his questions.

His life had surely been a bright spot in the brief history of our times.

Rest in peace Mr.Hawking.

This is truly saddening for the scientific community and for the world in general.

His life and work will continue to ripple the very fabric of our civilization.

And now that his task is done, He will take his place... amongst the legends of the past.

The world will miss you, Stephen.

I'm going to rewatch Hawking tonight (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0395571/).

There is another one - The Theory of Everything (2014) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2980516/

Oh! That's the one I was initially thinking about actually. Maybe I'll rewatch both. :)

While Stephen Hawking is someone who could not live forever, he is someone we needed to.


If you have not seen it, the documentary “A Brief History of Time,” which is not an adaptation of the book but interviews with Hawking and his colleagues, and family, is excellent and worth your time.

A quote I got from my Harvest timer this morning:

> “The past, like the future, is indefinite and exists only as a spectrum of possibilities.”

> – Stephen Hawking

Not one negative comment in this whole thread. Everyone is enamoured with Hawking, huh? Ask the women in his life what they thought of him. Ask the scientists, including Peter Higgs, who complained about his undue credibility and attention given to him.

Disagree with me? Think I'm speaking negative about the dead? If you call yourself inspired by a scientist, admiring a scientist, then you should seek the truth. Emotion based on truth I can stand, but the outpouring in this thread is ridiculous.

An important part of science is exposing it to the public. Concepts about the big bang aren't really relatable, which means little coverage, little funding, and the next generation of would-be scientists not being enthused by the possibilities. Hawking brought those concepts to the masses, which is a very important goal.

Hawking, in a large part due to his success in the face of his disability, attracted media attention that people like Peter Higgs just can't, and he did this while continuing to be a theoretical scientist (unlike people like Neill DeGrasse Tyson, Brian Cox etc, who are all very good at bringing concepts to the public, but don't practice themselves)

Someone like Harvey Weinstein has brought much inspiration and joy to the world too. I'm not arguing against the positive so much as just mentioning some of the ugly negatives.

First, dismissing the subjective appropriateness of commenting immediately upon his passing, while your points on Hawking's personal failings may be completely valid, highlighting them without the context of his successes seems misleading.

Second, I believe Hawking's contributions and accomplishments hold greater relevance to the audience of Hacker News (and in my opinion humanity at large) than those of Harvey Weinstein.

Known for: Hawking radiation Penrose–Hawking theorems Bekenstein–Hawking formula Hawking energy Gibbons–Hawking ansatz Gibbons–Hawking effect Gibbons–Hawking space Gibbons–Hawking–York boundary term Thorne–Hawking–Preskill bet

Awards: Adams Prize (1966) Eddington Medal (1975) Maxwell Medal and Prize (1976) Heineman Prize (1976) Hughes Medal (1976) Albert Einstein Award (1978) RAS Gold Medal (1985) Dirac Medal (1987) Wolf Prize (1988) Prince of Asturias Award (1989) Andrew Gemant Award (1998) Naylor Prize and Lectureship (1999) Lilienfeld Prize (1999) Albert Medal (Royal Society of Arts) (1999) Copley Medal (2006) Presidential Medal of Freedom (2009) Fundamental Physics Prize (2012) BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award (2015)

I'm not just saying he had failings. It's an impressive copy paste job, but his meager contributions and many accolades only serves my point.

Its generally understood that no one is perfect...

Pointing this out while discussing the death of possibly the most respected scientist ever to a tech & science literate crowd is quite unnecessary.


You prove the necessity by trying to shoehorn this into "nobody's perfect." This "tech & science literate" mob circle jerk enables bad science and bad behavior. I doubt many here even know what Hawking really contributed. He simply embodies some need to worship a disabled genius. No one wants to hear it from me. I get it, but I thought just one person should speak up.

Thanks for posting - I'm more or less with you.

As evidenced by this thread - he was inspirational, and I appreciate that so many people here got that from him. And, yeah, I've heard a number of stories about how he treated women and his first wife that are just disturbing and sadly completely unsurprising, given the norms of our society (that are thankfully being shaken and revisited at this stage of human development, it would seem). This made me lose a lot of respect for him.

It started when I was a grad student in physics at U.C. Berkeley, he came and gave a lecture. He ended it with a tasteless sexual joke / pun, the kind that you would hear from a clueless teenage boy. I was really thrown off by that.

Thank you for posting too. I have a tiny glimmer of hope because of it.

HN, you call yourself scientists? You pursue the truth? You have an open mind? I call bullshit on you HN visitors. Shame on you. I hope I never act as you have done here.

This sort of behavior may earn points on facebook or reddit, but no one here is impressed with classless posturing.

I'm not impressed with your posturing, at least.

No one cares what you're impressed with.

Lecturing about behavior and then replying like you have makes you quite the hypocrite, friendo.

If the subtleties are lost on you thats alright. You don't need to understand.

The world is now diminished by the loss of this brilliant mind. Though I take comfort that he enriched humanity for all time.

RIP Stephen Hawking. Thanks for fighting on for so long, even after reaching a stage when most would expect one to give up.

An inspiration, pioneer, visionary and now a legend. The world is less brighter now that a star has left us on Earth.

He was a true inspiration and showed how much we can be defined by our thoughts, not just our physical presence

His book, A Bried History of Time have made a huge impact among people like me to fall in love with Physics.

I will always remember him. And my future kids will know who a great human he was. Rest in peace Stephen.

Respects and R.I.P. Will make my son read his Brief History of Time to start his career in science.

Now he can travel anywhere he wants to in this or all other Universes, instantenously. RIP big guy!

What a life.

I feel like Stephen Hawking symbolized the exact way in which people should be judged.

Rest in peace, I never thought I'd see this day come, he almost seemed immortal.

RIP my biggest living scientific inspiration. May your weary soul rest in peace.

I'm so sad. Rest in peace Mr Hawking. What brilliant mind we've lost.

I realize it's not cool to post value-less comments here, but....damn it.

description of some of the work Stephen has left us https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EsNjHaKwN5E

What does aging feel like for someone who can't feel their body?

Thanks for who you were and what you did. You will live on with us.

Wow, that really sucks.

The world will always remember him even after centuries

RIP - he was a great inspiration to so many people

Wow, I was not prepared for this. Rest in peace.

He is going to remembered for a long time. RIP

One of the greatest men of our time. RIP Sir!

Wow, that hits hard... he will be missed.

A great loss for humanity.

Is this the fastest upvoted HN thread? I don't think I've ever seen a discussion go up to +200 upvotes in under 10 minutes.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

R.I.P. Stephen Thank you for all

... on the day of PI, r.i.p S.H.



This is a very sad day.

Sad day for Science. :(

Rest In Peace Hawking

One stable genius died yesterday, RIP. The other can fall into a black hole.

RIP Stephen Hawking.

a hero who fuelled my curiosity


Pi Day





His last comment on the Internet is relevant to Hacker News.. someone asked him about unemployment due to automation and the rise of technology[1]:

"If machines produce everything we need, the outcome will depend on how things are distributed. Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared, or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine-owners successfully lobby against wealth redistribution. So far, the trend seems to be toward the second option, with technology driving ever-increasing inequality."


>* "If machines produce everything we need, the outcome will depend on how things are distributed. Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared, or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine-owners successfully lobby against wealth redistribution. So far, the trend seems to be toward the second option, with technology driving ever-increasing inequality."*

Which coincidentally was a basic insight behind Karl Marx's communism -- not referring to the regimes it inspired, but to the idea that with the advancements in capitalistic production, distribution will be key to ensure a fair society.

In the end, a powerful 0.1% that can produce anything they want with robots, can use a small number of humans, say 0.9%, for service and such necessary jobs, and will have no use for the rest 99% of humanity -- which could be let to sort it out in slums.

Also the idea behind lots of dystopian fiction -- from Soylent Green to Elysium, and the reality in many places in the third/developing world, where there are more people than jobs needed.

Suggested reading: https://www.amazon.com/Planet-Slums-Mike-Davis/dp/1784786616

Piketty also did good job in providing proof that the discourse Marx's capital started is still relevant today: wealth keeps concentrating and that will undermine the whole premise of democracy.

“When the rate of return on capital exceeds the rate of growth of output and income, as it did in the nineteenth century and seems quite likely to do again in the twenty-first, capitalism automatically generates arbitrary and unsustainable inequalities that radically undermine the meritocratic values on which democratic societies are based.” ― Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century

This outcome is probably clear to anyone who has been paying attention, but the power of Piketty's book is in the way it lays out mathematical proof using pile of historical data as evidence.

The response to Piketty's book from ideological opposition have ranged from "So what?" to more valid attempts at asking theoretical questions about the validity of r > g, but nothing exactly that comes close to debunking the core thesis.

It's difficult to get people to appreciate Piketty's book when their jobs depend on not appreciating it...

We have rising inequality and also about 137,000 less people miserably poor each day. It's complicated. https://www.cato.org/blog/what-newspapers-reported-real-news...

Inequality is not that bad when everyone is getting richer even at the very bottom. Inequality speech is the tree hiding the forest.

Only people have not been getting richer for a long while in some places, including the US. If anything the opposite.


That's difficult for those in upper middle class jobs to comprehend though, but in less fortunate areas and slices of the population, it's everyday life.

The world is not limited to the US.

Cato Institute is about as trustable for facts about poverty as my cat is for facts about quantum mechanics.

Here's a rebuttal.


This “rebuttal” itself contains no facts, and more specifically, none that refute the 137,000/day figure in the parent.

As Thatcher has famously said: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t37Oy8dD-U4

Let’s please honor the man and not link to her wretchedness. Steven Hawking hated Thatcher and regretted never having the chance to run over her toes[0]

[0] “Stephen Hawking: An Unfettered Mind,” page 91.

It seems his spent his final days fighting her legacy - a backdoor attempt at privatisation in the NHS by her party.

Thatcher should never be mentioned in a thread dedicated to his legacy. He wouldn't have got this far if she had her way.

Stephen Hawkings stance on the NHS is an important part of his legacy. Any time there has been moves to further privatise he has always came out against it, and it has been hard for the government to argue against him

There's nothing back door about it. It's an open and transparent defunding of the NHS to push a privatisation agenda.

Privatisation already exists within the NHS, and the programme is already well under way.

I meant with regards to ACOs. The public have no idea what they are. They sound public.

Stephen Hawking was fighting the government on this in court when he died. I'm guessing you know that.

As for the past 8 years, it's obvious what the Tories are trying to do. Privatisation is the 'perfect solution' when public approval for the NHS hits the floor.

No other way for them to do it. Political suicide. Bastards.

This warrants the black bar.

He has changed everything for humanity time and again. We owe him the best future we can possibly make.

Indeed. Black bar, please. He was a living symbol of the promise of science.

How about no bs black bar for anyone, even for a Genius like Hawking? Who decides who's worth it? We've been over this already.

Um, the moderators decide. Cause that's their job.

They are not in any position to judge that.

Thankfully, the black bar is not there, perhaps previous discussions made them reconsider.

yes they absolutely are in a position to judge that.

If they didn't do one for JP Barlow I feel like that's an indication they're not doing it anymore.

Agree. Hawking had a big impact on my general outlook on life.

I agree.

I consider no black bar:

- a violation of the principle of least surprise

- a statement of discrimination

Precedent has been set by the fact that it has been used in the past.

If its usage is being wound down, I reckon this more than qualifies as exceptionally justifiable.

Your comment illustrates perfectly why the black bar is a bad idea... unless it gets used for every death posted here someone will feel discriminated against and offended that it was omitted for someone they like. And if it is used for everyone, people will feel that its meaning has been degraded, because the black bar has become a status symbol - something to be "earned" or "deserved". And inevitably there will be tedious arguments over who deserves the black bar, and who doesn't, and what precedent is set by this person getting it and not that, and whether it means the moderators are biased, on and on.

All of this sad nonsense over a stylesheet tweak that in the end means nothing and honors no one and whose application has always been entirely arbitrary. It's a distraction which is best done away with IMHO.

Someones death should 100% be a distraction over our daily lives to remind us all on the impeding doom. People getting hurt and distracted over who gets a black bar or not is better than nothing at all IMO.

>Someones death should 100% be a distraction over our daily lives to remind us all on the impeding doom.

People die all the time ... according to Wikipedia, about 105,000 per day, every day... yet I would bet those deaths don't distract you at all, if they did, you would be spending your life in a corner paralyzed with fear.

Life is for the living, life is not for the dead.

>People getting hurt and distracted over who gets a black bar or not is better than nothing at all IMO.

Better at what? At reminding people of their own mortality? Better than the thread itself, or the posted obituary, or the experience of merely living as a human being? Nonsense.

My reply/argument is this:

This post has just disrupted the previous HN top post of all time.

I would have used the black bar this time around.

However, as it's such a source of contention, I can see not using it on this post, to set precedent for not using it.

Incidentally my last account (https://news.ycombinator.com/threads?id=i336_) ended up closed on this issue (you'll need showdead turned on to see its last comments). By "closed" I mean I said "okay I need a break" and set noprocrast to a high number due to there being no documentation about what the number represented (I thought it meant seconds, learned the hard way it meant hours!).

Is it possible to get a "black bar" on HN to honor this god of physics, who contributed so much to the literature and inspired many people, including myself?


He came to symbolize the power of human mind and in a broader sense, modern science. Humanity has lost a great mind today.

He opened our eyes to the mysteries of black holes; a black bar is only fitting.

+1. If anyone ever earned it, It’s him.

He definitely feels like he warrants a black bar. Like maybe for a week... I mean its Stephen Hawking.

I agree. I'm tearing up a bit looking at the news. He was always a legend in my eyes.

+1 Such a great loss for us all.

Only if it emits radiation.

Like many others, my first reaction to this news was "Whaaat? WTF?"

He was a great man, and a true inspiration to all of us. May he rest in peace. It's weird now, because I feel like the generation of physicists who were able to get close to people and think about the really important problems, is simply gone.

His death reminded me how much enthusiastic I was about the origin(s) of the universe and such fundamental questions. But like many others, I couldn't find my way in science and am now millions of miles away from that. Maybe everyone has a path (destiny) and mine wasn't in science.

ouch... right in the feels.


Hawking's reputation will last as long after his death as that of Sagan, Gould, Boaz, Lysenko, Morris or any of the other popular culture performing cranks of this century. About ten minutes.

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