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Physics and our universe: 10 things you didn’t know about Stephen Hawking

Physic and our universe make for a fascinating discussion. Stephen Hawking made an incredible impact on the world for his ability to understand the universe in complex ways. Here are some of his greatest ideas about aliens and black holes, plus a little about his background.

Hawking believed in aliens

Hawking believes in a low probability of finding intelligent alien life in the next 20 years. With a huge universe, Hawking thinks it’s very likely  intelligent alien life exists somewhere. However, the cosmologist also thinks humans should be careful about contacting them. Such life forms would likely try to destroy us or at least use earth for resources. In 2010, Hawking publicly stated

if aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.

Even so, Hawking supported Breakthrough listen, a research program dedicated to finding alien life but not contacting it.

Hawking was a pop-culture icon

An increasing number of scientists today are developing public personas of their own, but none has made an impact like Stephen Hawking. For years, he’s made public appearances and guest starred on popular TV shows like The Simpsons, Futurama, The Big Bang Theory, and Star Trek. These cameos often showcase his staggering intelligence and trademark dry humor alongside some light good-natured self deprecation. As a result, he’s become a household name for people of all ages. References to the scientist can also be found in a number of songs, comics, video games, and movies. This proves he really influences every part of pop culture.

Hawking was a betting man

Stephen Hawking loves making science bets, but his track record does not impress. He once bet that the existence of the Higgs boson would never be proven. However, scientists found the Higgs boson at CERN in 2012 thanks to the Large Hadron Collider.

Before that, Hawking teamed up with fellow theoretical physicist Kip Thorne in a bet against John Prescott about the black hole information paradox. Hawking and Thorne believed the information that falls into black holes get destroyed, but Prescott said no. The public found out about the original bet in 1997. But it wasn’t until 2004 that Hawking officially admitted his opinion on the matter had evolved.

Hawking was a mediocre student

Like many of our greatest thinkers, school was initially not a great time for Stephen Hawking. Hawking earned average grades at best. In 2010, professor Hawking admitted that he was a lazy student from grade school all the way to his time at Oxford. He didn’t really learn how to read until he was 8:

I wasn’t the best student at all. My handwriting was bad and I could be lazy.

Even so, his schoolmates saw his potential for greatness and nicknamed him Einstein. Fortunately, one math teacher inspired him in both math and science. Mr. Tata opened his eyes to a blueprint of the universe itself. Once he was diagnosed with ALS, Hawking really began to consider his own mortality. He focused on his work to make something of himself in the time he had left.

We can relate to Hawking’s experiences in school. Many students work hard, but cannot get the grades necessary for top-level scholarships. StudyGate provides homework help in physics to assist if you’re stuck on homework or need a tutor to speak with for an ongoing period. Either way, we think you deserve an A.

Back to Hawking, the man that inspires so many scientists.

Hawking was a great rower

While at Oxford, the young Stephen Hawking felt bored with classes and needing social interaction. To try something new, he joined the school’s boat club. Before his illness, he was one of the most important members of his crew. With his strong voice and slight build, the role fit him perfectly.

Hawking actually proved to be a bit reckless, steering his crew through narrow spaces and often damaging the boats as a result. One of his crewmates even labeled him the adventurous type. His dedication made him very popular with his crew and soon his social life was booming with parties and friendly practical joking.

Hawking was British

The casting of British actor Eddie Redmayne as Hawking for the 2014 film The Theory of Everything may have surprised some people. After all, the computerized voice we know and love has an accent that’s decidedly not British.

Today, the digitized voice has become his trademark. However, Stephen Hawking really was born and raised in England. In 1985, he underwent a life-saving tracheotomy after contracting pneumonia. Unfortunately, the operation robbed him of his ability to speak. He began using a specialized computer program to communicate. Hawking spoke with an American accent using his now computerized voice. He also underwent many upgrades to his method of communication after 1985, but he copyrighted his voice and kept it as part of his identity.

Hawking was a prolific writer

Even though he can’t physically write or speak, his old speech system worked well. Hawking wrote five books with it including A Brief History of Time which topped the Sunday Times bestseller list for over five years, longer than any other book besides the Bible and Shakespeare works.

Though he was already famous within the scientific community, Stephen Hawking truly came to the public’s attention in 1988 with the release of A Brief History of Time. He had wanted to write a science book that would actually connect with readers, and he succeeded by covering everything from black holes to quantum theory. It became a best-seller, spending almost 150 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and selling over 10 million copies.

However, Hawking’s more impressive feat came in completing this comprehensive work even with nearly full paralysis and an inability to speak. Hawking authored many other books afterwards as well including George’s secret key to the universe, a science book for children.

Hawking’s speech synthesizer was state-of-the-art

Stephen Hawking synthesized voice is instantly recognizable to anyone who hears it. Despite his medical issues, his amazing speech generating device allows him to communicate. The first model worked entirely via a clicker clutched in his hand. This led him to select words and commands on a device attached to his wheelchair. However, ALS paralyzed Hawking’s body. He lost the use of his clicking hand. This resulted in an update that allowed him to choose words by moving his cheek muscle. As his condition got worse, a team at Intel added more updates. This made it possible for Hawking to more quickly open documents, construct sentences, and prepare full lectures.

Hawking never won a Nobel Prize

Stephen Hawking was a genius and his theories advanced our understanding of the universe. But his trophy case is missing one of the highest honors in science. Hawking earned other great distinctions by becoming a fellow of the Royal Society in 1974. He also received twelve honorary degrees over the years. However, his known work is the theory that predicts that black holes emit radiation that gradually evaporates.

Because Nobel Prizes are reserved for confirmed discoveries and Hawking radiation is still technically theoretical, no award has yet been granted. If you’d like to win a Nobel Prize, a fun place to start begins with reading this article about Isaac Newton and his three laws of motion.

Hawking inspired the world for decades after his diagnosis

After noticing some newfound clumsiness and slurred speech, Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS in 1963. The doctors told the ambitious 21 year-old that he only had two years to live. Shortly before this bad news, he met a pretty girl at a party. Despite his diagnosis he and Jane Wilde began dating and were soon engaged, which Hawking credits with giving him something to live for. Against all odds, Hawking continued to try to live normally for as long as possible.

ALS did eventually take its toll, but not his life. Thanks to groundbreaking technology and the help of family and friends over 50 years later he defied the odds.

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