Why did the undergrad cross the road? A Stephen Hawking tribute!

Few days ago I heard the sad news .. that Professor Hawking had passed away at the age of 76. What a great man ..  yes for all the scientific theories & theoretical physics discoveries and contributions he had made, but also because he lived on for decades.. despite being told he was going not going to make it..  and living with a degenerating motor neurone disease..and creating a hugely successful presence..  in the science world, and in television too.

hawking BBC
Professor Stephen Hawking  (c) BBC

Professor Stephen Hawking – Theoretical physicist
Born: 8 January 1942, Oxford
Died: 14 March 2018, Cambridge.

Crossing the road in Cambridge

I met him briefly in cambridge ..while crossing the road ..  way back in early 90’s .  I was a Physics undergraduate at the time (studying in London King’s College) but on a social a day trip to cambridge University with my friends at the King’s Malaysian & Singaporean Society.    I must have got off the hired coach and following my friends into one of the college buildings.. when i saw The iconic figure in the Wheelchair further down the street.   So I ran to catch up ..and stood panting..  and overwhelmed ..not knowing what to do or say.   I think I eventually managed a `Hello ..it’s very nice to meet you’..   Then I stood..  wondering what to do..  and was about to turn and walk ..when his assistant/ nurse/colleague stopped me. she said he was going to say something.  And he did..   And as much as I like to make a great mystery of it..  i can’t recall what it was.   It was a simple social nicety.  But it made my century.   A Physics  undergrad meeting a Physics Genius-Celeb!

Hawking Radiation story

Crazily enough.. in my A?Level school days,  when i applied to Oxford for doing a Physics degree, I had no knowledge of who Stephen Hawking was….but anyone about to apply to Oxford University to do Physics degree should have known!!  All my life my parents were nudging me to be an an  Engineer..and after accidentally reading about the contents of Physics degree in a Uni handbook..I changed my mind overnight and put it on my application form..  which rather threw all my family and teachers at school ..  To my family I gave some crazy answer about how doing Physics degree is going to be better career move than Engineering.. though at that time..i so desperately wanted to learn about particles and space-time..  that I had no plan about a career at all…

So as I was getting Mr Lewis Had of 6th Form in our school (Graveney school in Tooting) to sign my application, he asked me `so you know about Hawking radiation then?’

I had no  clue of neither Professor Hawking or Hawking Radiation.   That was the first I heard of both..as I took my first steps towards a Physics degree.

blackhole.jpg

In those days I was a shy introvert with about 2 friends..  (hard to believe how I turned out now..  ).  The Library was my refuge.. both at school..and all the local ones..  Tooting, Colliers woods, Mitcham..  even Sutton & Croydon.   So I went and eventually found out about Hawking Radiation ofcourse – theoretical process by which ..due to quantum effects, a matter and anti-matter particle pair are formed out of `borrowed energy’ ..and where one falls into the black hole..and other escapes…thereby taking half the borrowed energy into the Universe… Only at the edge of a black hole can this happen.. where `borrowed energy’ is not fully returned to the vacuum of space.

Years later this idea would surface again ..but in my esoteric explorations..  and I learnt using the principles of science, I can cheat the universe and borrow some energy.. (That’s for a book am still writing in the future – sequel to my `Eclipse Magic workbook’ which actually has quite a bit of science in it…for magical use!!)

Big Bang Theory

In recent times (!),  we’ve come to see Stephen Hawking many times..  on many popular TV shows, where Hawking has played himself 🙂 Star Trek: Next Generation, Simpsons, Futurama, Big Bang Theory..  but a few to name (link below). Being a Science nerd/ sci-fi geek, i have enjoyed all those shows and doubly so for seeing my Physics-hero in them. (well my 2nd Science Hero..after the late Issac Asimov!)

b913e598-9d9a-11e4-aa73-0eb920ec942b

So..  RIP Stephen Hawking. Thank you for the inspirations. May you forever sit on the edge of a supermassive Black Hole and be radiating your essence in the imaginary and the real worlds.

-Mani Navasothy

Links:

  • Hawking has appeared in many sci-fi shows.. playing himself 🙂
  • HAwking Radiation explained
  • Hawking – Life in pictures
  • Some cartoons I found in the internet (I hold no copyright)
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s