Dreaming Cosmos: A Tribute to Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking passed away on March 14, 2018. He will be missed by the entire world and his legacy in the world of science will leave its mark in history forever. Image from https://www.wired.com/2015/08/stephen-hawking-software-open-source/.

Stephen Hawking passed away on March 14, 2018. He will be missed by the entire world and his legacy in the world of science will leave its mark in history forever. Image from https://www.wired.com/2015/08/stephen-hawking-software-open-source/.

Stephen Hawking passed away on March 14, 2018 at age 76 in his home in Cambridge, England. He will be missed by a world that has been inspired by his wonderful ability to soar through the cosmos and through the wonders of science despite his handicap that kept him in a chair.


My true inspiration for this article came when I was lying down on a bench in the harbor, staring up at the night sky. As I pointed my finger upwards as if to touch the twinkling little balls of light, I created shapes and patterns–constellations that I created in my mind, by tracing imaginary lines in the sky. Then I almost understood the wonder of an amazing physicist, and the limitlessness of imagination and curiosity.


Stephen Hawking once said: “The quietest people have the loudest minds.” Although Hawking was describing all people, I believe he was more so describing himself.


He was an innovative physicist, an enlightened author, and he shared his passion with several who dream of following in his inspiring footsteps through the world of science. Then, when Stephen Hawking was only 21 years old, he was diagnosed with ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is an incurable disease of the nervous system that weakens the muscles and impacts physical function. Stephen Hawking became completely paralyzed and unable to speak shortly after he was diagnosed. On average, most people who inherit this disease are given about two years to live, but spectacularly, Hawking went on to live another 55.


Hawking did not let his obstacles get in the way of him continuing to pursue science. In 1997, he began using a speech generating device to help him communicate. It is a pretty complicated machine, so instead of trying to explain it myself, I will let Mr. Hawking explain it. The following is an excerpt from one of his posts titles “My Computer.”


‘Since 1997, my computer-based communication system has been sponsored and provided by Intel® Corporation. A tablet computer mounted on the arm of my wheelchair is powered by my wheelchair batteries, although the tablets internal battery will keep the computer running if necessary.


My main interface to the computer is through an open source program called ACAT, written by Intel. This provides a software keyboard on the screen. A cursor automatically scans across this keyboard by row or by column. I can select a character by moving my cheek to stop the cursor. My cheek movement is detected by an infrared switch that is mounted on my spectacles. This switch is my only interface with the computer. ACAT includes a word prediction algorithm provided by SwiftKey, trained on my books and lectures, so I usually only have to type the first couple of characters before I can select the whole word. When I have built up a sentence, I can send it to my speech synthesizer. I use a separate hardware synthesizer, made by Speech Plus. It is the best I have heard, although it gives me an  accent that has been described variously as Scandinavian, American or Scottish.


Through ACAT I can also control the mouse in Windows. This allows me to operate my whole computer. I can check my email using Microsoft Outlook, surf the internet using Firefox, or write lectures using Microsoft Word. My latest computer from Intel also contains a webcam which I use with Skype to keep in touch with my friends. I can express a lot through my facial expressions to those who know me well.


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.


I keep looking into new assistive technologies, and I have experimented with eye tracking and brain controlled interfaces to communicate with my computer. However although they work well for other people, I still find my cheek operated switch easier and less fatiguing to use.’


His defyment of the inferred few years that he was given to live made him well known, but Stephen Hawking was already famous for his several scientific discoveries related to those that Albert Einstein himself made in his time. His contributions to the field of physics and cosmology lie in the studies of the origins of the universe, time’s relativity, the Big Bang Theory, gravitational and spacetime singularities, black hole radiation (Hawking Radiation), a universe without spacetime boundaries, atheism, and the high likelihood of extraterrestrial life.


On Black Hole Radiation


Everything the world knew before Stephen Hawking’s discoveries was essentially that black holes were a result of the collapse of deceased stars. They are shockingly incredibly dense due to their infinite mass, yet they have no volume. Escaping a black hole is impossible once any object crosses the “event horizon,” the point at which its gravity becomes irresistible, or so we thought. Stephen Hawking hypothesized that radiation emitted through black holes and came out the other side. It is now scientific fact.


On God


‘Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.’


Stephen Hawking was not a complete atheist. He was in the sense that he did not believe that God created the universe, he didn’t believe in heaven or hell, and he never believed in an afterlife. However, he did believe that there was a “grand celestial order,” as some sources call it, that governs the grand design of the universe. He didn’t believe in God, but he was an impassioned believer of science. Science was his religion.


On Extraterrestrial Life


Hawking not only believed in extraterrestrial life, he believed we have been visited by extraterrestrials several times in the forms of viruses. So perhaps the so-called alien abductions and invasions that we have heard of, and perhaps believed were only stories are not as far fetched as we thought. But Stephen Hawking doubts that extraterrestrials mimic that of a humanoid form. So when we think of aliens, why is it that we always picture a life form with the same sort of stature as we have? Well, Hawking blamed this very human flaw on humankind’s lack of imagination. When we picture alternate intelligent life, it is hard to imagine something that doesn’t even slightly resemble a human. So perhaps our own perceptions of aliens are seriously flawed due to what we believe and its ability to overcome what we actually see.


Despite our presumably skewed perceptions of what alien life looks like, Hawking believed that if we were to experience a major visit by extraterrestrial life, it would on the contrary, be very similar to what we see in the movies. Disaster. That being said, he encouraged humankind to continue to create closed spacecraft that can support life for long periods of time, incase the world were to expire naturally…or unnaturally.


Stephen Hawking’s love for science, passion to pursue despite his disabilities, and his many discoveries will live on in history forever. We have suffered a great loss and he will be missed by the world. I will leave you with a few final words from Mr. Hawking himself, and hopefully they inspire you to live the way he did. “Remember to look up at the stars, not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be Curious.”


Source: https://owlcation.com/stem/What-Discoveries-Were-Made-by-Stephen-Hawking