Sunday, January 8, 2017

Happy Birthday

History of Science
Environmental & Science Education
by Ed Hessler

Today the British theoretical physicist Steven Hawking turned 75—300 years after the death of Galileo.

Many of us know the Hawking name because of a slim book he wrote titled A Brief History of Time, Hawking's very popular foray into public communication about theoretical physics.

Stephen Hawking [Wikimedia Commons]

Dr. Sabine Hossenfelder wrote an informative essay about Hawking and his contributions to physics.  She describes "what to celebrate."

It is worth reading if you want to know about the place of one of the most well known physicists of our time in physics.

You may know Hawking as the physicist in a wheelchair to which he has been confined for most of his professional life. Hawking was diagnosed with ALS when he was 21. Hawking has beaten the odds of this debilitating and often fatal disease. Here is what is known about how he has done this.

I heard him speak at the University of Minnesota when he spoke at Northrup Auditorium. The placed was packed. I remember, dimly, some wise guy asking him a question about the use of imaginary numbers (complex numbers)—an attempt to discredit physics and put down Hawking. Hawking patiently tapped out a response on his computer which showed the ignorance of the question and made most of us laugh. I don't remember exactly what he said so I'll make no attempt to recapture the response.

Here, are some responses (The Guardian, UK) from physicists to the question about what complex numbers are and how they are used.

Hawking has a remarkable sense of humor—in full view when he spoke at the University of Minnesota and a great spirit of adventure which is not captured here. He has flown in the so-called vomit comet

Happy birthday.

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