For a few seconds on Thursday, astrophysicist Stephen Hawking expects to feel the exhilaration of escaping his paralysis and floating free in zero gravity.
"For someone like me whose muscles don't work very well, it will be bliss to be weightless," Hawking told The Associated Press in an interview ahead of his planned zero gravity flight.
Hawking, a mathematics professor at the University of Cambridge who has done groundbreaking work on black holes and the origins of the universe, has the paralyzing disease ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
The 65-year-old was set Thursday to become the first person with a disability to experience the Zero Gravity Corp. flight.
The question for Reason readers? Will Hawking spend his time among celestial bodies thinking of terrestrial bodies? Back in April 2002, Gregory Benford wrote a stunning, moving profile of his friend Hawking, who had Marilyn Monroe on his mind:
Although I had been here before, I was again struck that a man who had suffered such an agonizing physical decline had on his walls several large posters of a person very nearly his opposite: Marilyn Monroe. I mentioned her, and Stephen responded instantly, tapping one-handed on his keyboard, so that soon his transduced voice replied, "Yes, she's wonderful. Cosmological. I wanted to put a picture of her in my latest book [The Universe in a Nutshell], as a celestial object." I remarked that to me the book was like a French Impressionist painting of a cow, meant to give a glancing essence, not the real, smelly animal. Few would care to savor the details. Stephen took off from this to discuss some ideas currently booting around the physics community about the origin of the universe, the moment just after the Big Bang.
Todd Rundgren song about Hawking here.
Hawking sounding like a jackass about man despoiling the planet here.
Reason's Katherine Mangu-Ward on the future of space tourism here.