Science

Stephen Hawking To Escape Gravity

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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.

More here.

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.

The whole piece here.

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.

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23 responses to “Stephen Hawking To Escape Gravity

  1. People routinely barf on the “vomit comet.” Someone is going to be red-faced if Hawking chokes to death on his own puke. Oops.

  2. Does he have a large collection of show tunes too?

  3. Bored light airplane pilots experience weightlessness all the time. Put a ball of paper on the instrument panel and push over until it floats up in front of you. Together with years of dirt particles the first time you do it.

    Or you can do it in any number of interesting maneuvers in addition, but they tend to be distracting from the effect, which is overrated.

    Or you can jump off a table in your backyard.

  4. “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.”

    Sounds like someone needs to sit through a couple of viewings of “Zoo.”

    Seriously, Gregory Benford sounds like the guy who put the pompous ass in “Pompous Ass.”

  5. biologist,

    Damn your quick little handeses! I thus link to my favorite MC Hawking classic, “What We Need More of is Science“.

  6. >i>”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.”

    She blinded him with cleavage.

  7. We need a Hawking cover of “Rocket Man”.

    – Josh

  8. It is remarkable to me that this guy is still alive, but I’m no expert regarding ALS.

  9. put me down for 100 shares of “Hawking’ll be the first man to die in orbit”

    quite the feat, really

    only to be surpassed by “the first man to die outside of our gravity well altogether”

    a crippled old math genius kacking in orbit would be a big crossover hit (both the highbrow and lowbrow would tune in)

    think of the ratings!

  10. The most interesting answer to the Hawking-Monroe question would come from Camille Paglia. (Close second place: Steven Pinker).

  11. Good lord you’re a jackass Gillespie. This even after you got thoroughly owned in your original post where you shat on Hawking because you detected a hint of environmentalism.

    I don’t see how spreading the human race to other planets in case of a disaster like a all-life-ending meteor impact is being a jackass.

  12. Benford and Hawking, two of my heroes, mentioned in one column? My mind delights! I didn’t know Benford wrote anything for Reason, and now I can look forward to going back and reading some of his old articles.

    Alas, I have to agree with dmar about the jackass who wrote this particular post. I’m really not sure what offends the delicate libertarian sensibility about the suggestion that shooting off to another planet after befouling this one is a good idea. After all, Hawking’s approach permits almost unlimited despoilation of the planet in the name of economic freedom. Industry can pillage the planet and nerds like us get space travel…everybody’s happy, right?

  13. Which leads to the inevitable question, “Where’s Waldo?”

  14. I’m really not sure what offends the delicate libertarian sensibility about the suggestion that shooting off to another planet after befouling this one is a good idea.

    As the bumper sticker says, “Earth First! We’ll strip-mine the other planets later…”

    Agree with the poster who thought that taking an ALS patient on a “vomit comet” may not be the best idea…

  15. only to be surpassed by “the first man to die outside of our gravity well altogether”

    I’m surprised there haven’t been any rich terminally ill people who offered to pay for a one-man probe with a limited supply of oxygen, so that they could be first to die in space.

  16. crimethink, I’m gonna go way out on a limb and say dying is probably cold, lonely, and dark enough even in a warm bed surrounded by family.

  17. After he lands will the headline be ‘Steven Hawking Down’?

  18. Hawkman Landeth!

  19. Yes, it is.

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