Theoretical physicist, cosmologist and best-selling author Stephen W. Hawking appeared in holographic form at Australia’s world famous Sydney Opera House earlier this month. The professor engaged in a wide-ranging (and frequently very funny) discussion, which was streamed live from Cambridge University.
Long known for his keen wit and candid sense of humour, Professor Hawking tackled the issues of the day in his own inimitable way, at one point suggesting to grief-stricken One Direction fans that the pop band’s departed singer Zayn Malik still fronts the band in a parallel universe, and that fostering an interest in theoretical physics may yet help them to discover proof of this.
He also discussed the popularity of long-running science fiction franchise Star Trek, a series that Hawking has himself appeared in, saying “We have come to expect a steady increase in standard of living that science and technology have brought. But people distrust science because they don’t understand it or feel they can control it. (…) The popularity of science fiction like Star Trek is because this is a form of science with which people feel safe, but an understanding of science fact would allay their fears … much better.”
According to Hawking, it is imperative that a public interest in science is fostered and encouraged so that we can become better informed on issues such as climate change and genetic engineering.
As a for-instance, Hawking recalled that he had been warned not to add too much scientific detail to his International bestselling book, 1988’s A Brief History of Time. According to Hawking, he was told that each equation he included would effectively halve sales. “I included one – Einstein’s famous E=MC2. Perhaps I would have sold twice as many copies without it,” he said, only half joking.
The professor also discussed the recent biopic of his life, the Academy Award winning The Theory of Everything and was generally positive about the movie, especially actor Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of him.
Whilst he admitted to being initially apprehensive about the film, because it was adapted from a book by his ex-wife (as Hawking himself once said, “I’m no better than anyone else at understanding what makes people tick, particularly women”), Hawking was pleased with the script and enjoyed the finished film, calling it “surprisingly honest” about his life and marriage. “It was as close as I’ll ever get to traveling in time,” he said.
Hawking’s one issue with the movie was that he would have preferred “more physics and fewer feelings”, although he rushed to point out that this was how he felt about all films. However, on the subject of any nagging inaccuracies (which he insisted were minor), the great mind simply stated, “I won’t tell them how to make movies, if they don’t tell me how to solve the mysteries of the universe”.
Finally, Hawking commanded “Beam me up, Scotty!” and within seconds, his digital presence had disappeared in a flash of bright light. Now that’s showmanship!