The physicist and author Stephen Hawking will be 70 in January. Not bad for a man who was told he had just months to live in 1963 when he was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease.
He is indeed truly amazing, for not only has he advanced our understanding in astonishing ways, he has done so by battling against the odds. Hawking’s key scientific works to date have included providing, with Roger Penrose, theorems regarding gravitational singularities in the framework of general relativity, and the theoretical prediction that black holes should emit radiation, which is today known as Hawking radiation (or sometimes as Bekenstein–Hawking radiation).
His motor neurone disease is related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a condition that has progressed over the years and has left him almost completely paralysed, and yet he is still as active as ever. He had now retired from being the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, a position he held for for 30 years (incidentally, another famous chap once had that job. In 1619 Isaac Newton had it). Today he remains very much active and at the cutting edge, but that is no surprise because when you are as smart as he is, you never ever retire, and instead keep going. He is now Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at the University of Cambridge.
OK, so why am I blogging about him? Well basically because you now have an opportunity to ask him a question. Professor Hawking has agreed to give an interview to the BBC Today program, and in keeping with the celebratory nature of the event (his 70th birthday) they have thrown open the floor to you. Click here for details
Here is a random sample of the many questions that folks have come up with so far …
If I could tell a 12-year-old Stephen Hawking all he would achieve, would he be as impressed as the rest of us?
Paul Johnson, Sandhurst via email
If you could have the answer to the one burning question you have often wished to have the correct answer for… what would your question be ? And what would you expect the answer to be ?
Rob Stevenson, Nelson, New Zealand, via email
Do you still believe in quantum gravity, or a more classical Einstein model?
Elliot Fullwood (@ElliotFullwood) via Twitter
Do you think that in the next 100 years a unified theory will be found, and if so do you think it will be found using the current standard model, a re-written or completely new model.
Cameron Stradeski, London, England via email
How do you think it would affect us humans if we were to find a “unified theory of everything”. Faced with a final explanation, what would we look for next?
Hanna Hellman, Stockholm, Sweden via email
If sun were magically to disappear how long before earth flew off at tangent? 9 minutes? Any evidence?
John Orton (@docjko) via Twitter
When should I start talking to my kids about the wave-partial duality of light?
John Kenner, Edmonton, Canada via email
Where did constituents of Big Bang originate?
John Bateman (@tasitus) via Twitter
If and when we finally get the answers to the big questions about the nature of the universe, will a reasonably intelligent and educated person be able to understand them or will cosmology always be incomprehensible to normal humans?
Edward Hubbard, Tamworth, England via email
Faster than light? Or not? #askhawking
Steven C (@Steven__C) via Twitter
Do you still believe in the possibility of a UTE (unified theory of everything) and if so how far are we away from having it? #AskHawking
Wayne Gibbins (@waynegibbins) via Twitter
Is the universe capable of hosting ‘consciousness’ outside of a physical body. i.e. can we transcend physicality? #AskHawking
Jason Eyre (@RouxCat) via Twitter
Theorists talk about the ‘singularity’, or point where normal human beings can’t understand the pace of technological and scientific advance. Do you think we have reached that point? And do you think your scientific mind makes you in some way the embodiment of the modern ‘superman’?
Tom Amos via Facebook
Are we any closer to understand what dark matter and dark energy really is? #AskHawking
Adam Burtt (@AdamBurtt) via Twitter
Dear Prof. Hawking, some people hypothesise that what we call our universe may be one of many. Is there any conceivable way that we would ever be able to detect and study these universes should they actually exist? Is it even falsifiable?
Toby North, Essex, UK via email
Can you tell me what will happen to this world in the near future?
Adisorn Treenate via Facebook
To pop your question into the mix you have a choice…
- email it here
- twitter it to