I was in my high school when I first heard about Stephen Hawking at a dinner table conversation. My father, being a writer, always kept a tab on how astronomy is moving. Be it Carl Sagan, Jayant Narlikar or a BBC Breaking News about an astonishing discovery of our mysterious universe. Most of the times, I felt the scientists are using their own imagination to explain the universe, mostly backed by scientific discoveries and sometimes hypotheses. The surest thing we can say about this universe is ‘Humans cannot comprehend it, with our limited senses’ – It is like carrot-eating rabbits trying to talk to genius Elon Musk.
But Stephen Hawking with his limited body, but limitless mind – during his lifetime – tried to crack the code of the universe with his mathematical genius. Many of this discoveries during his early stages were invalidated by himself later, he was candid to admit some of his blunders. A couple of days after this death, I was reflecting what he actually did to humanity and tweeted.
In that way, the human knowledge about the universe has not grown exponentially in the last 20 years compared to that of any technological progress we made.
Space and time, building blocks that make up the universe, is explained by him so that normal people understand.
His book ‘A Brief History of Time’ became a best seller and now available at any school library. While dropping one of my nephews at school one day, I found this book in his hand and I asked him “What is exciting in this?” – He said, “this book is a stress buster, giving us a feeling that the daily worries are nothing compared to the mechanics in which our universe is expanding.” While on the drive back, I listened to some YouTube videos about Stephen Hawking to add some flavor.
Essentially, the life he lived deserves more applause than the findings. Until the age of 21, he was like us, a normal healthy human being, until he was attacked by a slowly progressing strange motor neuron disease. He used his limitless mind to overcome the limitations of his body. That is truly extraordinary. For that matter, I remember, when Carl Sagan died in 1996, we had a couple of days of grief at our home in Kerala, thinking that who would be a worthy successor to decode the universe.
Some people become the face of science in the world. Issac Newton, Albert Einstein and now Stephen Hawking. Though all these are from different centuries. We took a lot of time to understand the basics of this universe, though some historians say that in the Ancient Civilizations, people discussed outer space, and in Hindu Vedas, they imagined a massive universe in several ways, through deep meditation.
Now people like Elon Musk, are out-beating all the theories and thinking of colonizing Mars. The never-ending curiosity of humans is leading us to discoveries beyond our daily living. It is not that the black holes are affecting our grocery bill, but it gives us a perspective from a different dimension of the place we live in. That should make us humble.
While reading Bill Bryson (he is not a scientist but I love his style), he says, there are advanced civilizations like earth, millions of them, in this universe. Space is very spacious, he says, which would allow a distance of 200 light years between civilisations. Scary, or do we feel that we have some company in the outer space?
My 10 yo son asks me, what he should do to learn more? I said ‘ask questions, and never be satisfied with the answers, go ask again, that we may go deeper.’