Mar 15 2018
When one of your heroes dies, it gets you thinking,“What made them a hero”
With Stephen Hawking, there were so many things. Loads.
Did I admire him because he lived 55 years after the doctors gave him 2 at most?
Did I admire that he revolutionised cosmology?
How about the fact that he performed the most complex calculations and abstract deductions in his head? (Einstein it is said used the back of an envelope to formulate relativity. Hawking didn’t have that luxury)
Maybe it’s because he wrote a book so tricky I never understood it, yet so compelling I tried several times?
Was it his morals? Hawking refused a knighthood and was a fierce critic of Health Service reforms. I liked that.
Truth is, I admired Hawking for all these reasons.
But mostly, I admired the fact that he devoted his life to something totally and utterly pointless.
No, seriously. Cosmology is irrelevant. Knowing whether a black hole will lose mass has no bearing whatsoever in everyday life. Postulating if time will run backwards in the event of a big crunch will impact no one. Not a single person. Pondering the start of the universe and time itself will never create jobs or wealth. No problems on Earth are even closely addressed by considering the universe as an 11-dimensional entity. Physics can be useful or interesting. Cosmology is interesting. But never useful.
And that is why I love everything that Hawking stood for. He sought answers just to know answers. Not to be useful. That his cosmology made us a little wiser was reason enough for doing it. The fact that it also made eyes open a little wider, hearts beat a little faster and passions about space, time and physics become encouraged was a bonus. The fact that he inspired a generation through something totally useless is exhilarating.
I show people card tricks for a living. Which is also kind of pointless. Not in the same league of course, but still no benefit to society whatsoever. But, thanks to to Stephen Hawking, I’m OK with that.