It is hard to put into words just how much I respect Stephen Hawking. When I first read one of his books, “The Theory of Everything” I understood string theory for the first time. I’d spent years on-again, off-again trying to understand string theory, but it always looked like gibberish. Stephen Hawking explained simplistically and effectively the concept of a multidimensional universe and how it applies to our physical world. I was amazed.
But there is one problem. Stephen Hawking didn’t just explain String Theory, he’s one of the originally developers as the idea. And I laugh at string theory. Mathematically it’s a beautiful explanation for how the world works, but practically it’s simply ludicrous. I explained string theory briefly in my article “Imaginary Numbers” where I pretty much said that it only works if you dismiss everything we know about the physical world.
String theory is an attempt to reconcile quantum physics with Newtonian physics, and to explain relativity while it’s at it. It’s trying to find a common “string” in all the different elements of the universe. Hawking and his buddies think that with this theory they can explain “everything;” how the universe began, how it will end, and everything in between. The idea is that we have all the pieces, and they just need to be organized into a cohesive picture. We know it all, we just don’t understand it. We have nothing left to learn.
They’re attempting to answer the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything. Is it any surprise that the answer they’ve come up with is a meaningless string of numbers?
And yet Stephen Hawking also developed the Big Bang theory, now widely accepted over the static universe. The Big Bang theory indicates that the universe had a beginning, and that it will have an end. It explains the expansion of the galaxies. It was implied by Einstein, but never accepted until Hawking.
Reading Stephen Hawking’s books, or watching one of his TV shows, you can often catch me smiling at his statements regarding the universe, because I strongly disagree. But you will never catch me making fun, or down-sizing his accomplishments. I wanted to review his work and I couldn’t figure out how to do it – how do I express such complete disagreement without giving the impression that I completely disregard the author?
Hawking was working on his Ph.D when he was diagnosed with a motor neurone disease that left him crippled in a wheelchair. The doctors gave him only two years to live. He’s still alive today, developing his theories and writing books. He can’t move at all, and has to communicate through a speech generating device that allows him to type by detecting the movements of his eyes. And in spite of that he’s one of the top theoretically physicist of today.
That alone is an absolutely incredible accomplishment. But another factor to take into consideration is that even though he’s wrong (in my opinion) he’s still brilliant. Very few people in the world could do what he did, with such a degree of success, let alone from a wheelchair! Being wrong isn’t even a bad thing – someone has to be wrong, at some point, for other people to be right.
I see science as a maze. You have to try every tunnel blindly to make sure it’s the wrong way. and even when you think you’re on the right path you don’t truly know when you’re going to hit a dead-end and have to turn back around. You don’t know how big the maze is. We’re really working in the dark when it comes to establishing the theory of the universe.
But the most impressive thing is that even though he’s successful, widely acclaimed, told he’s right by everyone in the world who matters, he’s not full of himself. He’s not arrogant about his science. He’s not dismissive of other people’s opinions. In fact, he’s more respectful of the people he considers wrong than I’m being in this article! Despite being an atheist he doesn’t rule out the possibility that there’s a creator. And he’s not smug about it, like anyone believing in a creator is a superstitious idiot. He’s genuinely respectful. If one didn’t know his life story one might suspect that he had religious views himself.
Respectful scientists are rare. People who overcome tremendous adversity are rare.
Whether you agree with string theory or not, or whatever reasons you have for said disagreement, it’s always best to know what you’re disagreeing with, and there is no better teacher than the author of the theory himself. And remember the next time you hear me dissing string theory that whatever I may think of the science, I think the world of the scientist.
So you wanna read Stephen Hawking now? Cool! Want one of his books? I generally recommend “The Theory of Everything,” but what I’ve got is “A Brief History of Time.” You want it? It’s yours. All you have to do is comment below explaining why you want it or some kind of assurance that you’re actually going to read it at some point. If I get more than one entry I’ll hold a random drawing for it. If no one wants it I’ll keep it, and give up all hope in the world’s education.