“Are there any well known people born in your village?” a question.
“No sir, only little children are being born here”, the answer.
No one is great by birth. They do great works and then turn great. There may be many who wrote well. There may not be as many who did great science. But fewer are those who did things sally not done by the others and followed newer paths. My trial is to write about such rare people in a sequence of books. I have named the series as “New Paths”. I have started the series with the life of Neil Armstrong who did not hesitate to set foot on the moon. The second book was about my favourite scientist Newton. The third was about Jane Goodall. Having gone to the African forests even when in tens, she lived there with chimpanzees for the family. She has a son. He was born there in the forest among chimpanzees. These books are ready for printing and are with the publishers. I am also waiting for them.
I said a series of books. So I have collected material for two more books, one about Einstein and the other on Stephen Hawking. How good it would have been had the book on Hawking came out when he was alive? Nothing is lost even now. I shall write the book. It is not enough if a book is written for even children to understand. I have to write another book on Hawking with a lot of details. There are many such self imposed tasks waiting for me. I am not prepared to lose the game. The only work I am left with is to go on doing all those tasks as per possibility.
Stephen Hawking wrote a lot. A Brief History of Time written in 1988 is sold more than 10 million copies till now. That is not just in English but many other languages. The book came out even in Telugu, my mother language apart another 35 or so lingos. Mr. Gandhi, a publisher himself wrote and published that book in Telugu. I could not really understand the book in its original version. I think even Hawking understood this fact about his own work. He came out with a revised version including images to support the text. I could not understand even that version. It is serious Physics. If I read all the related material, maybe I’ll understand it. I have to understand it. Then I will be in a position to explain the matter to a few others too.
Hawking is a person not capable of moving by himself. He lived in a chair. That was not an ordinary chair though. There were cartoons appearing about the chair after the great man passed away. I have seen video of him moving all by himself in the motorized chair and going along the way to teach students. When he took a class there would be more of unregistered visitors than the regular students, it is said. I have seen several such scenes. But interestingly Hawking could not speak. Not that he had no words in his brain. He could not articulate them with the help of his mouth and tongue. A machine called Speech synthesizer was made and was given to him. He could arrange the words with the help of the machine. He would conduct classes. Deliver lectures too. He was sharing thoughts with the world with the help of machines. Mental strength could not be any stringer than this anywhere.
Though he could not join the teacher of choice as guide, Hawking went into research in competition with the masters. He could strike down some major theories accepted without question till then. Einstein’s constant is one such. If we go into details of all his work, this would turn into an article on advanced science. I am only trying to bring science without making it feel like science. Hawking’s works are not easily understood and cannot be explained in too very simpler terms either. He paved a new way for theoretical physics striking down the ideas of giants like Newton, Planck, and one other scientist apart from Einstein. He lead the way for the much discussed “The Theory of Everything,” Scientists expects that the theory would explain the formation of the universe and its expansion etc. It is one point to strike down the accepted theories and putting forth another theory is completely a different matter. Hawking, till his last days continued on this path. All his life was spent in making others aware of his ideas. To put it simply, it is said that the universe came into being after a big bang. There would be a bang only when there is atmosphere around. There was nothing when universe came into existence. In that nothing, even if there is big explosion it would not be heard by any. Fred Hoyle, whom Hawking aspired to join and go into research, in fact made many theories about the subject after much research.
Many scientists, even today, feel that the universe is expanding. Hoyle thought otherwise. Even as a student Hawking contested the ideas. Had he joined Hoyle for research, the guide and the guided pupil would perhaps have got into major differences of opinion. Maybe to circumvent the situation, Hawking was to join another teacher. That new teacher never tried to direct this ward towards any particular subject. Without such liberty, researches, particularly theoretical would not progress as intended. Respecting the teacher is different from pursuing own ideas. Only because of such liberty Hawking could dare to call Einstein a bluff.
If things go as per Einstein’s ideas there should be those voids that facilitated the formation of universe once gain. Readers would forgive me for making it sound too very simple. It is about the black holes sucking everything that comes to it and certain other physical principles. I am not exactly convinced about this matter and lo and behold, I am trying to write about it. Universe took shape from a superstructure that is beyond description and definition. It was this “Nothing”. It had no dimensions. If black holes, as believed by all go on devouring matter, such “Nothings” must come up again. It has not materialized even after such a long time. Hawking bluntly said that wouldn’t come up at any time at all. He declared that the black holes are not what everyone thinks about them.
There are structures called Nebulas in which stars are born. You may not believe but the stars die at one point of time in their life. They turn into Supernovae. It could turn into some other structure too. Black holes are also born in a similar fashion. Because of their characteristic form they suck everything that comes near into their inner void. It is only this much that is known about the black holes. People in science thought the matter that went into a black hole can never come out of it. Hawking thought otherwise. He even said that the black holes may be tunnels that connect this universe with the parallel universes around. That is Stephen Hawking for you. Brand new ideas that never occurred to any till date! He postulated many such things contradicting the till now valid theories. Many physicist around the world started working ideas he suggested. There is so much of work that happened and going on even today because of him. All that is new physics.
There was an effort to make a film about Hawking around 1991. It was made after all. But, they could not accommodate his ideas he pursued by that time in the film. In the film of a length of one hour, half hour went in details of Stephen Hawking, the person. He was really such an interest being.
I think I called him a superhuman only because of such qualities. A man who could not even move his hands or feet appeared on TV shows. He came before people and talked to them. Allowed being made fun of! In one of the programs of NASA he participated saying “Oh! Space! Here I come!” He experienced the much talked about weightlessness there on the program. After the demise of Hawking still photographs of the occasion made hectic rounds on media all over the world. One image in particular went viral as they say these days. I really do not know how many people have noticed something that I could see in that picture. Three astronauts are trying to lift Hawking up and leave among midway in the void (I cannot say air because there is none there!) He would stay where they left hi m after all. It is weightless space! Hawking hands are folded one over the other. He cannot move them as we do. But, I could see him trying to smile enjoying that new experience of levitating or being left in the space without the pull of any celestial body! Alas, the poor man (!) cannot even smile on his own. That happiness is writ large on his face is so very much seen there! He smiled!!
People scampered to write about Hawking on his demise. Even I received some calls, even from a TV channel. I did not feel like doing any of these assignments. I was feeling blank. Not that I knew him or read him a lot. Stephen Hawking was an unusual man. And anything that is unusual!