1/7/12 Celebrate A New Year & A Magnificent Life


Stephen Hawking dismisses belief in God: 'There is no heaven; it's a fairy story'
In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, the cosmologist shares his thoughts on death, M-theory, human purpose and our chance existence
Ian Sample, science correspondent
Photograph: Solar & Heliospheric Observatory/Discovery Channel
In a dismissal that underlines his firm rejection of religious comforts, Britain's most eminent scientist [and Director of Research in Physics at Cambridge University] said there was nothing beyond the moment when the brain flickers for the final time.
Hawking, who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease at the age of 21, shares his thoughts on death, human purpose and our chance existence in an exclusive interview with the Guardian today. The incurable illness was expected to kill Hawking within a few years of its symptoms arising, an outlook that turned the young scientist to Wagner, but ultimately led him to enjoy life more, he has said, despite the cloud hanging over his future. "I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I'm not afraid of death, but I'm in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first," he said. "I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark".
Hawking's comments go beyond those laid out in his 2010 book, The Grand Design, in which he asserted that there is no need for a creator to explain the existence of the universe. The book provoked a backlash from some religious leaders, including the chief rabbi, Lord Sacks... [His remarks] draw a stark line between the use of God as a metaphor and belief in an omniscient creator whose hands guide the workings of the cosmos. In his bestselling 1988 book, A Brief History of Time (over 9 million sold) Hawking drew on the device beloved of Einstein, when he described what it would mean for scientists to develop a "theory of everything" – a set of equations that described every particle and force in the entire universe. "It would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – then we should know the mind of God," he wrote...
In the interview, Hawking rejected the notion of life beyond death and emphasised the need to fulfill our potential on Earth by making good use of our lives. In answer to a question on how we should live, he said, simply: "We should seek the greatest value of our action."
In answering another, he wrote of the beauty of science, such as the exquisite double helix of DNA in biology, or the fundamental equations of physics.
Hawking responded to questions in advance of a lecture tomorrow at the Google Zeitgeist meeting in London, in which he will address the question: "Why are we here?"...

also defying the cowardly and deadly 'disease' of irrationality
Stephen Hawking will turn 70, defying disease
CAMBRIDGE, England — British physicist Stephen Hawking has decoded some of the most puzzling mysteries of the universe, but he has left one unsolved: How he has managed to survive so long with Lou Gehrig's disease. The physicist and cosmologist was diagnosed with the disease — called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in the United States and motor neuron disease in Britain — when he was a 21-year-old student at Cambridge University. Most people die within a few years of diagnosis; Hawking will turn 70 Sunday. "I don't know of anyone who's survived this long," said Ammar Al-Chalabi, director of the Motor Neuron Disease Care and Research Centre at King's College London. He does not treat Hawking and described his longevity as "extraordinary....
Hawking first gained attention with his 1988 book, A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes, a simplified overview of the universe, it sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. His subsequent theories have revolutionized modern understanding of concepts such as black holes and the Big Bang theory of how the universe began.
To mark his birthday Sunday, Cambridge University is holding a public symposium on "The State of the Universe," featuring talks from 27 leading scientists, including Hawking. For 30 years, he held the mathematics post at the university previously held by Sir Isaac Newton. Hawking retired from that position in 2009 and is now director of research at the university's Centre for Theoretical Cosmology.
Hawking achieved all that despite being nearly entirely paralyzed and in a wheelchair since 1970. He now communicates by twitching his right cheek. A tiny infrared sensor sits on his glasses, hooked up to a computer. The sensor detects Hawking's cheek pulses, which select words displayed on a computer screen. The chosen words are then spoken by the voice synthesizer. It can take up to 10 minutes for Hawking to formulate a single sentence. "The only trouble is (the voice synthesizer) gives me an American accent," the Briton wrote on his website....It took Hawking four years to write his last book, "The Grand Design" ...
Kitty Ferguson, who has written two biographies of the physicist, said he has a wry sense of humor and has programmed his computer to respond to random encounters with people who ask if he's Stephen Hawking. "No, but I'm often mistaken for that man," his voice synthesizer deadpans...."I have had (Lou Gehrig's disease) practically all my adult life...it has not prevented me from having a very attractive family and being successful in my work," he writes on his website...
In 2007, he took a zero-gravity flight in Florida, the first time in 40 years he abandoned his wheelchair. "That was the happiest I've ever seen Stephen," said Sam Blackburn, Hawking's graduate assistant, who accompanied him on the ride along with about a half-dozen others, including two doctors.
Hawking has been married twice and has three children and three grandchildren. With daughter Lucy, he has written several children's books on physics.

Stephen Hawking seeks help to make voice heard
LONDON, United Kingdom (AP) --

Can you help make Stephen Hawking's voice heard? The famed British physicist is seeking an assistant to help develop and maintain the electronic speech system that allows him to communicate his vision of the universe. An informal job ad posted to the famed physicist's website said the assistant should be computer literate, ready to travel, and able to repair electronic devices "with no instruction manual or technical support."
Hawking has long struggled with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis disease which left him almost completely paralyzed.He lost his real voice in a tracheotomy in 1985, but a wheelchair-mounted computer helps synthesize speech by interpreting the twitches of his face. The synthesizer's robotic monotone has become nearly as famous as Hawking himself, but the computer — powered by batteries fastened to the back of Hawking's wheelchair — isn't just for speaking. It can connect to the Internet over cell phone networks and a universal infrared remote enables the physicist to switch on the lights, watch television, or open doors either at home or at the office.It's a complicated, tailor-made system, as the ad makes clear. A photograph of the back of Hawking's wheelchair, loaded with coiled wires and electronic equipment, is pictured under the words: "Could you maintain this?" "If your answer is 'yes,' we'd like to hear from you!" the website says. Hawking's website says that the job's salary is expected to be about 25,000 pounds ($38,500) a year.
Online: www.hawking.org.uk /