Stephen Hawking honoured

2010-06-03 09:29

New York - Luminaries from the fields of physics, opera, poetry, theatre, music and dance gathered to pay tribute to British physicist Stephen Hawking on Wednesday, with performances and speeches at a gala in his honour.

After outliving his predicted death from his degenerative disease by more than 40 years, Hawking told the audience filling Lincoln Centre's Alice Tully Hall that he is thinking about what he will leave behind.

"As scientists, we step on the shoulders of science, building on the work that has come before us - aiming to inspire a new generation of young scientists to continue once we are gone," Hawking told the crowd with the help of an electronic speech synthesiser. "I am proud to have played a small role in this great story."

The gala merging the arts and science was the kick-off event for this year's World Science Festival, a five-day gathering meant to bring some of the universe's most complex topics to the masses.

"It really seems strange to me, that with all that's known about science, with all that's known by science about the universe, so little of it reaches us in the general public," actor and science buff Alan Alda said in his welcome speech, calling the resulting ignorance a "dangerous darkness".

Geek power

In introducing Hawking, friend and fellow physicist James B Hartle told the audience that the public's image of the nearly paralysed Hawking as a lone figure trapped by physical limitations is false.

Instead, he said, Hawking, who is best known for his work explaining the physics of black holes, has been surrounded by former students and built collaborative relationships with colleagues.

Above all, Hartle said, Hawking is able to see past mental clutter, discard assumptions and catch hold of undiscovered truths.

Even Hartle's brief discussion of the nature of time before the Big Bang seemed to appeal to an audience with enough geek power that they applauded for a Star Trek: The Next Generation clip that featured Hawking and laughed with recognition as Broadway singers launched into a song about a calculus equation.

The evening also featured the première of Icarus at the Edge of Time, an orchestral work composed by Philip Glass and based on the children's book by celebrity physicist and festival co-founder Brian Greene.

The cautionary tale about the dangers and wonders of reaching out for new knowledge follows a space faring teenager as he journeys to the edge of a black hole, only to find that thousands of years have passed when he returns.

The piece, illustrated by video artists and narrated live by actor John Lithgow, was adapted by Greene and famed playwright David Henry Hwang.

Other performances featured Broadway star Danny Burstein, who sang an upbeat tune about the nature of the galaxy, and his wife, Rebecca Luker, who sang a darkly comic piece about what New York City might look like underwater.

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma, poet Elizabeth Alexander, jazz pianist Eldar Djangirov and New York City Ballet dancer Tiler Peck all performed pieces on related themes.

  • Freaky Frikkie - 2010-06-03 10:05

    What an extraordinary, visionary and insightful man. A true gem to humankind. The book, A Brief History of Time is an absolute must for anyone's library.

  • MorseCode - 2010-06-03 10:17

    A worthy tribute to one of the greatest men who ever lived.

  • William - 2010-06-03 11:04

    Stephen Hawking is a fraud. He belongs with Hollywood characters for writing science fiction. His spacetime and wormhole theories is proper proof of that and besides the fact that he rides on the fame of his predecessors he has not contributed at all to the real science community. His utterances about the future of Biofuels adds to his short sightedness as a proposed world "thinker". He should not be honoured, but be exposed.

  • Tom - 2010-06-03 12:26

    The only difference between a mad man and a genius is success: Einstein

  • @William - 2010-06-03 12:42

    If you can formulate anything that comes close to his theories, please, by all means we will listen to you. You, dear sir, need to go to school...

  • Alan - 2010-06-03 13:09

    William, I think you might be confusing ignorance with disagreement. Although SH may have a different view to you on the topic of Biofuels, by no means discredits his research. You are perhaps showing your own ignorance in that case, perhaps the only thing you have read of his has been what he published about Biofuels. So instead of attacking his character why don't you rather counter his opinion with debate - what you are doing is synonymous with our infamous Julius character of the Youth league!

  • @William2 - 2010-06-03 14:39

    Wow, as @william said, can you do anything that can be compared to what Hawking has achieved. Do you know anything about fundamental physics or general relativity? Heard of Hawking radiation? Didn't think so

  • William - 2010-06-03 15:35

    I have all Hawkins's books, studied physics and computer science, and let me tell you, he has achieved nothing new except untested theories. What amazes me is that it obviously goes further than recognition of mere achievement, maybe stray dog syndrome due to his physical disposition.

  • William - 2010-06-03 15:50

    @Alan-You obviously don't know me from a bar of soap, so how about you go and do research on SH and his theories and you will find how he capitalizes on other scientist's theories. For instance the existence of Hawking radiation has never been observed. Go along and Google it, or wander over to Wikipedia for all that matters. There you might find another case of how SH has once again expanded his own interpretation of work already covered by other scientists. Any person that believes you can kill a fire by adding fuel is a moron as far as I'm concerned, and this is how SH propose we deal with bio fuel. Bio fuel is a carbon neutral means of providing fuel for the future, but according to the wheelchair man, no, we must engage all our resources and feed the poor hungry and needy third world that keeps on breeding like a cancer out of control. So where does he propose we get the fuel to cultivate and distribute the food once fossil fuels has run out? What is he proposing we do with the exploded population of third world people? Common, get real.

  • EJA - 2010-06-03 16:42

    @ William; YOU ARE DISGUSTING!
    You don't know this man's frustration nor do you know him personally. To say that he rode the crest of the wave on his physical disability is but what Einstein would have referred to as 'Where the pure sees purity, the pig sees smut"
    You diverted the attention from his brilliance to your single opinion!

    As to Hawkin: It is an honour to live in the same period as such a great mind and to see the recognition given whilst he is alive!
    Some of Einstein's work has only been recognised as correct as recent as 2008 by the Scientific community!
    As to his affliction; I have my own theory that it stems from the energy drawn from the physical body to sustain his brilliant mind!
    After all, the brain will draw all energy in the body to sustain the brain during a mental anxiety attack; and that is fact. I have always maintained that this is the case for his affliction.

  • Justin - 2010-06-03 17:24

    @William studying physics a long side your BSc Comp Science hardly qualifies you to be critical of Stephen Hawking. FYI almost everything in the realm of theoretical physics has NEVER been observed so that really is a moot point, also most physicists capitalize on the work of peers and predecessors. Also bio fuel is no silver bullet, we need to use agricultural land to farm food not fuel, there are far better solutions than bio fuel.

  • Pieter - 2010-06-04 08:09

    William, being the wise, educated if somewhat opinionated pillar of human achievement that you are, we would like to read some of your work. A link to your physics thesis perhaps? Maybe covering a truly original idea that circumvents the very nature of science; to build on what was previously discovered. Maybe something you did to fundamentally challenge the known and unknown? But maybe, in lieu of that, you are the manifestation of the ’dangerous darkness’ Alan Alda refers to. Whether the former or the latter, I don’t think you are capable of not sounding like an idiot. Good luck with that.

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