In a way, Stephen Hawking is comforting. In an age when any idiot can become a "celebrity" (see: Shore, Jersey), it’s great to see that a guy can still be famous for just being waaaaaaaay smarter than any of us. Hawking is coming to town this weekend to speak at the Seattle Science Festival (unfortunately, tickets for his talk have been sold out for quite a while). So as a quick refresher before he swings into town, here’s what Hawking has been up to over the past few years.
—Hawking received the Presidential Medal of Freedom (the highest civilian award) from President Obama in 2009. At the ceremony Obama praised Hawking’s research and his perseverance; the physicist has remained active despite a debilitating motor-neuron disease that has left him physically disabled.
— The Grand Design—Hawking’s latest book, which he cowrote with Caltech physicist Leonard Mlodinow—was published in 2010. It examines the origins of the universe, arguing that the Big Bang is a product of physics alone, and that our universe is just one among billions of universes. "Science makes God unnecessary," Hawking has said. On the lighter side, he also co-wrote the children’s books George and the Big Bang and George’s Cosmic Treasure Hunt with his daughter Lucy.
—Also in 2010, Discovery Channel ran the Hawking-penned documentary miniseries Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking. The series explored his theories on aliens and time travel, among other topics.
— "Philosophy is dead." That was Hawking’s newsmaking declaration at last year’s Google Zeitgeist conference. He claimed that philosophers have not kept up with modern developments in science—particularly physics—and have become obsolete as a result. He’s never been one to mince words.
—Hawking remains an unlikely pop culture figure. In the past few years he’s made a cameo as himself on sitcom The Big Bang Theory and was the subject of an ongoing segment on The Colbert Report (brilliantly) entitled "Stephen Hawking Is Such An A-Hole."
Seattle Science Festival
Thru June 29, Seattle Center (venues vary occasionally)
Science Luminaries Series: Evolution, featuring Stephen Hawking
June 16 at 8, Paramount Theatre