Saturday, April 25, 2009

How Hawking Became the "Sage" of Science

Well, I wouldn't call it ALL of science, maybe just physics and astrophysics. Still, after all the brouhaha surrounding him being rushed to the hospital this week, the world certainly has some level of "fondness" towards him. He certainly isn't lacking in media attention.

So it is inevitable that some news agency would do a coverage of Stephen Hawking, which is what this article did from USA Today. The main question being asked is how did he became that well-known?

Why so much attention to a theoretical physicist, one whose best-known book, A Brief History of Time, was published in 1988? Hawking has never won a Nobel Prize, did much of his work on the Big Bang three decades ago with another physicist, Roger Penrose, and planned to step down from his post this year.

Of course, the news article explored several different possible reasons. However, I think the illness he was inflicted with, and the fact that he can still function as a theorist, gave some "uniqueness" to his situation that is different than others. That is enough to garner the media and the public attention.



Anonymous said...

The illness is one thing, but his extraordinary fame probably has most to do with two things. Firstly, his book was the biggest popular physics blockbuster in recent history, and secondly, his GR work, his crucial early work on quantum cosmology, his assertions about information loss in GR, and his work on black holes--especially his discovery of Hawking radiation and black hole evaporation--may well be some of the most important and creative work in these fields of his time. So I think his game is richly deserved!

ZapperZ said...

But which came first?

Do you think his book would have sold that many if it weren't from "Stephen Hawking"? He already had achieved his "fame" by then.

I also don't think his contribution to astrophysics could be appreciated by the public and the media. There have been many other people making similar, if not larger, impact in astrophysics and physics, AND, won Nobel Prizes for it. So his intellectual work, I think, has no impact on influencing his fame among the public. I can see it influencing his fame among those in the profession.


OilIsMastery said...

Mathematics is not science. There is no observation and experiment in math class.

Christine said...

Math may not be science, but it very important in the studies of chemistry and physics.