Dr Stephen Hawking, who died on March 14 – Einstein’s birthday – aged 76, defied doctors for more than 50 years and rewrote our understanding of the universe in the process.
The Oxford-born, Cambridge-based Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology was diagnosed with motor neurone disease aged 21. Doctors said he had just a few years to live.
He became our greatest mind over matter, explaining the cosmos to the world in ‘A Brief History of Time’, which spent more than four years on bestseller lists after its release in 1988. He would continue to make time and space more comprehensible to everyone in the subsequent books ‘The Universe in a Nutshell’ (2001), ‘A Briefer History of Time’ (2005) and ‘God Created the Integers'(2006). He went on to write children’s books such as ‘George and the Secrets of the Universe’ (2007) to explain his theories.
Hawking’s other genius was that he laced his profound observations with a wry humour that made his ideas memorable and popular.
In short, the man who tried to unlock the meaning of the universe also loved taking the piss.
Hawking became a pop culture icon, making cameos on shows as varied as The Big Bang Theory, Little Britain, Futurama and The Simpsons.
Actor Macaulay Culkin lamented his passing on Twitter saying Hawking “was both a genius and my favorite Simpsons character”.
Al Jean, the veteran Simpsons writer, said the professor had “a sense of humor as vast as the universe” .
He recalled that Hawking would tell jokes when he came to the show’s ‘table reads’, and wrote the mistaken identity line, sending himself up when Homer shouts out “Larry Flint is right, you guys stink!”
Hawking once said that humour “is what keeps me going”, and that “life would be tragic if it weren’t funny”.
Here’s just a small sample of things he said that made people both laugh and think.
On the ‘cosmological effect of Zayn Malik leaving One Direction’, asked during a Big Ideas talk at the Sydney Opera House.
Finally, a question about something important.
My advice to any heartbroken young girl is to pay close attention to the study of theoretical physics. Because one day there may well be proof of multiple universes.
It would not be beyond the realms of possibility that somewhere outside of our own universe lies another different universe. And in that universe Zayn is still in One Direction
This girl may like to note that in another possible universe she and Zayn are happily married.
On his portrait, produced on an iPad, by one of the world’s greatest living artists, David Hockney.
I’m still not sure about the fingers.
When scientific ‘eureka moments’ happen
I wouldn’t compare it to sex, but it lasts longer.
The lingering effect of the Big Bang on pizza
The radiation left over from the Big Bang is the same as that in your microwave oven but very much less powerful. It would heat your pizza only to minus 271.3°C – not much good for defrosting the pizza, let alone cooking it.
On whether there’s a parallel universe where comedian John Oliver is smarter than Hawking
Yes. And also a universe where you’re funny.
His first words on recommencing a lecture after his wheelchair tipped off stage
I fell off the edge of the world.
His school friends
When I was 12, one of my friends bet another friend a bag of sweets that I would never come to anything. I don’t know if this bet was ever settled, and if so, which way it was decided.
I have noticed that even people who claim everything is predetermined and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road.
On the mystery of true love
Thankfully, this is beyond human reasoning. And should remain so..
On being asked not to mention the universe’s re-collapse during a lecture because it might impact on Japan’s stock market.
I can reassure anyone who is nervous about their investments that it is a bit early to sell: even if the universe does come to an end, it won’t be for at least 20 billion years.
Playing poker in a cameo on Star Trek: The Next Generation with Commander Data, Sir Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein, who says he’s bluffing.
Wrong again, Albert.
We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.
On Professor Brian Cox correcting facts in the Monty Python’s song ‘The Meaning of Life’
I think you are being pedantic.
On what makes humans unique
Some say it’s language or tools. Others say it’s logical reasoning. They obviously haven’t met many humans.
On contact with alien life
If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans. We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet.
I deal in tough mathematical questions every day, but please don’t ask me to help with Brexit.
On the mocked-up photograph, kept in his office, of the professor and Marilyn Monroe together beside a Cadillac
Marilyn is an old girlfriend of mine.
On God and the great gamble
Thus it seems Einstein was doubly wrong when he said, God does not play dice. Not only does God definitely play dice, but He sometimes confuses us by throwing them where they can’t be seen.
On Gordon Ramsay auditioning to be his new ‘voice’ in a skit for Comic Relief
I don’t think anyone would take me #&*%ing seriously if I sounded like that.
BONUS ITEM: Hawking delivers undergrad humour playing ‘quantum chess’ with Ant-Man’s Paul Rudd for Caltech’s Institute for Quantum Information and Matter
I did not touch your Bishop.