Friday, March 08, 2002

Two Kinds of Joy: About Hawking's Birthday Talk

The British physicist and astronomer Stephen William Hawking is considered to be the greatest theorist of the latter twenties century. He is especially known for his theories on black holes and the origin and evolution of the universe [1]. To celebrate his 60th birthday, a workshop and symposium were held in Cambridge from 7 to 11 January 2002 [2].

Hawking delivered the final talk of the meeting. The title of his talk was "60 Years in a Nutshell," a humorous modification of the title of his recent book [3]. The talk consists of four parts:
  1. Student Days
  2. Expanding Universe
  3. Singularities
  4. Black Holes
  5. Ultimate Theory?
At the end of the talk, the great cosmologist says, " There's nothing like the Eureka moment of discovering something that no one knew before. I won't compare it to sex, but it lasts longer." While saying that he would not do so, Hawking compares the two kinds of joy. Surely, the joy of discovering scientific truth would last long. However, there would be a different theory about the time length of the other kind of joy, wouldn't there?
  1. "The New York Public Library Science Desk Reference," P. Barnes-Svarney ed. (MacMillan, New York, 1995).
  2. G. W. Gibbons and E. P. S. Shellard, Science, Vol. 295, 1476 (2002).
  3. S. Hawking, "The Universe in a Nutshell" (Bantam, New York, 2001).