IN the last year of his life, British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking was working on a book that would sum up his “brief answers to the big questions:” How did the universe begin? Is there other intelligent life in the universe? Can humanity survive on Earth?
Hawking, regarded as one of the world’s most famous scientists, died aged 76 in March this year before he could finish the book, but it has now been published as his final work by his children and friends.
“Brief Answers to the Big Questions,” his daughter Lucy Hawking tells The Straits Times over the phone from Britain, is an attempt to respond to the questions he was regularly asked by everyone, from political leaders to the public.
“Putting the book together was almost a comforting thing to do in the aftermath of his passing,” says Ms. Hawking, 47, a writer. “It was like listening to him talk or having a conversation with him, and then there would be these sudden jolts of reality when you realized he wasn’t there any more.”
Hawking was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge for 30 years and the author of numerous books, including the best-selling “A Brief History of Time” (1988).
He had a rare early-onset slow-progressing form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a motor neurone disease which gradually paralyzed him. He communicated through a speech-generating device which resulted in his iconic computerized voice.
His last book, says Ms. Hawking, will follow in the vein of his other popular works, making complex science accessible and engaging to lay readers. “It just draws you through these vast, existential topics with such ease and elegance and humor.”
In his essays, he takes on questions such as “Is there a God” (Hawking: “For me ... there is no possibility of a creator, because there is no time for a creator to have existed in”) or “Is time travel possible?”