What Stephen Hawking Whispered in My Ear.

Updated: Jun 8, 2019

It matters that you don't give up.


I’ve just finished reading Stephen Hawking’s Brief Answers to the Big Questions. What you’re about to read is a highly subjective response to this book.


First of all I have some confessions to make:


I’m not a scientist.

I failed mathematics at the age of sixteen.

A black hole is where all my money goes.

I believe all lost odd socks are caught up in one of Saturn’s rings.


In this final book written before he died in 2018 Hawking addresses heady topics like:

Is there a God?

Is time travel possible?

Should we colonise space? (Don’t read this chapter if you fear flying far away, because Hawking thinks it's our only hope of survival.)


I read the whole book and tried really hard to understand what he was saying. But most of the words entered my eyeballs, bounced around inside my cranium like a roomful of toddlers determined to elude my grasp, and escaped through a hole I didn’t know I had at the back of my head.


For example, in the chapter What is inside a black hole?


. . . the factor of proportionality involves a quantity called the surface gravity, which is a measure of the strength of the gravitational field at the event horizon. If one accepts that the area of the event horizon is analogous to entropy, then it would seem that the surface gravity is analogous to temperature.


(If you understand that please email me and I'll send you a congratulatory certificate.)


The book clearly shows that science has brought us a long way. He points out that before the Greek astronomer Aristarchus came along (310 BC - 230 BC) many people believed stars were bits of light shining through cracks in heaven’s floor. We now know stars are balls of gas held together by gravity – which is a lot less exciting – but, hey, we want facts, not fantasy.


(But I’m still partial to my Lost Socks theory.)


Although some of the scientific concepts were beyond my comprehension, Hawking’s writing style was light and gentle, as if he was talking quietly in my ear and really wanted me to understand. What kept me reading right to the end were the bits of advice for living a purposeful life which he sprinkled like stardust throughout the pages. These snippets burned brightly because they were penned by a man who battled Lou Gehrig’s disease for 55 years.


Be brave, be curious, be determined . . .

And in the last paragraph of the book:


. . . however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up. Unleash your imagination. Shape the future.

We all have a part to play in the life unfolding around us. We can’t all be great scientists, but we can all be great people in our own way.


It matters that you don’t give up.


With love, Marlane


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