Thursday, April 29, 2004


Last week I watched the BBC dramatisation 'Hawking', which portrayed the two or three years of Stephen Hawking's life when he was doing his PhD and having to cope with the increasing difficulties Motor Neurone Disease was causing him.

Obviously, as with all such dramatisations, it wasn't entirely factually accurate; there's no way they could know now exactly which conversations were held and what was said. However, because it was set in the relatively recent past, the major points in the film were done well. In particular, I thought the juxtaposition of the two themes of time (the fact that the universe, and hence time, had a beginning and the predicted foreshortening of Hawking's own life) was excellent. Benedict Cumberbatch was very good as Hawking and very convincingly portrayed a man struggling against a disease that meant he was wasting away in order to get something of extreme importance done.

The film contains a few of Hawking's moments of epiphany and these resonated quite strongly with me. I can't claim to have discovered anything momentous as the big bang but in finding a proof for some small mathematical oddity or the cause of a problem on the database at work I have at least had that feeling. It is a moment of pure clarity when the truth is revealed to you and with that clarity comes a feeling of achievement and satisfaction. It is the thing I like the most about my job.

For Hawking, gaining an insight into the beginnings of time must have been the most wonderful feeling in the world.

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