Saturday, April 28, 2007

Why I love my sons and Stephen Hawking

Watching tv last night, Bear and I saw the images of Stepehn Hawking spinning around in the 'vomit-comet', and Bear said "He is a genius!".

Later, Doc came home, and again watched the news. He turned to me and said "That man is brilliant!"

So Stephen Hawking is a hero to my sons, both of whom have read his books, A Brief History of Time, and whatever the other book was we all read on holidays in tahiti.

I love that they admire his brain. Love it!

COSMOLOGIST Stephen Hawking soared into weightlessness today on a zero gravity flight that allowed the leading expert on gravity to briefly escape from his wheelchair.

"It was amazing ... I could have gone on and on," Hawking, 65, said after riding for two hours on a modified jet that flew a rollercoaster trajectory to create the impression of microgravity.

"Space, here I come" he said at NASA's Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. The British professor, who has spent most of his career studying black holes and gravity, hopes the flight will be a prelude to a 2009 voyage into space.

"I have long wanted to go into space," said Hawking, who is almost entirely paralysed.

"A zero gravity flight is the first step to space travel," he said at a news conference near the runway. "I hope many people will follow in my path."

Specially trained pilots took the aircraft to 33,000 feet (10,000 metres) before plunging to 2,500 metres to give the passengers about 30 seconds of gravity-free flying.

The aircraft repeated the manoeuvre eight times, giving Hawking a total of four minutes of diminished gravity.

"Professor Hawking reached for the sky and he touched the heaven today," said Peter Diamandis who heads the flight company.

Hawking was seated as the plane went up. Once the aircraft topped over to zero gravity, two people lifted him and guided him up into mid-air, where he floated freely.

"I have been in a wheelchair for almost four decades, the chance to float free in zero gravity will be wonderful," he had said before boarding the flight at the runway usually used for space shuttle landings.

Hawking, who is Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University - a post once held by Sir Isaac Newton - suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.

He was diagnosed with the muscle-wasting motor neuron disease at the age of 22. He is in a wheelchair and speaks with the aid of a computer and voice synthesiser.

His work has centred on theoretical cosmology and quantum gravity, looking at the nature of such subjects as space-time, the Big Bang theory and black holes.

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