Hawkings, Master of the Universe 1/5

By Benjamin - Posted on 24 April 2012

 

Hawking – Master of the universe. Part 1/5

Stephen Hawking wants big answers to big questions

'How can we understand the universe? Is it arbitrary or is there a grand design? Do we still need a god?'

In 1988 Stephen Hawking wrote an unlikely but sensational best seller and became an instant celebrity. In the book he promised we would soon have the ultimate answer; the theory of everything that explain how the universe began.

This film tells the story of what happened next. Hawking’s 20 year struggle to fulfil his dream and the extraordinary events of his personal life. Today, almost completely paralysed, hawking is tantalisingly close to his goal. It seems that he and his fellow physicist maybe about to discover the secret of the universes’ beginning.

Stephen Hawking’s record breaking best selling book; A brief history of time has made him an international celebrity. Time however is precious to a man who clicks out sentences at 3 words per minute.

Hawking was diagnosed with motor neuron disease in 1963 when he was a PhD student. Doctors gave him two years to live. For 40 years he has defied their predictions with a string of major discoveries to his name he has become the world’s most famous scientist. Being a celebrity can have its drawbacks.

Slowly word by word click by click Hawking continues towards a complete theory of the fundamental processes of our cosmos; His Theory of everything. His focus now is the very moment of creation; the birth of our universe, but to crack that involves making sense of the least understood force in nature.

'My recent experience of weightlessness how well we understand gravity on the human scale. But we must understand gravity as it effects fundamental particles’

Stephen Hawking is like a cosmic crime scene investigator. He is trying to understand something that happened billions of years ago; the big bang. The fragments are all the matter and forces that we see around us today, but one piece refuses to fit; Gravity.

As human beings we don’t notice anything strange about gravity, but if it had been any stronger the universe as we know it could never have existed. Space would have been pulled back in on itself obliterating any possibility for planets and stars to have formed.

There are four forces in nature and gravity seems to be strangely weaker than the other three.

‘We see four fundamental forces of the universe today. Gravity, which holds the earth, the sun and the solar system together, electromagnetic force which lights up our cities the internet and laser beams, and also the two nuclear forces. Why should there be four fundamental forces? We think that at the instance of creation these four forces melt together into a single force, a super force.’

At the big bang everything was one. As the universe cooled four forces emerged; three seemed to be about the same strength, but the forth force, gravity, wasn’t just a little bit weaker – it’s vastly weaker.

‘If we want to know what happened when the universe began we have to have a theory that can describe gravity on a very small scale.’

Hawking has struggled for decades to solve this problem; but now he is in a race. The final breakthrough may well come from someone else.

‘Physicists’ love to explain how our universe evolves and how it works. We understand enormous amounts but when asked how it all came to be we don’t have one single answer yet.’

In 1998 Hawking’s book, a brief history of time, was published – few expected it to be such a success.

Over night Hawking became a household name – he was in great demand. The pressure of fame took its toll on his marriage. Hawking had set out to write a book that would carry his message to a wider audience, and make him a bit of cash that would help him pay for the expensive specialist care he needed, but he never anticipated the upset it would cause in his personal life. After years of caring for Hawking alone, his wife Jane suddenly found herself surrounded by nurses and assistants. In an interview in 200 Hawkings youngest son Timothy recalled how when he was 9 years old his life was turned upside down.