In the presence of greatness

About a year ago, [Stephen Hawking](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_hawking) was supposed to come to Seattle, and I got tickets. I was excited; not many times do you have a chance to be in the presence of such awesome knowledge.

Unfortunately, he fell ill and wasn’t able to make the lecture. I fought TicketMaster to get my ticket refunded, which they eventually did.

Tonight, Hawking came back to Seattle, and I snatched up my ticket about three months ago. Dan & I showed up at McCaw Hall at about 7:15pm for the 7:30pm lecture. The setup was amazing; the host introduced Dr. Hawking, and talked a little bit about his communications methods (via a “blink switch”):

> The computer system attached to his wheelchair is operated by Hawking via an infra-red ‘blink switch’ clipped onto his glasses. By scrunching his right cheek up, he is able to talk, compose speeches, research papers, browse the World Wide Web, and write e-mails. The system also uses radio transmission to provide control over doors in his home and office.

Now, this posed an interesting problem. Apparently, camera flashes in the crowd were interfering with the blink switch! Dr. Hawking’s assistant asked the crowd to not use camera flashes, and I’ve never seen a place get so dark, so quick. It was amazing — most crowds would still have one pop up here and there, but not this crowd.

Overall, the talk was great — I didn’t understand quite a bit of it, but what I was most amazed by is Dr. Hawking’s sense of humor. This is a guy who has been through a lot, and he’s still cracking jokes every few minutes. He introduced an equation for entropy in black holes, commented that it’s a simple equation (it was) with all three fundamental physics constants (c, G, and h-bar). His next comment: “I want that on my tombstone.” He also commented that when he introduced concepts of time having a beginning and an end (alluding to the Big Bang), he said that “the church seems to have taken note of that.” He referenced the “old-school general relativity theorists” and said that they “just plug numbers into equations and hope it works.” When talking about solving the [black hole paradox](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_hole_paradox), he said it’s an amazing feeling to realize that you’ve come up with an equation that no one else knows, and no one else has ever known. He said he can’t compare it to sex, but “that the feeling does last longer.” Classic!

He was amazing to listen to, and “spoke” for two solid hours. Go see him if you get a chance!