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Unspeakable Conversations - Open Knowledge — LiveJournal

Feb. 15th, 2003

02:35 pm - Unspeakable Conversations

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From:pbrane
Date:February 16th, 2003 02:09 pm (UTC)
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Wouldn't the appropriate comparison be between a world with Stephen Hawking and a world with the child Hawking's parents would've had, had they not had Stephen? Maybe that child would've been as bright as Hawking, but uncrippled, and therefore even more productive than Hawking as been.

This is an interesting comparison - but if you read interviews with Prof. Hawking himself, you'll see that he feels that he would never have actually accomplished what he has if it were not for his ALS: in college, he was the prototypical slacker-nerd, more likely to drink 4 or 5 pints on a monday night then study, and barely convinced his graduation committee to give him a first-class diploma (undergrad - he got it by threatening to stay there for his PhD work, knowing fully well that they knew he was really sharp and should broaden his horizons, and thus they caved and gave him the first, instead of second, so he'd leave).

But when he was diagnosed with ALS and came to be able to see the harsh reality of what would happen (that he most likely would only live another few years [little did they know at the time that he'd still be alive in 3 decades]), and he specifically chose a subfield of theoretical physics in which he could do mostly in his head (GR, with all it's geometrical foundation, instead of QFT, which is more algebraic computation heavy), and threw himself into it completely, with *far* more vigor than he would have had he been still able to party and chase girls, for he thought that if he didn't make his mark soon, he'd never have amounted to much.

And if he'd not had ALS, he might not have. He may have had "more fun", but what is "fun" really? It seems his life has been more *rewarding* (both to himself, and to the world at large) disabled than it would have been not.
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