Happy 70th Birthday Stephen Hawking!

"It surprises me how disinterested we are today about things like physics, space, the universe and philosophy of our existence, our purpose, our final destination. It’s a crazy world out there. Be curious."

From Reuters:

 The world’s best known living scientist, Stephen Hawking, was too ill to attend his 70th birthday celebrations Sunday but in a recorded speech urged people to “look up at the stars” and be curious about the universe.

Hawking, the author of the international bestseller “A Brief History of Time,” was diagnosed with motor neuron disease in 1963 and told he had barely two years to live. He has since been hailed as one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists since Einstein.

In the speech played out at a symposium in his honor at Cambridge University, he said his excitement and enthusiasm for his subject drove him on, and urged others to seek out the same inspiration.

“Remember to look up at the stars, not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious,” Hawking said in the speech he had been due to give in person.

Earlier today while visiting my father, the conversation turned to the telescope that “Santa” had brought for my daughter and me. As the conversation went on, my father reminded me that he used to take me to the planetarium on his visitation days, when I was still quite young. I think within a span of a just two or three years we must have gone at least once every three weeks or so. It was certainly there where my obsession with space and science began. That was in the 70s. In the 80’s I discovered Carl Sagan‘s Cosmos, and began looking through the larger telescope at our local science museum. It was as that passion began to mature that I first came across Stephen Hawking.

His book, A Brief History of Time was given to me late in high school, and reading it had me absolutely determined to study physics. I did, and although I never quite got around to completing that major (I finally settled in the history department), it has shaped the way that I have learned to look at the world.

So thank you, Dr. Hawking, and a very happy birthday to you. Your work continues to inspire me to live filled with that sense of curiosity and wonder that I have so often written about, and your life serves as a reminder to face the challenges that I am handed with the strength that you have always shown.

Here’s the first part of the PBS series Steven Hawking’s Universe.

Keep looking up at the stars, and enjoy!

The Newton Papers

While catching up on some of the blogs I follow, I came across this on physics4me’s site. He had posted some incredible images of the handwritten notes of Isaac Newton. As I followed the links, I learned that Cambridge University has recently launched the Cambridge Digital Library, a new project that plans to digitize and make available to the public a vast collection of books, documents, maps, and journals. According to Anne Jarvis, the University Librarian,

Cambridge University Library contains evidence of some of the greatest ideas and discoveries over two millennia. We want to make our collections accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world with an internet connection and a thirst for knowledge.

Over the next two years, they plan on releasing a two-part “Foundations Project,” focusing on the foundations of faith and of science. Moreover, as their first release, they recently published the Newton Papers, a collection of over 4,000 digitally scanned pages of Newton’s notebooks and early papers, and even his seminal Principia.  A truly impressive collection.  A fascinating history of this collection of papers can be found here.

As someone with a true love of the history of science, this is truly exciting news. Just reading the history of the acquisition of the collection was fascinating in and of itself, and I spent several solid hours today looking through the scanned images of his college notebook, his “waste book,” and of course, his Principia. I’ve included a few images that I saved as I browsed through the seemingly endless pages, but I urge you to have a look for yourself.

More information can be found here, on BBC and on CNN.

If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.