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更新时间:2018-3-15 20:41:20 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Stephen Hawking Taught Us a Lot About How to Live

Stephen Hawking, the English cosmologist and black hole maven, liked to say he was born 300 years to the day after Galileo died, and he died Wednesday, 139 years after Albert Einstein was born.

喜欢说自己出生在伽利略300周年忌日的英国宇宙学家、黑洞专家斯蒂芬·霍金(Stephen Hawking)于周三去世,这一天正好是阿尔伯特·爱因斯坦(Albert Einstein)的139周年诞辰。

That was a fitting bookend.


In the popular press, he was often referred to as the greatest physicist since Einstein. That, he always said, was media hype, driven by the public’s thirst for heroes.


As someone who might have contributed in some small way over the years to this impression, I have to say I agree. History will pass judgment on that dubious and problematic distinction.


But Hawking’s life was Einsteinian and he was a hero, not just for what he taught about the universe, but for what he taught us about how to live.


Whether or not he overturned the universe, he did overturn our imaginations. To the public, however, he was, in Homer Simpson’s words, “the wheelchair guy,” who despite being slowly paralyzed by Lou Gehrig’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, to the point where he could move only an eyeball, roamed the world and figuratively the universe, married twice, fathered three children, wrote best-sellers and nurtured generations of graduate students.

无论是否颠覆了宇宙,他的确颠覆了我们的想象。但在公众眼里,用霍默·辛普森(Homer Simpson)的话说,他是“那个坐在轮椅里的家伙”。尽管他因葛雷克氏症(Lou Gehrig's disease),又名肌萎缩性脊髓侧索硬化症而慢慢瘫痪,最终只能移动一个眼球,他却漫游了世界和宇宙(象征性地),结了两次婚,育有三个孩子,写出多本畅销书,还培养了一代又一代研究生。

He was the kind of guy who showed up at his own 60th birthday party with a broken leg after flipping his wheelchair trying to take a street corner too fast, a guy whose eyes lit up with a mischievous grin at good and bad jokes. He mingled with kings and presidents and the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders. He had hoped someday to take a trip to the edge of space on Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic spaceship.

他是那种在推着轮椅试图转过街角时因为速度太快而摔断腿后,还会出现在自己60岁生日聚会上的人;他会因为好笑和不好笑的笑话而两眼发亮,露出淘气的笑容。他的朋友里有国王和总统,也有达拉斯牛仔队(Dallas Cowboys)的拉拉队员。他希望有一天能搭乘理查德·布兰森(Richard Branson)的维珍银河(Virgin Galactic)公司的宇宙飞船去往宇宙边缘。

He preferred to be called Stephen. He was proud of being a family man.


“His sense of humor was legendary,” said Kip Thorne, his old friend and recent Nobel laureate from Caltech, with whom he collaborated on the seeds of what would become the movie “Interstellar.” “When he started a sentence, laboriously on his computer, I never knew whether it would end in a deep pearl of wisdom or an off-the-wall joke,” Thorne said in an email.

“他的幽默感赫赫有名,”霍金在加州理工学院(Caltech)的老朋友,最近获得诺贝尔奖的基普·索恩(Kip Thorne)说。他和索恩一起合作,播下了电影《星际穿越》(Interstellar)的种子。“当他费力地在用他的电脑开始说一句话的时候,我从来不知道它最后会是一句如深海珍珠般的智慧之语,还是一个稀奇古怪的笑话,”索恩在一封电子邮件中写道。

To scientists, however, he will be forever known for finding a relation between gravity — in the form of Einstein’s general theory of relativity — that bends the cosmos and determines its destiny and the atomic randomness that lives inside it, swept helplessly along in the river of time.


Like Einstein, and Galileo, he did his greatest work on gravity, a force we all feel in our bones, a force that, Einstein decreed, would even bend starlight, leaving, “lights all askew in the heavens.”


As a result, Hawking became an icon of mystery and curiosity and determination to understand this place we are in.


He was only 22, a lackadaisical graduate student, when he was given a diagnosis of Lou Gehrig’s disease, which usually kills in two to five years. By the time he died, he had lived with it for half a century, and doctors had added the word “atypical” to his diagnosis. As if that explained anything at all.


I was an assistant typesetter at Sky and Telescope magazine, hungry for action, when I first glimpsed Hawking whirring in his electric wheelchair through a ballroom in Boston’s Copley Plaza Hotel in 1976. It struck me as the most dramatic moment I had experienced in science. I felt like I had somehow known him forever. The genius, the brilliant mind trapped in a wrecked body, are archetypes of literature and folklore.

1976年,当我第一次在波士顿科普利广场酒店的一间宴会厅看到坐着电动轮椅疾驶而过的霍金时,我还是《天空与望远镜》(Sky and Telescope)杂志的一名渴望干一番大事业的助理排字员。那是我在科学的世界里经历的最戏剧性的时刻。不知何故,我感觉自己与他早已相识。一个天才,一个被困在残疾身体之中的伟大头脑,这是文学和民间传说的原型人物。

Of course, I didn’t know him at all.


He was there to talk about black holes, the scariest things that otherwise sober physicists had ever dreamed up. Black holes, objects so dense that not even light can escape them, are the most extreme manifestations of gravity. You didn’t need to understand the mathematics to grasp the notion of gaping maws sitting at the bottoms of galaxies or at the end of time, or the six-foot-deep hole with your own name on it.


Einstein himself had rejected the notion, but in the early 1970s astronomers were finding black-hole candidates all over the sky. The universe was rife with death.


In my own hopelessly romantic eyes, Hawking in the Copley Plaza will always be St. George in a wheelchair, sallying forth to slay the black-hole dragon.


In intricate calculations that even his friends doubted he could perform, Hawking discovered that black holes were not black at all when quantum rules were taken into consideration, but were in fact fountains of energy, fizzing faintly with particles and radiation. Over vast eons they would eventually explode, giving back to the universe all the mass and energy that had once disappeared, in a sort of cosmic reincarnation.


In a statement that felt like it was about much more than just mathematics, Dennis Sciama, Hawking’s former Cambridge professor, called Hawking’s discover “the most beautiful paper” in the history of physics. St. George had slain the dragon.

在一则声明中,曾是霍金在剑桥的教授的丹尼斯·夏马(Dennis Sciama)感到这远非只是数学,他把霍金的发现称为物理学史上“最美的文章”。圣乔治杀死了巨龙。

He could talk back then and a colleague and I spent some time after his speech sticking a pencil in his tie to make it stand up, in defiance of gravity.


My article about all this got me promoted at the magazine. A year later, I was on a plane to England to do an in-depth profile. Later on, Hawking was one of the main characters in my book, “Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos.”

我就这些事写下的文章让我在杂志社得到了提拔。一年后,我为了写一篇人物特稿去了英国。后来,霍金成为了我那本《环宇孤心》(Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos)中的主要人物之一。

He didn’t always appreciate the attention. He was mad when he came home one day in Cambridge and found me interviewing Jane, his wife at the time. And frustrated by my obstinate refusal to understand some point of quantum physics (that I still don’t understand), he ran over my toes in an elevator with his wheelchair.


As he continued to outlive the odds and progressed from a cane to a wheelchair and from grunting to a computerized voice synthesizer operated first by a thumb and then by an eyeball, it was hard not to think of him as his own best metaphor, a man with one foot in his own black hole.


But Hawking was not interested in being anyone’s metaphor. “I’ve always found a way to communicate,” he once told me. He was not about to surrender his narrative or anything else without a good fight.