PHL/458: Creative Minds and Critical Thinking
February 17, 2015
Instructor: Prof. Karen Williams
Stephen Hawking was born on January 8 in 1942, in Oxford, England and showed a passion, at an early age, for science and the skies. He was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis at the age of 21 years old while studying at Cambridge University. However, notwithstanding his devastating illness, he has accomplished pioneering work in physics and cosmology, and his literary work have also helped in making science accessible to everyone. In some ways Hawking's sickness helped in making him the highly regarded scientist he is today. Before he was diagnosed with “Lou Gehrig’s” disease, Hawking was not always dedicated to his studies. According to him life was boring before the diagnosis and he had no motivation to do anything worthwhile. He credits the precipitous realization that there was no guarantee that he was going to be able to complete his education because of this diagnosis as the turning point in his education, work, and research. He finally graduated in 1962, with honors in the natural sciences and continued to Trinity Hall, also at Cambridge University, for a cosmology PhD.
Innovative findings by Roger Penrose, another young cosmologist, about stars and the formation of black holes tapped into Stephen’s own fascination about the beginnings of the universe. This captivation led him on a career path that reformed the world’s way of thinking about the universe and black holes. Hawking's extensive research made him into an icon within the scientific world when he proved that black holes are not the information spaces that scientists previously thought. Hawking simply demonstrated that matter can elude the force of gravity of a disintegrated star in the form of radiation. This significant finding sent shock waves of excitement through the world of science, and put Hawking on a path that has been marked by notoriety, awards, and distinguished titles. He was made a fellow of the Royal Society at the relative young age of 32, and subsequently won the esteemed Albert Einstein Award, among many other honors. His many publications, research, and papers convey Hawking’s personal quest for a single unifying theory combining cosmology with quantum mechanics to provide some insight and clarify how the universe came about. It is this kind of elaborate and ambitious thinking that has permitted Hawking, who claims he thinks in 11 different dimensions, to propose some ambitious possibilities for the world at large. He is convinced that time travel is conceivable and that humans may actually inhabit other planets in the future. He also believes there currently exists social, political, and environmental chaos in the world and the human race need to start thinking about sustaining another 100 years.
He was a classic case of the highest level of research coupled with creative, critical, and outside the box thinking. He was able to persevere and go on to influence society and the world at large. His sense of urgency, passion, and determination to keep moving forward even as his health was failing is noteworthy.
Bertrand Russell Bertrand Russell was a British thinker, author, and social commentator highly regarded for his work in mathematical logic and analytic philosophy. His most significant contributions include his advocating of logicism ; the viewpoint that mathematics can be reduced to logic in certain situations, his perfecting of Gottlob Frege's calculus that forms the basis of most current systems of logic, his support of neutral monism; the notion that the world comprises of one kind of substance that is not solely mental or physical, and his belief of explicit descriptions and logical atomism. He is largely considered as one of the most important logicians and leading founders of modern-day analytic philosophy of the twentieth century. Throughout his long and illustrious