Stephen Hawking, the physicist who rewound the universe and skimmed boosted particles from the hot boundary regions of black holes, turns 76 (Jan. 8).
In addition to being a world-renowned cosmologist, Hawking has become something of a pop culture icon. He’s a striking figure: a genius curled up in a body largely immobilized by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. He’s supported by an advanced wheelchair, and communicates to the world through a rare and specialized system that converts the movements of a single muscle in his cheek into speech. In that mode, he appeared on „Star Trek: The Next Generation,“ „The Simpsons“ and „The Big Bang Theory.“
But Hawking’s most lasting legacy will be as the most important physicist of the second half of the 20th century — a researcher who took the earlier works of figures like Albert Einstein and Werner Heisenberg and knitted them together into something approaching…
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