In the latest of my occasional series (people you’re not supposed to dislike) I’ve decided I can’t stand that Stephen Hawking bloke.
It starts with his self-description in books like Brief History of Time. “I sit in the chair once occupied by Isaac Newton…” Fair enough Steve, but brushes with fame don’t make you him. Isaac Newton was on an entirely different level. It takes serious brainspace even to understand calculus and optics and gravitation; Isaac Newton developed them from first principles and wrote the seminal works on them. You are no Isaac Newton, Stephen Hawking.
Hawking’s chief contribution revolves around an interesting but minor element of blackhole physics, later discovered (and admitted) to be partly wrong. If Hawking were really on par with Isaac Newton, he’d have come up with the fundamentals of string theory (where even better physicists like Ed Witten and Brian Greene are still dancing around on the surface phenomena.)
But it goes further than not being Newton’s equal; he was never even in the foremost ranks of today’s physicists. Hawking’s discoveries are dwarfed even by some graduate students. Far from being a top physicist, anyone in the know at Cambridge would whisper that he wasn’t even the best physicist in his own department.
You are NOTHING without that chair, Stephen Hawking. NOTHING!