People have always wanted answers to the big questions. Where did we come from? How did the universe begin? What is the meaning and design behind it all? Is there anyone out there? The creation accounts of the past now seem less relevant and credible. They have been replaced by a variety of what can only be called superstitions, ranging from New Age to Star Trek. But real science can be far stranger than science fiction, and much more satisfying.
I am a scientist. And a scientist with a deep fascination with physics, cosmology, the universe and the future of humanity. I was brought up by my parents to have an unwavering curiosity and, like my father, to research and try to answer the many questions that science asks us. I have spent my life travelling across the universe, inside my mind. Through theoretical physics, I have sought to answer some of the great questions. At one point, I thought I would see the end of physics as we know it, but now I think the wonder of discovery will continue long after I am gone. We are close to some of these answers, but we are not there yet.
The problem is, most people believe that real science is too difficult and complicated for them to understand. But I don’t think this is the case. To do research on the fundamental laws that govern the universe would require a commitment of time that most people don’t have; the world would soon grind to a halt if we all tried to do theoretical physics. But most people can understand and appreciate the basic ideas if they are presented in a clear way without equations, which I believe is possible and which is something I have enjoyed trying to do throughout my life.
It has been a glorious time to be alive and doing research in theoretical physics. Our picture of the universe has changed a great deal in the last fifty years, and I’m happy if I have made a contribution. One of the great revelations of the space age has been the perspective it has given humanity on ourselves. When we see the Earth from space, we see ourselves as a whole. We see the unity, and not the divisions. It is such a simple image with a compelling message; one planet, one human race.
I want to add my voice to those who demand why we must ask the big questions immediate action on the key challenges for our global community. I hope that going forward, even when I am no longer here, people with power can show creativity, courage and leadership. Let them rise to the challenge of the sustainable development goals, and act, not out of self-interest, but out of common interest. I am very aware of the preciousness of time. Seize the moment. Act now.
Copyright © 2018 by Stephen Hawking. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.