Today is Pi Day, it’s also the day that we learned that Dr. Stephen Hawking has died. Dr. Hawking was born on January 8, 1942 in England, on the 300th anniversary of the death of famed astronomer Galileo. He was a theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author. Dr. Hawking once said,
When people ask me if a god created the universe, I tell them that the question itself makes no sense. Time didn’t exist before the big bang, so there is no time for god to make the universe in. It’s like asking directions to the edge of the earth; The Earth is a sphere; it doesn’t have an edge; so looking for it is a futile exercise. We are each free to believe what we want, and it’s my view that the simplest explanation is; there is no god. No one created our universe, and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realization; There is probably no heaven, and no afterlife either. We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe, and for that I am extremely grateful.
As odd as this may sound, I can not imagine a more perfect day (which happens to also be Einstein’s birthday) to celebrate the life and achievements of Dr. Hawking than today, “Pi” day. The number π or “Pi” is a mathematical constant, approximately equal to 3.14159 and is defined as the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. It appears in many formulas in all areas of mathematics and physics. Being an irrational number, it does not terminate or repeat any sequence of digits. No finite number of digits can represent it exactly, therefore it is assumed to go on infinitely.
Today, Elijah Wolfson, editor of Quartz, an international Business Journal, tweeted, “Stephen Hawking showed me the poetry in hard sciences, and continually made me hopeful about the power of the human mind’s intellect, perception, and empathy to overcome its worse tendencies.” Although Lou Gehrig’s disease, took Dr. Hawking’s ability to move, except for a single finger, the disease did not touch his mind. He was able to communicate through that finger, and eventually a speech-generating device by using a single cheek muscle.
It is my personal opinion that Shakespeare penned the ultimate eulogy, in Sonnet 18, which reads:
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st;
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
The idea being, that so long as this sonnet remains written and repeated, that the memory of the person it was written about shall never die, and so the subject lives on in the memory of mankind forever. Therefore, it’s fitting that on a national holiday where we celebrate an number that cannot be fully calculated, and goes on far beyond the human mind, we also celebrate a man that embodies many of the same qualities.
Good bye, Dr. Hawking, and thank you for shedding more light on the vast and complicatedly beautiful universe.