Saturday, August 06, 2011

Stimulating and Provocative . . . if you can understand it

Stephen Hawking is the most famous living scientist and he appears to break all manner of rules and natural patterns. Diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease 49 years ago, Hawking is now completely paralyzed. A tracheotomy in 1985 rendered him speechless but the use of a synthesizer has given him one of the most distinctive, and famous, voices in the world. His new series on the Discovery channel is augmented by a narrator whose rich British tones are much more evocative of the mind behind the words.

A mind that wheels undeniably within a frozen body like distant universes flailing against the negative energy of space. Filmed in professorial tweeds in an empty wood-paneled room, Hawking's body slumps motionless to one side of his wheel chair, but his eyes, which the camera uses to great effect, are bright and brilliant still at 70, and far more convincing than all the plummy voiced narrators or green screens in the world. Ironically, it is difficult to contemplate Hawking without believing in something more admirable and benevolent than the immutable laws of nature. If not God, then an outer orbit of the human potential, something much more than is dreamed of in our philosophies, or our physics.

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