08 June 2010

Hawking Radiates

I recently attended the World Science Festival in New York City, moderating a panel on gravity-wave astronomy. With the gig came an invitation to attend the opening gala at Lincoln Center in honor of physicist Stephen Hawking. 

It was a delightful cultural evening, blending science with music, video, and dance. Skipping the post-gala reception, my husband and I walked back to our hotel to have a late dinner. Toward the end who should come into the dining room but Hawking himself with a group of colleagues, including Caltech physicist Kip Thorne. Kip invited us over for after-dinner drinks, where I at last was able to meet Hawking in person.

Over my thirty years covering the fields of physics and astronomy, I have often written on Hawking's work. I pointed out to Stephen that I had reviewed his science-book sensation, A Brief History of Time, for the New York Times when it was first published in 1988. But I also made a confession. Most book reviewers receive the manuscript of a book months before publication. I was truly giving a fresh perspective, totally unaware of the book's notoriety to come. I told Hawking that, given his fame, I had figured his work would be a science-book best seller. Why it might even sell 20,000 copies!

Silly me. It, of course, sold millions around the world.

Hawking smiled.
Image Credit: Rob Bodman


  1. Terrific news. Congratulations, Marcia.

  2. How fun for you! I work at Caltech and have seen him in the past a number of times. He is so wonderful in that he dines with the students at round tables. I have to look through that book again.