Saturday, April 28, 2007

Life imitates Science Fiction: Hawking vs. Heinlein

Watching Stephen hawking enjoy his minutes of free fall this week has reminded me of the classic science fiction story "Waldo" by Robert Heinlein. In the story, a man with myasthenia gravis, a condition of extreme weakness in the muscles, lives on a space station in zero-G where his condition will not be such an obstacle. Contrast this to Stephen Hawking who has Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease) which leaves him unable to control his muscles, but he looks excited floating in no gravity (the video at the first link is especially touching).

Stephen hawking floating in zero-G

Waldo floating in zero-G

The short story "Waldo" is most famous for lending its title as the name of remote manipulators at which the protagonist of the story, Waldo, was an expert. Waldo's weakness caused him to develop his mind and intellect much in the same way as the brilliant theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking. Dr. Hawking has apparently kept a much sunnier outlook in spite of his difficulties than the character Waldo did.

In the story, Waldo overcomes his difficulties through the use of magic while working on an important problem. Would that we really had that kind of magic for Stephen Hawking and all sufferers of such diseases.

1 comment:

Karen :) said...

Fascinating! I have MG, but have never heard of "Waldo" until now.

I am glad this post came up in my e-mail!


K :)