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Rediff.com  » News » Couldn't finish A Brief History of Time? Ah, there's hope now

Couldn't finish A Brief History of Time? Ah, there's hope now

June 25, 2007 14:05 IST
A scientist, his daughter, a curious boy named George and a supercomputer: Ingredients, all, in an upcoming work of fiction that sets out to demystify the secrets of the universe, for a young audience.

What makes the publication of George's Secret Key to the Universe, this September, big news is the name of the author: Stephen Hawking, the brilliant mind that spawned A Brief History of Time.

Co-writing the book is Lucy Hawking, one of the physicist's three children -- and therein lies the story within the story. Relations between Hawking and his family had soured following his divorce from first wife Jane.

It was on his wedding anniversary, in 1990, that Hawking informed Jane that he was leaving her for Elaine Mason, one of the nurses who had tended the wheelchair bound genius whose lifelong battle with Motor Neurone Disease is almost as famous as the fruits of his intellect.

His second marriage, however, ended in divorce in 2006, with tabloids at the time making allegations against Elaine after the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University -- a position once occupied by Sir Isaac Newton -- was found to have heatstroke, a wrist fracture among other things.

While Hawking denied the reports, he ended the marriage last year following which, there have been moves towards improving relations between the physicist and the children of his first marriage.

Hawking's collaboration with Jane, 36, is being seen as part of this move.

'Working together brought my dad and I much closer together,' Lucy Hawking told the British newspaper The Independent on Sunday, adding that the project had helped her make a fresh start with her famous father.

The idea for the book came from Lucy, who was looking around for ways to explain to her autistic nine-year-old son what her father had achieved in the field of physics.

'I imagined a story for children in which the adventures are based on real physics,' Lucy told the IoS. 'Is there any bigger adventure than space?'

Hawking meanwhile has said he is enjoying his return to productivity. Around the time of his divorce from Elaine, the speech synthesiser on his computer began to break down, cutting him off from almost all communication with the world outside his mind. As is now wellknown, Hawking, who lost his power of speech after the onslaught of his disease, communicates via his computer's speech synthesiser.

Intel stepped into the breach, with an offer of a new computer once every 18 months; a newly recharged Hawking slipped the bounds of his disability in April with a zero-gravity flight. He has since booked himself a seat on Virgin founder Richard Branson's planned first commercial space flight, scheduled for 2009.

Hawking said the upcoming book is the first in a trilogy that will seek to explain the mysteries of the universe to an audience of the young while making physics fun. 'It is very important,' the Independent quotes him as saying, 'for young people to maintain their ability to marvel at the world around them and to keep asking why?'

Professor Hawking's Web site

Rediff International News Bureau