CRF Blog

Stephen Hawking’s Birthday

by Bill Hayes

January 8 was the 70th birthday of the great physicist Stephen Hawking. Sean Carroll, a researcher at Cal Tech, tells an amusing story of the first time he met Hawking.

Cambridge is one of the world’s best places to do theoretical physics, and I was sorely tempted, but I ended up going to MIT instead. Three years later, I went through the process again, as postdocs typically do. And again Cambridge offered me the job — and again, after a very tough decision, I said no, heading of the the ITP in Santa Barbara instead.

Up to this point I had never actually met Hawking in person, although I had been in the audience for one of his lectures. But every year he visits Caltech and Santa Barbara, so I finally got to be with him in the same place. The first time he visited he brought along a young grad student named Raphael Bousso, who has gone on to do quite well for himself in his own right. As a group of us went to lunch, I mentioned to Raphael that I had never said hi to Stephen in person, so I’d appreciate it if he would introduce us. But, I cautioned, I hope he wasn’t upset with me, because he had offered me a postdoc and I turned it down.

Raphael just laughed and said, “Don’t worry, there’s this one guy who he offered a postdoc to twice, and he turned it down both times!” So I had to explain that this guy was actually me. [more]