A Brief History of Time: A (Kinda) Clear Explanation

A Brief History of Time: A (Kinda) Clear Explanation

Recently retiring from his Cambridge chair – once held by Isaac Newton – Stephen Hawking was the next Einstein and even proved some of his elder’s theories to be false. That’s some heady stuff to take care of before reaching the age of forty. Beyond even that, the fact that Hawking was and remains confined to a wheel chair makes all of his accomplishments all the more astounding – although it shouldn’t. That being said, his could also be considered the great democratizer of science. Hawking’s aim in writing the 1988 book A Brief History of Time was to engage the lay person in a scientific discourse relating to where the world and our solar system came from and furthermore, why. Heavy stuff.

And even as the writer and scientist aimed at compiling a book that was relatively easy to get through, most of the language and what it references is going to be beyond what most folks can comprehend – I don’t get it at all. I mean, what’s string theory?

To help us dummies out, though, Erol Morris attempted to mix Hawking’s theoretics and the scientist’s background into a digestible film. It works for the most part, although, some of the conceptual stuff is still going to escape people not predisposed to thinking in such a manner.

Either way, it’s an interesting setting for the scientist to be in. He’s not the most film ready individual – and Morris actually shies away from featuring him too much. Instead various relatives and colleagues function to tell a story, lend some quips and insight into all of this. Most of A Brief History of Time (the film, not the book) stays away from theory and tells the stories of Hawking arriving at his genius.

It’ll comfort some that he was a slacker – while still possessing more intelligence and ability than most others on the planet – and didn’t really work too diligently at school. There’s a scene where a colleague goes as far to posit that because of Hawking’s loss of mobility and the use of his hands, the scientist was necessitated to fall back into conceptualizing everything in his mind, thus bolstering his thought process.

There’re are entire sections of the film with Hawking’s mother as she stops a moment before saying her son was lucky to have the disability, otherwise he may have continued upon his slackerific ways. She pulls back repeatedly, but qualifies it by saying that ALS (aka Lou Gerhig’s Disease) would have been worse for most other people.

Regardless, the universe expanding and falling back in on itself gets a thorough explaining as well as how black holes work. Hawking even concludes that he was wrong a few times – which is a pretty shocking revelation. But what the film unintentionally does is to prompt viewers to think that if a man in this physical state can be the most revered scientist of his generation, what other folks potentially have the same scientific acumen, but haven’t been given the proper avenues to utilize it? Is there a third world Hawking somewhere?