What can English-language students learn from Stephen Hawking?

英国, 2009年, スティーヴン·ホーキング

Stephen Hawking is regarded as one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists since Einstein. He is famous for his work on black holes, and for his first book, A Brief History of Time.

He is also famous for his voice. He has motor neurone disease (a rare condition that progressively damages the nervous system) and speaks through a voice synthesizer.

“The voice is one of the unique things that defines Stephen, in my opinion,” says Sam Blackburn, who is Hawking’s technician.

“He could easily change to a voice that clearer, perhaps more soothing to listen to – less robotic sounding – but it wouldn’t be Stephen’s voice anymore.”

Why does Hawking’s voice sound ‘robotic’?

One reason is that his speech synthesizer gives approximately equal stress (strength) to each syllable and each word. The stress pattern of ‘natural’ English, however, is very unequal.

This is a lecture that Hawking gave at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in 2009. It is a technical talk entitled Spontaneous Creation of Universes, but Hawking beings (at 2:45) with an example of a creation myth (a traditional story of how the universe began).

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Can you hear me?

According to the Apache Indians, in the beginning, nothing existed. Only darkness was everywhere. Suddenly, a thin disk emerged from the darkness, one side yellow and the other white, appearing suspended in mid-air.

Within the disk sat the Creator, the One Who Lives Above. When he looked into the endless darkness, light appeared above. He looked down and it became a sea of light. To the east, he created yellow streaks of dawn. To the west, tints of many colours appeared everywhere.

Similar creation myths occur in other cultures. The early attempts to answer the age-old questions: why are we here? Where did we come from?

A key question was: did the universe have a beginning?

Was there a moment of creation? Or has the universe existed for ever?

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