Hawking Follows Path Set By Heinlein's Waldo
In his 1942 story Waldo, Robert Heinlein writes about Waldo F. Jones, who has myasthenia gravis, a muscle disease. Waldo is helpless in a wheelchair or bed most of the time, with barely the strength of a toddler.
As an adult, he realized his dream of living in a house without gravity:
Waldo F. Jones seemed to be floating in thin air at the center of a spherical room. The appearance was caused by the fact that he was indeed floating in air. His house lay in a free orbit, with a period of just over twenty-four hours. No spin had been impressed on his home; the pseudo gravity of centrifugal force was the thing he wanted least. He had left Earth to get away from its gravitational field; he had not been down to the surface once in the seventeen years since his house was built and towed into her orbit; he never intended to do so for any purpose whatsoever.
Here, floating free in space in his own air-conditioned shell, he was almost free of the unbearable lifelong slavery to his impotent muscles. What little strength he had he could spend economically, in movement, rather than in fighting against the tearing, tiring weight of the Earth's thick field...
Famed mathematician Stephen Hawking seems to be headed in the same direction, for much the same reason. His body is almost completely immobilized due to the paralyzing disease ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease).
He uses a computer to "speak" in a synthesized voice by choosing words on a computer screen through an infrared sensor on a headpiece that detects motion in his cheek.
Hawking flew last Thursday on a modified jet that climbs to arouind 32,000 feet and then makes a parabolic dive to 24,000 feet, providing the experience of weightlessness for about 25 seconds. This plane performs the same maneuvers as the famed "Vomit Comet" (also known as the "Weightless Wonder"), a modified KC-135 long used by NASA to train astronauts.
(Stephen Hawking enjoys a few moments in zero G)
"As you can imagine, I'm very excited. I have been wheelchair bound for almost four decades. The chance to float free in zero-g will be wonderful.
I want to demonstrate to the public that anybody can participate in this type of weightless experience."
Hawking's personal physicians were on hand to make sure nothing went wrong. The physicist was attached to heart, blood pressure and oxygen-measuring monitors during the flight. Medical equipment sufficient for a mini-intensive care unit also was on board, said Dr. Edwin Chilvers, Hawking's personal physician.
The astrophysicist hopes the zero-gravity flight is a step toward going on a suborbital flight, which may be offered by private space companies by the end of the decade. And then - who knows?
Read more at Space.com.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 4/27/2007)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion (Back On) ( 0 )
Related News Stories -
The Interplanetary Internet, Vint Cerf Speaking
'This was the center of Interplanetary Communications.'- George O. Smith, 1942.
30-Day Trip To Mars?
'The Federation Ship Champion... made the crossing under Lyle Drive in only nineteen days.'- Robert Heinlein, 1961.
The Atacama Large Millimeter Array - And Fred Hoyle
'Scientifically it would all make a lot more sense in Chile.'- Sir Fred Hoyle, 1973.
Students! NASA's Space Radiation Challenge Is On
'The rocket-water tanks - all around us... that saved us?'- John W. Campbell, 1936.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
MIT Robot Cheetah Video Shows Gait Transition
'The legs are long, curled way up to deliver power, like a cheetah's.'
TrackingPoint Smart Rifle
Not your typical 'smart bullet' approach.
'Hello, Computer!' Google Now Highlighted at IO13
Sky City's 220 Stories Are Go
'It rested among green parklands and... stood in total isolation, a glittering block of whites and flashing windows dotted with colors.'
CARMAT Bioprosthetic Total Human Heart Replacement
'George Walt's corporate existence proved the workability of wholly mechanical organs...'
Personal Sniffer Robots
'...The ticking combinations of the olfactory system of the hound.'
Physical Exam? We've Got Apps
See the future of handheld, personal medical devices.
The Interplanetary Internet, Vint Cerf Speaking
'This was the center of Interplanetary Communications.'
Drosophila Robotica, The Mechanical Fly
'... the Scarab [flying robot] buzzed into the great workroom as any intruding insect might...'
Robo-Raven Flapping Wing Robot Bird
'When he had first built them, they had been crude indeed, flying mechanisms with little more than a reflex-response unit.'
Japan's Nursing Home Robot Plan
Let's make the Roujin Z-0001 Robotic Bed!
Samsung Smart TVs With Gesture Control
'He waved his hand and the circuit switched abruptly.'
Swiss HCPVT Giant Photovoltaic 'Flower'
'...leaning against one of the slender stalks of a sunshade-photocell collector.'
Mini-Livers Made By 3D Printer
Organleggers may experience an employment downturn.
Smartphone Sensor System Tracks Gunfire
'Sound trackers on the roof could zero in on weapons action...'
Bacteria Now Make Biofuel Like Oil
'They have ... germs that eat pretty near anything, and produce oil as a waste product.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories