THE late, great astrophysicist Stephen Hawking was known for his wicked sense of humour, and one of his funniest “experiments” involved throwing a party to prove time travel doesn’t exist.
A clip from 2010 documentary Into the Universe shows the iconic scientist, who died at his home in Cambridge aged 76, waiting for attendees to show up to the champagne-fuelled soiree.
“I like simple experiments … and champagne,” says a voiceover as the camera pans over plates of hors d’oeuvres and flutes of Krug. “So I’ve combined two of my favourite things to see if time travel from the future to the past is possible. I’m throwing a party. A welcome reception for future time travellers.”
The scientist is seen sitting in his wheelchair alone in a sumptuous, brightly lit room at the University of Cambridge, decorated with balloons and a large sign that reads: “Welcome time travellers.”
However, the cosmologist explains, “there’s a twist”. He didn’t send the invitation out until after the party.
“You are cordially invited to a reception for Time Travellers,” the invite reads. “No RSVP required.” It gives the date, time and exact coordinates of the location at Cambridge University’s Gonville and Caius College.
“I’m hoping copies of it in one form or another will survive for many thousands of years.” he explains. “Maybe one day, someone living in the future will find the information and use a wormhole time machine to come back to my party, proving that time travel will one day be possible.”
A hopeful Hawking is seen sitting alone in the room as the seconds tick by, and no one appears. “What a shame,” jokes the scientist. “I was hoping a future Miss Universe was going to step through the door.”
Some have attributed the cosmologist’s remarkable longevity to his ability to see the funny side of human existence, as well as its scientific import.
Hawking was diagnosed with motor neurone disease at the age of 21, and given just two years to live. Incredibly, he lived a rich life and continued his vital work for another 50 years, making him one of the longest surviving patients in history.
In June 2014, comedian John Oliver asked Hawking in an interview: “You’ve stated that there could be an infinite number of parallel universe … Does that mean there’s a universe out there where I am smarter than you?”
Lightning fast, Hawking countered: “Yes. And also a universe where you’re funny.”
The scientist claimed in a 2013 documentary that “keeping an active mind has been vital to my survival, as has maintaining a sense of humour.”
He wryly added: “I am probably better known for my appearances on The Simpsons and on The Big Bang Theory than I am for my scientific discoveries.”
Of course, just because no one came to his party, doesn’t mean that time travel doesn’t exist, Giant Freakin Robot blog has pointed out. The issue could be that the party took place on a different reality timeline, the invitations didn’t survive long enough for anyone to see, time travellers can’t control their movement or simply that “time travelers are d**ks.”
The British scientist was well-known for his love of a finer drop, as well as his groundbreaking research into black holes and relativity. In an interview with Piers Morgan last year, he said his perfect final day on earth would feature champagne, classic music and his loved ones.
“Oh, my last day, it would be being with my family and listening to Wagner,” Hawking told the television host in the poignant clip. “While sipping champagne in the summer sun.”
Hawking had a colourful love life, divorcing his first wife Jane Wilde to marry his nurse Elaine Mason, who his children accused of cutting them off from their father. They too divorced in 2006, and the scientist re-established a friendship with Ms Wilde.
His children remained his greatest loves, with the father of three saying his happiest day came in 1967 when his first child, Robert, was born. In a statement announcing his death, Robert, Lucy and Tim wrote of their father: “He once said, ‘It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.’ We will miss him forever.”
The world-famous professor once said his ultimate dream was to travel beyond the earth’s atmosphere.
“My three children have brought me great joy. And I can tell you what will make me happy — to travel in space. I have already completed a zero gravity flight which allowed me to float weightless.”
We can only hope the great scientist has achieved that wish now, and is floating high above the clouds, looking at the world that so fascinated him.