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I've always thought of Stephen Hawking—whose new book The Grand Design (Bantam 2010), co-written with Leonard Mlodinow, has become an instant bestseller—less as a scientist than as a cosmic, comic performance artist, who loves goofing on his fellow physicists and the rest of us.

This penchant was already apparent in 1980, when the University of Cambridge named Hawking Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, the chair held three centuries earlier by Isaac Newton. Many would have been cowed into caution by such an honor. But in his inaugural lecture, "Is the End in Sight for Theoretical Physics?", Hawking predicted that physics was on the verge of a unified theory so potent and complete that it would bring the field to a close. The theory would not only unite relativity and quantum mechanics into one tidy package and "describe all possible observations." It would also tell us why the big bang banged and spawned our weird world rather than something entirely different.

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"While I agree with Horgan's low opinion of M/string theory as Popper unfalsifiable pseudo-physics, I disagree with his dismissal of teleology and SAP as CRAP. Furthermore, if Hawking was joking about the Mind of God at the end of A Brief History of Time, then the joke may be on him, not only because of the destiny state vector theory of Yakir Aharonov and the 2004 Ph.D. of Tamara Davis, but because of his own early 1970's work on cosmological horizons (with George Ellis) and the hologram ideas of 't Hooft and Susskind. I mean that our future de Sitter dark energy horizon may in fact house the conscious cosmic computer (Seth Lloyd's horizons as the ultimate laptop) holographically projecting us as its images back from the future. Admittedly this is a really crazy idea, but it just might be crazy enough to be true." -- Jack Sarfatti

Category: Science