Watch Stephen Hawking’s Interview with Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Recorded 10 Days Before His Death: A Last Conversation about Black Holes, Time Travel & More

Ten days before Stephen Hawking’s death, Neil DeGrasse Tyson sat down with the world-famous physi­cist for an inter­view on Tyson’s StarTalk pod­cast. “I picked his leg­endary brain,” says Tyson in his intro­duc­tion, “on every­thing, from the big bang to the ori­gins of the uni­verse.” He starts off, how­ev­er, with some soft­balls. Hawking’s favorite food? He likes oys­ters. Favorite drink? Pimms.

Your appre­ci­a­tion for Tyson’s earnest­ly awk­ward small talk may vary. He’s prone to mak­ing him­self laugh, which doesn’t elic­it laughs from Hawk­ing, whose com­mu­ni­ca­tion was, of course, extra­or­di­nar­i­ly con­strained. And yet, when it came to mat­ters most of con­se­quence to him, he was elo­quent, wit­ty, pro­found into his final days.

Though we can­not detect any tonal inflec­tion in Hawking’s com­put­er voice, we know him as a sen­si­tive, com­pas­sion­ate per­son as well as a bril­liant mind. It doesn’t sound like he’s brag­ging when—in answer to Tyson’s ques­tion about his favorite equa­tion (at 4:10)—he replies, “the equa­tion I dis­cov­ered relat­ing the entropy of black hole to the area of its hori­zon.” “How many peo­ple,” Tyson replies, chuck­ling, “get to say that their favorite equa­tion is one they came up with? That’s badass.”

Cut­away seg­ments with Tyson, the­o­ret­i­cal physi­cist Jan­na Levin, and come­di­an Matt Kir­shen sur­round the short inter­view, with Levin offer­ing her pro­fes­sion­al exper­tise as a cos­mol­o­gist to explain Hawking’s ideas in lay terms. His favorite equa­tion, she says, demon­strates that black holes actu­al­ly radi­ate ener­gy, return­ing infor­ma­tion, though in a high­ly dis­or­dered form, that was pre­vi­ous­ly thought lost for­ev­er.

At 8:05, hear Hawking’s answer to the ques­tion of what he would ask Isaac New­ton if he could go back in time. Whether we under­stand his reply or not, we learn how “badass” it is in the cut­away com­men­tary (which begins to seem a lit­tle ESPN-like, with Levin as the sea­soned play­er on the pan­el). Rather than ask­ing New­ton a ques­tion Hawk­ing him­self didn’t know the answer to, which New­ton like­ly couldn’t answer either, Hawk­ing would ask him to solve a prob­lem at the lim­it of Newton’s own stud­ies, there­by test­ing the Enlight­en­ment giant’s abil­i­ties.

Offered ad-free in Hawking’s mem­o­ry, the pod­cast inter­view also tack­les the ques­tion of whether it might ever be pos­si­ble to actu­al­ly trav­el back in time, at 24:00 (the answer may dis­ap­point you). Michio Kaku joins the pan­el in the stu­dio to clar­i­fy and sticks around for the remain­der of the dis­cus­sion. The pan­el also answers fan-sub­mit­ted ques­tions, and Bill Nye makes an appear­ance at 42:16. Hawking’s inter­view makes up a com­par­a­tive­ly small por­tion of the show.

His answers, by neces­si­ty, were very brief and to the point. His final the­o­ries, by con­trast, are mind-expand­ing­ly vast, open­ing us up to the secrets of black holes and the exis­tence of the mul­ti­verse. While Hawk­ing’s the­o­ret­i­cal work may have been too spec­u­la­tive for the Nobel com­mit­tee, who need hard evi­dence to make a call, his lega­cy as “one of our great­est minds, of our gen­er­a­tion, of the cen­tu­ry, or maybe, ever,” as Tyson says, seems secure.

via Laugh­ing Squid

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Stephen Hawk­ing (RIP) Explains His Rev­o­lu­tion­ary The­o­ry of Black Holes with the Help of Chalk­board Ani­ma­tions

The Lighter Side of Stephen Hawk­ing: The Physi­cist Cracks Jokes and a Smile with John Oliv­er

Stephen Hawking’s Uni­verse: A Visu­al­iza­tion of His Lec­tures with Stars & Sound

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

by | Permalink | Comments (1) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.