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As mathematician, I became curious about the newly released movie The Theory of Everything, which depicts the real life story of world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking.
In the end, it's not clear to me that the goal of films like The Theory of Everything is or should be didactic. In fact, the film strikes me as a beautifully crafted, feature-length example of a larger efflorescence in recent years of creative, engaging projects about science.
Eddie Redmayne stars as Stephen Hawking, from his days as a Cambridge grad student in physics to his breakthrough years as a faculty physicist. It also deals with his marriage to Jane (Felicity Jones), who weds him even though he's been given a death-sentence diagnosis of ALS.
At a recent private screening of The Theory of Everything, I had the chance to discuss with writer Anthony McCarten both his approach to the material and the Hawking family's reaction to the film.
I met Jane Hawking quite late in the process after I had already developed my own instincts and ideas about her. When playing a character who is still alive, you're worried that you might have gone in the wrong direction so you're a bit apprehensive meeting the real person you're playing. With Jane, it made my job so much easier.
As a tech historian, I am pleased as punch that Hollywood has finally focused its blockbuster, Oscar-bait attention on British scientists.
That we have been sleepwalking through such massive destabilization for decades proves that we are much better at consensually hallucinating than we are at separating our sciences and fictions.
Stephen Hawking, ALS and all, is such a 'character,' he's perfect as the charismatic center of a movie. That's partly because of his brilliance in physics and cosmology, partly because his bold yet childlike persona, and partly because of the woman who kept his brain alive, his wife Jane.
As he puts it: "...death is a loss... but...living too long is also a loss." It's a question of which we prefer, a shorter more vibrant life, or a longer one in which we eventually will have to cope with the challenge of a slow decline.
Space is not empty but is permeated everywhere by the Higgs field: from the privacy of your bathroom to the most distant reaches of our universe. But because it is a field in Nature, it allows 'empty space' to have its own energy as this field interacts with itself.
I first became inspired by the Hawking story in 1988, with the publication of A Brief History of Time, when I, and 10 million other readers,were blissfully bamboozled by this incredibly profound work.
Which is what I value most about the film festival experience in general: the chance it offers to discover a film, a filmmaker, an actor -- the operative word being discover. That's less and less of a factor at this particular festival these days. Instead, it seems stacked with pre-sold titles.
If you've seen the trailer for The Theory of Everything, the forthcoming film about Stephen Hawking and his wife Jane, you may have felt your heart swell and eyes tear up. After all, their story is filled with love, dedication, groundbreaking science and inspiring teamwork.
In a most unexpected way, physics has started to criticize its own sense of reality. Noted figures are speaking out against other noted figures, and heads are being knocked.