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  • Stephen Hawking is so famous, you'd recognize his voice anywhere.

  • But he also famously has ALS, which normally gives patients a very short time to live.

  • So who is Stephen Hawking, and how is it that he has lived so long with this disorder?

  • Hello world, Trace with a non-synthesized voice here for DNews.

  • Stephen Hawking is 74.

  • You know him.

  • He's published over 200 papers and books.

  • IMDb has him appearing in 65 tv shows and movies as himself.

  • Hawking is an intelligent and popular mind in science and pop culture, in part because

  • of his outrageous and cerebral theories on how the universe works, and also that he does

  • it all from a wheelchair, with a computer synthesizer for his voice.

  • But that's not really why he became such a big deal in science.

  • In 1970, Hawking and his colleague Roger Penrose published a paper in the Proceedings of the

  • Royal Society A proposing a new theorem for describing the Big Bang and how the universe

  • began as a singularityand will likely end as one.

  • See, in 1970, The Big Bang theory was still debated, but because of this paper (and others)

  • it gained more credence!

  • After that, through conversations with other physicists about black holes, Hawking came

  • up with a way to stitch together two branches of modern physics -- General Relativity and

  • Quantum Theory -- basically, how the universe works on a macro level and a WAY smaller than

  • micro level.

  • Another paper in Nature in 1974 proposes the idea that black holes (governed by general

  • relativity) can emit radiation and explode; and a few years later in 1980 he works to

  • unify general relativity and the beginning of the universe by describing the moments

  • after the Big Bang using quantum theory.

  • These suggestions were also, and kind of obviously, super controversial.

  • Though today, physicists generally think Hawking Radiation does help black holes evaporate.

  • He's gone on to continue proposing these cockamamie ideas, all while his ALS makes him less and

  • less physically abled.

  • At age 21 he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS; also known as Lou

  • Gehrig's Disease; though you're likely familiar with it thanks to the 2014 Ice Bucket Challenge.

  • ALS is a \"progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and

  • the spinal cord\".

  • The word amyotrophic literally means no muscle nourishment.

  • But the muscles aren't what's directly affected by ALS.

  • Instead, nerve cells (called motor neurons) in the brain and spinal cord degenerate.

  • These motor neurons tell the body's muscles to flex, so gradually, the brain loses control

  • of its ability to command muscles.

  • ALS affects everyone differently.

  • For example, there are two neuronal groups: the upper and lower motor neurons.

  • If ALS degrades the upper motor neurons located in the brain: muscles will tighten and resist

  • movement.

  • If it hits the lower motor neurons in the spinal cord: the person will feel weak, get

  • twitches, and their muscles will waste away.

  • As ALS progresses, it will start somewhere and then spread to surrounding motor neurons,

  • affecting muscles all over the body.

  • This can take away the ability to walk, write, speak, swallow, and breathe.

  • Once the muscles don't get commands, they begin to atrophy -- or shrink.

  • There's no cure, yet.

  • And the ALS Association says half of people diagnosed live three or more years, but only

  • ten percent will live more than 10 years.

  • Though, Hawking is still kicking it, figuratively speaking!

  • For some reason, Hawking's ALS didn't affect his ability to breathe (which would deprive

  • him of oxygen) or swallow (which could cause dehydration or malnourishment) -- and left

  • his face under his control.

  • We know he can move his face, because that's how he controls his computer voice!

  • A set of letters, scrolls in front of him, and a twitch from the cheek (detected by the

  • arm on his glasses), selects a letter, then another, then words begin to appear as well.

  • Though, there's no guarantee this will work forever.

  • In the 1990s, he still had the use of his finger, but no longer.

  • He lost the ability to speak, not because of ALS, by the way, but because of a terrible

  • case of pneumonia he acquired in 1985 while visiting CERN in Geneva.

  • Doctors in the UK gave him a tracheotomy to keep him breathing and he lost his ability

  • to speak as a result.

  • If you're thinking (like I was) holy crap, this guy has had a lot of stuff happen to

  • him.

  • Just remember, this doesn't keep Hawking down.

  • He's travelled the world, and experienced zero gravity, (he, in his computer-voice,

  • told reporters after, \"space, here I come.\") and he told the New York Times in 2011, “I

  • am lucky to be working in theoretical physics, one of the few areas in which disability is

  • not a serious handicap.”

  • And he's kept his sense of humor, appearing on the Simpsons, Last Week Tonight, and more.

  • In 2002, a neurologist told the British Medical Journal, \"I am not aware of anyone else who

  • has survived with [ALS] as long.

  • the disease seems to have almost burnt out.

  • ... This kind of stabilisation is extremely rare.\"

  • No one knows exactly why Hawking has lived so long with ALS, but it's pretty clear that

  • he is a unique mind and man.

  • When asked by the New York Times to give advice to others who may suffer from a disability,

  • Stephen Hawking said, \"Concentrate on things your disability doesn't prevent you doing

  • well, and don't regret the things it interferes with.

  • Don't be disabled in spirit, as well as physically.\"

  • Hawking has predicted many things in his lifetime, and he also thinks that for humanity to survive,

  • we're going to have to leave Earth.

  • We have video about why he thinks that, here.

  • What's your favorite thing about Stephen Hawking?

  • Why do you think he's cool?

Stephen Hawking is so famous, you'd recognize his voice anywhere.

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How Stephen Hawking Lived So Long With ALS

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    Johnny Tsai posted on 2018/03/14
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