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Prof Hawking was right - it's an amazing universe out there

PUBLISHED: 10:14 26 March 2018

The Rev Tim Yau

The Rev Tim Yau

Archant

The Rev Tim Yau recalls a meeting with the late Professor Stephen Hawking.

I’ve always been a curious soul, excited about new discoveries and future possibilities, I think that’s why I love all things sci-fi. Exploring the big ‘What if?’ questions frequently illuminate my journey through this life. This imaginative disposition is often equated with poets, dreamers and hopeless romantics, and is regularly dismissed by self-proclaimed ‘realists’ seeking facts, figures and functional applications. However, I believe that humanity needs people whose vision stretches beyond the immediately practical.

The recently-departed cultural and scientific icon Stephen Hawking wrote the following in his book The Universe in a Nutshell: “It surprises me how disinterested we are today about things like physics, space, the universe and philosophy of our existence, our purpose, our final destination. It’s a crazy world out there. Be curious.”

I remember meeting Prof Hawking once at a candle-lit carol service in my church in Cambridge. The calming darkness, interspersed by the soft glow of flickering flames, and the transcendent melodies lifted our hearts and minds to higher things. Being in the presence of one of the world’s greatest minds I felt ignorant and awkward, as science and spirituality collided. Looking back, I realise that he and I were on similar paths as truth-seekers, although coming from different disciplines. The world needs professors and priests; theorists and theologians; mathematicians and musicians, each adding their own unique element to our understanding of the universe.

The ancient hymn writer in Psalm 19 wrote:

‘The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship.

Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known.

They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard.

Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world.’

The world’s most celebrated Theoretical Physicist was the embodiment of inquisitiveness, tenacity and intellect. He spent decades searching for the ‘Theory of Everything’ that he believed was at the heart of the cosmos. Sadly, the professor never got to finish his work, nevertheless we can all continue discovering the deeper meaning of the universe if we do it together.

The Rev Tim Yau is a Church of England Pioneer Missioner

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