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Space Science

Hawking to Take Zero Gravity Ride 127

Posted by Zonk
from the i'm-the-mighty-stephen-hawking dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Well-known cosmologist Stephen Hawking is preparing for a once-in a lifetime trip. His goals are for even higher ground, but right now he's readying for an April zero gravity ride aboard NASA's 'vomit comet'. His ultimate goal is to take a ride on one of Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic flights, and this is a 'test run' for that more rigorous experience. Though complex math ain't no thing for Dr. Hawking, his interests here are purely inspirational. 'Hawking says he wants to encourage public interest in spaceflight, which he believes is critical to the future of humanity. "I also want to show," he said in an e-mail interview, "that people need not be limited by physical handicaps as long as they are not disabled in spirit."'"
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Hawking to Take Zero Gravity Ride

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  • by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Saturday March 03, 2007 @05:38PM (#18220596) Homepage Journal
    Does this mean that anyone can get to go for a ride?
    I was under the impression you had to have a certain level of fitness and stamina.

    I also cannot get the thought of the south park kid shouting "Timmmeh!" whilst riding the shuttle.
    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by MightyMartian (840721)
      Who could say know to one of the world's foremost physicists?
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Grammar ewe do not no. Eye here that we lowered standards hare in America and ewe are the result.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Cimon Avaro (1022609)
        Not totally historically void question, even though it might appear so on the surface.

        The story goes that Hawking met the pope and was asked if there was any specific request he might have of the vaticans resources (or something on those lines, I am too lazy to google or wikipedia for the details), and he asked to see the interrogation documents of Galileo Galilei. Apparently as the interrogation was translated to him, Hawking made several sarcastic comments. Not necessarily totally unrelated to this encou
    • Easy, he watched GATACCA and found a way to hack the sytem.
      • Security Guard: So you're really Ronald P. Heatherstone.

        Hawking: zzzzzzzzzzgggggggggggggghhhhhhhhh Y....E....S

        Security Guard: You're absolutely positive here?

        Hawking: zzzzzzzzzzgggggggggggggghhhhhhhhh Y....E....S

        Security Guard: Say's here Ronald P. Heatherstone is a top rated fighter pilot, stands 6 ft 3, weights 220 pounds and can bench press a Toyota. You're absolute sure this is you?

        Hawking: zzzzzzzzzzgggggggggggggghhhhhhhhh Y....E....S

        Security: Right then, off with you.

        Hawking: zzzzzzzzzzgggggggggggggg
    • by Tablizer (95088) on Saturday March 03, 2007 @05:49PM (#18220726) Homepage Journal
      I was under the impression you had to have a certain level of fitness and stamina.

      Maybe they figure he has nothing to lose. As long as his head is protected, so what if he breaks his spine or loses a limb: he can't use them anyhow.
           
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by RockyPersaud (937868)

      The posting is incorrect, but the article is correct. It's not NASA's Vomit Comet (KC-135), but the Zero Gravity Corporation's G-Force One.

      And yes, it's open to everyone who mets their basic health requirements and is at least 15 years old. Whether Hawking meets the requirements I'd like to know (ie. are they making an exception?)

      • From a total health perspective people with very limited mobility could benefit from living in a zero g environment.
        Up there, we are essentially equal.

        Its just the travelling which would be a problem.
      • Hopefully Steve-O gets the chance to have a ride on the Virgin Galactic flights. Maybe he'll have an idea (*cough*unifiedtheory*cough*)that changes the world on his zero-g ride :)
    • by tlhIngan (30335)
      These guys [gozerog.com] will let you experience zero G for a couple grand last I checked. I don't exactly remember what their fitness requirements are, but I believe it's fairly light.
      • No. It's not open to everyone. There are FAA restrictions on the ability for an individual to follow safety instructions during these special flights. However, if you have adequate professional assistance, the safety requirements can be met.
  • Rumor is.... (Score:3, Informative)

    by drfrog (145882) on Saturday March 03, 2007 @05:39PM (#18220608) Homepage
    He's getting ready for his new album and is shooting video on these flights

    http://www.mchawking.com/ [mchawking.com]
  • ...If he is, why would he be using the term "zero gee"? The submitter, I can understand...
    • is Hawking a real physicist? ...If he is, why would he be using the term "zero gee"? The submitter, I can understand...


      I would guess he is using the term "zero gee" so those who are not aware of his status as a physicist, or physics in general get the basic meaning. Not to say that you don't know that is is a real physicist or anything. I mean, holding the same office as that Newton guy probably does not mean much. ;)
      • I mean, holding the same office as that Newton guy probably does not mean much. ;)

        Some people think he's not that great as can be seen in the video The Hawking Paradox [google.ca].
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by novafire (263854)
          No scientist with or without Hawking's celebrity status is without fault. Regardless of how many thumbs up or thumbs down his various works have gotten, I think he has at the very least helped publicize science in the eyes of the common man. In a world where creationism and religious fundamentalism can try to squash science and somehow often succeeds, we as a race need books such as A Brief History of Time to at the very least get people interested in science and start asking questions. Questioning every
          • I still remember a classic Holodeck scene from Star Trek: The Next Generation, where Commander Data was playing poker with Newton, Einstein and Stephen Hawking [startrek.com]. You could tell he was enjoying himself.

            Not much doubt that he's deserving of his status, celebrity or otherwise. He earned it.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Lavene (1025400)

          Some people think he's not that great as can be seen in the video The Hawking Paradox [google.ca].

          For a scientist, being proven wrong is no big deal and often just as important as being right. It's just another factor in his/ her continuing work. Being wrong does not make you a bad scientist. Einstein's 'Cosmological Constant' anyone?

          Hawking has been wrong numerous times (it usually costs him a case of wine). Quite often he actually prove *himself* wrong.

    • There is no difference between zero gravity and free fall in a gravitational field. None whatsoever. That is, there is no experiment which will be able to distinguish between these to different cases. So, yes, the term "zero g" is perfectly valid.

      • I'm no physics expert, but won't there always be tidal forces that you could use to differentiate those cases - even ignoring the various observations you could make to see acceleration due to gravity?

        • No. There is absolutely no difference between free fall in a gravitational field and absence of a gravitational field. This is the famous Equivalence Principle of General Relativitiy. This link gives more detail: http://galileo.phys.virginia.edu/classes/252/gener al_relativity.html [virginia.edu]

          So there exists no difference at all between free fall and zero gravity. As for your second point, no experiment can distinguish between the two cases. So no observation can differentiate between the two.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by at_18 (224304)
            No. There is absolutely no difference between free fall in a gravitational field and absence of a gravitational field. This is the famous Equivalence Principle of General Relativitiy. This link gives more detail: http://galileo.phys.virginia.edu/classes/252/gene r [virginia.edu] al_relativity.html [virginia.edu]

            So there exists no difference at all between free fall and zero gravity. As for your second point, no experiment can distinguish between the two cases. So no observation can differentiate between the two.


            This is in
          • by Annoying (245064)
            There is a different between freefall in an atmosphere in a gravitational field and the absence of gravity. Most orbitting objects will eventually have orbital decay from the minimal amount of atmosphere they are in so the most correct term for the gravity situation in orbit is 'microgravity', given enough time any loose object will settle in accordance with the gravitational field. So I've heard anyway.
            • There is a different between freefall in an atmosphere in a gravitational field and the absence of gravity.

              Yeah, The rushing wind is a dead give-away too.
        • by Nyeerrmm (940927)
          There are some small variations, correct, but they're on the order of 10^-6 g, thus the preferred technical term for free-fall/orbit of 'microgravity.'
    • One of the reasons he became so well known in popular culture is his ability to put things into layman's terms. He isn't a pedantic nitpicker like many of the armchair scientists here on Slashdot are.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Uh, not to be picky, but my work chair doesn't have arms.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by aussie_a (778472)
      Its got less letters he has to type. I wouldn't be surprised if it was actually "0 g" he typed.

      Stephen Hawking, using 1337speak.
    • "...If he is, why would he be using the term "zero gee"?"

      Give me a break, everyone judges a persons worth based on the spelling of their words? As if people should be expected to fit some perfect ideal. I know plenty of smart degreed people, who couldn't spell to save their life.
    • by kerb (43511)
      he can say that because he is Hawking.
      and you are?
    • by Prof.Phreak (584152) on Saturday March 03, 2007 @09:34PM (#18222272) Homepage
      is Hawking a real physicist?

      Either that, or his voicebox computer is the first instance of AI.
      • by CptPicard (680154)

        And what a brilliant AI it is, solving complex physics problems for us! As a fun thought experiment, can you imagine Hawking's frustration if, inside his head, he actually lost his passion for doing physics soon after being incapacitated by ALS, but that his sentient computer is just parading him in conferences as a puppet for the street cred, just waiting for the right time to come out in the open about its true capabilities, when mankind is ready for it? Hawking knows full well what is going on, but as al

  • How about those tax problems with accepting prizes of "space trip"?

    Yes, we're supposed to pay taxes on things won in a give away, but the dude refusing a trip due to 25K$ is just sad.

    Who else, in the mass of average Joes can even afford to contemplate a space trip?
    • by bloobloo (957543)
      Hawking is British. We don't pay tax on prizes.
  • by chris_eineke (634570) on Saturday March 03, 2007 @05:42PM (#18220654) Homepage Journal
    ion-booster propelled wheelchair jokes in 5...
    4...
    3...
    2...
    1...
    IGNITION! ;)
  • by blind biker (1066130) on Saturday March 03, 2007 @05:46PM (#18220704) Journal
    ...I find Hawking's life an immense inspiration. Rock on dude, show the world what a man can do, even if almost completely paralized! FTW!
    • Err Hmm (Score:2, Insightful)

      by KKlaus (1012919)
      Well, to be fair, with an incredible amount of brilliance, so he can find a job where physical work is almost entirely unneccassary. It's not like he's an average guy just making it in the world. Sort of like ol Chris Reeves. All his story really means is that if you're extremely rich, you can expect to get treatments that far exceed what others would get. And since all the effort he puts into that directly helps him, I guess the most you can say is that he's not a wimp.

      Anyhow, I didn't mean to be downe
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Mal-2 (675116)
        Many children see basketball players as role models. It's quite questionable if they should, but no question that they do.

        Stephen Hawking was exceptionally lucky that his disability proved to be manageable, at least professionally. Others may be able to use this as inspiration to change to better-suited careers. One thing that absolutely cannot be disputed is his ability to roll with the punches, and fire back with a few of his own. Live life aggressively. If your only career path is to be a theoretical phy
      • he's a man of near singular abilities.
        And if he were a man of singular abilities we could never know it, for he would be on the other side of the event horizon.
  • what a... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by symes (835608)
    top bloke!

    "that people need not be limited by physical handicaps as long as they are not disabled in spirit."

    Says it all really.

    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by MightyMartian (840721)
      So if I go blind, I can still drive my car, right? After all, trundling down the road at 50mph, hitting pedestrians, crashing through department stores and killing innocent bystanders are all part of the inspirational story of a man who was disabled in vision, but not in spirit!
    • What a bigot, disparaging those of us who are disabled in spirit. Just because I have scoliosis of the soul doesn't mean that I don't deserve to fly on spacecraft that are named after the act of emesis.

      I bet the jerk Hawking hates crackpots and anthropocidal maniacs too.

    • Because really, even without this trip, his whole life has been a demonstration of that sentence.

    • Unfortunately, it seems most people are disabled in spirit. I blame TV.
  • ...would claim the flight crippled him and sue the plane owners ;-)
         
  • by evil agent (918566) on Saturday March 03, 2007 @05:56PM (#18220790)
    Fry: Stephen Hawking! Aren't you the guy who invented gravity?
    Hawking: Sure, why not.
  • ... he should be able to book a ride into space from these people [memorialspaceflights.com] - and they will guarantee he won't be vomiting.
  • Future != now (Score:4, Interesting)

    by renoX (11677) on Saturday March 03, 2007 @06:18PM (#18220932)
    While I respect the man, I'm a bit baffled by things like this "he wants to encourage public interest in spaceflight, which he believes is critical to the future of humanity."

    The "future" covers a huge amount of time, so I'm not sure we need to take interest in space exploration *now*. If I was the one spending money, I'll put most of the credit into Drexler's style nanotechnology research, once we 'master' nanotechnology, then tackling space exploration makes sense as either:
    - at best a space elevator becomes possible and space access cost are reduced a lot,
    - at worst a space elevator is impossible, but the improved materials should still reduce the cost of space access a lot and the payload themselves would be lighter.
    • Re:Future != now (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MMC Monster (602931) on Saturday March 03, 2007 @07:52PM (#18221600)
      Why not educate everyone before working on nanotechnology? Why not master world hunger before working on worldwide literacy rates?

      The point is, we can work on all of these things. Provided that humans still exist 500 years from now, there will still be poor illiterate people, regardless of what planet or plane of existence we live in then.

      Let's set our sights on the stars. Maybe at least we'll hit Mars.
      • by Teresita (982888)
        Provided that humans still exist 500 years from now, there will still be poor illiterate people, regardless of what planet or plane of existence we live in then.

        Except that in 2507 "illiterate" will be defined as a person who does not have a biochip brain implant to give them access to the Matrix. Or a person who has the implant but changed their mind so many times that Windows Genuine Advantage detected a crossed threshold, yanked their licence, and dumped them off the net until they call Redmond over
    • Nah. What we want to do is develop strong AI. That way, we can send transhuman robots to colonize the galaxy, while we stay home and read slashdot for the rest of eternity. Why worry about "the destiny of the human race" if you can get someone else to do it for you?
    • by NitsujTPU (19263)
      Different researchers have different interests. Just because nanotechnology is important and interesting doesn't mean that everyone interested in space exploration and, heck, computer science and biology should drop what their doing, and the public should lose interest.

      There's enough room in the world for both astrophysicists and materials technologists.
  • I thought the rich guy who wanted to pay NASA $20 million to fly with them was bringing in interest, but I guess he's not good enough.
    • some rich guy who you don't even know the name of or give a toss about at all, yea, he's going to really raise the profile eh?
  • The average g-load is 1g, so you typically get 0g for 25 seconds, and 2g for 25 seconds and some time in between.

    I am sure Hawkins will handle 0g, but I wonder how he will feel during the 25 seconds of 2g. That is stressful even for a healthy person.

    Slamming on the brakes in a Porsche on a good track going from 250km/h down to 0 is a change from 1g to 1.28g (sqrt(1^2+0.8^2), so the vomit comet is 7 times that! You are certainly smacked into the floor hard, even with assistants.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ACDChook (665413)
      Come on, you have to be kidding me. 2g for 25 seconds? That's hardly stressful at all. +2g in an aircraft is a LOT different to doing essentially -1.28g decelerating in a car. For starters, +ve g-forces are a lot easier for the body to tolerate than negative. Fighter pilots do up to about +10g for short periods, but only about -4g. I've done +5g for 30 seconds in an aerobatic spin, and ok, it does feel a bit heavy, but it's no problem. Even with Hawking's condition, 2g certainly shouldn't pose any threat.
    • Miscalculation on your part. The 1g typical is going straight down, while the 1.28g is pointing somewhat forward (I'm not even going to touch whether you've calculating it correctly. Is the 1.28 the resulting vector, or just the braking vector?). It's the change in direction, and the fact that your 'weight' is suddenly held in place by two straps that makes it uncomfortable.
  • It's a fun ride (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jay Maynard (54798) on Saturday March 03, 2007 @06:57PM (#18221238) Homepage
    I've been on that flight (courtesy of Jimmy Kimmel Live!, which got to show video of me losing my lunch [tronguy.net] in return). It's a lot of fun. I hope Professor Hawking enjoys his ride.

    Anyone who wants to can go on Zero G's flights, as long as they don't have a medical problem that gets in the way - and they have a doctor on staff who goes over your medical history before you go. All it takes is $3750.
    • by alienmole (15522)

      Anyone who wants to can go on Zero G's flights, as long as they don't have a medical problem that gets in the way - and they have a doctor on staff who goes over your medical history before you go.
      Oh yeah, Prof. Hawking's medical history shouldn't be a problem...
      • Oh yeah, Prof. Hawking's medical history shouldn't be a problem...
        Depends on what effect ALS has had on his body. If he's not susceptible to motion sickness, it may not be a big deal after all. Regardless, he's not getting on that 727 unless the doc clears him, and given his prominence, I'd be greatly surprised if Zero G's doc and Professor Hawking's doc weren't in close contact well before all this was announced in the first place.
        • Depends on what effect ALS has had on his body.

          Because of ALS he has the ultimate sedentary lifestyle. If we were talking about somebody else who had not moved at all in decades (for whatever reason) I would be suggesting that they not go out and do aerobatics in an aircraft.

          • Perhaps, perhaps not. If all you're doing is sitting, 0G/+2G isn't that strenuous - no more than a moderately sedate rollercoaster. I wouldn't expect him to go swimming about the cabin, but (assuming he has no problems with motion sickness, something he may well not have had the opportunity to find out about before now) he may not have any problems at all.
  • In space, he will be able to throw his chair
    • by Teresita (982888)
      In space, he will be able to throw his chair

      The article is about Steve Hawking, not Steve Ballmer.
  • My Calendar doesn't have an April zero.
  • by Raynor (925006) on Saturday March 03, 2007 @09:40PM (#18222310) Journal
    FTFA:

    "On April 26, Hawking, surrounded by a medical entourage, is to take a zero-gravity ride out of Cape Canaveral on a so-called vomit comet, a padded aircraft that flies a roller-coaster trajectory to produce periods of weightlessness. He is getting his lift gratis, from Zero Gravity, a company that has been flying thrill seekers on a special Boeing 727-200 since 2004 at $3,500 a trip."

    Zero Gravity is taking him up... NOT NASA. It's NOT the Vomit Comet (NASA's plane).

    From a better article:
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17156385/page/2/ [msn.com]

    "Parabolic flights can pose a risk of motion sickness or more serious health effects, but Zero Gravity's flights have been structured to minimize the risk. During a typical flight, Zero Gravity's "G-Force One" jet makes a gradual transition to weightless parabolas, and provides significantly fewer bouts of weightlessness than NASA's "Vomit Comet" jet. "
  • He's not riding on the Vomet Comet, he's riding on an imitation by some tourist startup out of Ft. Lauderdale. Check the wikipedia article on Vomit Comet.
  • He is to science of the next generation, what jesus was to everyone else.
    • by bh_doc (930270)

      He is to science of the next generation, what jesus was to everyone else.

      What ridiculous hyperbole. The man is inspirational, sure, and clever. He is good at the field of physics in which he works. But to paint him as some sort of scientific messiah is just silly.

  • Way to go, Doc! If Branson won't pony up the fare gratis, I'd be willing to chip in for the ticket. (Not that Hawking needs the gelt.) As for his physical condition, if he's not concerned, why should anyone else be?
  • He's a living legend. Gwaaan my son ! Big up the Cambridge crew !

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