Hawking: “We are all different…but we all share the human spirit”

As a Physics teacher, it has been a fabulous year for major events to bring the subject closer to students: the Higgs boson discovery at the LHC, the Venus Sun transit, the Mars Curiosity landing.  Each of these events gives us cause to contemplate our existence on our lonely planet.   This was all captured beautifully by Stephen Hawking at the Paralympics Opening Ceremony. Perfect material for an assembly or two!

This is what he said:

“Ever since the dawn of civilisation, people have craved for an understanding of the underlying order of the world. Why is it as it is, and why it exists at all.  But, even if we do find a complete theory of everything, it is just a set of rules and equations.

What is it that breathes fire into the equations, and makes a Universe for them to describe? We live in a Universe governed by rational laws that we can discover and understand.  Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the Universe exist.  Be curious. There ought to be something special about the boundary conditions of the Universe, and what can be more special than that there is no boundary?

And there should be no boundary to human endeavour.  When Isaac Newton saw an apple fall to the ground he suddenly realised that it must be the same force that holds together the beautiful system of the Sun, the planets and the comets. This gravity is the same force that can draw us into a black hole, never to return!

The large hadron collider at CERN, is the largest, most complex machine in the world, possibly the Universe.  By smashing particles together at enormous energies it recreates the conditions of the Big Bang.  The recent discovery of what looks like the Higgs particle, is a triumph of human endeavour and international collaboration.  It will change our perception of the world and has the potential to offer insights into a complete theory of everything.

The Paralympic Games is about transforming our perception of the world.  We are all different, there is no such thing as a standard or run-of-the-mill human being, but we share the same human spirit.  What is important is that we have the ability to create. This creativity can take many forms, from physical achievement to theoretical physics.  However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.

The Games provide an opportunity for athletes to excel, to stretch themselves and become outstanding in their field.  So let us together celebrate excellence, friendship and respect. Good luck to you all.”

Stephen Hawking, Paralympic Opening Ceremony,

August 29th 2012

The sections in Bold are soon to be on display in my school.


  1. I was lucky enough to be there for the opening ceremony. It was the most profound and beautiful work of art and intelligence that I’ve seen in a long while – for me, totally affecting. I have been thinking a lot about what conditions are necessary in order to create an environment from which such wonders can be produced (with a specific intention of re-producing these conditions in my classroom), but one thing did strike me as important – it seems to me that creativity somehow also needs the frisson of hardship – or at least challenge. It is almost as if challenge is a necessary precursor to beauty and triumph.

    This means a lot for me in the classroom. It means that I have an obligation to creating an environment that is challenging and risky enough to spark the creativity of my students. I think it has to be possible to make mistakes without it being called ‘failure’ and I think it needs to be a place where the idea of celebrating something like, say, disability through reference to the ineffable wonder of the human spirit is encouraged and rewarded.

    As always I really enjoy your posts. Thank yo for them!



  2. I saw The Theory of Everything, the movie biopic about Stephen Hawking. During the speech, when Hawking (played wonderfully, by Eddie Redmayne) gave his Human Endeavour speech, I cried. It was an awesome speech.


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