Stephen Hawking on cheating death, time travel and Eddie Redmayne

Ahead of BBC1 documentary Dara O Briain Meets Stephen Hawking, here's what the world-famous physicist has to say about himself...

Stephen Hawking…

On what I miss most

I would like to be able to swim again. When my children were young, I missed not being able to play with them physically.

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On cheating death

Obviously I’m not a typical case, or I would have died half a century ago. I think my survival against the odds must have something to do with my commitment to science. I’m damned if I’m going to die before I have unravelled more about the universe.

The Theory of Everything

I was rather surprised that a major film company should want to make a film about me. At first I was worried because it was based on a book by my ex-wife, Jane. But I was reassured when I read the script and even more when I saw a first cut of the film. It was surprisingly honest about our marriage and my fight with ALS, or motor neurone disease. The one regret I have is that it doesn’t contain more physics, but I suppose that was inevitable in a film for a general audience.

On Eddie Redmayne

I thought Eddie Redmayne portrayed me very well. At times, I thought he was me. It is perhaps the closest I will come to time travel.

On pain

Motor neurone disease doesn’t cause [me] pain but sometimes I get uncomfortable because I can’t adjust my position.

On assisted suicide

To keep someone alive against their wishes is the ultimate indignity. I would consider assisted suicide only if I were in great pain or felt I had nothing more to contribute, but was just a burden to those around me.

On loneliness

At times I get very lonely because people are afraid to talk to me or don’t wait for me to write a response. I am shy and tongue-tied at times. I find it difficult to talk to people I don’t know.

On love

Women are a mystery to me. That’s the fun.

And a unified theory of everything

I think we will eventually discover a unified theory, though it may well take longer than the 20 years I predicted, 45 years ago.

Not living to see proof of my theories

I am resigned to the fact that I won’t see proof of Hawking radiation (radiation emitted from black holes) directly. I am now studying whether one might detect Hawking radiation in primordial gravitational waves, so I might get a Nobel Prize after all.

On using black holes for time travel

If you jumped in a black hole you will meet an unpleasant fate. It will be little consolation that your mass energy will be recycled as Hawking radiation.

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Dara O Briain Meets Stephen Hawking Tuesday 10.35pm BBC1 (11.05pm N Ireland, Wales, 11.35pm Scotland) 

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