Stephen Hawking spoke on Tuesday at the California Institute of Technology to an overflowing auditorium of students eager to hear his lecture.
Hawking has visited the university a couple of times over the years, and on Tuesday decided to lecture about the origins of the universe, encouraging students to “be curious” in order to keep advancing what we know about the universe.
“It has been a glorious time to be alive and doing research in theoretical physics,” Hawking said. “Our picture of the universe has changed a great deal in the last 50 years and I’m happy if I have made a small contribution. The fact that we human beings, who are ourselves mere collections of fundamental particles of nature, have been able to come this close to an understanding of the laws governing us and our universe is a great triumph.
During the lecture, Hawking explained that he did not believe the Big Bang needed God, and insisted that it is possible our universe was created by a Big Bang inside of another universe.
Hawking, who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in the 1960s and has spent most of this life in a wheelchair, was able to speak and answer questions with the help of a speech-generating device.
The Los Angeles Times described the reception to Hawking’s visit as ‘rock star treatment’ by adoring students, many of whom waited well over 12 hours in line in order to get a spot in the auditorium. Other devoted fans camped outside in front of a big screen to watch his lecture, and swarmed him as he exited in order to catch a cell phone picture of him.