‘The Theory of (almost) Everything’ (except God)


It was 1996 and I was on sabbatical in Cambridge working on my Mark commentary. It was the Easter season and ‘A Brief Theory of Time’ was still selling well (it came out in 1988). I was at the Sunday performance in King’s College of the Bach St. John’s Passion, and there on the first row was Stephen Hawking in his wheel chair. I knew of the stories about his infidelity to his wife, due to his affair with his therapist/nurse. I also knew of all that Jane Wild Hawking had gone through with him as the motor-neuron disease increasingly took over Stephen’s body. You can now read about her perspective on things in Traveling to Infinity which is the actual basis for this two hour and two minute excellent film.

Let me first say that Eddie Redmayne absolutely deserves Oscar consideration for his remarkable performance, including all kinds of physical contortions, in this film. For that matter so does Felicity Jones who plays his wife (you may have seen her before in a Spiderman movie). The movie is basically a romance story which also brings in Stephen Hawking’s career as a scientist in the side door, without completely befuddling the audience with some combination of quantum physics and the theory of relativity. Beautifully filmed on site in Cambridge, it brought back lots of memories for me.

Throughout his career, Hawking has striven to produce a single theory which basically explains everything that could be explained by the scientific method. The problem of course is that God cannot be placed under a microscope, and the creation, however it was formed, cannot disprove the existence of a creator. What Hawking would say however is that while God is outside the equation, the equation if it could be contrived perfectly, would make God unnecessary to explain everything science can explain. As the end of the movie will tell you— Hawking, despite his best efforts, has not come up with such an all encompassing theory. He has however come up with interesting theories about time and black holes and is certainly one of the great scientists of our time.

This is one of those rare films that can both make you think and make you feel in both comfortable and uncomfortable ways and I highly recommend it to both the hopeless romantics and the ruthlessly scientific and analytical, and everyone in between. It is an adult film in the sense that significant portions of it will be over the heads of most children, but then quantum physics is over the heads of most adults as well.

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