Are you able and willing to maintain a chair for 25,000 British pounds per year (approximately $38,500). Not just any chair. Specifically this one-person chair (as shown from the back).

Inquiring minds may be asking “whose chair is it?” That’s a good question too.

The chair belongs to Stephen Hawking, the world’s greatest physicist.

Hawking is known for his contributions to the fields of cosmology and quantum gravity, especially in the context of black holes.

He has a motor neurone disease that is related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a condition that has progressed over the years and has left him almost completely paralysed since 1974.

ALS is commonly known in the United States as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Stephen William Hawking
8 January 1942 (age 69)
Oxford, England

At left: Stephen Hawking at NASA, 1980s

Hawking’s illness is markedly different from typical ALS because if confirmed Hawking’s case would make for the most protracted case ever documented. A survival for more than ten years after diagnosis is uncommon for ALS; the longest documented durations, other than Hawking’s, are 32 and 39 years and these cases were termed benign because of the lack of the typical progressive course.

Image and above text from Wikipedia. Please click on the above link. There is much more to the story, and it’s fascinating.

Could You be the Hawking’s Next Technical Assistant?

An ad on Hawking’s website asks Could You be the Hawking’s Next Technical Assistant?

The post is more accurately described by the title “Technical Assistant to Stephen Hawking.” It is not a PhD or Post-Doc position for academics looking to study physics, but a purely technical post to allow Prof. Hawking to function within the physics community and as a public speaker.

The original purpose of this position was “to aid Professor Hawking in those areas which he has difficulty due to his disability.” The job has since expanded and now includes:

  • Managing national and international travel for Prof. Hawking and his care team. Expect to spend around 3 months per year abroad!
  • Development and maintenance of Professor Hawking’s communication and speech systems
  • Procurement and maintenance of his wheelchairs and accessible van
  • Preparation of lecture graphics and public speaking
  • Dealing with the media and press
  • Answering inquiries from the public and maintaining the website

The post requires a wide range of skills, most importantly:

  • Ability to work under pressure
  • Maintenance of “black box” systems with no instruction manual or technical support
  • Computer literacy
  • Electronics knowledge
  • Ability to speak to a large audience
  • Ability to show others how to use complex systems

The role of ‘Graduate Assistant to Professor Hawking’ is funded as a research post at the University of Cambridge. Normally it has been under a 12 month contract, although recent graduate assistants have stayed on for several years.

Stephen Hawking seeks help to make voice heard

Yahoo!Finance reports Stephen Hawking seeks help to make voice heard

Can you help make Stephen Hawking’s voice heard?

The famed British physicist is seeking an assistant to help develop and maintain the electronic speech system that allows him to communicate his vision of the universe. An informal job ad posted to the famed physicist’s website said the assistant should be computer literate, ready to travel, and able to repair electronic devices “with no instruction manual or technical support.”

Hawking has long struggled against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a disease which left him almost completely paralyzed.

He lost his real voice in a tracheotomy in 1985, but a wheelchair-mounted computer helps synthesize speech by interpreting the twitches of his face. The synthesizer’s robotic monotone has become nearly as famous as Hawking himself, but the computer — powered by batteries fastened to the back of Hawking’s wheelchair — isn’t just for speaking.

Hawking’s website says that the job’s salary is expected to be about 25,000 pounds ($38,500) a year.

Media Appearances,  Movies, Music

Wikipedia reports …

In Hawking’s many media appearances, he appears to speak fluently through his synthesiser, but in reality, it is a tedious drawn-out process. Hawking’s setup uses a predictive text entry system, which requires only the first few characters in order to auto-complete the word, but as he is only able to use his cheek for data entry, constructing complete sentences takes time. His speeches are prepared in advance, but having a live conversation with him provides insight as to the complexity and work involved. During a TED Conference talk, it took him seven minutes to answer a question.

Hawking has played himself on numerous television shows and has been portrayed in many more. He has played himself on a Red Dwarf anniversary special, played a hologram of himself on the episode “Descent” of Star Trek: The Next Generation, appeared in a skit on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and appeared on the Discovery Channel special Alien Planet. He has also played himself in several episodes of The Simpsons and Futurama, and has had an action figure made of his Simpsons likeness. In 2008, Hawking was the subject of and featured in the documentary series Stephen Hawking, Master of the Universe for Channel 4. In September 2008, Hawking presided over the unveiling of the ‘Chronophage’ (time-eating) Corpus Clock at Corpus Christi College Cambridge. His actual synthesiser voice was used on parts of the Pink Floyd song “Keep Talking” from the 1994 album The Division Bell, as well as on Turbonegro‘s “Intro: The Party Zone” on their 2005 album Party Animals, Wolfsheim‘s “Kein Zurück (Oliver Pinelli Mix)”. When he was portrayed on episodes of Family Guy, the voice was actually done by a speech synthesiser on a Macintosh computer, according to DVD commentary. He was portrayed in an episode of the Dilbert cartoon. In The Fairly OddParents, it is mentioned that he was Denzel Crocker’s college roommate. As well as being fictionalised as nerdcore hip hop artist MC Hawking, he was impersonated in duet with Richard Cheese on a cover of “The Girl Is Mine“. He was also portrayed in the movie Superhero Movie by Robert Joy. In the TV series Dark Angel Logan’s technology savvy colleague Sebastian is characterised with many similarities to the actual physicist.

Here is an interesting update on Geekologie showing an image of  Stephen Hawking weightless.
The link to the official opening is down, but I cannot find news an assistant was found. Perhaps they have closed the application process even if the slot is not filled.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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