A Brief History of Time

Synopsis: Unlike the book, this film is really an anecdotal biography of Stephen Hawking. Clips of his lectures, interviews with friends and family and a little physics are thrown together.
Director(s): Errol Morris
Production: Anglia Television Ltd
  4 wins & 3 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
80 min

Which came first...

the chicken or the egg?

Did the universe

have a beginning...

and if so,

what happened before then?

Where did the universe

come from...

and where is it going?

Luck. Luck. Well...

we have been very lucky...

I mean, my family

and Stephen and everybody.

You have your disasters,

but the point is that we have survived.

Everybody has disasters,

and yet some people disappear...

and are never seen again.

Flying bombs are very alarming.

They came buzzing over...

and then they would cut out.

And when you heard the bang,

you knew it wasn't you...

so you went back

to your meal or whatever.

But one did fall

quite close to our house...

and it blew

the back windows out...

so that the glass was sticking dagger

points all out of the opposite wall.

When Stephen was born,

we decided...

he'd better be born in Oxford.

So while I was staying

in the hospital...

I went to Blackwell's

in Oxford...

and I bought

an astronomical atlas.

One of my sisters-in-law said...

"This is a very prophetic thing

for you to have done."

How real is time?

Will it ever come to an end?

Where does the difference...

between the past

and the future come from?

Why do we remember the past...

but not the future?

I can remember the day...

when we traveled through London

and the blackout was over.

And the trains,

instead of being shut in...

by blinds so that you

just traveled in a train...

we were coming over

one of the bridges...

and all the lights...

well, such lights as were left...

were on in London, but it was also

a completely starry night...

and you could see the light.

It was beautiful.

I remember we all used to lie on the grass,

looking straight up through a telescope...

and seeing the wonders

of the stars.

Stephen always had

a strong sense of wonder...

and I could see that

the stars would draw him...

and further than the stars.

I was born exactly 300 years...

after the death of Galileo.

I estimate that

about 200,000 other babies...

were also born that day.

I don't know

whether any of them...

was later interested

in astronomy.

My first memory is of Isobel...

pushing a rather antiquated...

carriage-built pram

along North Road...

with Stephen and Mary in it...

sort of looking very large...

because they had large heads and pink

cheeks, and they were very noticeable.

They all looked different

from ordinary people.

I can remember visiting

the Hawking home...

oh, several times.

It was the sort of place where,

if invited to stay to supper...

you might, uh...

be allowed to have

your conversation with Stephen...

but the rest of the family

would be sitting...

at the table reading a book...

a behavior which was not really

approved of in my circle...

but which was tolerated

from the Hawkings...

because they were

recognized to be...

very eccentric,

highly intelligent...

very clever people...

but still a bit odd.

My impression of the Hawking family

was that they were all like that...

except for Stephen,

who seemed to be...

the only normal member

of the family.

Stephen used to reckon

he knew, I think it was...

11 ways of getting into the house,

and I could only find ten.

I'm not sure where the other way was.

On the north side of the house

was a bicycle shed.

It had a door at the front

and a door at the back.

Above that, there was a window

into the L-shaped room...

and at the front you could get

sort of around the corner...

onto the roof...

and from that level...

you could get

onto the main roof.

I think one of the ways...

Stephen could get in

was on the main roof.

As I say, he was

a much better climber than I was.

I still didn't know

what the 11th one was.

Before the 20th century...

it was thought that the universe

had existed forever...

or had been created

at some time in the past...

more or less

as we observe it today.

People found comfort

in the thought...

that even though

they may grow old and die...

the universe was eternal

and unchanging.

I gave up playing games

with Stephen...

oh, when he was ill that time

when he was about 12...

because he started

taking games terribly seriously.

We had Monopoly...

and first of all...

the Monopoly board sprang

railways going across it...

to add to the complications...

and then Monopoly

just wasn't adaptable enough.

He ended up with a fearful game

called Dynasty...

which, as far as I can make out...

I never played it...

went on forever because

there was no way of ending it.

It was almost a substitute for living,

as far as I could make out.

It took hours

and hours and hours.

I thought it was

a perfectly terrible game.

I couldn't imagine anyone

getting taken up with that.

But Stephen always had

a very complicated mind...

and I felt

as much as anything...

it was the complication of it

that appealed to him.

When I was in high school,

I learned that light...

from distant galaxies

was shifted to the red.

This meant that they were

moving away from us...

and that the universe

was expanding.

But I didn't believe it.

A static universe seemed

much more natural.

It could have existed...

and could continue to exist forever.

We were discussing

the possibility...

of the spontaneous

generation of life...

and I think

that Stephen made a remark...

which indicated not only

that he'd thought of this...

but he'd even also...

come across some calculations...

as to how long it might take.

At that time,

I think I made a comment...

to one of my friends,

John McClenahan...

"I think that Stephen...

will turn out to be

unusually capable."

I don't think I put it

in quite those words...

but I made

some such remark to him...

and he disagreed.

And so we made

a bet on the subject.

In our childish way, we bet...

a bag of sweets on the issue.

And incidentally, I reckon

that my bet has come correct...

and I think

I'm entitled to payment...

which has not yet been made.

The expansion of the universe...

suggested the possibility...

that the universe

had a beginning...

at some time in the past.

The point at which the universe

may have started out...

became known as the Big Bang.

The first year

he was at St. Albans School...

he came, I think,

third from the bottom.

I said, "Well, Stephen..."

do you really have to be

as far down as that?"

And he said, "Well..."

a lot of other people

didn't do much better."

He was quite unconcerned.

Somehow he was

always recognized...

as being very bright...

and in fact they gave him

the Divinity Prize one year.

That was not surprising because

his father used to read him...

Bible stories

from a very early age...

and he knew them all

very well...

and he was quite well-versed

in religious things...

although I don't think he makes

a great deal of practice of it now.


used to argue theology.

That's a good, safe subject.

You don't need any facts or...

distracting things like that.

If you go in for arguing...

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Stephen Hawking

Stephen William Hawking (8 January 1942 – 14 March 2018) was an English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author, who was director of research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at the University of Cambridge at the time of his death. He was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge between 1979 and 2009. His scientific works included a collaboration with Roger Penrose on gravitational singularity theorems in the framework of general relativity and the theoretical prediction that black holes emit radiation, often called Hawking radiation. Hawking was the first to set out a theory of cosmology explained by a union of the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. He was a vigorous supporter of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.Hawking achieved commercial success with several works of popular science in which he discusses his own theories and cosmology in general. His book A Brief History of Time appeared on the British Sunday Times best-seller list for a record-breaking 237 weeks. Hawking was a fellow of the Royal Society (FRS), a lifetime member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States. In 2002, Hawking was ranked number 25 in the BBC's poll of the 100 Greatest Britons. Hawking had a rare early-onset slow-progressing form of motor neurone disease (also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis "ALS" or Lou Gehrig's disease) that gradually paralysed him over the decades. Even after the loss of his speech, he was still able to communicate through a speech-generating device, initially through use of a hand-held switch, and eventually by using a single cheek muscle. He died on 14 March 2018 at the age of 76. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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