Weekend open thread: Stephen Hawking birthday edition

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? Today is Stephen Hawking’s 70th birthday. The Mirror published 17 things "you need to know" about the renowned physicist. I haven’t read A Brief History of Time or any of Hawking’s other publications for adults, but my kids and I are big fans of the three children’s books he co-wrote with his daughter, Lucy Hawking: George’s Secret Key to the Universe, George’s Cosmic Treasure Hunt, and George and the Big Bang. Highly recommended for children with any interest in science, especially if they are fascinated by space travel or the solar system.

Doctors do not know why Hawking has lived for so many years with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He has credited the excellent care he has received through Britain’s National Health Service. In a 2009 editorial against government-run health care, the American conservative publication Investor’s Business Daily claimed that a person with physical handicaps like Hawking’s “wouldn’t have a chance in the UK.”

This is an open thread; all topics welcome. After the jump I’ve posted excerpts from yet another reaction to Stephen Bloom’s harsh commentary on Iowa for The Atlantic monthly. This one is by Peter Feldstein, who co-authored The Oxford Project with Bloom. Bleeding Heartland readers discussed Bloom’s essay a few weeks ago in this thread.  

Excerpt from Peter Feldstein’s op-ed piece in the Des Moines Register, Stephen Bloom lost his way between Oxford and The Atlantic:

What Bloom mostly gets wrong is that Iowans are very much aware of the issues he raises. They are being discussed and have been for a long time.

Because there have been no adequate solutions doesn’t mean that we’re not aware of them, nor that we wouldn’t want the problems solved. […]

There’s not a kind word about anyone nor a recognition of anything good in the state. The article is a hit piece, not a parody, not a satire as Bloom claims. No one is expecting “boosterism”, as Bloom calls it. No one is expecting a writer to polish the truth.

What we do expect is a balance, which I’d think is essential for a journalist writing about anything or anyone. Instead, Iowans are described as “wasteoids” and “old people waiting to die” and “toothless meth addicts” and people afraid to look around the corner for greater opportunity and religious fanatics (I don’t think we hold the record for that claim) and hunters as if that is something bad (by the way, I’m not a hunter) and Iowans who only have dogs for the purpose of hunting. I have no clue where he got that idea, but it is patently untrue. […]

We Oxfordians, especially, are very disappointed and feel cheated and demeaned.

I have tried to remain out of the fray in the discussion of Bloom’s article. But for three weeks, my experience has been quite unusual. Since we collaborated on “The Oxford Project” and were close friends, everybody wants to talk with me about it.

They can’t understand why he continues to defend himself. Nor can I.

This is clearly not a balanced report, clearly not a parody or satire, as he insists. And there are so many factual errors, how is it possible that he continues to defend his piece? Many of the factual issues have been addressed by many people, reporters and colleagues.

This is very difficult to write. We worked very hard on “The Oxford Project” to make the best book that we could. But something for me has radically changed. A few days ago, I picked up the book for the first time since the brouhaha. I had a very sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

I wish Stephen Bloom’s name was not on it.

  • Hawking

    I cannot remember where, but a while back I read an article that speculated with some medical mumbo-jumbo that Hawking did/does not have the form of ALS that most people have who get the disease. Unfortunately, those patients die within two years following diagnosis.  This article suggested Hawking has a rare variation which has allowed him to survive this long. It is not unheard of to survive longer.  A man in Des Moines active in the MDA lived at least 10 years following diagnosis, back in the 70’s and 80’s…

    This is a horrible disease and I hope someday there is a treatment or cure.  God bless those who must cope with this tragic illness.

    • one of the articles

      said that his form of ALS has not caused as much atrophy in the muscles around the diaphragm. Apparently he is being studied (along with others who have survived an unusually long time) to see whether there may be something in their genetic makeup that also helped slow the progression.  

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