Today marks the memorial service for the late Stephen Hawking, world-class physicist and one of the greatest minds of the last two centuries. While the brilliant professor’s worldly remains will be interred at Westminster Abbey in London, U.K., during a Service of Thanksgiving, his voice will be traveling among the stars, broadcast in space through a black hole nearly 3,500 light-years away from Earth — the closest black hole to our solar system.
According to the Telegraph, a recorded voice message by Prof. Hawking has been set to an original piece of music by Vangelis — the famous Greek composer widely known for the “Chariots of Fire” song that he wrote for the 1981 British historical drama with the same name.
The late professor’s daughter, Lucy, describes Vangelis’ new composition, penned down especially for today’s memorial, as a “beautiful and symbolic gesture that creates a link between our father’s presence on this planet, his wish to go into space and his explorations of the universe in his mind,” the British media outlet reports.
The renowned physicist’s message will be beamed into space by the Cebreros antenna in central Spain, notes CNN, in the direction of the black hole, which lies in a binary star system called 1A 0620-00, in the constellation of Monoceros.
“It is a message of peace and hope, about unity and the need for us to live together in harmony on this planet,” Prof. Hawking’s daughter told the Telegraph.
Meanwhile, in London, the professor’s ashes are to be interred within the halls of Westminster Abbey in the Scientists’ Corner, between the graves of Charles Darwin and Sir Isaac Newton. The memorial ceremony starts at noon GMT (8 a.m. EDT) and will last about an hour, notes the event’s website.
The illustrious scientist died on March 14 at the age of 76, after struggling with a motor neurone disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). As reported by the Inquisitr, the professor was diagnosed with ALS at the age of 21 and has defied the doctors’ predictions of an early death for more than half a century.
Today’s ceremony features reading and addresses from a number of people who wished to celebrate Hawking’s life and work, including astronaut Tim Peake and actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who played the physicist in a 2004 BBC biographical film.
Soon after the Westminster Abbey memorial ends, the professor’s voice will be sent off into space, a process that will take up to 35 minutes, reveals CNN.
The gesture is meant to be purely symbolical, as the black hole’s gravitational pull will most likely swallow music, possibly even crushing the signal itself.
Nevertheless, the physicist’s family is convinced Hawking would have loved the idea, after dedicating much of his life to the study of black holes.
“We are so grateful to Westminster Abbey for offering us the privilege of a Service of Thanksgiving for the extraordinary life of our father and for giving him such a distinguished final resting place,” Hawking’s children said in a statement.
Time Travelers At The Ceremony?
The late physicist’s funeral service has bloomed into a full-scale event, Big Think reports, as so many people wanted to pay their respects that the public had to register to attend the memorial.
As the Inquisitr previously reported, the scientist’s family offered tickets for the event through a lottery system run by the Stephen Hawking Foundation and 1,000 people have been selected to be present at the moving memorial.
“The Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, has also decided to open the Abbey free of charge following the service so that people can pay their respects at Professor Hawking’s grave,” states London travel blogger IanVisits, who also noticed that there may be a few time travelers in the crowd.
The registration form allowed includes a slot for the date of birth, with possible options running until December 31, 2038, allowing people born even two decades into the future to apply for a place at the ceremony, revealed the blog post.
Whether or not today’s ceremony will be attended by guests from the future remains to be seen. As the late professor jokingly told reporters at the Seattle Science Festival in 2012, he had already tested this possibility during a 2009 party, Mashable notes.
“I have experimental evidence that time travel is not possible. I gave a party for time-travelers, but I didn’t send out the invitations until after the party. I sat there a long time, but no one came.”