Name some theoretical physicists. Albert Einstein? Correct. Stephen Hawking? Check.
Hawkings, who died on Wednesday — coincidentally Einstein's birthday (and also International Pi Day, when scientists and mathematicians celebrate the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter) — was different from all other physicists for one reason: He was funny.
How funny? When Hawking appeared on John Oliver's show, the comedian asked him, "Is there a universe where I'm smarter than you?" In his supercool computer voice — which he activated by pressing a switch to select phrases, words or letters from a bank of about 2,500–3,000 — Hawking replied: "Yes. And also a universe where you're funny."
Sure, Hawking could muse at length about what "time" is, as he did in "A Brief History of Time" (example: “The increase of disorder or entropy is what distinguishes the past from the future, giving a direction to time."), but he also chose to appear on such shows as "The Simpsons," "Star Trek" and "The Big Bang Theory."
One great "Simpsons" appearance:
Hawking: Your theory of a doughnut-shaped universe in intriguing. I may have to steal it.
Homer: Wow. I can't believe someone I never heard of is hanging out with a guy like me.
Moe: All right, it's closing time. Who's paying the bill.
Homer (mimicking Hawking's voice: I. Am.
Hawking: I didn't say that.
Homer: Yes. I. Did.
Hawking then activates a button that shoots out a boxing glove, punching Homer in the mouth.
Hawking explained why he joined up with the show.
In this clip, he has a wonderful exchange with Lisa Simpson.
Said Hawking of his appearances, "Almost as many people know me from through the Simpsons as through my science."
In one "Star Trek" episode, Hawking starred in a scene with Sir Isaac Newton and Einstein, playing poker. The scene starts with the Hawking already talking: "...but then I said, in that frame of reference, the perihelion of Mercury would have precessed in the opposite direction." Einstein laughs heartily and says, "That is a great story." Hawking beams with a broad smile.
In "The Big Bang Throay," uber-nerd Sheldon gets to meet his hero, Hawking.
Sheldon: It's a honor and a privilege to meet you, sir.
Hawking: I know.
While his body was spindled and rendered almost completely useless through the ravages of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), he always kept his sense of humor.
Hawking, a vital young man with a bright future, was diagnosed with the motor neurone disease in 1963 when he was 21 and his doctors said he'd likely be dead in two years. Instead, he lived another 64 years.
And he'll live forever with his theories — and in "Simpsons" reruns.