The famous physicist and cosmologist Professor Stephen Hawking has been questioned live in an “E-interview” over an internet link, by two pupils of Penarth’s special school, Ysgol y Deri.
The two Penarth pupils selected for the on-line chat were Joe Skibinski (18) and Luke Hughes (12).
Like Professor Hawking himself, both pupils use electronics to communicate. Joe uses a system of switches, whilst Luke uses “Eye Gaze” technology .
Joe asked Professor Hawking “As one of the greatest scientists of our time, what scientific discovery might be possible in the near future to change the lives of people with severe disabilities and what advice would you give students with challenges today?”
Professor Hawking answered: “Genetic research to identify and correct the genres responsible for disabilities. Also effective brain computer interfaces, though this may not be possible without brain implants – which” the professor said ” I don’t fancy.”
Luke, who has a condition called schizencephaly, asked an even more profound question “Do you think there could be another ‘Luke’ in a parallel universe?”
To that question Professor Hawking said: “There will be another Luke in a parallel universe … but you can’t communicate with him.”
The exchange between Professor Hawking and the two Penarth students was set up by assistive technology teacher Lisa Rees-Renshaw who when camping in France struck up an acquaintance with the professor’s nurse who was on holiday in a neighbouring tent.
Ms Rees-Renshaw also got in touch with award-winning writer and film director Simon Fitzmaurice, who also uses an “Eye Gaze” system to write and to speak. She asked him for an inspirational message to be printed on certificates for children at the school who have shown progress in using their communication systems. The reply came in the form of a poem:
“I don’t want your pity.
I don’t need it.
I am strong.
I have been through many things and these things make me strong.
I am not like most people.
I am stronger than most people.
I am different.
Just like you.”