Hawking’s black holes VR will demystify physics, says daughter

A virtual reality experience made in collaboration with Professor Stephen Hawking will help children understand the complexities of black holes, the late physicist’s daughter Lucy has said.

Speaking at a preview of a forthcoming VR experience in which Prof Hawking guides users on a journey through space and time, two of his children, Lucy and Tim, shared their hopes that it will inspire more youngsters to pursue a career in science.

“Throughout his career, he updated his use of different types of media – he’s in The Simpsons, he’s in Star Trek, he was making films – and virtual reality was really important for him to keep using these new technologies because he wanted young people to engage in his work, and he understood that to do that you needed to go to them, not just expect them to come to you, and so I think this is just a wonderful project,” Ms Hawking said at an event held at London’s Science Museum.

Stephen Hawking and daughter Lucy Hawking
The late Professor Stephen Hawking and his daughter Lucy at the EE British Academy Film Awards in 2015 (Matt Crossick/PA)

“Young people who see it will realise they can understand. It’s a problem sometimes with physics, certainly with young people thinking ‘I can’t understand this because it’s too complex, I don’t have a way in, I don’t have a portal’, and this is a portal into that world and it makes it interesting and engaging as well.”

Prof Hawking, who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in his 20s, had been working with Bafta and Emmy award-winning documentary film-maker Anthony Geffen on the project for nearly two years, before his death at the age of 76 in March 2018.

“This will allow you to travel through Stephen’s mind,” Mr Geffen said.

Anthony Geffen
Documentary film-maker Anthony Geffen (Ian West/PA)

“It really will be like going on a personal experience with him across the universe and you can go to several different places that will be interactive, but the first one will be about black holes.”

Prof Hawking instructed Mr Geffen to liaise with his physicist colleagues, to ensure that the experience paints the most accurate picture of black holes.

The VR experience is due to be made available to the public in early 2020, alongside a documentary into the physicist’s life, featuring archive family footage and new interviews with him and his family.

Ms Hawking added: “You see how present he is in his family’s life, he’s there, he’s playing chess with my brother, he’s out in the garden racing around in his wheelchair, it’s a lovely picture of a very unusual family life.”

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