14 March 2018

RIP Dr Hawking

… whose contributions to astrophysics are too immense to be described in a short blawg post, and that leaves aside his contributions as a popularizer/communicator of science. And it was all possible due to nationalized healthcare — Hawking said so himself.

Dr Hawking would have been "uninsurable" under US standards after his diagnosis half a century ago. Even if he had been able to get "insurance," the cost would have been astronomical (and may well have blocked him from getting a job, because the law on employment disability for people with noncongenital medical conditions has black-hole-sized loopholes and complete loss of information); the exclusions for "experimental treatments" would have been devastating; and he would have had to spend half his waking hours with insurance forms and on interminable telephone holds.

It's not that nationalized healthcare caused his brilliance. It's that it was one of several necessary conditions for his brilliance to flourish.

So the next time you're worrying about how the US is falling behind in the sciences, think about Dr Hawking's career. In particular, consider that we do not and cannot know about US-based scientists — or artists or anyone else — who failed to achieve their potential because, well, "Coverage Denied."

A very bad way to begin Pi Day — the death of the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics.