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Stephen Hawking dies aged 76

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The English physicist, who wrote ‘A Brief History of Time’ and was the subject of Oscar-winning film ‘The Theory of Everything’ , has died at home in Cambridge. He was 76.

The UK’s Press Association reported his death, citing a spokesman for the family.

Hawking, who sought to explain some of the most complicated questions of life while himself working under the shadow of a likely premature death.

He was considered a medical marvel, having lived for more than half a century with the devastating condition motor neurone disease.

Hawking’s formidable mind probed the very limits of human understanding both in the vastness of space and in the bizarre sub-molecular world of quantum theory, which he said could predict what happens at the beginning and end of time.

His work ranged from the origins of the universe itself, through the tantalizing prospect of time travel to the mysteries of space’s all-consuming black holes.

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But the power of his intellect contrasted cruelly with the weakness of his body, ravaged by the wasting motor neurone disease he contracted at the age of 21.

Hawking was confined for most of his life to a wheelchair. As his condition worsened, he had to resort to speaking through a voice synthesizer and communicating by moving his eyebrows.

Doctors gave him just two years to live, but he defied them and went on to be one of the greatest minds we have ever known.

Stephen was born on January 8 1942 in Oxford – where his parents had decamped from north London for him to be born away from the worst of the wartime bombing raids.

The disease spurred him to work harder but also contributed to the collapse of his two marriages, he wrote in a 2013 memoir ‘My Brief History.’

In the book he related how he was first diagnosed: “I felt it was very unfair – why should this happen to me,” he wrote.

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NASA’s Parker spacecraft rockets toward sun for closest look

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CAPE CANAVERAL — NASA has launched a spacecraft to the sun which will fly closer to our star than anything ever sent before. The Parker Solar Probe rocketed away from Cape Canaveral, Florida, early Sunday.

The spacecraft is on an unprecedented quest that will take it straight through the wispy edges of the corona, or outer solar atmosphere, just 3.8 million (6 million kilometers) from the sun’s surface that was visible during last August’s total solar eclipse.

It will eventually stay comfortably cool despite the extreme heat and radiation allowing scientists to vicariously explore the sun in a way never before possible.

Saturday morning’s launch attempt was foiled by last-minute technical trouble and postponed by a day.

But what better day to launch to the sun than Sunday, as NASA noted.

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“Fly baby girl, fly!!” project scientist Nicola Fox of Johns Hopkins University tweeted just before lift-off. She urged it to “go touch the sun!”

“All I can say is, ‘Wow, here we go.’ We’re in for some learning over the next several years,” said Eugene Parker, the 91-year-old astrophysicist for whom the spacecraft is named.

It was the first time NASA named a spacecraft after someone still alive, and Parker wasn’t about to let it take off without him.

Thousands of spectators jammed the launch site in the middle of the night as well as surrounding towns, including Parker and his family.

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