Check It Out

Genius, created by Stephen Hawking

May 23, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper |


Science is not something that should only be done by an elite, or by people who have gone to graduate school or gotten Ph.D. degrees or something like that. I firmly believe—and I can provide evidence of this—that people who are not even trained in basic literacy can actually function as scientists. You know, you can train people in scientific methods, in even just a weekend you can start to do that. If you want to get people doing science in the natural world, you can spend a weekend doing some good science in a rain forest or in a desert, and I guarantee you it will be real scientific work, real scientific investigation. And I don’t care if you don’t even have a sixth-grade education. If you are a healthy human being, you can take up and apply scientific methods, whether to the problems of nature or of human society. And one of the things I’m very concerned about is that we promote scientific understanding and scientific methods very, very broadly, so that everyone can learn to use these methods, and it’s not just the province of a few or a province of the elites.

—From Science and Revolution: On the Importance of Science and the Application of Science to Society, the New Synthesis of Communism and the Leadership of Bob Avakian: An Interview with Ardea Skybreak

This important understanding from Ardea Skybreak—that everyone can learn to use scientific methods—is beautifully brought alive in a fascinating new mini-series called Genius, on PBS and created by the renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking.

In each episode of this six-part series, Hawking works with a different group of three volunteers—ordinary people who are not trained intellectuals or scientists—and puts before them the challenge of answering some of the biggest questions in science.

What is so interesting about the show is how he poses the big questions and then puts in the hands of the volunteers the tools to answer them—and through this method he leads them and enables them (and the audience) to discover some of the most important truths that scientists have uncovered about how the universe actually works. He takes people beneath the surface understanding of how things appear and helps them to understand the essence of how things actually are.

With each episode he poses a big question that’s out there in the popular culture: Can We Travel in Time? Are We Alone in the Universe? He first asks the volunteers what their answer is to the question, and all they are able to do is give their conjectures and hunches. Then he provides the volunteers with the framework to begin to systematically answer these questions and to walk through and demonstrate in concrete form some of the processes that scientists have used to actually make the dramatic leaps in theory and understanding that form the basis of humanity’s scientific knowledge.

For example, in Episode 1, on the question of Can We Travel in Time? Hawking sends the volunteers on a journey to discover what time actually is. He sends them on a walking trip and then asks them to map out that trip on a three-dimensional grid so they can conceptualize how they are moving through space and time. Then he asks them to think about what they have actually demonstrated with their grid. They debate among themselves and one of them concludes: “Now with this you can see that you can’t separate space and time, even though we don’t typically look at it that way. It’s spacetime. It’s no longer a separation, now we have a spacetime map.... I won’t look at it the same way anymore because I’m where I am and I’m also when I am.”

Hawking goes on to say that this is the intellectual leap that Einstein made—that there is a single fabric of spacetime. This breakthrough in understanding is one of the foundations of modern physics, and proceeding from this framework he walks the volunteers through further experiments and demonstrations through which they can examine in the real world how to answer the question of whether it’s possible to travel through time. You have to watch the show to find out the answer.

A New Theoretical Framework for a New Stage of Communist Revolution What is New in the New Synthesis? An Explorer, a Critical Thinker, a Follower of BA; Understanding the World, And Changing It For the Better, In the Interests of Humanity Some Thank Yous That Need To Be Said Aloud Order the book here Download the full interview in PDF format here

Each episode is an exciting journey for the volunteers—and the viewers—and is designed to give you the basis to make the theoretical leaps in understanding that are at the heart of science. The collective process of wrangling over what they have experienced and learned with each experiment or demonstration and the thrill of discovery when they actually make those leaps in their understanding are what give the show its authenticity and spirit. As one volunteer put it: “This journey enabled me to go deeper, to come to realizations that I didn’t have before.”

“We all have questions, big questions. It’s part of what it means to be human.” These words are from Stephen Hawking’s introduction to the show, and through the show he demonstrates this important point: that with leadership and scientific method, everyone can actually come to think about reality in a scientific way.

The show can be viewed online at or through On Demand from your cable provider.


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