My family has had a closer call with ALS than I would ever have wished for, so the news of Stephen Hawking’s death stays with me as I write this morning. I want to finish up my thoughts on antimatter from the last few days, but I have to preface that by noting how stunning Hawking’s non-scientific accomplishment was. In my family’s case, the ALS diagnosis turned out to be mistaken, but there was no doubt about Hawking’s affliction. How on Earth did he live so long with an illness that should have taken him mere years after it was identified?
Hawking’s name will, of course, continue to resonate in these pages — he was simply too major a figure not to be a continuing part of our discussions. With that in mind, and in a ruminative mood anyway, let me turn back to the 1950s, as I did yesterday in our look at Eugen Sänger’s attempt to create the design for an antimatter rocket. Because even as Sänger labored over the idea, one he had been pursuing since the 1930s, Les Shepherd was looking at the antimatter prospect, and coming up with aspects of the problem not previously identified.