Stephen Hawking

This piece first appeared on newstatesman.com. For a scientist whose career was made by his work on black holes, it might seem a little confusing to read that Stephen Hawking now thinks that they don’t exist.

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Stephen Hawking turns 72 on January 8. TNR's Stanley Kauffmann reviews A Brief History of Time and reminds us that Hawking's life just might be as incredible as his work.

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This week's On the Media laments the low quality of press coverage in health care reform. It's certainly easy to find examples of shoddy journalism and public ignorance to bolster this charge.

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Last week, the White House released a list of recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor that the United States government can afford a civilian. Among the 16 awardees are truly great figures: breast cancer philanthropist Nancy Goodman Brinker, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, and Sidney Poitier, the first African-American to win an Academy Award for Best Actor.

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Ezra Klein is up in arms about this Investors Business Daily editorial which makes the following claim: People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn't have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless. Ezra writes: It's not just that they didn't know that Stephen Hawking was born in England. It's that the underlying point was wrong, as you'll note from the continued existence of Stephen Hawking. They didn't choose an unfortunate example for an accurate point.

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Bigger, Badder

You hear a lot of complaining, and rightly so, about Hollywood's tendency to churn out safe, unimaginative pabulum--the remakes, the sequels, the blow-everything-up movies. Less remarked upon is the opposite problem: The studios' inability (or unwillingness) to make B+ movies, competent, mid-sized genre films that are formulaic in the good sense. There was a time when Hollywood excelled at producing such solid but unexceptional fare--Westerns are the classic example--but no longer.

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