Stephen Hawking turned 76 last Monday. Or did he? A conspiracy theory claims that the renowned physicist was replaced with a lookalike around 30 years ago, who has been impersonating the professor ever since.
Proponents of the theory claim that the professor is so trusted as a voice of science that when he "died" in 1985, scientists at NASA (it's always NASA) decided that he was too useful a figurehead to give up. So instead of announcing his death, they swapped him for a lookalike. Much like how the Beatles did when Paul died.
Unlike the Paul conspiracy, proponents of "fake Hawking" say that he hasn't been replaced with someone of comparable abilities, but an ordinary man who is being fed complex astrophysics by NASA.
Stephen Hawking speaks by controlling his speech synthesizer using a muscle in his cheek. A cursor on Hawking's computer screen scans across his keyboard, row by row. By moving his cheek he stops the cursor on the row he needs, and then the letter. The computer also uses predictive text, meaning he can select a whole word after typing only a few letters. The cheek movement is detected by a sensor in his glasses.
Rather than believe this, conspiracy theorists think he's most likely having his words typed by a team of astrophysicists. These astrophysicists, who for some reason don't want credit for their own work, also type out Hawking's theories and attribute them to him.
According to this excellently named Reddit thread, theorists think that this happened before the publication of his most famous work, A Brief History of Time. They genuinely propose that rather than take credit for the work, the unknown authors attributed it to Stephen Hawking to make it appear to have more authority. They believe that Hawking was replaced so that NASA (and other scientists) could use the trust the public places in him for their own advantage.
So what are their reasons for believing this, other than lunacy? They can't get over the fact that he's lived for so long with ALS.
Most people diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) die within five years of diagnosis. Stephen Hawking has lived 55 years so far since his diagnosis at the age of 21.
The (admittedly brilliantly named) Daily Sheeple outline that him surviving these many years more than anyone else proves the Hawking we know and love is more than likely an imposter.
"That is a more than 100% difference between first and second place," Miles Mathis writes on the website. "It would be like Justin Gatlin running the 100 meters in 9.8 seconds, and Usain Bolt beating him with a time of 4.5 seconds. In other words, statistically, it doesn’t happen."
This is willfully misunderstanding how the estimates of life expectancy are made. They are based on how long others with the same condition have lived; however, there will be a percentage of people with that condition (outliers) that live a lot longer or shorter than this range suggests. As more people live longer (with better care) these estimates get adjusted.