As he approaches his 70th birthday, Hawking’s ability to speak is slowly disappearing.
Physicist Stephen Hawking is losing his ability to “speak” through the computer system that helped one of the world’s foremost scientific minds share his ideas. Hawking, who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease at the age of 21, speaks via an infrared sensor in his mouth and a computer that translates his cheek and mouth movements into a synthesized voice. The disease is typically fatal within two to five years, but the physicist, against all odds, has lasted five decades with it, and will turn 70 on Sunday. Over that time, he’s gradually lost control over his cheek muscles, which has left him at times to be able to only speak about a word a minute. Hawking has been using that voice since 1985, using it to explain everything from the origins of the universe and black holes to mass audiences to cracking wise on The Simpsons and Futurama. His assistant says that Hawking is looking at other technological means of communicating as he enters his eighth decade, in which he will continue to spend the bulk of his day thinking about women.
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