Wednesday’s appearance at the Paramount Theatre — presented by the Oregon-based Institute for Science, Engineering and Public Policy, or ISEPP — was the last of three scheduled stops on the Cambridge professor’s U.S. lecture tour. Hawking, who suffers from a progressive neurodegenerative disease that has almost completely paralyzed him, was due to travel to Seattle from San Francisco. But when he was taken off his respirator Monday morning, “he basically flat-lined,” said Terry Bristol, ISEPP’s president and executive director. “They had to resuscitate, and that panicked a few people,” Bristol told the audience. “But he’s been there before.” Once the crisis had passed, Hawking wanted to go ahead with the Seattle leg of the trip, but his medical caretakers — including his wife, Elaine — thought he should stay put awhile longer, Bristol said. So Hawking and his aides worked with Intel, ISEPP and the Paramount to set up a Web-based teleconferencing link from a Bay Area hotel.
“Many scientists were still unhappy with the universe having a beginning, because it seemed to imply that physics broke down,” Hawking said. “One would have to invoke an outside agency, which for convenience one can call God, to determine how the universe began.” Hawking traced how scientists have tried to address that conundrum using quantum theory, inflationary Big Bang theory and observations of the cosmic microwave background radiation — sometimes known as the Big Bang’s “afterglow.”