For Stephen, science really was enormous fun. It was at his insistence that my editor allowed me to write a book that was not only good science but also fun to read. Stephen liked my translations of the jargon of physics into plain English. He wanted to share his adventures with everyone, including ‘ordinary people’. (He had a reputation for being self-deprecating, but that could slip.)
And . . . life was fun. Some found Stephen intimidating, and he could be, but as early as grad school days colleagues described him as ‘the most fun of all to be around’. Who else would have ribbed Intel experts – dedicated to improving the word-prediction in his speech program – by embarrassing them at a public dinner, letting that speech program randomly interject complete non sequiturs, at high volume, during polite conversation? Who else would have said, when I pointed out (at his invitation) passages in his manuscript of The Universe in a Nutshell that needed simpler explanation, ‘It seems perfectly clear to me’, then give me his cagey grin? Who else would have set off industrial-strength fireworks – rivaling any Guy Fawkes public display – in his tiny Cambridge garden, or risked police investigation by dressing as ‘Pluto, God of the Underworld’ and delivering a lecture for us in the dark lane outside his gate?