After a barrage of camera flashes by Chinese students and reporters, Stephen Hawking slowly spelled out his words of wisdom to a packed auditorium in Beijing Wednesday.
"I like Chinese culture, Chinese food and above all Chinese women. They are beautiful," Hawking said, setting off a storm of applause.
Hawking, the world-renowned physicist for his theories of black holes and the origins of the universe and author of the global best-seller A Brief History of Time, appeared for a seminar on string theory and answered questions submitted earlier by the audience through a computer and voice synthesizer.
"There are many things I want to achieve. If we lose our dreams, we die," Hawking said.
He said that although he has many physical challenges, his mind is free to move back to the beginning of time and into the black holes. "There are no limitations for the human mind," he said.
Diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) before getting his PhD in 1965, Hawking has been confined to a wheelchair since. He lost function of his three last working fingers two years ago and can now only communicate by moving his eyelids.
He controls his computerized voice system using a blink-activated infrared monitor embedded in his glasses. To change each section of his prepared text, he blinks an eye, slightly scrunching up his cheek in the process.
As the headliner of the International Conference on String Theory 2006, Hawking gave a lecture on the origin of the universe Monday at the Great Hall of the People to an audience of 6,000, describing how the General Theory of Relativity of Albert Einstein and the discovery of the expansion of the universe provoked conceptual changes, which meant that the idea of an ever-existing, ever-lasting universe was no longer tenable.
Hawking has been treated to a Hollywood-style reception in China, whenever he appears, immediately becoming the focus of attention and the target of flashbulbs.
The astrophysicist said he had always wanted to travel to Tibet, but he was not sure he could make it now.
"Professor Hawking is a great physicist, but his personal charm and strong character are what inspire me most," said Liang Senfeng, a mathematics graduate from the Beijing University of Technology.
(Xinhua News Agency June 22, 2006)