The Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at Cambridge University, where Hawking is the Lucasian professor of mathematics, a post once held by Isaac Newton, is housed in a ritzy building which, with its curved roof and glass turrets, nods in the direction of an observatory (though it's such a modernist nightmare, this may be purely accidental). It has rising Tellytubby lawns and a computerised screen in its lobby that tells you what lectures are taking place. It is light years away from the pale, introverted elegance of Gonville and Caius College, where Hawking is a fellow. Hawking's office is high up, and adjoins the cubbyholes of his personal assistant Judith Croasdell, aka the gatekeeper, and Sam Blackburn, his technical assistant, an electronic engineering graduate whose job it is to keep Hawking's creaky computer and ailing wheelchair on the road (he needs a new wheelchair the way most academics need a new Citroen estate - bits will keep dropping off it - and it is hoped that an up-to-date machine will arrive soon).
'The human race may be the only intelligent beings in the galaxy,' he says. 'We have not been visited by aliens, and we have not even picked up their television programmes. It is therefore important that we survive and continue, and the only way we can do that long term is to spread into space.'
Rachel Cooke The Observer, Sunday March 2 2008 Article history