A brief history of 'shrooms

02/09/2011 14:04

Stephen Hawking, Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, confirmed what anyone who's attempted to read his impenetrable introduction to cosmology has long suspected; that the majority of his multi-million selling book 'A Brief History Of Time' was written whilst the theoretical physicist was "off his wheelchair" on a cocktail magic mushrooms, ketamine, and cough expectorant.

A Brief History Of 'Shrooms - The FigThe cover of the first edition of 'A Brief History Of Time', shown here alongside Hawking's original concept artwork.

Speaking at a tour to promote the paperback version of "George's Secret Key to the Universe", a kids introduction to science and space written with his daughter Lucy, Hawkins confessed that "The only book that really presents a serious introduction to black holes, light cones, big bangs, and superstring theory is my 2002 piece 'The Universe In A Nutshell'.  It takes all the big ideas within ABHOT, but presents them in a more concise and lucid style.

"More to the point, I wasn't completely off my tits when I wrote it. ABHOT  is just 200 pages of cosmology-infused neurological synesthesia, the hallucinogenic ramblings of a tripping professor with a debilitating addiction to adult-strength Benylin. I only committed ABHOT to print after re-reading some of my old Asimov paperbacks whilst under the influence."

Hawkins also confessed that it took months of arguments with his literary agent before he could be persuaded to change the working title of the book  - 'I've Got A Little Rabbit'  - to the name we are all now familiar with. The same agent also convinced Hawkins to drop the pseudonym 'Freaky Spazmotron' - a name he'd assumed whilst working on the first draft.

Hawkins was just one of many intellectuals, scientists and physicists who, towards the end of the 1980s, abandoned their powerful radio telescopes and decided to explore, in Hawking's own words,  "alternate universes inside  our minds". Amongst these were the eminent cosmologist Carl Sagan who, according to Hawkins, spent much of the summer 1984 "on a month long, mescaline-and-LSD cocktail induced freakout". Shortly after the book's publication, a recovering Sagan claimed to have written A Brief History Of Time's introduction "from the inside of a giant shoe".