At Stephen Hawking’s Funeral, Time Travelers Welcome - HISTORY

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Hawking’s memorial service at Westminster Abbey is open to people who have not been born yet.

The physicist Stephen Hawking—who died on March 14, 2018—was a pop cultural icon for his contributions to science and his unique sense of humor. Take this party invitation he sent out in 2009:

“You are cordially invited to a reception for time travelers hosted by Professor Stephen Hawking to be held in the past, at the University of Cambridge Gonville & Caius College.”

Was it an experiment, a joke, or a little of both? Either way, Hawking had indeed already thrown the party on June 28. He didn’t send the invitation out until after it was over to ensure that only time travelers would attend.

Cambridge University physicist and author Professor Stephen Hawking, wheelchair bound due to ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, aka Lou Gehrig's disease), inside a lecture hall.  (Credit: Terry Smith/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

Cambridge University physicist and author Professor Stephen Hawking, wheelchair bound due to ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, aka Lou Gehrig’s disease), inside a lecture hall. (Credit: Terry Smith/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

Unfortunately, no one showed up, and he ended up waiting alone in a room decorated with balloons and a banner that said “Welcome Time Travelers.” But in a nod to this famous experiment, The Stephen Hawking Foundation has announced that time travelers are also welcome to attend his June 15 interment service at Westminster Abbey in London.

“We cannot exclude the possibility of time travel as it has not been disproven to our satisfaction,” a spokesperson for the foundation told the BBC. “All things are possible until proven otherwise.”

It could be that the foundation didn’t want to announce this fact until afterwards, as Hawking had done with his party. The foundation only addressed it after a London travel blog, IanVisits, noticed that when entering the online ticket raffle for the service, you could select a “birth year” all the way through 2038—seemingly opening up the event to people who haven’t been born yet.

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When reporters reached out about the range of birth years, the foundation confirmed that the event was open to time travelers, while noting that none had yet applied (the raffle ends at midnight on May 15).

But like Hawking, the foundation is likely very skeptical that any time travelers will actually show up at the ceremony. In a 2012 interview, Hawking described his own conclusions on time travel based on the party experiment.

“I have experimental evidence that time travel is not possible,” he said. “I gave a party for time-travelers, but I didn’t send out the invitations until after the party. I sat there a long time, but no one came.”

But he also noted that there were some nuances and caveats to this statement. After all, he said, “we are all travelling forward in time anyway.”

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