10 Things We Learned From Stephen Hawking’s AMA

Getty
Getty

Stephen Hawking was a busy guy. In the span of a few months, he launched a $100 million initiative to hunt for alien life, fought to impose a ban on AI weapons, and shared the secret to escaping a black hole. In the middle of all that, he somehow managed to find time to conduct his first-ever Reddit AMA in 2015.

Unlike traditional AMAs, Hawking fans had to wait two months for his responses as the world-famous physicist answered questions at his own pace. Here's what they learned about Hawking’s stance on artificial intelligence, pop culture, the universe’s greatest mystery, and more.

1. HE THOUGHT AI WAS RISKY, NOT EVIL.

When one participant brought up his gripes with what he calls “The Terminator Conversation,” or the media-perpetuated belief that artificial intelligence may one day become evil, Hawking agreed that that’s not necessarily what we should be looking out for. "The real risk with AI isn’t malice, but competence,” he said. “You’re probably not an evil ant-hater who steps on ants out of malice, but if you’re in charge of a hydroelectric green energy project and there’s an anthill in the region to be flooded, too bad for the ants. Let’s not place humanity in the position of those ants.” Sounds like a good plan.

2. HE WAS A ROD STEWART FAN.

When asked about his favorite song, Hawking responded that it's the Rod Stewart love ballad "Have I Told You Lately."

3. HE LIKED THE BIG BANG THEORY.

This is the answer he gave when asked about the last thing he saw online that he found hilarious.

4. HE BELIEVED AI COULD SURPASS HUMAN INTELLIGENCE.

In response to one Redditor’s point that some people may think it impossible for a creature (or machine) to surpass the intelligence of its creator, Hawking begged to differ. “We evolved to be smarter than our ape-like ancestors and Einstein was smarter than his parents,” he said, “If [AI becomes better than humans at AI design], we may face an intelligence explosion that ultimately results in machines whose intelligence exceeds ours by more than ours exceeds that of snails.” Somehow, this statement feels even more dismal than the ant comparison.

5. WOMEN WERE THE MYSTERY HE FOUND MOST INTRIGUING.

Even though he dedicated his life to exploring the mysteries of the universe, Hawking said his personal assistant reminded him that women should remain a mystery.

6. AUTOMATION COULD IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF LIFE, OR NOT SO MUCH.

When someone brought up the looming possibility of technological unemployment due to increased automation, Hawking posited this could go one of two ways: “If machines produce everything we need, the outcome will depend on how things are distributed,” he explained. "Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared, or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine-owners successfully lobby against wealth distribution. So far, the trend seems to be toward the second option."

7. HIS FAVORITE FILM WAS JULES AND JIM.

On a lighter note, Hawking was apparently a fan of French New Wave cinema.

8. HE DIDN’T KNOW WHEN TO EXPECT HUMAN-LEVEL AI.

If you're wondering when to expect machines to catch up to human intelligence, Hawking admitted there’s no way of knowing for sure. “There’s no consensus among AI researchers about how long it will take to build human-level AI and beyond,” he said, "so please don’t trust anyone who claims to know for sure that it will happen in your lifetime or that it won’t happen in your lifetime."

9. HE THOUGHT AI COULD DEVELOP THE WILL TO SURVIVE.

Even though AI robots wouldn’t have evolved like organic creatures, Hawking said an intelligent machine with a programmed goal could develop the drive to “survive” in order to help it accomplish that goal. “Surviving and having more resources will increase its chances of accomplishing that other goal. This can cause problems for humans whose resources get taken away."

10. HE DIDN’T REMEMBER WATCHING WAYNE’S WORLD 2.

One participant recounted a memory he has from the 1990s of watching Wayne’s World 2 in a video rental store when Stephen Hawking’s nurse wheeled him up in front of the television to watch alongside him. When asked if he recalled watching the movie, Hawking responded with an all-caps “NO.”

13 Father's Day Gifts for Geeky Dads

Amazon/Otterbox/Toynk
Amazon/Otterbox/Toynk

When in doubt, you play the hits. Watches, flasks, and ties are all tried-and-true Father’s Day gifts—useful items bought en masse every June as the paternal holiday draws near. Here’s a list of goodies that put a geeky spin on those can’t-fail gifts. We’re talking Zelda flasks, wizard-shaped party mugs, and a timepiece inspired by BBC’s greatest sci-fi series, Doctor Who. Light the “dad” signal ‘cause it’s about to get nerdy!

1. Lord of the Rings Geeki Tikis (Set of Three); $76

'Lord of The Rings' themed tiki cups.
Toynk

If your dad’s equally crazy about outdoor shindigs and Tolkien’s Middle-earth, help him throw his own Lothlórien luau with these Tiki-style ceramic mugs shaped like icons from the Lord of the Rings saga. Gollum and Frodo’s drinkware doppelgängers each hold 14 ounces of liquid, while Gandalf the Grey’s holds 18—but a wizard never brags, right? Star Wars editions are also available.

Buy it: Toynk

2. Space Invaders Cufflinks; $9

'Space Invaders' cufflinks on Amazon
Fifty 50/Amazon

Arcade games come and arcade games go, but Space Invaders has withstood the test of time. Now Pops can bring those pixelated aliens to the boardroom—and look darn stylish doing it.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Legend of Zelda Flask; $18

A 'Legend of Zelda' flask
Toynk

Saving princesses is thirsty work. Shaped like an NES cartridge, this Zelda-themed flask boasts an 8-ounce holding capacity and comes with a reusable straw. Plus, it makes a fun little display item for gamer dads with man caves.

Buy it: Toynk

4. AT-AT Family Vacation Bag Tag; $12

An At-At baggage tag
ShopDisney

Widely considered one of the greatest movie sequels ever made, The Empire Strikes Back throws a powerful new threat at Luke Skywalker and the Rebellion: the AT-AT a.k.a. Imperial Walkers. Now your dad can mark his luggage with a personalized tag bearing the war machine’s likeness.

Buy it: ShopDisney

5. Flash Skinny Tie; $17

A skinny Flash-themed tie
Uyoung/Amazon

We’ll let you know if the Justice League starts selling new memberships, but here’s the next best thing. Available in a rainbow of super-heroic colors, this skinny necktie bears the Flash’s lightning bolt logo. Race on over to Amazon and pick one up today.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Captain America Shield Apron; $20

A Captain America themed apron
Toynk

Why let DC fans have all the fun? Daddy-o can channel his inner Steve Rogers when he flips burgers at your family’s Fourth of July BBQ. Measuring 31.5 inches long by 27.5 inches wide, this apron’s guaranteed to keep the cookout Hydra-free.

Buy it: Toynk

7. Doctor Who Vortex Manipulator LCD Leather Wristwatch; $35

A Doctor Who-themed watch
Toynk

At once classy and geeky, this digital timepiece lovingly recreates one of Doctor Who’s signature props. Unlike some of the gadgets worn on the long-running sci-fi series, it won’t require any fancy chronoplasm fuel.

Buy it: Toynk

8. Wonder Woman 3-Piece Grill Set; $21

Wonder Woman three-piece gill set
Toynk

At one point in her decades-long comic book career, this Amazon Princess found herself working at a fast food restaurant called Taco Whiz. Now grill cooks can pay tribute to the heroine with these high-quality, stainless steel utensils. The set’s comprised of wide-tipped tongs, a BBQ fork, and a spatula, with the latter boasting Wonder Woman’s insignia.

Buy it: Toynk

9. Harry Potter Toon Tumbler; $10

Glassware that's Harry Potter themed
Entertainment Earth

You can never have too many pint glasses—and this Father’s Day, dad can knock one back for the boy who lived. This piece of Potter glassware from PopFun has whimsy to spare. Now who’s up for some butterbeer?

Buy it: EntertainmentEarth

10. House Stark Men’s Wallet; $16

A Game of Thrones themed watch
Toynk

Winter’s no longer coming, but the Stark family's propensity for bold fashion choices can never die. Manufactured with both inside and outside pockets, this direwolf-inspired wallet is the perfect place to store your cards, cash, and ID.

Buy it: Toynk

11. Mr. Incredible “Incredible Dad” Mug, $15

An Incredibles themed mug
ShopDisney

Cue the brass music. Grabbing some coffee with a Pixar superhero sounds like an awesome—or dare we say, incredible?—way for your dad to start his day. Mom can join in the fun, too: Disney also sells a Mrs. Incredible version of the mug.

Buy it: ShopDisney

12. Star Wars phone cases from Otterbox; $46-$56

Star Wars phone cases from OtterBox.
Otterbox

If your dad’s looking for a phone case to show off his love of all things Star Wars, head to Otterbox. Whether he’s into the Dark Side with Darth Vader and Kylo Ren, the droids, Chewbacca, or Boba Fett, you’ll be able to find a phone case to fit his preference. The designs are available for both Samsung and Apple products, and you can check them all out here.

Buy it: Otterbox

13. 3D Puzzles; $50

3D Harry Potter puzzle from Amazon.
Wrebbit 3D

Help dad recreate some of his favorite fictional locations with these 3D puzzles from Wrebbit 3D. The real standouts are the 850-piece model of Hogwarts's Great Hall and the 910-piece version of Winterfell from Game of Thrones. If dad's tastes are more in line with public broadcasting, you could also pick him up an 890-piece Downton Abbey puzzle to bring a little upper-crust elegance to the homestead.

Buy it: Hogwarts (Amazon), Winterfell (Amazon), Downton Abbey (Amazon)

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.

10 Great Father’s Day Gifts to Celebrate Every Kind of Dad

Amazon
Amazon

The very first Father’s Day was celebrated in Washington State on June 19, 1910, and from there, the holiday slowly spread across the country as a regional event. While presidents recognized it on and off, there was never an official, permanent proclamation about the holiday's future until 1972, when President Richard Nixon declared that the federal government would recognize Father's Day on the third Sunday in June from there on out (though it's still not technically a federal holiday.) Initially established as a response to Mother’s Day, and skirting a movement that sought to combine both holidays into a single “Parents’ Day,” Father’s Day has become a day to be celebrated all on its own.

Fathers, grandfathers, and uncles all deserve to be honored on this special day, and that’s why we’ve put together a list of thoughtful gifts to help you say “thank you” to every dad in your life. Whether he’s a grill master, a tech wizard, or a lover of the great outdoors, your dad will love any one of these gifts.

1. Beard Care Kit; $27

A beard kit
FULLLIGHT TECH/Amazon

This beard care kit will keep your dad looking—and feeling—fresh all year long. This set features beard shampoo for cleansing and conditioning, balm for moisturizing and styling, and oil for softening and nourishing. The kit also comes with a comb, brush, scissors, and an eBook on beard care so he can style and maintain his signature look to his heart’s content.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Cuisinart Deluxe Grill Set; $44

Cuisinart grill set on sale at Amazon.
Cuisinart/Amazon

Let dad embrace his inner barbecue master with this 14-piece grill set from Cuisinart. Including a chef's spatula, grill tongs, basting brush, and more, he’ll never have to stress about flipping a burger or cooking the perfect steak ever again. And since the spatula touts a built-in bottle opener, he can enjoy a much-deserved cold one while he gets dinner ready. All the tools fit neatly inside a sturdy carrying case, allowing your dad to bring his tools on the go and be heralded as the king of outdoor cooking wherever he travels.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Wireless Charging Station; $28

A wireless charging station
Seneo/Amazon

Tech dads will rejoice with this wireless charging station designed to charge iPhones, Apple Watches, and Airpods all at the same time. The dock can get all three devices to 100 percent in only three hours, and the phone stand and Apple Watch/Airpods dock can be connected or kept separate for a more streamlined look. The dock can even charge through most cases.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Garmin Running Watch; $230

A running watch from Garmin
Garmin/Amazon

This unique running watch from Garmin will help your dad stay fit, track his miles, and train for that 5K he’s always dreamed of. The watch uses a wrist-based heart monitor to track not just miles, but also stride length, ground contact, balance, and more. And with the built-in, contactless payment chip, your dad can buy a water bottle or protein shake on the road and leave credit cards at home. He can even sync the watch with his phone to receive and respond to text messages, emails, and social media updates while he’s (literally) on the run.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Growlerwerks Growler Keg; $99

A growler keg that's available on Amazon.
GrowlerWerks/Amazon

If you've got a craft beer lover in the family, look no further than this portable growler keg. This growler can store 64 ounces of beer (or kombucha, hard cider, and soda), and all it needs to keep the suds from going flat is a CO2 charger (sold separately). Your dad simply has to fill the growler at his favorite local brewery; select high or low carbonation, depending on what he's drinking; and pull the tap to pour the perfect pint. The keg will keep beverages cold for seven to nine hours, so whether he's going for a hike or a long day at the golf course, he’ll be able to serve up brewery-fresh beverages all day long.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Constitution Tie; $30

Constitution tie on Amazon.
Museum Artifacts/Amazon

History buffs will love this stylish tie inspired by one of the United States’s most important documents: the Constitution. Featuring a screen print of the nation’s founding document with “We the People” featured front and center, this tie will help your dad start up conversations about his favorite Founding Father at social gatherings, rather than going through his well-worn joke book yet again. Each tie is printed on imported silk and hand-finished to give him that personalized touch that he deserves.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Outdoor Tumbler; $30

An OtterBox outdoor mug
Otterbox

For dads who love nothing more than a morning walk—whether that’s around the block or on a hike at the state park—this outdoor tumbler will help him stay hydrated and feeling good until he’s back home. Made with an internal copper lining to keep hot and cold beverages at a consistent temperature, this to-go drinkware will quickly become one of his favorite accessories. It fits most cup holders, so it can travel easily from his favorite lawn chair to the car and back again.

Buy it: Otterbox

8. National Geographic Parks Guide; $19

A guide to the National Parks by National Geographic
National Geographic/Amazon

Fathers with a sense of adventure will be ready for a road trip by the time they’re through with this travel guide from National Geographic. Containing “5000 ideas for the ultimate vacation,” this book includes a comprehensive overview of both the United States and Canada’s best national parks. Including travel tips, planning advice, maps, activity options, and fun facts about wildlife, this book will help your dad embark upon the journey of a lifetime (or simply envision one from the comfort of his back porch).

Buy it: Amazon

9. RCA Wireless Noise-Canceling Headphones; $44

A set of headphones from RCA
RCA/Amazon

Capable of 30 hours of Bluetooth playtime in a single charge, these wireless RCA headphones will let your dad listen to his favorite podcasts, oldies bands, and TV shows all while staying hands-free. With the ability to easily turn the noise-canceling mode on and off, adjust the volume, skip tracks, and answer calls directly from the right ear cup, these headphones make for a great (and easy) listening experience. And at only $44, they’re a fraction of what other wireless headphones cost—but he doesn’t have to know that.

Buy it: Amazon

10. New Balance Trail Running Shoes; Price Varies

A set of sneakers from New Balance
New Balance/Amazon

New Balance sneakers are a signature look for many dads—and for good reason! This 481V3 Trail Running Shoe is designed for both smooth tracks and rough trails, making it a great choice for gym rats and cross-country runners alike. Made from 100-percent leather and textile with cushioned rubber soles, it’s built to pad your dad’s heels while also offering the stability he needs to do the things he does best. With five different colors to choose from, he'll be able to show off his acute fashion sense for many Father’s Days to come.

Buy it: Amazon

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.