The collective IQ of Weibo users has shot up a few points after celebrated cosmologist, author and occasional Simpsons guest star Stephen Hawking joined the chaotic Chinese social media universe on Tuesday morning.
“Greetings to my friends in China! It has been too long!” wrote the world-renowned theoretical physicist in his first post, in both English and Chinese.
Netizen response has been astronomical, setting off a big bang of support, if you will. Hawking’s account gained over a million followers in just the first six hours, he’s now soaring past 2.5 million. His inaugural post has more than 800,000 likes, 375,000 comments and 350,000 shares. Who said Weibo was dead?
With his second post, Hawking injected some much-needed popular science, giving a brief summary of his just-announced plans to send laser-powered probes to the Alpha Centauri star system, 4.3 light years away. Posted at 8 a.m. this morning, that post has already been liked over 300,000 times.
It’s these kind of ambitious ideas that have made Hawking a hero in China. According to Xinhua, the cosmologists fame among Chinese young people is matched only be the likes of Tom Cruise.
“After following your Weibo, I feel connected to the universe,” reads one of the top comments on Hawking’s inaugural post, with over 90,000 likes.
“Thank you for your contributions to humanity,” reads another comment.
“This post will go down in history,” echoed another.
“You are my most cited author, you are our idol!” praised another Weibo user.
According to the Wall Street Journal, some of his fans even believe that he can help out with more than just their schoolwork. “Respected Professor Hawking, a question: I’m 180 centimeters tall and weigh 75 kilograms. When will I find a girlfriend?” one netizen wondered.
Hawking’s Weibo welcome was in a whole different galaxy from any foreign celebrity or public figure that has joined before, including Narendra Modi, whose first post attracted just 11,000 comments; Kobe Bryant, 80,000 fans instantly without a post; and Tim Cook, whose first message got just 37,000 shares.
The account is run jointly by Hawking’s own team and Stradella Road, a US-based social media marketing company. The company’s CEO Gordon Paddison said that they will translate comments underneath his Weibo posts and send them to Hawking.
In his historic debut post, Hawking recalled his two previous trips to China, the first in 1985 when he traveled the country by train. “In my physical travels, I have only been able to touch the surface of your fascinating history and culture. But now I can communicate with you through social media,” he writes.
Many Weibo users recalled fondly his second trip to China in 2006 to attend a physics conference in Beijing, where crowds lined up for hours to hear him speak. At a seminar on string theory at the conference, he revealed just what it is that he likes so much about China.
“I like Chinese culture, Chinese food and above all Chinese women,” he said.