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Stephen Hawking - Image courtesy
We must leave this planet before we get hit by rocks or become part of a Ben Affleck movie

In a rare interview, Stephen Hawking said to the BBC that humans must move to another solar system in order to ensure the survival of the species. “Once we spread out into space and establish colonies, our future should be safe,” he said. Hawking made a similar suggestion back in June.


He believes that life on Earth could be wiped out by a nuclear disaster or a massive asteroid hitting the planet causing Armageddon with its Deep Impact. He said that, since we have no similar planets on our solar system, we would “have to go to another star” to find a suitable habitat.


Before humans could even dream of such a move, we would need to develop a viable means of transportation. Hawking proposed “matter/anti-matter annihilation” propulsion. He explained: “When matter and anti-matter meet up, they disappear in a burst of radiation. If this was beamed out of the back of a spaceship, it could drive it forward … It would take a lot of energy to accelerate to near the speed of light.”


Even at near-light speeds, it would take six years to reach a new star. While Hawking, 64, may not see our escape from Earth in his lifetime, he still wishes to see the planet from space.  “My next goal is to go into space; maybe Richard Branson will help me.”


Hawking was recently awarded the Royal Society’s Copley medal, their highest honor, for his work in theoretical physics and cosmology leading to classifications and further knowledge of black holes.


Lord Rees, president of the Royal Society, stated “Stephen Hawking has contributed as much as anyone since Einstein to our understanding of gravity. This medal is a fitting recognition of an astonishing research career spanning more than 40 years.”


In a statement issued by Hawking after learning of the award he said “This is a very distinguished medal, it was awarded to Darwin, Einstein and (Francis) Crick. I am honored to be in their company.”

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By S3anister on 12/1/2006 2:51:44 PM , Rating: 1
Hawking proposed “matter/anti-matter annihilation” propulsion.
WOW, that sounds amazing, like something that would actually make a difference to our species! Stephen Hawking FTW.

By peternelson on 12/1/2006 2:59:26 PM , Rating: 1
If we can harness nuclear fusion, that would probably do as a power source.

Coupled with some form of ion drive, we could probably reach the nearest star.

But we would need life support and food (probably grown on board) to last many generations of humans, something to overcome the lack of gravity on board (like a rotating portion of the spaceship).

Things would be easier if we could find a buried stargate, or some wormhole not very far away from here.

And then of course when we get there, will the local aliens feel happy for us to invade their planets?

By ketwyld on 12/1/2006 3:19:43 PM , Rating: 3
And then of course when we get there, will the local aliens feel happy for us to invade their planets?

Ahhhh, we'll give them trinkets, booze, & disease-laden blankets and then march the survivors into "reservations", just like we have done in the past with all indigenous people. Seriously, you can't build an empire without having the natives properly under thumb.

By angryhippy on 12/1/2006 3:34:01 PM , Rating: 1
Ahhhh, we'll give them trinkets, booze, & disease-laden blankets and then march the survivors into "reservations", just like we have done in the past with all indigenous people. Seriously, you can't build an empire without having the natives properly under thumb.

We might just run into the American version of aliens who are more advanced. They will "liberate" us by invading, overthrowing our governments, install puppet leaders in their place, modeled on their government style. They will "accidentally" kill 100's of millions of civilians when they mistake schools, hospitals and factories for military installations. Their installed puppet goverment's main purpose will be to sell Earth resources to them at a very cheap price. Then they will wonder why we're not greatful for being liberated, and aren't all getting along after our authority structure was totally destroyed.

By Etsp on 12/1/2006 5:12:46 PM , Rating: 2
That sounds oddly familiar....

By Christopher1 on 12/2/2006 2:56:24 PM , Rating: 1
Yeah, sounds like Bush's version of the perfect world.

By Operandi on 12/2/2006 9:46:57 PM , Rating: 3
Luckily we have X-Com to protect us.

By SilthDraeth on 12/4/2006 10:52:52 AM , Rating: 2
If only things where so black and white.

By scrapsma54 on 12/5/2006 5:54:45 PM , Rating: 2
HALF-life 2 anyone?
Makes sense and a reasonable time (6yrs) to obtain a better life (and grave). 6yrs of screwing around in a room with a tv and an xbox 1800, sounds good.

By Russell on 12/1/2006 5:25:33 PM , Rating: 1
FYI: The diseased blankets thing is a myth.

Though some people, even at the time, believed it could work so they TRIED to give out diseased blankets, but the joke was on them as the blankets didn't actually spread any disease. Still it's the thought that counts, right?

By Samus on 12/1/2006 9:12:47 PM , Rating: 2
three words: alien hybrid babies

it's kind of like a cylon offspring but with one eye and a big head.

By knowyourenemy on 12/2/2006 12:29:17 PM , Rating: 2
What makes everyone believe that aliens will even be bipedal, nonetheless mammalian?

By Lord Evermore on 12/2/2006 8:19:13 PM , Rating: 2
Because Star Trek said so.

Or: Because we're the perfect form for an intelligent being.

Or: who said we needed bipedal mammalians to let us make hybrids? Personally I want a set of alien tentacles grafted into my genome.

By nerdboy on 12/1/2006 3:23:02 PM , Rating: 2
Can the Human body with stand almost going the speed of light.

By wien on 12/1/2006 3:35:09 PM , Rating: 5
Speed doesn't hurt anyone. Acceleration does.

By vanka on 12/1/2006 4:24:12 PM , Rating: 3
Unless of course you're going at the speed of light; in which case (according to relativity theory) your length becomes zero and your mass becomes infinite.

(And yes I understand that in relativistic equations mass and length are undefined, but the limit of the equations at that point suggest that this would be the case.)

By vanka on 12/1/2006 4:26:38 PM , Rating: 2
(And yes I understand that in relativistic equations mass and length are undefined, but the limit of the equations at that point suggest that this would be the case.)

Sorry, it should read:

(And yes I understand that in relativistic equations your mass and length are undefined when your speed equals the speed of light, but the limit of the equations at that point suggest that this would be the case.)

By wien on 12/1/2006 4:30:36 PM , Rating: 2
But not relative to your viewpoint right? Just the people you wizz past at the speed of light. Or have I gotten this wrong? :)

By vanka on 12/1/2006 5:17:20 PM , Rating: 5
You got it right, but what you said is true for speeds that approach the speed of light. So if you're traveling at 99% of the speed of light your weight (to an outside observer) will be 1000kg instead of 100kg, a meter stick will be 10cm, and one of your minutes will go by for every 10 minutes of the observer's. (Note these numbers were pulled out of thin air, I used them because most textbooks also use them when they explain the effects of relativity; ask an astrophysicist for the actual figures.) If you're the one traveling at 99% of the speed of light, you won't notice or feel any of these effects. You will notice that relativity has just the opposite effect on the observer though.

But this is for speeds that approach the speed of light. When you approach c, your weight approaches infinity, your length approaches zero, and time slows to a stand still. We realize that this is physically impossible and we can only theorize as to what happens to an object when it hits the speed of light. Maybe it goes into another dimension, who knows; what we do know is that it appears that the speed of light is a speed limit that cannot be broken. Macho American scientists declared that if they were able to break the speed of sound, they'd be able to break the speed of light limit. This of course is not possible as even apparent speed cannot exceed c. Apparent speed is when two objects such as cars approach each other from opposite directions at say 60km/h, their apparent speed of one car to the other is 120km/h; that is the actual speed of both cars are added together to get the apparent speed. This is not true with velocities that approach the speed of light. If two ships, both traveling at 99% of the speed of light, pass each other; their apparent speed will not be 198% of the speed of light. Instead there is a complex formula in which their speeds are multiplied together and their apparent speed will be about 99.8% of the speed of light.

By Gatt on 12/2/2006 3:55:20 AM , Rating: 3
There's a number of technical problems IMO with this.

The first is that the assumption is based upon the various affects being unavoidable, which isn't technically true. 100 years ago, no matter what you did, placing your hand in a fire would result in burns. Today, one can wear a fire-resistant glove and place their hand in fire without reprocussion. We assume that just because we can't avoid a problem today, we'll never find a way to avoid the problem. Not true by a long shot.

Second, we're making a large number of assumptions based upon the belief that all of our data is valid. There's nothing in Physics that is concrete, because we've never been able to test Physics reliably outside of our environment. We've no idea if Physics holds true on another world, or in another Solar System. We could easily discover a variety of things we believe to be true, and are true here, aren't always true. We could easily discover that the way atoms behave in other places aren't close to the way they behave here.

Third, we are limited by our close minded line of thinking. Everything we know, and everything our Laws of Physics are based upon, comes directly from our senses followed to conclusions. We consistently ignore the possibility, probability even, that there's a large variety of forces in the galaxy beyond our sensory range. Radiation is the product of our curosity about light and color, known by sight. Likewise, Atoms are from our curosity about what makes up matter. It's very highly likely there's a number of forms of energy and other effects we've no idea about, simply because it's beyond our sensory range so we've no where to start.

Math is the only thing in Human History that is undeniable. 1 + 1 = 2, no matter what.

Problem is, we humans have an annoying habit of doing the math, discovering something's wrong with it, and creating a solution based upon data from our senses rather than considering the likelyhood of effects beyond our senses. Dark Matter/Energy is a good example. Our equations do not work, do we concede there's things beyond our senses? No. We make up more "Matter", When we really need to start considering energy outside of Atomic and Light ranges.

By cochy on 12/3/2006 4:59:16 PM , Rating: 2
This is true. Moral of the story: We have a laughably insignificant understanding of this reality. Though we do make progress quite quickly!

By joset00 on 12/3/2006 8:38:06 PM , Rating: 2
@ Gatt:

First remark: The point is not that we actually can manage to protect (more efficiently) our hands; it's, mostly, that fire still burns...

Second remark: Try to see it the other way around: all the universe was/is/will be different from our own 'locality'; that'd make our region special, right? What's special about it? So, are we limited in time & space because we're not able to be everywhere at the same time? Definitely. Does this fact change the laws of the ['far'] universe? We do not know but, as far as we can see (literally!), the laws were/are/will be the same; what we - as the only known conscience of the universe - can say about this last statement is... unless otherwise proven.

Third remark: Well, 'likeliness' is akin to probability; as for other 'forces', 'forms of energy', dimensions, etc, what would be the point in consider them - if they 'exist' - if we're not aware of their manifestation? Certainly, we're limited; but, extrapolating to a «close minded line of thinking» leads me to believe there's another... could you elaborate on that, please?
The Laws of Physics are only as good as they reflect our world's behaviour; it's a metalanguage (a translating language...) of natural phenomena; so far, reason has gone hand-in-hand with observation; one's nothing, without the other.
Mathematics are tools (ok, a very special kind of tools); it has been built upon axioms, just like the one you've pictured; actually, like flatness is a special case of curvature, 1+1=2 is a special case, where 2 happens to be one of a series of [infinite?] possibilities; moreover, we cannot prove it's own axioms: Gödel's theorem asserts that mathematical axioms (the very basic ones) cannot be subject to proof; shocking as it might seem, it proves mathematical consistency: were we able to prove axioms, they could prove false...

Preface (we don't know better...): The problem is that we're as much 'gods' as gods can be. We know no other form of thinking nor other form of sensing (we do invent tools which help, though); we've got no comparative models and, even if we had, we would not understand them, most probably.
Many of General Relativity's peculiarities were due to 'insights' about how things could work, within a certain context (not Star Treck's); it happens that, most of those peculiarities were subject to proof and they've been proven, after GR was thought out; that, was a big 'win' towards our way of thinking. But, GR isn't the ultimate theory; nor, perhaps, Quantum Mechanics. Maybe there's room for another 'mind revolution'... or, Nature will show itself, 'undone'.
'Our equations' go way beyond our senses; maybe the four 'forces' we know today may have a more 'colourful' way of presenting themselves than just 'black' & 'white'. We're trying hard to find out.
Maybe you should know better, on what concerns our limitations... and our knowledge.


By joset00 on 12/3/2006 7:33:07 PM , Rating: 2
@ vanka:

y= 1/sqr.1-v^2/c^2, also known as Lorentz transformations (replace y by rest mass, rest time, rest lenght, the first '1' by m', t' or l' and v by the relative velocity to c); or, in 'calculation overdrive mode',
Actually, we can detect objects @ the speed of light: photons (rest mass=0); and, we can predict what would happen if it was possible for any object with non-zero rest mass to reach c: it would become energy, according to E=m*c^2. Nothing much. The problem would be the amount of energy to supply such an object for such an achievement: infinite.
And, the "complex equation" you mention, is no more than the Lorentz factor, 1/sqr1-v^2/c^2.


By Milliamp on 12/3/2006 11:12:32 PM , Rating: 1
Not true, the friction alone created by traveling at that speed would disintegrate you.

Even in a vacuum if you were to make contact with a small particle, even the size of sand it would destroy your ship.

The best short-term solution would probably be to set up base and begin terraforming mars. Maybe we could put our greenhouse gases to good use on mars and kill 2 birds with one stone.

By rushfan2006 on 12/4/2006 8:54:04 AM , Rating: 2
While read all the arguments here on what happens at the speed of light...we may never REALLY know what happens. Science is great, Hawkings and Einstein and the rest of the great minds are definitely "uber" geniuses in their fields.

But as we probably NEVER will have the ability to propel any manmade vehicle carrying any biological occupants anywhere close to the speed of light -- we can't be 100% of what will/would REALLY honestly happen.

Even many of these great minds state the amount of power alone, aside from all the other issues to do with, for propelling a vehicle the speed of light is more power that all the world's electric and nuclear power plants can provide even if you multiplied it all by 1,000 times.

By Sungpooz on 12/8/2006 10:43:42 AM , Rating: 2
Even in a vacuum if you were to make contact with a small particle, even the size of sand it would destroy your ship.

The ship would destroy the particle. getting hit with something traveling that fast would probably smash it into sub-atomic particles.

and sub-atomic particles won't destroy a ship.

By Milliamp on 12/10/2006 5:56:02 AM , Rating: 2
It would destroy the small sand/pebble to sub-atomic particles but not damage the front of the ship?

The material of this ship is light enough to be pushed to these speeds, but armored enough to withstand that?

If you have ever read about a SABOT tank round you will know that the reason it penetrates armor is because it delivers so much force to such a small surface area.

It is said that getting hit with a SABOT is like getting hit by a train spread over the surface area of a dime.

Although this is not necessarily 100% true, the same applies to the sand/pebble. What it lacks in mass, it makes up for in speed.

By Lord Evermore on 12/2/2006 8:20:34 PM , Rating: 2
It ain't the fall that hurts you. It's the sudden stop at the end.

By peternelson on 12/3/2006 6:52:48 AM , Rating: 2
Or as Han Solo put it so eloquently, "without those coordinates from the navo computer, we could fly right through a supernova...... and that'd end your trip real quick, wouldn't it kid?"

Seriously, at those speeds, even very small particles could cause serious damage to the ship's hull, and anything/anyone they impact. At those speeds you would likely crash into it before having ability to detect or change course to steer around it.

Some form of sacrificial shielding to be worn down, or deflection technology would likely need to be developed.

It's the same principle as bugs on my windscreen or throwing bricks at a fast moving train.

By CMcIntyre on 12/4/2006 7:17:53 PM , Rating: 2
I think your getting all this from Star Trek and Stargate Atlantas "Buried Stargate" "Local Aliens" etc, trueth be told the only way to get to another solar system is by shuttle because
1. Hawkins only has theories of black holes, could be right could no be

2. If Hawkins theorie is right, a black hole would destroy the entire space craft and everybody in it, unless a human being can survive being turned into spagetti strings.

By straycat74 on 12/1/2006 4:19:27 PM , Rating: 2
maybe Al Gore will go with to warn the aliens of the dangers of the infamous Manbearpig

By dever on 12/2/2006 10:27:54 AM , Rating: 2
There's nothing funny about ManBearPigs! Well, at least not to a number of DailyTech readers anyway.

Thanks for the hearty chuckle.

By lennylim on 12/1/2006 5:26:31 PM , Rating: 4
If we have antimatter, we'll use it in bombs, and wipe out the human race, way before we have interstellar travel.

By AxemanFU on 12/1/2006 6:22:03 PM , Rating: 3
What's the use of "winning" if you aren't around to enjoy the victory. Amazingly enough, I think it is very likely we're too self interested as whole to actually go through with an action that could possibly be a complete mutually assured destruction. Suicide to win...there are only a few people that try it...and it is never a whole population because most people are too rational, and no single weapon is yet that powerful. Maybe we should all watch Dr. Strangelove and contemplate this...heh.

By milomnderbnder21 on 12/1/2006 9:33:43 PM , Rating: 3
Well, only the people with their finger on the button actually need to be that crazy.

You know, crazy enough to think something like the rapture is near, or that they shall have virgins waiting for them once they've completed their mission to kill some folks that don't agree with them.

Oh, wait...There are a bunch of people like that. Especially in america, for the first batch. Scary.

By Christopher1 on 12/2/2006 2:58:47 PM , Rating: 1
I have to agree. There are a LOT of religious loonies out there who advocate bombing with nuclear weapons Muslims and other people all around the world who do not agree with their view of the world, and who don't worship their god.

They basically DO have their finger on the button right now, because Bush is one of them. The only reason that he HASN'T pushed the button yet is because if he tried to, the military officers around him would stop him and have him committed.

By shecknoscopy on 12/1/2006 6:56:19 PM , Rating: 2
If we have antimatter, we'll use it in bombs, and wipe out the human race, way before we have interstellar travel.

Oh, we've totally got antimatter. Anyone who's ever taken a PET scan has been exposed to positrons - the antimatter equivalent of our good buddy the electron. It's not even that hard to contain them, as a magnetic field'd work just as well on positive charges as on negative. Heck, we've come so far as to making anti-hydrogen as well (though it, obviously, couldn't be contained with magnets). However, it'll be a while before we see comerically available anti-hydrogen based anti-cars. See also my documentary, "Who annihilated the Anti-Car?"

Actually, don't see it, it's mostly filler I culled from stock footage of "Small Wonder."


By knowyourenemy on 12/2/2006 12:31:18 PM , Rating: 2
Seriously though, nationality and religion has to die long before we even think of trying to get into outer space. Who knows how many nut cases will try to pull a Contact.

By ADDAvenger on 12/2/2006 5:04:35 PM , Rating: 2
Comments like this are barely worthy of a reply.

Science itself is a religion, because a religion is simply a set of beliefs that you have. There is no god of science, but there are no gods in some religions like shintoism (I think that's a good example anyway), they just worship ancestors and spirits.

You yourself are as bad as the religious nuts you talk about; you would have us eliminated, just like the religious nuts you're talking about. You're a fool if you think all people of religion are crazy fanatics like al-Qaida and Hezbollah.

As for nationality, it doesn't need to die; it's good to understand your history. Don't get me wrong, taking so much pride in your country that you start invading everyone else's because you're just sure they're inferior, that's no good. There will always be regional divisions, or regional differences if you prefer, but that doesn't mean that we'll necessarily have to fight over them.

By joset00 on 12/3/2006 9:03:29 PM , Rating: 3
@ ADDavenger:

Nope. Science - in a very prosaic mode - is a structure which must prove & 'heal' itself constantly, while retaining its universal consistency; Religion - again in a very prosaic mode - is based upon a set of a priori convictions (dogmas), which do not require proof and universal consistency to be valid; and, they're not mutually exclusive, as far as 'validity' is concerned.


By ADDAvenger on 12/2/2006 4:49:31 PM , Rating: 1
Antimatter propulsion? Oh ok, I'll just pull out the chunk of antimatter I always carry around in my back pocket....
Antimatter is still highly theoretical and unproven.

Nuclear propulsion is the same concept, except we use an explosive that we already have and have lots of research with. Look up Project Orion on Wikipedia.

By peternelson on 12/3/2006 7:00:52 AM , Rating: 2
"Antimatter is still highly theoretical and unproven"

No it isn't.

Places like Fermilab and CERN can make antimatter quite routinely.

Just it costs quite a lot of money to produce (not to mention build those facilities in the first place) and the quantities are very small.

But I agree, if there was a project like Orion that used true fusion rather than conventional nukes... (and if humans didn't get gene mutation from the radiation), that could probably get us there eventually.

By ADDAvenger on 12/3/2006 5:49:15 PM , Rating: 2
The radiation from an Orion ship wouldn't be too much of a problem. First, the pusher plate that catches the nuclear blasts will be about ten meters thick. Second, any Orion-type ship meant for interstellar travel will be so ridiculously massive that throwing on a couple dozen tons of lead won't mean anything.
Also, there is a lot of cosmic radiation, from solar flares and such, which produces much more intense radiation than the bombs would. So by design, if the sheilding blocks out the cosmic radiation, it will also have to work well enough to block the 'propulsionary' radiation.

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