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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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Hmm. . .
By angryhippy on 12/1/2006 2:59:43 PM , Rating: 3
Wow, maybe in a couple thousand years we'll actually have the technology to leave the solar system in mass.

Seems more practical to work on keeping Earth pleasant and habitable, with maybe some super nukes to deflect space rocks.

Hawkings is an amazing person, but this idea is silly. Colonizing other solar systems is a long long way off! We don't even know if there are any other habitable planets in out part of the galaxy, and who'd want to live on a dead rock like the moon or Mars? A life spent inside a building sounds pretty depressing.

RE: Hmm. . .
By Xavian on 12/1/2006 9:02:05 PM , Rating: 2
If its one thing, i've seen over the past 20 years, its that Technology goes hand in hand with acceleration of human evolution.

As Technology accelerates, human understanding evolves faster and thus accelerates Technology, an endless loop which could possibly end with the event of a technological singularity.

I wouldn't be surprised that even 30 years from now, Earth and human-kind as we know it will be completely changed. The Internet and Computers on a whole are constantly accelerating advances in Science and Technology at an exponential rate. Who's to say that we wont start colonising planets in 10-20 years from now, considering how far we've come in only 50 years, i'd say its possible especially since Technology is advancing at a quicker and quicker rate nowadays.

RE: Hmm. . .
By joset00 on 12/3/2006 10:52:31 PM , Rating: 2
@ angryhippy:

Stephen Hawking deserves all the credits given to him (and more); I'm stating this in a loose way, in accordance with my [limited] understanding of his work. This, is fundamental; criticisms are only relevant, after.
However, the man seems to put forward some speculative ideas on scientific/technological matters, mostly for media consumption (he can afford it...).
Just look at the way this less-than-original though is put, just because it's S. W. Hawking's opinion; he's even writen a book about the [near] end of Physics... polemic, to say the least.
Certainly, there's some credit in this idea, since it addresses one of our most basic instincts, the one of survival. However, I think we still have some steps to go through, in between, before hitting the stars (if we ever make it...): we've just entered genetic engineering's infancy. Given enough time (i.e., not in this century; my opinion), genetics will become the shifting gear for all humanity (well, for the chosen ones; hence, minuscule 'h'). Theoretically, we'll be able to transform ourselves & adapt as new forms of living organisms, under the most severe & unusual circumstances; if we manage to escape self-anihilation (genetics included), 'terraformation', [genetical] adaptability, Solar System colonization & extra-Solar System probing, will become viable possibilities.
The only certain thing is that we, as an intelligent class of beings, will do whatever it takes to survive, paradoxically, if we exclude self-anihilation. Depending upon the scientific/technological/mental degree of development, we might leave an unsuited-for-survival planet like ours in two ways: carrying our earthly houses on our backs or adapt & turn into something we'd hardly call human, by today's standards.

As someone already mentioned in this thread, we are responsible (now) and we should stand for the defense of the only life-supporting-planet we know of; however, we must also be aware of our 'limitations' as a species, with all the contradictions it implies; that's being Homo Sapiens Sapiens; 'Homo', might disapear as part of our own taxonomy, if genetic engineering enters adulthood, in a few centuries. And, outer space travelling techniques won't be the peeble in the shoe, of that I'm sure... well, who said S. Hawking was going too far?!


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