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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 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.


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