August 10, 2010

Hawking: Leave Earth Or Die

British astrophysicist Stephen Hawking has issued a dire warning for the people of Earth--find a way to survive in outer space in the next 100 years, or face extinction.

Speaking to the website Big Think, the former Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient said, "I believe that the long term future of the human race must be in space. It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster on planet Earth in the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand, or million. The human race shouldn't have all its eggs in one basket, or on one planet. Let's hope we can avoid dropping the basket until we have spread the load."

Hawking, an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a lifetime member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, is known for his work in applied mathematics and theoretical physics--particularly in the study of black holes, radiation, quantum gravity, and theoretical cosmology. He spoke to Big Think on August 6 as part of the online publication's "Month of Thinking Dangerously" series.

"I see great dangers for the human race," the 68-year-old Hawking said. "There have been a number of times in the past when its survival has been a question of touch and go. The Cuban missile crisis in 1963 was one of these. The frequency of such occasions is likely to increase in the future. We shall need great care and judgment to negotiate them all successfully."

"If we are the only intelligent beings in the galaxy, we should make sure we survive and continue," he added. "But we are entering an increasingly dangerous period of our history. Our population and our use of the finite resources of planet Earth, are growing exponentially, along with our technical ability to change the environment for good or ill."

The biggest challenge, he suggests, may come in battling our own instincts.

"Our genetic code still carries the selfish and aggressive instincts that were of survival advantage in the past," Hawking said. "It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster in the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand or million."

That is why the human race should look to space colonization as the future of the species, he says.

"Our only chance of long term survival, is not to remain inward looking on planet Earth, but to spread out into space," Hawking said during the interview. "We have made remarkable progress in the last hundred years. But if we want to continue beyond the next hundred years, our future is in space."

It might sound as though Hawking envisions a bleak future for mankind, but he insists that is not the case. "I'm an optimist," he said. "If we can avoid disaster for the next two centuries, our species should be safe, as we spread into space."

Hawking was born on January 8, 1942 in Oxford. He served as the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge for three decades, joining the institution in 1979 and retiring in October 2009. His book A Brief History of Time, which was published in 1988, spent a total of four years on the London Sunday Times bestseller list and sold in excess of nine million copies worldwide.

Earlier this year, Hawking expressed concern over attempts to contact extraterrestrial life, telling British and French reporters that doing so could have catastrophic results.

Speaking to The Times while promoting the television series 'Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking', the scientist said, "To my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational"¦ The real challenge is to work out what aliens might actually be like."

"If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn't turn out well for the Native Americans," he warned, according to the AFP.

"We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn't want to meet," Hawking concluded, according to the Register. "I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they can reach."


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