Stephen Hawking: We Gotta Get Out Of This Place

Acclaimed astrophysicist says that humanity has about 1,187 years to get its act together:

LOS ANGELES — Stephen Hawking, who spent his career decoding the universe and even experienced weightlessness, is urging the continuation of space exploration – for humanity’s sake.

The 71-year-old Hawking said he did not think humans would survive another 1,000 years “without escaping beyond our fragile planet.”

The British cosmologist made the remarks Tuesday before an audience of doctors, nurses and employees at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where he toured a stem cell laboratory that’s focused on trying to slow the progression of Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Obligatory video:

FILED UNDER: Quick Takes, Science & Technology
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Rafer Janders says:

    It’s always good to remind people that nature doesn’t need us…we need nature.

    The earth, as an sphere floating in space, is fairly agnostic as to whether it’s a super-heated ball of molten magma or a verdant paradise blessed with gentle seas, grass, sand, fertile soil, forests, clean air, cloud cover, and an overwhelming diversity of plant and animal life. Human beings, however, definitely prefer the second scenario to the first.

  2. ernieyeball says:

    @Rafer Janders: The earth…is fairly agnostic…

    More like totally indifferent…

    The planet has been here four and a half billion years. We’ve been here, what, a hundred thousand? Maybe two hundred thousand? And we’ve only been engaged in heavy industry for a little over two hundred years. Two hundred years versus four and a half billion. And we have the CONCEIT to think that somehow we’re a threat? That somehow we’re gonna put in jeopardy this beautiful little blue-green ball that’s just a-floatin’ around the sun?

    RIP George Carlin.

    http://gospelofreason.wordpress.com/2007/05/24/george-carlin-the-planet-is-fine/

  3. Tsar Jan Bithead Nicholas says:

    Another liberul hippy member of the loopy librul academe-media cabal is spouting his nonsense. We don’t have a “global warming” problem and the earth can sustain us until the second coming of Jebus. Drill baby drill!

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Tsar Jan Bithead Nicholas: I suppose somebody had to pick up the slack….

  5. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Cool “Animals” reference. Billy Thorpe’s “Children of the Sun” and the cover of “Boston” also would have been apropos. We also could point out that in 1,187 years Gen. Y / Millennials still will be unemployed and paying off their student loans, but I guess that would be a touch crass.

    What’s sort of funny about the whole “Mother Earth is dying!” thing is that the hysterical left is so idiotic they can’t connect the obvious dots of the very scientific histories of which they claim to be so fond. The earth has experienced mass extinctions. Ice ages. Superheated ages. Volcanic ages. Hurricanes that made Katrina look like Lauren Bacall blowing out a candle. Various other catastrophic calamities too. Millions upon millions of years before the internal combustion engine. Tens of millions. Hundreds of millions. Billions. Go figure.

    As far as space exploration goes, that too entails various layers of political irony. When George W. Bush (gulp) proposed manned missions to Mars the left sneered, jeered, mocked him and spit. And now B.H. Obama — the smartest guy in the entire universe, or whatever — has gutted NASA. Again, go figure.

  6. bookdragon says:

    The point is not that the earth is dying. The earth as a planet will survive. The point is that _we_, as species, may not if earth is our only option.

  7. C. Clavin says:

    I’ve been working on a paper that relates directly to this.
    It does not matter if you believe in AGW or not. I know many of you prefer ideology to science. That’s fine. The indisputable fact is that we are currently experiencing extremes in weather driven by a climate that is changing at a rate not seen since the last ice age.
    It doesn’t really matter why. We are. Period. Accept it.
    Having said that…I think Hawking is being a tad melodramatic.
    This is not melodramatic…our world is going to look very different in the not too distant future.
    A failure to mitigate will force us to adapt.

    Call it Mitigation by Adaptation.

    Sustainability is so last century.
    This century will be about survivability…resiliancy. The ability to survive and endure both immediate events, such as killer storms…and long-term change, like rising temperatures and humidity, rising sea levels…and on the other extreme, record droughts.
    Solar panels, wind mills, generation systems, water capture and purification systems, materials that can survive storms and being wet for days or weeks…all of these are going to have big impacts on your wallet and the look of your pretty raised ranch in the burbs.
    It’s going to be a new world. Because a bunch of ideologists weren’t interested in the old world.

  8. Franklin says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: You’re describing the difference between things one can control and things one cannot. The dinosaurs couldn’t control their destiny. Modern dinosaurs like you actually could, but choose not to.

  9. Andre Kenji says:

    The problem of Hawking´s assertion is that if you travel on the speed of the light – and there are doubts that it can be ever done – it would take something like 3 or 4 years to reach the closest star. The known exoplanets that in theory could support life would need 20, 40, 600 or even 4900 years to do so.

    If the humankind manages to find energy to do these kinds of explorations then there is no need for colonizing anything, life on Earth would be wonderful and plentiful.

  10. DC Loser says:

    it would take something like 3 or 4 years to reach the closest galaxy

    No. It would take that long to reach the closest neighboring star system, Alpha Centauri. The closest galaxy, M31 or Andromeda, is a million light years away.

  11. john personna says:

    It is incomprehensible to me that other people do not [hear] “the earth is dying” as shorthand for “the earth we care about, as humans.” How hard is that really?

    You know, people dreamed of long term spaceflight and colonization, before they knew that microbes outnumber “true” human cells in our bodies. We are colonies, communities, all of us. As Rafer says, we are tied to this (living) mud-ball.

    It is far more than an engineering problem to go off-planet.

    If you think you have trouble balancing your “probiotics” now, imagine it 10 generations removed from the earth.

  12. john personna says:

    (It might be solved in the long term, but the 50’s idea of sending a pure human body to the asteroid belt, to live happily on food slurry, is shot. We now know that any asteroid station would need to maintain a diverse microbial community in order to also maintain, let alone grow new, human life.)

  13. J-Dub says:

    Agent Smith was right. Humanity is a disease. Earth will find the cure sooner or later.

  14. john personna says:
  15. Brett says:

    I’m hard-pressed to think of something that would destroy humanity in a thousand years, aside from us doing it to ourselves. We’ve survived some pretty brutal climate change and natural events in the past (the glacial epochs of the Pleistocene Ice Age, the Mount Toba eruption, the Year Without A Summer), and I don’t think climate change is moving fast enough to destroy our existing civilization before we have a chance to adapt and mitigate some of its effects.

    That leaves asteroids and comets, but you don’t need space colonies to deal with those. You “only” need a good telescope program to find all potentially hazardous asteroids and comets moving through our solar system, and good enough spacecraft capable of going out to intercept them.

    Anything bigger than that would probably wipe out humanity unless we had colonies around other stars, so why worry about it?

    @John Personna

    (It might be solved in the long term, but the 50′s idea of sending a pure human body to the asteroid belt, to live happily on food slurry, is shot. We now know that any asteroid station would need to maintain a diverse microbial community in order to also maintain, let alone grow new, human life.)

    Would they just carry the necessary bacteria with them? An actual colony would be fairly large, too, if it wanted to be self-sustaining.

    Not that I’m certain they’ll happen. It depends on whether future people in a richer world decide that they want to live permanently in space, in large enough numbers to form “colonies” as opposed to what would effectively be retirement communities for rich people/long-term stay space hotels. I could envision a human space presence where space is treated like working on an oil platform – you may work there and stay there, but you don’t live there.

  16. john personna says:

    @Brett:

    Heh, I’m reading a semi-cheesy book right now. Red Planet Blues involves humans and “transfers” living on Mars. The transfers are mind uploads to robot bodies. That would certainly end-run the microbial communities problem … and if we are talking about 50-100 years out, who knows which happens first.

    (Of course, the Fermi Paradox argues against all of the above.)

  17. James in Silverdale, WA says:

    He’s 71?!? You go, Stephen!

  18. Issac Asimov says:

    @C. Clavin: Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.

  19. wr says:

    @Rafer Janders: “The earth, as an sphere floating in space, is fairly agnostic as to whether it’s a super-heated ball of molten magma or a verdant paradise blessed with gentle seas, grass, sand, fertile soil, forests, clean air, cloud cover, and an overwhelming diversity of plant and animal life. Human beings, however, definitely prefer the second scenario to the first. ”

    Republicans, however, not so much.

  20. john personna says:

    @wr:

    They believe money makes you happy, and environmentalists are always wrong. Combine those two things and … you have one answer to the Fermi Paradox.