Abandon Earth—Or Face Extinction
Stephen Hawking is a theoretical physicist and academic celebrity whose distinguished scientific career spans over forty years. Hawking is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a lifetime member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and in 2009 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States. From 1979 to 2009, Hawking was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge. He is also a Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge and a Distinguished Research Chair at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario.
Hawking is known for his contributions to the fields of cosmology and quantum gravity, specifically in the context of black holes. He has also achieved success with works of popular science. His best-known book is A Brief History of Time, which seeks to explain a range of subjects in cosmology, including the Big Bang, black holes and light cones to the layman reader. Hawking's key scientific works have included providing, with Roger Penrose, theorems regarding gravitational singularities in the framework of general relativity, and the theoretical prediction that black holes should emit radiation.
Hawking was featured in our "Month of Thinking Dangerously" series, contributing the dangerous idea that we should start thinking about how to abandon Planet Earth to keep humanity from extinction.
Stephen Hawking: 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.
I see great dangers for the human race. 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. But I'm an optimist. If we can avoid disaster for the next two centuries, our species should be safe, as we spread into space.
If we are the only intelligent beings in the galaxy, we should make sure we survive and continue. 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. But our genetic code still carries the selfish and aggressive instincts that were of survival advantage in the past. It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster in the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand or million. Our only chance of long term survival, is not to remain inward looking on planet Earth, but to spread out into space. 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. That is why I'm in favor of manned, or should I say "personed," space flight.
Stephen Hawking says all we have to do is survive another two hundred years and the human race will be saved, because by that point human settlements in space will already be well-established.
Musican. Actor. Fashion Icon. Internet Visionary?
- David Bowie was well known as a rock star, but somehow his other interests and accomplishments remain obscure.
- In this 1999 interview, he explains why he knows the internet is more than just a tool and why it was destined to change the world.
- He launched his own internet service provider in 1998, BowieNet. It ceased operations in 2006.
Moans, groans, and gripes release stress hormones in the brain.
Could you give up complaining for a whole month? That's the crux of this interesting piece by Jessica Hullinger over at Fast Company. Hullinger explores the reasons why humans are so predisposed to griping and why, despite these predispositions, we should all try to complain less. As for no complaining for a month, that was the goal for people enrolled in the Complaint Restraint project.
Participants sought to go the entirety of February without so much as a moan, groan, or bellyache.
Good science is sometimes trumped by the craving for a "big splash."
- Scientists strive to earn credit from their peers, for grants from federal agencies, and so a lot of the decisions that they make are strategic in nature. They're encouraged to publish exciting new findings that demonstrate some new phenomenon that we have never seen before.
- This professional pressure can affect their decision-making — to get acclaim they may actually make science worse. That is, a scientist might commit fraud if he thinks he can get away with it or a scientist might rush a result out of the door even though it hasn't been completely verified in order to beat the competition.
- On top of the acclaim of their peers, scientists — with the increasing popularity of science journalism — are starting to be rewarded for doing things that the public is interested in. The good side of this is that the research is more likely to have a public impact, rather than be esoteric. The bad side? To make a "big splash" a scientist may push a study or article that doesn't exemplify good science.
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