Stephen Hawking says that if humanity is going to survive in the long run, we must escape our planet.
British theoretical physicist professor Stephen Hawking, shown here speaking in Waterloo, Ontario, in June
Dave Chidley/The Canadian Press/AP/File
By Clara Moskowitz, SPACE.com Senior Writer / August 12, 2010
If humanity is to survive long-term, it must find a way to get off planet Earth — and fast, according to famed astrophysicist Stephen Hawking.
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In fact, human beings may have less than 200 years to figure out how to escape our planet, Hawking said in a recent interview with video site Big Think. Otherwise our species could be at risk for extinction, he said.
"It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster in the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand or million," Hawking said. "Our only chance of long-term survival is not to remain inward-looking on planet Earth, but to spread out into space."
Humans stuck on Earth are at risk from two kinds of catastrophes, Hawking said. First, the kind we bring on ourselves, such as possible devastating impacts from climate change, or nuclear or biological warfare.
A number of cosmic phenomena could spell our demise, too. An asteroid could slam into Earth, killing large swaths of the population and rendering the planet uninhabitable. Or a supernova or gamma-ray burst near our spot in the Milky Way could prove ruinous for life on Earth.
Life on Earth could even be threatened by an extraterrestrial civilization, Hawking has pointed out on his Discovery Channel television series, "Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking."
Dangerous aliens may want to take over the planet to use its resources for themselves, he said in the series. It would be safer for the survival of our species if we had people living on other worlds as a backup plan, Hawking proposed.
"The human race shouldn't have all its eggs in one basket, or on one planet," he told Big Think. "Let's hope we can avoid dropping the basket until we have spread the load."
Blogger's Note: Similar remarks were made at the NASA NEO workshop:
Stephen Hawking Says Earth Is Getting Too Small For Humanity
Astrophysicist, Stephen Hawking, doesn't necessarily believe in Armageddon, but his version of the future of mankind sounds almost as bleak. In a recent interview, Stephen Hawking, who usually spends his time opining about the event horizon around black holes, took some time out to discuss how humans should prepare for their own self-induced doomsday:
"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, 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."
"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."
That first part almost sounds like a eulogy for mankind.