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Hawking says we must leave the Earth
Posted: 27 June 2006 01:31 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I recently heard that astrophysicist Stephen Hawking said that the only way the human race can survive is to find new homes on other planets or moons in other solar systems. He said that life on the Earth could be wiped out by a disaster or disasters—such as global warming, nuclear war or a virus.   
    Hawking said that in 100 years we should have "space settlements" that won’t need to rely on support from Earth. He said we must leave the Earth if our species is to survive.
  Bob

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Posted: 27 June 2006 01:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Hawking says we must leave the Earth

I recently heard that astrophysicist Stephen Hawking said that the only way the human race can survive is to find new homes on other planets or moons in other solar systems. He said that life on the Earth could be wiped out by a disaster or disasters—such as global warming, nuclear war or a virus.   
    Hawking said that in 100 years we should have “space settlements” that won’t need to rely on support from Earth. He said we must leave the Earth if our species is to survive.
  Bob

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Posted: 27 June 2006 04:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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You can watch Steven Colbert’s take on the whole thing here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jOM2a5bQgdM&search=colbert hawking

Seeing as how we’ve known about the environmental destruction of humanity and the limitations of resources for a long time now, and compounded by the fact that so many fundamentalists are intent on hastening the apocalypse, Hawking’s comments seem long overdue to me! 

I once interviewed an aerospace engineer who worked on the Gemini Project, and he claimed that if we had continued to fund the the space program as we did 1952-1969, we’d have nuclear-powered propulsion and moon bases right now.  But I think we all know that we’d only pursue such scientific advances if it somehow involved national security or perhaps corporate interests.  The moon as a giant billboard, anyone?

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Posted: 27 June 2006 09:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Saw an interview in NYC at the Natural History Museum a few days ago with Edward Wilson (Harvard Professor of Entomology, Pulitzer Prize winer and inventor of “sociobiology”, as well as a very interested environmentalist), who said that this may be the only dumb thing Stephen Hawking ever said ...

Who knows if we should go that far, but anyhow it is foolish, for the very simple reason that it would be orders of magnitude (like more than a thousand times) more expensive to shuttle six billion people off the earth and terraform other planets than just to clean up the environment of THIS planet.

Global warming may be a problem, but it’s a walk in the park compared with terraforming Mars! And the Moon ... fuggeddaboudit.

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Posted: 27 June 2006 03:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Overpopulation is a big concern on earth not just pollution unless your already counting humanity as pollution which could be justified. So, heres a tough question I’ve tried to search an answer for and never have been satisfied with: How do you control population growth in a democracy, or even harder in another country like China?

Sex education and contraceptives help of course but that won’t help as much as we need it to. With religion, motherly instincts, traditions how do we control population so that we can survive?

Maybe that was the dumbest thing Hawkings ever said, but maybe its only dumb because he really sees no chance other then that. Something inside me says that humanity is going to end sometime, and if all our eggs are in one planet, its more likely.  so whats more ridiculus, us moving to another planet, or humanity surviving forver?

So what are some ways for population control? :?

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Know Thyself

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Posted: 28 June 2006 02:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Indeed, what ARE some ways for population control?  Especially for the most reproductive demographic - poor, uneducated, religious people!!!  Seems like most of the intelligent secularists I’ve met are pretty aversive to reproducing. 

Has natural selection turned its back on its only proponents???  :wink:

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Posted: 14 August 2006 05:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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There is hope!

:D

While over population is a HUGE problem here on Earth there is evidence in recent censuses to this runaway truck of newborn babies coming to a halt somewhere (not too far off) in the future. Fertility rates are falling and if we can stay on track and keep popualtion rates curbed, we’ll make it out alive.

What makes this kind of ambigious good news so good is that even a decade ago it looked impossible. So…let’s not blast off just yet.

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Posted: 16 August 2006 07:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I agree with Wilson, this does sound like the dumbest thing Hawking has ever said. The idea of transporting humans through the great reaches of space is easy to imagine, but quite difficult to actually accomplish.

Consider how far we have come up to this point. We’ve been to the moon, although not without some difficulty. We have never been to our close neighbor, Mars. Just to do that will cost billions of dollars, and plenty of time and effort.

And consider that Mars has a minimum distance from earth of about 35 million miles. The closest star to our solar system is Alpha Centauri, at 4.35 light years distance. One light year is 5.878x10^12 miles. So, Alpha Centauri is about 2.56x10^13 miles away. That’s 730,000X farther away than Mars! This is an unimaginable distance.

And how long would it take to get there? From this site they estimate about 260 days, or 9 months. It’s not a simple shoot straight and the shortest distance between two points. There’s the sun’s gravity and orbital problems to contend with. See more at that site, also, that discusses the practical side of space flight for extended periods of time. How long to get to Alpha Centauri? The fastest spacecraft we have now can go up to 0.01% of the speed of light. At that rate, it would take about 43,500 years to get there.

What I’m trying to show is that the idea of interstellar travel is cool to think about, but the practicality of it is purely science fiction. And I haven’t even mentioned the hostile environment that space is. It’s cold, it’s radioactive, it’s downright nasty. We, as humans, are adapted to living on the earth, not in outer space. We were never meant to live there.

Even the International Space Station is in a LOW-earth orbit. Humans do not belong in outer space.

With this in mind, humans need to fix their problems on this planet. There is no hope for us to hop on the next interstellar bus to the next habitable planet. And why does Hawking think we won’t bring our pollution, our nuclear weapons, our reproduction rates, our viruses with us when we go there?

The problems we have on earth aren’t going away. They’re here on this planet, and our only hope is for more people to realize this, and fix them here, and now. Quit the wishful thinking, Dr. Hawking, and let’s do something about this planet. It’s the only one we have.

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Posted: 16 August 2006 09:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Yes, I think that’s a very level-headed reply, and it’s hard for me to believe that Hawking doesn’t know all this.

My guess is that Hawking’s comments were taken out of context somehow. Perhaps he was speaking of the far, distant future, and assuming that we would have some better methods of propulsion, etc.

All this is well and good, but doesn’t solve any problems now. Further, it is sheerest speculation. I’m all for investigating new methods of fast travel between the stars, but certainly not to the detriment of planetary cleanup.

:wink:

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Posted: 16 August 2006 01:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I disagree with Stillwaters…  To call any advancement in technology “science fiction” is unwise in my view, since one can point to nearly every technology we now posess as pure impossibility and fanciful imagination to the minds of people 100 years ago.  Can you imagine the thought of cell phones, wireless networks, or decoding the human genome back then?  This is why I’d argue that interplanetary travel is currently a problem of funding and national attention (again, it’s amazing how fast science can develop with proper resources) and while travel to other solar systems, the closest being Alpha Centauri, seems nearly impossible given current capabilities, it may be a completely different story in 100 years.

The prospect of creating self-contained habitats on the moon or even on Mars is not as far-fetched as you might think, and merely asserting that “humans weren’t meant to live there says nothing.  What exactly were humans meant to do???  In fact, a scientific naturalist worldview would show that our adaptability, as opposed to the notion of pre-determined design, might allow us to succeed in environments unfamiliar to us, with different levels of gravity, etc.  It’s not implausible to imagine; after all, cats and dogs certainly weren’t always domesticated, and yet they fit comfortably into their current docile niche… and our ancient ancestors likely found ways to migrate from water to land life.  Those are pretty big evolutionary jumps - why can’t we have another?

Now, I think we ALL agree that fixing our planet’s problems is priority #1.  I doubt that Hawking was recommending we abandon hope and remove environmental regulations.  He was most likely just looking at current population trajectories, political trends and environmental destruction, and making a logical argument for why it might not be such a bad idea to consider a little planetary migration in the long term.

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Posted: 17 August 2006 03:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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While I agree that scientific advancements can be fast and furious, I’m not sure if you fully understand the enormous challenges that outer space and interstellar travel presents. I admit that, possibly, in 100 years, we could have mankind on a planet like Mars. I’m not so sure about establishing a habitat there, though. The biosphere experiment on this planet was not exactly a success.

Again, this is only to another planet that is “just next door”. The closest star is a million times farther away. Even if we could increase the speed of our spacecraft 100 times to 1% of the speed of light, an incredible feat in itself, it would still take 435 years to get there. That’s how many generations of humans? At thirty years between generations, that would amount to 14.5 generations. Increasing speed towards the speed of light requires exponentially increasing amounts of energy. I don’t see how this story is going to change much in 100 years. And I don’t think it’s a lack of imagination on my part. Nor is it a lack of my confidence in human ingenuity. It’s the reality of interstellar travel that is staring me in the face.

Believe me, I would like to see such an event as a real possibility. I’m sure most people dream of such things. Visiting strange planets throughout the galaxy. It’s why Star Trek was so hugely popular. But I’m also a realist. And Star Trek is not reality. Granted, we may get there. But it’s going to take much more than 100 years before it becomes something even close to reasonable.

As for humans adapting to an outer space environment, my point was that outer space is like nothing here on earth. There is the vacuum of space. The coldness of space. The radiation of space. The zero-gravity of space. Yes, we could possibly survive and adapt in such an environment, but space is like nothing we have ever adapted to before. It is one of the most hostile environments we can imagine. I understand that there are serious efforts underway in studying human adaptation to space , but the jump from one earth-based environment to another is quite different than a jump from an earth-based environment to a space-based one. It would not only be evolutionary, it would have to be astronomical. Just about any earth-based environment has been shown to support some kind of life. But space is quite hostile to life. Life is not abundant in space, as it is here on earth. When I say that humans were not meant to live in space, I mean that the way the human body functions is very dependent on gravity. Without gravity, our bodies do not function very well. Yes, we can always adapt, but at this time, the human body requires gravity to work well. The human body functions best in an environment with gravity equal to the earth’s gravitational force, with about 1 atmosphere of pressure, at a temperature between 0 and 40 degrees Celcius (much greater than 2 Kelvins of outer space), with an atmosphere blocking most of the cosmic radiation. We do so well on the earth because this is where we evolved. We have adapted to the earth’s environment. It has taken us hundreds of thousands of years to get to this point. To suddenly go into space and instantly adapt is not a realistic idea.

Like I said, it is easy to imagine doing such things as interstellar travel, but to actually accomplish it is something altogether different, and nearly impossible.

I know that science can and has made great advancements, in a very short time. But interstellar travel is going beyond anything that is likely in the very near future. I’m not saying it’s impossible, it’s just going to be incredibly difficult to achieve, the likes we have never before seen.

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Posted: 17 August 2006 04:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Seems to me you’re both making very good points, and there really needn’t be any disagreement between you.

—Getting a significant percentage of 6-10 billion people to Mars is not going to be feasible in the foreseeable future.

—Getting a significant percentage of 6-10 billion people to Alpha Centauri, or the nearest star system with inhabitable planets is not going to be feasible in even longer.

—Terraforming any planet like Mars is not going to be feasible in the foreseeable future.

—Fixing Earth’s environmental problems is many orders of magnitude cheaper than doing any of the above.

That said,

—It would be a great thing to be able to travel to nearby planets and star systems.

—It would be a great thing to be able to terraform ‘dead’ planets.

—It would be in the longer run safer to have self-sustaining human colonies on other planets and around other stars.

So we should certainly pursue these goals. But they are absolutely not the sort of thing we can see or plan doing, since they are not even close to being possible.

Further, they (particularly large-scale human transport to other stars) may in fact never be possible. We just don’t know. I am as optimistic as the next guy and loved Star Trek, but hey, fiction is one thing and it shouldn’t blind us to reality. I would say I have hope that these sorts of technologies will become real and affordable. But I would counsel all of us to reject faith that they will.

So that counsels decided action now on environmental issues here at home ... e.g., global warming and the like, under the conservative assumption that earth will always be our home.

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Posted: 28 October 2006 03:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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I think humans are too fragile to survive more than a couple of hundred millenia on earth; just as most other species they probably will become extinct.

However, in the not too distant future I would guess we will have electronic devices that duplicate the functioning of the human brain.  I’m not sure they could be called computers because the architecture is liable to be extremely different from what we see as computer structure. 

When this development occurs those android type machines may be able to replace humans if the latter get wiped out by some catastrophe.  They may also be sent to other stars since they probably could survive for thousands of years of travel.

And, if we’re fortunate (or unfortunate) we may be able to transfer our own programming into the machine so that our minds/personalities would continue after our bodies died.

Enough science fiction for now.  :wink:

Occam

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Posted: 30 October 2006 03:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Interesting turn of direction, Occam…  perhaps altering our very existence on Earth is a more viable solution than the whole interstellar travel thing - I hadn’t thought about it.  Artificial Intelligence does seem to be more within reach, doesn’t it?  Given our natural hegemonic psyche as a species, however, I somehow doubt we’ll allow AI to surpass our own capabilities or “strength” in a way that might endanger our own survival - perhaps the transhumanists will pave the way and we’ll use technology to improve our own bodies and minds rather than to create competing beings…

Or, like you said, maybe I can just take my “consciousness” and connect to an external hard drive via FireWire and migrate my “self” so I can live on in perpetuity!  :shock:

I officially apologize for helping skyrocket this thread into the Neverland of sci-fi predictions…

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Posted: 31 October 2006 12:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Interesting questions re. personal identity when we think of “uploading” ourselves to some different physical substrate. Would that still be you, or just a simulacrum?

If it would be you, then what happened if you uploaded yourself to a microchip and didn’t die? You can only look out of one pair of eyes at the same time ...

This gets in to issues of consciousness that are very neat and thorny.

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Posted: 31 October 2006 03:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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We are basically primates. We have all of the physical attributes and limitations of that animal genus(?) We are not going anywhere in deep space and there is no doubt about that. Our life spans are too short among many more difficulties, our need for food, for oxygen, for habitable stops on the way, for etc etc etc.

Get ready for the extinction of this species of primate relatively quickly. there are too many disasters that haven’t occurred waiting to - The huge caldera under Yellowstone is over due, Asteroids that are floating about are also overdue and then there are comets. Just one of those would kill most of us with the hit and its lingering aftereffects.

Then we have global warming, destruction of our natural resources, war on a global scale and so on.

So it is not even a good speculation - discussing planting our seed on another planet, and what in the world have we done to deserve picking for populating the universe? Whales, large and small would be a much better choice.
Jim

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Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. (MLK Jr.)

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