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Earth Science

Abandon Earth Or Die, Warns Hawking 973

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the i'm-going-home dept.
siliconbits writes "According to famed theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, it's time to free ourselves from Mother Earth. 'I believe that the long-term future of the human race must be in space,' Hawking tells Big Think. '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.'"
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Abandon Earth Or Die, Warns Hawking

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  • by TrisexualPuppy (976893) on Monday August 09, 2010 @09:51AM (#33187954)
    ME. Right now. Why would I want to have my tax dollars on this. I have to pay the mortgage. I have to pay the $320 Comcast bill. Going to Mars isn't going to get me anywhere.

    Human mentality...
    • by J-1000 (869558) on Monday August 09, 2010 @09:57AM (#33188020)
      You have a $320 Comcast bill!? How is that even possible?
      • by Crudely_Indecent (739699) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:01AM (#33188104) Journal

        You're asking a user named "TrisexualPuppy"

        One word - Spanktervision

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Ironchew (1069966)

        Interplanetary service fees.

    • by arth1 (260657) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:16AM (#33188298) Homepage Journal

      ME. Right now. Why would I want to have my tax dollars on this. I have to pay the mortgage. I have to pay the $320 Comcast bill. Going to Mars isn't going to get me anywhere.

      Human mentality...

      Human mentality, indeed. This is why modern democracy doesn't work well. It's infinitely preferably to many of the alternatives, but it is still the belief that selfish, short-sighted and just plain stupid people are fit to rule a country.
      Since power corrupts so completely, it's likely impossible to change this -- either you end up with idiot dictators, or idiot voters. Who both will ensure that safeguards against that situation becomes impossible to implement, for their own selfish reasons.

      What's possible, though, is to exert influence and make plans that bet on not getting government support.
      While establishing an Asimovian Foundation is utopian, it's not infeasible that private interests may be able to get off the ground, despite selfish and spiteful attempts at sabotage from the couch potatoes and ruling politicos (but I repeat myself), and with enough attempts, even survive.

      But leave important decisions to voters, and you ensure that nothing ever gets done.

      • by eth1 (94901) on Monday August 09, 2010 @11:25AM (#33189396)

        I think human longevity advances are the only way to "cure" this. Make it so that human lifetimes can span more than a few decades, and people will suddenly be *way* more interested in not pissing in our own nest. Even if only the very rich can afford it, they're the ones with all the power, so it would still help.

        • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Monday August 09, 2010 @12:27PM (#33190472) Homepage Journal

          No good, my friend. You are thinking, which is more than most people do. But, people will STILL think in the short term. Precious few people think 4 years into the future today. Double their lifespans, you MIGHT get them to think four years ahead. MAYBE. Most likely, they won't be able to think any further into the future than "Wonder if I can get laid tonight?" It's human nature. Sucks, don't it?

          • by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Monday August 09, 2010 @01:48PM (#33191946)
            Human lifespans have already doubled, and the cycle within which people think has shrank. It's not about how long people live (in fact I would argue that when people had shorter lives they more frequently thought about their legacies, for example the prevalence of dynastic/aristocratic hereditary power structures), it's about how technology impacts the cycle. Centuries ago during the Age of Sail you had to wait months to know if a ship in your employ was successful. Centuries before that an expedition to China like Marco Polo's took decades. Assuming I had a travel visa in hand I could be in Beijing in before this time tomorrow. When you don't have to wait for anything planning becomes a matter of resources, and time, far from being a barrier, becomes a resource in of itself.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      On the plus side, while such a mentality will make getting off this rock pretty much impossible, it sure does put the value of preserving humanity in perspective...
    • by mcgrew (92797) * on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:24AM (#33188412) Homepage Journal

      Why would I want to have my tax dollars on this.

      Better spending tax dollars on saving the human race than blowing it up in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by operagost (62405)
      Right now, the problem in the USA seems to be the president and Congress. They're the ones who decided to cancel the manned mars projects, not the American people. That being said, the American people put them in there because they were only interested in entitlements, instead of doing the hard thing (re: JFK).
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Chih (1284150)
        Nah, if you remember we put them in there because we were tired of the Republican circlejerk. Now keep in mind that situation will have no bearing on 2012... :D
    • by Scubaraf (1146565) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:31AM (#33188526)
      Daddy - why didn't our ancestors start working on a way to colonize the solar system before the Sun started expanding?

      Because your great-great-great-great-google-grandpa was really into NASCAR and porn and couldn't spare the dough to fund our species-saving research.

      Oh - I see. I'm glad he had his priorities straight. The entire sum of human existence shouldn't be forgotten for nothing, you know?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by master_p (608214)

        The entire sum of human existence shouldn't be forgotten for nothing, you know?

        Yes. Why not? we are so unimportant anyway. Supposing that a great comet destroys the human race in the next 1000 years, humans would exist for, let's say, 100,000 years, which is 1/130,000 of the universe's age (13 billion years).

    • by davev2.0 (1873518) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:38AM (#33188644)
      Your mortgage and Comcast bill are not connected to how the taxes you pay are spent. If you feel you are spending too much money, turn off your cable and maybe sell or refinance your house.
    • by jridley (9305) on Monday August 09, 2010 @11:02AM (#33189058)

      The meaning of life is to plant trees that we will not live to sit in the shade of.

      Thousands of generations of people who are no longer living gave you everything you have now. Will you give something to the future, or will you just be another leech?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by chill (34294)

        Will you give something to the future, or will you just be another leech?

        Does one hell of a mess to clean up and having them pick up the tab count?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by steelfood (895457)

        What you just said sounds really nice--only, that argument doesn't actually work in RL (real life).

        GP was playing devil's advocate, but it's the reality of the situation. People can indeed be fundamentally divided using the two orthogonal dimensions: the have and have nots; and the want and want nots. And the majority of the people fall somewhere in the the have not and want quadrant.

        Which means that the majority's not really thinking of their successive generations (especially those who do not have direct

  • by Pojut (1027544) on Monday August 09, 2010 @09:52AM (#33187964) Homepage

    We either leave this planet together, or we die on it divided. I think the greed inherent in human nature will prevent us from ever getting organized enough to leave this planet for another.

    This actually kinda reminds me of a conversation we had last night....we watched the original V miniseries, and were talking about how stupid it was that they allowed the aliens into factories around the world simultaneously instead of just a factory or two at a time...but then, if they did that, countries would argue over who got to host them first. ::shakes head:: stupid human beings...

    • by Dragoniz3r (992309) on Monday August 09, 2010 @09:59AM (#33188064)
      Even if all of humanity was unified, we'd still die eventually if we stayed here. This planet has an expiration date. It's nice to pretend that if we were all hippies and lived like cavemen, that it'd last forever, but that isn't the case. Sooner or later we're gonna have to get out of here, or go extinct.

      Earth's "best if lived on by" date is far enough away that I'm not terribly worried about it, but even aside from that, there are always asteroids out there that could blindside us. And I'm sure that's the sort of thing Hawking is referring to anyways.
      • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:41AM (#33188694) Journal

        >>>This planet has an expiration date.

        Yeah 5 billion years into the future. During the previous 1 billion we evolved from amino acids to cells to amphibians, lizards, and intelligent mammals. So by the time the earth expires, we'll likely have moved into Q-like beings. Even if we stayed on this planet, its eventual scalding by the nearby star wouldn't affect us.

        As for asteroids that caused massive extinctions, the previous one was 70 million years ago. And 250 million years ago. During that timespan we evolved from small rodent-like lizards into modern mammals. Who knows where we'll be in another 70 million years.

      • by hey! (33014) on Monday August 09, 2010 @11:20AM (#33189340) Homepage Journal

        Even if all of humanity was unified, we'd still die eventually if we stayed here. This planet has an expiration date. It's nice to pretend that if we were all hippies and lived like cavemen, that it'd last forever, but that isn't the case.

        Unfortunately, everything you say is also true of the Universe as a whole. Eventually, heat death will mean that thought itself will become physically impossible. Is it possible to escape into other universes? Maybe. Does that mean we should forget about space travel and put all our efforts into figuring that out?

        But wait a minute. Supposing we had descendants traveling around space a billion years from now. It is far from certain they would be recognizably human. They might not even be mammals.

        So should we give up on the future?

        I think the notion that we should explore space in preparation for abandoning the Earth is misguided. I have no doubt that people sincerely believe this, and I even recognize that interesting philosophical arguments can be made for it. For example, the idea we might have to move off the Earth prematurely because we'd fouled our own nest raises the question why we might survive in hostile space when we could not survive on the benign Earth. The answer might be that humans are not very good at dealing rationally with plenty, but we have our minds wonderfully concentrated by imminent death.

        Even so, I think that it is somewhat unnatural to be all that concerned with the fate of the human race in the distant future. How many of us let our day to day actions be guided by a concern for humanity ten generations in the future, much less ten thousand?

        The real reason to explore space is not for the extension of the human species' longevity, but for the maximization of human experience. Imagine human experience as a rectangle which sits on a two dimension axis. The X-axis is time, and the "escape Earth" position seeks to maximize the area of the rectangle by stretching it as wide as possible. I have no fundamental objection to this, but it should not be undertaken at the expense of the Y axis, which is the personal growth of individuals in any single generation. At some point humanity will be facing the end of its term and can rationally seek the extension of the species' lifespan, but that is not anytime soon. When that point comes, we will be best served by developing a culture which is creative, informed, and adventurous.

        That's the real reason we want to explore space. Space exploration is an adventure both metaphorically and manifestly so. That it is a multi-generational adventure only makes it better. When we have lost the zest for exploration, we have lost the capacity to grow, and are running on the momentum of prior generations.

    • by mellon (7048) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:03AM (#33188138) Homepage

      Well and good, but where do we get the energy to boost enough humans and tools into space to create a viable life-supporting ecosystem elsewhere? Hawking is a physicist, so I'm a bit surprised to hear him proposing something like this without explaining where the lift capacity is going to come from. There's a reason why Pan Am never began the orbital shuttle service depicted in 2001: A Space Odyssey (aside, of course, from the fact that they went out of business).

      • by JehCt (879940) * on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:53AM (#33188918) Homepage Journal
        We don't need to boost ourselves. We need to figure out the earliest life forms that we evolved from, and then blast great numbers, but small lightweight quantities, of that stuff towards any apparently habitable planets. If it takes a few billions years, so what. By spreading the human-precursor lifeforms we can colonize a larger number of planets and take advantage of evolution to ensure that the resulting lifeforms are suited to each venue.
      • Well and good, but where do we get the energy to boost enough humans and tools into space to create a viable life-supporting ecosystem elsewhere?

        Use electricity to create liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. No, really, it's just that simple.
         

        Hawking is a physicist, so I'm a bit surprised to hear him proposing something like this without explaining where the lift capacity is going to come from. There's a reason why Pan Am never began the orbital shuttle service depicted in 2001: A Space Odyssey (aside, of course, from the fact that they went out of business).

        Well, now you're moving the goalposts - first you ask about energy and then you blame it on lift capacity, which isn't the same thing at all. But the answer is equally simple - if we need that much lift capacity, we simply build that much lift capacity. As with energy, it's just an engineering problem.
         
        The real problem has nothing to do with engineering, or cash, as many posters like to think. (Mostly because it lets them get their Twenty Minutes Hate in, using the current or past Administrations as the topic.) It's that there isn't anywhere to go in space. It's all about economics. Transport grows and prospers because it fills a need in moving people and goods from point A to point B, and in space there is no point B. (This is why the 'colonization of North America' and 'subsidize rockets like the government did railroads and airmail' models so beloved of space enthusiasts won't work.)

      • by careysub (976506) on Monday August 09, 2010 @12:25PM (#33190424)

        Well and good, but where do we get the energy to boost enough humans and tools into space to create a viable life-supporting ecosystem elsewhere? Hawking is a physicist, so I'm a bit surprised to hear him proposing something like this without explaining where the lift capacity is going to come from. There's a reason why Pan Am never began the orbital shuttle service depicted in 2001: A Space Odyssey (aside, of course, from the fact that they went out of business).

        The most important reason why nothing like the Space Clipper was ever built is not due to the launch energy required. It is the cost of building and maintaining an incredibly complex vehicle. Even if the energy used to launch the Space Shuttle were free its launch cost would be virtually unchanged. It costs NASA 450 million dollars per launch, the cost of actual LH2/O2 fuel (not just energy) is on the order of 40 cents per kilogram (for example) so the total fuel cost is on the order of one million dollars (!).

        The ticket price for the 30 passengers of the Space Clipper would be $30,000 or so if energy was the only cost, still quite steep compared to air travel, but nothing like the $15 million of the Space Shuttle launch bill.

    • by Neil Boekend (1854906) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:08AM (#33188204)
      The problem with that sentiment is that the wars have actually helped technology evolve. China was advancing faster for a long time, until a large enough piece of land was covered by it that real wars became uncommon. In Europe we continued trying to wipe each other out and it caused a lot of technological improvements. Competing countries and corporations advance technology a lot faster compared to monopolies and true world powers.
      The space race was sped up by the arms race between the USA and the USSR. Both just wanted to prove they were better.
      War may be a costly way to advance technology and not a nice one, but it is an very effective one.
      I would also prefer global peace as I do not think it's worth the suffering, but it would most probably hamper advancement, not speed it up.
      • by oldspewey (1303305) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:18AM (#33188326)

        The space race was sped up by the arms race between the USA and the USSR. Both just wanted to prove they were better.

        But this isn't really "war" in the conventional sense is it? And it was the period during which the fastest and most impressive aerospace advances came. So it would seem that a good dickwaving competition is at least as good as an actual war.

        • It amazes me that people can stand there and that war has some unique property that causes development.

          The only reason that 'war' advances development is that we're willing to spend tax money on development during war.

          We could get all the effect (In fact, more, as war sucks resources.) and none of the deaths if we'd just spend money on development.

          Of course, I live in the US, where we can't even spend tax money on bridges. War is about the only thing we're willing to spend tax money on at all.

          • by Americano (920576) on Monday August 09, 2010 @11:58AM (#33189964)

            Of course, I live in the US, where we can't even spend tax money on bridges. War is about the only thing we're willing to spend tax money on at all.

            The federal budget would like to disagree with that statement. The majority of our federal budget is tied up in providing social programs and infrastructure, not in "war". Yes, the defense department gets a comparatively large portion of the budget. NO, it does not comprise all or even the bulk, of government spending. This is a facile talking point that is, unfortunately, entirely false as well.

            Of course, as all the recent administrations have shown us, not having the tax money to spend doesn't mean you can't rack up a hell of a credit card bill. Why let things like "insufficient tax revenues" ruin the party?

      • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:32AM (#33188558) Journal
        The fact that wars have helped technology evolve suggests a defect in resource allocation, rather than a virtue of war.

        Quite obviously, during any war worthy of the name, much of the population busies itself with the neccessary-but-useless tasks of filling catridges and emptying them. Substantial amounts of human and physical capital are reduced to rubble. Oil wells get set on fire, roads, rails and bridges get bombed, fields and forests get mined, etc, etc.

        Wars represent a vast quantity of resources simply thrown away(in many cases this is the rational act on both parties' part, given the costs of being conquered; but from the overall welfare numbers, war is expensive), compared to peacetime. If, in fact, more R&D gets done during wartime, despite the reduced resources available, this suggests that peacetime could dedicate the same R&D resources, with less sacrifice(because a smaller slice of the bigger pie would be needed) or even more R&D resources for the same level of sacrifice(because getting X% of the larger pie is better than getting X% of the smaller one).
      • by hedwards (940851) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:34AM (#33188576)
        That's bullshit. Did the numerous people that died in WWII really make it any quicker? What it did do was provide some stimulus to the efforts, but it also wiped out a lot of people who could've been the one to figure out fusion by now or any number of unimagined future technologies. Not to mention that entire countries are destroyed and the labs, factories and libraries which they contained gone up in smoke.

        War is one impetus to evolve technology, but it's hardly the only one. Pure curiosity is one that would as well, just not when people are behaving in such a belligerent, greedy fashion as they do currently.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Unless a event occurs that is so impacting and unprecedented in known human history. Humans will never learn to unite and live in cooperation with each other. Like you said, it's not in our nature.

      And with 'impacting and unprecedented' I'm thinking in terms of Divine intervention, alien visits (which might turn out to be the same thing), natural disaster killing 70/80+ percent of the human population, the made up Mayan prophecy turning out to be true after all..
      That sort of stuff.

      In other words, ain't gonna

    • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:30AM (#33188520) Journal

      >>>I think the greed inherent in human nature will prevent us from ever getting organized enough to leave this planet for another.

      In Robert's Heinlein's "Man Who Sold the Moon" it was greed that propelled humans to the Moon and Mars and outer planets. In fact that's pretty much true in every science fiction universe, even the utopian Star Trek. People don't do things for rational reasons like "we might go extinct" - they do them for personal gain, or a desire for a better life than the crappy one they have now.

      • by EXTomar (78739) on Monday August 09, 2010 @11:25AM (#33189394)

        If Armstrong reported back from Applo 11 he saw precious gems the size of beach balls we'd had bases on The Moon long ago. If Viking 1 and Viking 2 turned on their cameras and saw the ground was litered gold and silver we'd have bases there too. But the truth at the moment turns out they are just barren. On Earth people avoid vast stretches of barren "bad lands" and consider them mostly worthless. Why go out to The Moon and beyond just for really expensive "bad lands"?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jellomizer (103300)

      Not greed but fear. There are a lot of people who live in the same 25 mile radius all their lives. The idea of moving away from this area and from their friends family and other protective sources makes them scared. Why did Europeans Colonize the United States Was it because they were less greedy then the others... No. There were people who were more Greedy who wanted Gold, or people who were more afraid to live in their homeland then to move.

      If I were Greedy enough I would form a group of people who are

  • by Combatso (1793216) on Monday August 09, 2010 @09:52AM (#33187976)
    What if Earth isn't the first human colony, and these disasters have merely wiped out the evidence of our migration...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Mashhaster (1396287)

      Yes, I remember seeing that on Battlestar Galactica just recently. Though the whole ending with Katie Sackhoff being an angel (falling into a sinkhole on an alien world?) and God using MAGIC to create a Viper spacefighter did suck.

    • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:05AM (#33188160)

      It's always been an intriguing thought, but the fact is, the evidence that homo sapiens evolved from native primate species here on Earth is quite clear, and grows clearer with each passing year.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by argStyopa (232550)

        OK it's a fantastic improbability, but an alternative explanation in which you're both right has been posited by James P Hogan: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giants_series [wikipedia.org]

    • by whatajoke (1625715) on Monday August 09, 2010 @11:14AM (#33189254)

      What if Earth isn't the first human colony, and these disasters have merely wiped out the evidence of our migration...

      I am more comfortable being a descendant of some ape, than a bunch of hairdressers or telephone cleaners.

  • by brian0918 (638904) <brian0918NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday August 09, 2010 @09:53AM (#33187978)
    The dude just wants to finally make this [youtube.com] a reality.
  • by sarbonn (1796548) on Monday August 09, 2010 @09:57AM (#33188024) Homepage Journal
    Unfortunately, we really need to get our shit together on this planet before we start thinking about colonizing others.
    • by Rik Sweeney (471717) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:01AM (#33188102) Homepage

      Nah, let's just write this one off as a practice planet. We won't make the same mistakes again since we're human after all :)

    • by MBGMorden (803437) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:26AM (#33188460)

      That's a mentality that will lead to problems. Issues, particularly issues that cannot be solved (like the whole of mankind's problems here on Earth) cannot be worked on in a serial fashion. You wind up deadlocked if you need to solve one problem before working on the next. It's like thinking that I need $300 per month to spend on food, so I better save up enough money for 75 years worth of food before I even think about paying any rent. Short-signtedness taken to it's extreme.

      The reality is we need to be researching this stuff now. When we can colonize another rock in space, we need to do so. Waiting for all of our problems to be solved before going into space will ensure that either some natural disaster or one of those many problems you're hoping to solve will wipe us out rather soon.

    • by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:34AM (#33188592)
      Why should Og leave cave? Cave not perfect yet. Others that leave caves irresponsible!
  • Where to, how? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Midnight Thunder (17205) on Monday August 09, 2010 @09:57AM (#33188032) Homepage Journal

    Okay, I'm quite happy to go find a new home amongst the stars, but at this point the only way that is going to happen is if the earth explodes and my ashes get distributed through space.

    If our future is on worlds beyond earth, then we need to start with a space transportation, of the form of a single stage vehicle that can at least go to the moon and back repeatedly, with a turn around time of less than two days. Additionally the vehicle needs to be able to return from the moon without having to depend on an already established infrastructure.

    I am a big fan of travelling to Mars and beyond, but the truth is we should establish a solid space flight foundation first. At the moment the technology we have is expensive and suitable in most cases only for one-way flights and of a crew of no more than seven people. Once we resolve the transportation issue, then we the Moon and Mars suddenly become relatively easy. One way flights are great for automated payloads, but for anything intended to transport humans, then we still have a ways to go.

    I really believe that we need an x-prize designed for a single stage reusable space vehicle. The aim: launch into orbit with a single stage, do a full orbit, return to earth and do the same thing a second time within two days. The x-prize would be split into two parts: unmanned for the first offering and manned for the second offering.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by selven (1556643)

      I fundamentally agree with single stage reusable, but I don't know if we should aim for doing that from Earth's surface. Earth is a deep gravity well and has an atmosphere which necessitates extra power to counteract atmospheric friction and extra power to carry the extra weight that comes with heat shielding. We should instead establish a space base in GSO [wikipedia.org], with space elevators and Earth-based railguns to get humans and materials up there, so we can then have an interplanetary spaceflight system between th

  • Voice Over (Score:5, Funny)

    by ciderbrew (1860166) on Monday August 09, 2010 @09:58AM (#33188038)
    Does anyone else read the part in quotes in a synthesizer voice?
  • Die. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Paul Rose (771894) on Monday August 09, 2010 @09:59AM (#33188066)
    What's wrong with dying? We all do it sooner or later as individuals. Why should the race last forever?
    • Fulfill our destiny! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by LuckyStarr (12445) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:42AM (#33188714)

      What's wrong with dying? We all do it sooner or later as individuals. Why should the race last forever?

      Because we may be the only chance for life on earth to spread to other planets, ... ever.

      If we botch it this time, life may not have enough time to evolve another space faring civilisation. Think about it. Though doing nothing we may seal the fate for all of life.

      We are part of a much larger ecosystem, without which we cannot survive. If we travel to the stars, so does life - which will continue to evolve.

      If there is some great project humanity should try to tackle, it would be this.

  • Not even practical (Score:5, Interesting)

    by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:00AM (#33188072)
    Nothing short of a earth destroying asteroid/comet hit would render this planet less inhabitable than even the most hospitable other planetary bodies within our reach. Even a Yucatan-sized hit would still leave the earth much more survivable than anywhere else. It would be WAY more practical to design underground bunkers and habitats here on earth than to try to move colonies to the moon or Mars. And nothing short of a hit that tears the planet into pieces is going to make earth less appealing than Mars or the moon.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Even after Earth has be engulfed by the sun?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sznupi (719324)

        Short of a direct hit into the Sun by some other largish body (from our observations - an exceedingly rare event), which would "flame up" the Sun quite a bit and perhaps push it off the main sequence prematurely (most likely not, so it would be at most just atmosphere & part ocean stripping solar flare - which will happen anyway, to much larger degree, in 1 billion years - so would be fine underground, and certainly not much different in other places in the system), what you're saying will happen in 5 B

    • by Kjella (173770) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:39AM (#33188662) Homepage

      Yes, and cosmological timescales are so much larger than ours. If we wait another 10000 years then it'll go from 65.50 to 65.51 million years since the dinosaurs went extinct. There's nothing here that needs doing now or in the next ten or hundred or even thousand years. We could easily have spent another million years on the monkey stage, there's no reason to think we need to get off this rock the same cosmological millisecond we figure out how. We're much better off figuring how to head off killer asteroids and hope 12000 km of earth means someone will survive on the back side if we're hit by a massive gamma blast. And if shit happens in our solar system then the whole system may be FUBAR, it's not really until we have a habitable exoplanet that we have a real backup to earth.

  • by Gribflex (177733) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:00AM (#33188080) Homepage

    Back in 2006: Hawking Says Humans Must Go Into Space [slashdot.org]
    And again in 2000: Hawking on Earth's Lifespan [slashdot.org]

  • by Joe The Dragon (967727) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:01AM (#33188098)

    Just need a way to ascend to a higher plane

  • by Ozlanthos (1172125) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:03AM (#33188118)
    II've been telling people for over a decade (for many reasons...mostly having to do with our biological necessities) that we "need to get off of this rock"!

    -Oz
  • by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:03AM (#33188124) Homepage Journal

    'I believe that the long-term future of the human race must be in space,' Hawking tells Big Think.

    No, he doesn't. He said that exact quote two years ago, to CNN [cnn.com]. Of course, it may not necessarily be plagiarism, because he's been saying this for years [slashdot.org], and it isn't like he types off the cuff.

    • by discord5 (798235) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:58AM (#33188984)

      Of course, it may not necessarily be plagiarism, because he's been saying this for years

      Little known fact is that he has sentences pre-programmed into his voice synthesizer. Things like:

      • Yes
      • No
      • Thank you
      • Two sugars, no milk
      • I believe that the long-term future of the human race must be in space
      • I will not buy this record, it is scratched
      • I call it a Hawking hole

      So yes, he does quite often mistakenly say it while ordering a cup of coffee, during a casual interview about his work.

  • Bacteria (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lobiusmoop (305328) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:04AM (#33188146) Homepage

    I think a more realistic plan would be to seed suitable planets with bacteria and just let evolution take care of the rest. Simpler lifeforms are much more resilient to extremes of temperature and atmosphere and are suitable for cryogenic storage for the long journeys. Animals higher up the evolutionary chain are too closely adapted to Earth to survive elsewhere really.

  • Assumptions (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dwightk (415372) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:06AM (#33188182) Homepage Journal

    It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster on planet Earth in the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand, or million.

    Right, because space and non-earthlike planets are so much less prone to disaster.

    • Re:Assumptions (Score:4, Informative)

      by Gotung (571984) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:26AM (#33188450)
      You are missing the point entirely. It isn't for us to up and leave earth all together, it's to continue to inhabit earth while also colonizing other places.

      If we live on multiple planets/moons/space stations, then any one disaster would have to be truly fantastic in scope (enormous gamma ray burst large enough to wipe out a large area of space) to take out all of us at the same time.
  • by smith6174 (986645) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:06AM (#33188188)
    It won't take too much technology to reproduce Hawking's voice saying "I told you so"
  • Meh... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by vvaduva (859950) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:10AM (#33188232)

    Me thinks that the future of the human race is where we belong, here. We are probably thousands of years away from workable space travel. Perhaps we are stuck here for a reason, and perhaps this is an opportunity for all of us to start working out our issues and learn to live together with reasonable differences.

  • Easy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Cally (10873) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:24AM (#33188416) Homepage
    As humans can't survive anywhere else in the solar system, and as travel outside the solar system is impossible, it's obvious that humans will eventually go extinct. So what? The wish-fulfillment of Trekkies notwithstanding, basic physics and engineering make it a practical impossibility. I find the level of debate on this very frustrating. For instance, I guarantee someone somewhere will post something like "If everyone had your attitude, we'd never have left the trees!" (which of course is a self-evidently vacuous and stupid response to my observation about physics and engineering.)
    • No, you're right (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:39AM (#33188656)
      Hawking is a physicist not an engineer or a biologist, and it shows. (He's also not very good at metaphysics, since he seems sometimes unable to understand that physics can't ultimately answer "why" questions. On the other hand, I'm not much good at thermodynamics, but at least I don't pontificate about black holes.)

      Some people, however, are likely to misunderstand your post because, quite simply, they don't even begin to appreciate how much energy it would require to colonise another planet, or how likely we would be to exterminate ourselves by destroying our atmosphere if we even diverted significant resources to putting lots of stuff outside it. Basically, between "let's get off Earth" and "oh look, space colony", they engage in lots of vague handwaving about nonexistent technologies, nonexistent methods of energy generation, and nonexistent materials, the ability to create any of which in great enough quantities would imply a civilisation that really wouldn't need to waste them on a colonial experiment.

      • Re:No, you're right (Score:4, Interesting)

        by fritsd (924429) on Monday August 09, 2010 @12:10PM (#33190164) Journal

        quite simply, they don't even begin to appreciate how much energy it would require to colonise another planet,

        Farmers don't manually mix soil and humus on a daily basis. They don't spend huge amounts of energy aerating their soil. They just make sure that worms live happily in it, the worms increase at an exponential rate, and they do (most of) the work of tilling the soil.
        I think that if you approach the problems of space colonization from a point of view that you have to do it all by yourself, with only the available energy that you have when you start your Moon or Mars colony, that you're doing it wrong :-)
        Also I think developing a toolkit for space colonization is very intellectually stimulating and exciting.
        There should be an X-prize for a solar cell production facility that operates only on sunlight.
        And another one for finding lichens that (veeeeeery slowly) weather Lunar regolith.
        And another one for airtight cement locally produced from excavated asteroid bits.
        Etc. etc. (you get the idea).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Poverty of imagination. Human's can't survive anywhere else in the solar system eh? Humans couldn't survive in the middle of Antarctica either, except that they brought the infrastructure with them to do it (and are resupplied at will, though independence in that area would be possible if it were necessary and cost effective, which it is neither). Humans could survive any number of places elsewhere in the solar system provided they have the infrastructure for controlling their environment, feeding and power
  • OK, Steve (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:31AM (#33188534)
    Got any advanced physics ideas on reducing the cost to orbit? We really sort of need that before any sort of mass migration into space, even just LEO, can occur.
  • by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:35AM (#33188600)

    Stephen Hawking is taking the survival of the species slant to preserve human space exploration. Let's look at it another way. Who gets to go? Only the wealthy? The 'geniuses'? The 'artists'? Random sampling?

    Human beings are arrogant enough to think that the universe couldn't go on without them...

  • Other options (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Urban Garlic (447282) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:36AM (#33188610)

    Seems like we could incrementally approach this goal by doing less-expensive, lower-risk things first, like colonizing harsh terrestrial environments (Ocean bottoms, antarctica, salt flats, sterile deserts, etc.).

    If we can make a self-contained, self-sustaining colony on the earth, then our species is more robust (we can survive the loss of all the plants, for instance, or if we've colonized the ocean floor, we can survive when supervillains ignite the atmosphere), and we get some experience learning the ins and outs of closed ecosystems.

    Once they work reliably, then we can add "in space" to the project description, with all the additional cost and complexity that implies.

  • by HockeyPuck (141947) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:42AM (#33188720)

    "The Earth is the cradle of mankind, but one cannot remain in the cradle forever."

    - Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935)

  • Stating the obvious (Score:3, Informative)

    by C_Kode (102755) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:45AM (#33188752) Journal

    This is stating the obvious. Not exactly sure why this is news.

  • by mspohr (589790) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:57AM (#33188978)
    The way this will work is that government will spend lots of our tax money and if eventually some way is found (a big "if") then only the most "worthy" (i.e. politicians and rich people) will get to go. The rest of us will die here.

    Much better to spend the money on fixing the problems here (but that might cost corporations profits so not likely to happen).

  • by whatajoke (1625715) on Monday August 09, 2010 @11:31AM (#33189480)
    Check out Project orion [wikipedia.org]
    I am sure it can be made even more risk free in terms of radiation spread ( which is already very small), and it absolutely can get us to mars or launch heavy stuff for constructing O'Neil cylinders [wikipedia.org]. And with a large enough space vehicle/station, asteriod belt can practically provide all the material we need for making more orion crafts.
  • by dAzED1 (33635) on Monday August 09, 2010 @11:41AM (#33189650) Homepage Journal

    It's our mess, we need to live with it. The planet is still *exceptionally* salvageable, in the lifetime of genX even. No matter how cool we make the spacecraft, they'll still need raw materials from time to time, which would still mean strip-mining another planet somewhere.

    Also, and I'm a cold-hearted bastard for saying this (obviously), but I think Hawkings underestimates the value of going hiking, climbing a mountain, going surfing, rolling around on the beach under a blanket just after watching a sunset, etc. Would there be new activities avail in space? Sure, but if we can't "sustain" our environment when it has massive automated systems for cleaning our air, producing food, breaking down waste, cleaning water, etc...then what makes us think we'd do better in a metal can where we have to recreate all those systems ourselves? The Earth should never be left because it's not sustainable. If it should ever be left, it should be because we want to learn and explore. G-d, why can't we have pure motives.

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