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View Full Version : Abandon Earth or Perish...so says S. Hawking's



thothguard51
08-11-2010, 01:26 AM
http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2010/08/09/abandon-earth-face-extinction-warns-stephen-hawking/

I think everyone understands that eventually the human race on earth will perish if from nothing else than when our sun nova's out or goes cold...

This is not the first time Hawking has made a statement like this. The problem is, its too easy a statement to make. I have been reading stuff like this since the 50's. It's not new.

What would be new is if someone like Hawking come up with a propulsion system that would jump start space travel and exploration. In reality, the human race has only been venturing into near space for the last 50 years. But, because of cost, we are now stuck on how much farther we can go until someone somewhere comes up with a propulsion system that can jump start the next phase...

Any thoughts...

LOG
08-11-2010, 03:26 AM
He's right, technically.
It's a blanket statement, it's really not a hard thing to proclaim because it is entirely possible we could go extinct in the near future.
There's also a fairly good chance we won't.

He's making a lot of statements that are easily supported, but they're about the theoretical, so it's not hard to propose things that make sense on paper.


Beyond all that, why are we going to a theoretical physicist for advice on human behaviors and future exploits? Shouldn't we be going to a sociologist or a futurist?

thothguard51
08-11-2010, 04:36 AM
I agree that of all the species that have gone extinct on earth, the human species is perhaps the only one with the capability to prevent its demise. Still, if we don't get off this rock one day, then our extintion is pretty much gauranteed sometime in the future. Its just a matter of how and when...

benbradley
08-11-2010, 05:24 AM
http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2010/08/09/abandon-earth-face-extinction-warns-stephen-hawking/

I think everyone understands that eventually the human race on earth will perish if from nothing else than when our sun nova's out or goes cold...
The Sun is only halfway through its approximately billion-year lifespan, so there's little worry about that.

Though its output will surely vary over that time - over the next tens of thousands of years there will surely be more Global Warming and Global Cooling than we've seen in history, so those who live here then will have to adapt, or more likely modify things as needed (have mirrors that reflect more sunlight to Earth to compensate for cooling, or add shades to compensate for warming).

The biggest and most imminent danger appears to be ourselves and nuclear bombs. Somebody oughta outlaw those things...

This is not the first time Hawking has made a statement like this. The problem is, its too easy a statement to make. I have been reading stuff like this since the 50's. It's not new.

What would be new is if someone like Hawking come up with a propulsion system that would jump start space travel and exploration. In reality, the human race has only been venturing into near space for the last 50 years. But, because of cost, we are now stuck on how much farther we can go until someone somewhere comes up with a propulsion system that can jump start the next phase...

Any thoughts...
Yes - I agree with him. I've not been reading stuff like this since the '50's, only because I hadn't learned to read yet in the '50's.

It's not just how much farther we can go, it's how many people we can get into space using rockets. It's quite inefficient compared to proposed alternatives.

In the next few centuries, perhaps even decades, we can/will build things such as skyhooks which will let us take massive quantities of materials and people into Earth orbit cheaply (yes, even with the humongous cost of the skyhook itself amortized over what gets put into orbit). It may take more decades before those living in space become self-sustaining, but when they do there's at least a part of humanity that will be pretty much immune from problems on Earth such as plagues and Global Thermonuclear War (unless someone decides to nuke the space colony - many nuclear-warhead missiles could do that now).

Going to the stars would take many centuries - all the better to seriously start now on the design of generation ships and propulsion systems.

But I really have a problem (actually several) with this article.

In May Hawking said he believed humans could travel millions of years into the future and repopulate their devastated planet. If spaceships are built that can fly faster than the speed of light, a day on board would be equivalent to a year on Earth. That's because -- according to Einstein -- as objects accelerate through space, time slows down around them.
No, that (the sentence in bold) is bullshit. The ship would only have to go NEAR the speed of light, not go past it, to have this slowing effect - something that would take a hell of a lot of energy, but is well within physics as has been known since Einstein.

And did Hawking actually say we should ABANDON Earth? I suspect that was an interpretation by the writer. Earth is one of our baskets. Let's leave some people behind in case the rest of us get blown away in outer space.

I read too many science articles where the writer gets it wrong. You don't have to be a physics major to know these things, and it really irks me. With so many people like this, it's amazing anyone gets into space at all.

Julie Worth
08-11-2010, 05:55 AM
Hawking became a nitwit some years ago.

benbradley
08-11-2010, 06:00 AM
:popcorn:

Julie Worth
08-11-2010, 06:22 AM
And did Hawking actually say we should ABANDON Earth? I suspect that was an interpretation by the writer.


Very likely, as the writer obviously has no technical background or journalistic ability. It's Fox News, after all. He/she makes everyone she quotes sound like a nitwit. Still, Hawking isn't far from it.

LOG
08-11-2010, 08:48 AM
Hawking became a nitwit some years ago.

Not wholly agreeing with this, but I think he's trying to be the next Carl Sagan, and he's really not.

Pthom
08-11-2010, 10:14 PM
Right. His voder can't say "billions" properly.

efkelley
08-11-2010, 11:35 PM
Right. His voder can't say "billions" properly.

HA! Brilliant. :D

Quite seriously, space colonization and exploitation will explode the instant we find resources that are more profitable to obtain from other worlds than they are here. Government investment opens the door. Private investment spikes it open and lets the masses through.

My money is on plastic. Sure, we can recycle it, and I envision a future where we mine plastic from our old landfills and dredge the ocean floor for every last sludge-filled coke bottle. Eventually, though, the supply will trickle up, and we'll have to look elsewhere for our complex hydrocarbons and organic polymers. Someplace like Titan.

The Obama administration is attempting to privatize the space program. I applaud the effort, but I feel it's too soon. Space isn't profitable yet. Maybe when we figure out that whole Helium3 thing.

Lhun
08-12-2010, 01:41 AM
Maybe when we figure out that whole Helium3 thing.That's the real kicker. What we need is a cheap way to get off earth, because at the current cost to just make it to orbit, there's nothing that's cheaper to get from other planets, And it's extremely unlikely that's it's ever going to be cheaper to get something from a different solar system.
But exploiting the resources of the solar system (outside of earth) could be very relevant, and profitable, as soon as there's a practical way to get off the ground. Chemical rockets just don't cut it.

KTC
08-12-2010, 01:43 AM
i have a spaceship, fully gassed, in my bomb shelter in the backyard. i'm just waiting for the day to start it up.

benbradley
08-12-2010, 02:09 AM
HA! Brilliant. :D

Quite seriously, space colonization and exploitation will explode the instant we find resources that are more profitable to obtain from other worlds than they are here. Government investment opens the door. Private investment spikes it open and lets the masses through.

My money is on plastic. Sure, we can recycle it, and I envision a future where we mine plastic from our old landfills and dredge the ocean floor for every last sludge-filled coke bottle.
The future is now:
http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn12141-giant-microwave-turns-plastic-back-to-oil.html

Eventually, though, the supply will trickle up, and we'll have to look elsewhere for our complex hydrocarbons and organic polymers. Someplace like Titan.

I suspect we'll learn to synthesize these substances in mass quantities before we have to rely on getting such things from outer space.

That's the real kicker. What we need is a cheap way to get off earth, because at the current cost to just make it to orbit, there's nothing that's cheaper to get from other planets, And it's extremely unlikely that's it's ever going to be cheaper to get something from a different solar system.
But exploiting the resources of the solar system (outside of earth) could be very relevant, and profitable, as soon as there's a practical way to get off the ground. Chemical rockets just don't cut it.
See post #4 or read "The Web Between The Worlds" and "The Fountains of Paradise."

efkelley
08-12-2010, 02:48 AM
The future is now:
http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn12141-giant-microwave-turns-plastic-back-to-oil.html"

DAMMIT! Why couldn't we move to a hydrogen economy before they figured this out?? Now we have a way to subsist on fossil fuels for even longer!

grumble rumble grumble

Lhun
08-12-2010, 03:31 AM
I suspect we'll learn to synthesize these substances in mass quantities before we have to rely on getting such things from outer space.Yep. We already can synthesize hydrocarbons, it's just much cheaper to use the stuff that's just kind of lying around in the ground.

JoNightshade
08-12-2010, 03:47 AM
Is it just me or is Hawking going out of his way of late to make all sorts of sweeping statements/pronouncements/predictions? Or has he always been doing this and it's just popping up now?

I agree, he's kind of coming off as a nitwit.

Lhun
08-12-2010, 05:26 AM
It's probably just because he's moved to less technical topics. Hawking's never had the good reputation he has in the public eye among other physicists. He's actually rather infamous for becoming famous by popularizing work he's only had minor parts in. If you ask other physicists they're likely to tell you that he's nowhere near as brilliant a physicist as he is a publicist.

zerospark
08-12-2010, 06:49 AM
If only the Orion drive weren't so politically and environmentally unacceptable.

I honestly don't think humans will ever get off Earth in any meaningful way. Maybe some kind of intelligence more suitable for space, descended from humans, but I really don't see the monkeys-in-a-can model gaining much traction in the near term.

Even nuclear doesn't quite make it cost-effective. A space elevator could in the best case scenarios. Without the cost-effective part, there's just no reason to go there besides short-term things (national pride). That got us to the moon in the first place, but it wasn't sufficient to keep things rolling once the point had been made.

Hallen
08-17-2010, 01:37 AM
The future is now:
http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn12141-giant-microwave-turns-plastic-back-to-oil.html
"
Yeah, well, when they actually have an installed production unit working, I will believe it. It looks a bit too much like adiabatic gas engines to me. I hope it is true, but that article is from 2007 and the company hasn't sold any units yet and is still in testing. I've seen stuff like this before and it is been an investment scam or an overly zealous management team who don't understand the technology.

Anyway, Hawking is of course quite correct in the long term. We have to go to the stars. Could an asteroid take us all out tomorrow? Sure. Is it likely? No. The sun will die eventually and Earth with it, so we better have a new home by then.

Is global thermonuclear war likely to wipe out the human race? No. It may kill everybody on a couple of continents and send us into the next ice age, but humans would survive albeit knocked back a few hundred years in technology development.

But, if this kind of fear mongering gets us into space sooner, then I'm all for it. :D

efkelley
08-17-2010, 01:45 AM
Is global thermonuclear war likely to wipe out the human race? No. It may kill everybody on a couple of continents and send us into the next ice age, but humans would survive albeit knocked back a few hundred years in technology development.

Lots of possibilities with this one. It depends on just how much damage the biosphere sustains.

Julie Worth
08-17-2010, 03:21 PM
Is global thermonuclear war likely to wipe out the human race? No. It may kill everybody on a couple of continents and send us into the next ice age, but humans would survive albeit knocked back a few hundred years in technology development.

A classic that explores this possibility--A Canticle for Leibowitz (http://www.amazon.com/Canticle-Leibowitz-Walter-Miller-Jr/dp/0060892994/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1282043874&sr=1-1).


.

small axe
08-21-2010, 07:30 AM
'Abandon' our Earth? pshaw.

We need to decorate it nicely and make it look like a nicer place to VISIT ... and then anyone who VISITS us will already have all the interstellar space secrets we'll need.

If we're nice and convince them we're not the bunch of idiot world-ruining killer apes that we currently are, then maybe they'll trust us not to trash the Universe etc.

And then even if they never show up ... we'll have learned to behave, and made the world the sort of place where we needn't worry about "abandoning" it ... or at least we'll have bought our species the TIME to build the technology we need to star-fare and starferry ourselves, elsewhere.

Yeah, an asteroid could have us on a collision course and we'd all be dead, we should have a lifeboat, etc. But who decides who gets to get on the "lifeboat" ???

Somebody already wrote the story about the Ark full of dinosaurs, but the point remains: planetary cataclysm advances the level of technology until somebody builds the tech the dinosuars couldn't; maybe it's OUR duty to stick around, get destroyed, just so the next species that evolves CAN go to the stars!

Don't "abandon" Earth ... take a beanball for the team.

G.L. Douglas
08-29-2010, 06:38 AM
What would be new is if someone like Hawking come up with a propulsion system that would jump start space travel and exploration. In reality, the human race has only been venturing into near space for the last 50 years. But, because of cost, we are now stuck on how much farther we can go until someone somewhere comes up with a propulsion system that can jump start the next phase... Any thoughts...

From my novel, Alpha Rising, page 2:

"Following their classic liftoff from Earth, the crew jockeyed the AstroLab to a lunar-based particle beam accelerator where they made history after the nuclear device thrust their manned spacecraft beyond Neptune and Pluto at warp speed."

Alpha Rising, page 5:

"When they reached the moon, Bach navigated the Wizard to the far side to line up with the particle beam accelerator where, just days earlier, the now-missing AstroLab became the first manned spacecraft to use the nuclear-powered device."

LOG
08-29-2010, 08:03 AM
That's a nice idea...if you can make a particle accelerator capable of breaking down the ship and reconstructing it later on.

Pthom
08-29-2010, 08:05 AM
Try to keep in mind that this is the "Science Fact" subforum. :)

zerospark
08-29-2010, 09:54 AM
If you really want to scatter human(-derived) civilization around the universe using particle accelerators, there's a simple* way to do it.

All you need to do is develop starships somewhere between the size of a fingernail and a hand, pack them full of computers that can run emulations of human brains or some equivalent intelligence, then build a big particle accelerator around the sun and use particle beams or lasers to to hurl these things by the millions at every star you can see at a good fraction of c.

When they arrive, they can unfold and self-replicate in local materials, any convenient asteroids or moons laying around, finally developing into local industry that will include clone vats.

Then you decant your new human bodies and supporting ecology and either transfer your emulated crew into them, or beam them in from home if AI is running the show.

* Simple implying dramatic advances in information science, cognitive neuroscience, and molecular manufacturing at the very least. Not impossible, but it would happen before sending a starship full of people to another solar system.

Lhun
08-29-2010, 07:43 PM
Particle accelerators don't make for useful remote propulsion systems. If you need external power, you need to use a laser, if you absolutely want to use a particle accelerator, the best option would be to stick it on the ship facing backwards, and use it as a thruster.
If however, you can build sufficiently small ships, solar sails become very useful.

G.L. Douglas
08-30-2010, 01:20 AM
Sorry if some find my post non-factual and implausible. I live just south of Kennedy Space Center, and the particle beam propulsion info came from a NASA article. I received help from two NASA engineers to adapt the possibilities to space flight in my novel. All of the scientific data in Alpha Rising was approved by NASA personnel, and a Florida Tech grad student in Physics and Space Sciences.

Alpha Rising is, however, still an enjoyable, thought-provoking work of fiction, yet several of the speculative scenarios I've introduced have already become, and are presently becoming reality.

Some info here: "Interstellar Flight by Particle Beam"

http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20020023956_2002030230.pdf

http://arxiv.org/ftp/physics/papers/0701/0701057.pdf


I'll stay off of this forum, thanks.

thothguard51
09-03-2010, 04:58 AM
It appears Hawking is capable of changing his mind...

http://www.newser.com/story/99580/hawking-universe-didnt-need-god-to-begin.html

Newser) – The universe didn't need God to begin; it was quite capable of launching its existence on its own, thank you very much, says reknowned physicist Stephen Hawking...

...The question is: is the way the universe began chosen by God for reasons we can't understand, or was it determined by a law of science? I believe the second," he explained.

LOG
09-03-2010, 10:07 AM
Hawking must love this. (http://news.yahoo.com/s/livescience/20100902/sc_livescience/massextinctionthreatearthonvergeofhugeresetbutton)

thothguard51
09-03-2010, 01:41 PM
The cockroach will survive...

FOTSGreg
09-04-2010, 03:12 AM
There's been a study that proposed using heavy ion particle accelerators to produce power via particle collisions so that might be where the particle beam thrusters idea comes from. I'm not at all sure that the guys working on the project have had any real success yet (I've seen the linear accelerator they were working on).

Lhun
09-04-2010, 05:28 AM
Sorry if some find my post non-factual and implausible. I live just south of Kennedy Space Center, and the particle beam propulsion info came from a NASA article.<snip>Well this is not the place to critique your work, so i'll just say that "warp-speed" is definitely not in the right place in the science fact subforum.

Anyway, regarding the particle beam accelerator, it is of course technically possible, but the papers do not actually make a comparison to a laser-pushed craft. I doubt the comparison would be favourable for the particle beam, since one of the biggest problems of these kinds of remote power is beam spread, and that problem is orders of magnitude greater for a particle beam than for a laser.