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Hawking: It's outer space or die for humans

justabubba

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Hawking: It's outer space or die for humans | Technically Incorrect - CNET News

... Hawking suggested that unless the human race begins to inhabit outer space, it will disappear.

His tinge of optimism is painted in quite muted colors. "If we can avoid disaster for the next two centuries, our species should be safe as we spread into space," he told BigThink. ...

Our only chance of long-term survival is not to remain inward-looking on Planet Earth, but to spread out into space," he said.

...

"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," he said.
given what has been achieved in over 50 years of space exploration, will 200 years be enough time to find another potential habitat?
will this be a wake-up call to those who seek to further de-fund the space program?
 

rathi

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I disagree with Hawkings on this one.Barring a fundamental change in our understanding of physics, space has little to offer as a habitat. Space stations aren't self sustaining and terraforming takes a lot longer than 200 years. Solar systems with potentially habitable planets can't be reached unless we can develop faster than light travel.

While overpopulation, environmental damage, abuse of resources and war can all result in massive damage, they are unlikely to kill us all. If our population gets too large, the problem will correct itself by killing a few billion off until we reach carrying capacity again. It probably would be the worst catastrophe in human history, but we would endure and learn from our mistakes. Even if we have to build Bio-Domes or genetically modify ourselves for a new environment, Earth is still our best shot at survival.
 

molten_dragon

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I disagree with Hawkings on this one.Barring a fundamental change in our understanding of physics, space has little to offer as a habitat. Space stations aren't self sustaining and terraforming takes a lot longer than 200 years. Solar systems with potentially habitable planets can't be reached unless we can develop faster than light travel.

While I don't agree that the timeline is as short as 200 years, I agree with Hawking that eventually, we will need to leave the earth and begin to inhabit other planets/moons/asteroids/whatever. In the extremely long term (billion-year timeframe) it is absolutely certain that the earth will become uninhabitable. Even discussing a timeframe in the millions of years it is quite likely that we will be struck by another dinosaur killer that we may or may not have the capability to deflect before it hits us (actually, this could happen much, much sooner than that). In an even shorter timespan, there could be nuclear wars, runaway global warming, or simple overpopulation that could seriously damage the planet's ability to sustain life. The point is, at some point in the future, we will either need to live somewhere else, or die off.

Inhabiting other parts of our solar system would be difficult, but could be done. A self-sustaining colony on mars could arguably be built (at enormous cost) with today's technology. Colonizing planets around other stars is also not as far out of reach as you seem to think, and certainly wouldn't require faster-than-light travel (which may be well and truly impossible). Due to the time-dilation effects of relativistic velocities, the crew of a ship which could reach a large percentage of lightspeed (say 99.9 percent) would experience significantly less time during a trip to another star than would pass on earth during the same trip. Creating such a vessel is beyond our abilities at the moment, but will likely be doable within just a few hundred years. Generation ships are another option, and would require even less advanced technology.

Regardless of the method, we're going to need to leave the earth eventually, which is a damn good reason to keep spending money on the space program. The future of the entire human race is quite literally at stake.
 

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Hawking: It's outer space or die for humans | Technically Incorrect - CNET News


given what has been achieved in over 50 years of space exploration, will 200 years be enough time to find another potential habitat?
will this be a wake-up call to those who seek to further de-fund the space program?

We do need other options as fast as we can create/reach them. There is too much that can go wrong here. Our population and our needs grow, and our resources dwindle. We have to consider a 'Carter Catastrophe' point, even if the theory is dubious.
 

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Chances are too good that a global killer asteroid will eventually hit Earth so I have to agree with Hawking that we need an outpost in space with some of the eggs out of this basket...
 

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Technology isn't the problem, as the human imagination, given time and resources, is limitless in what it can achieve.

Space won't be a viable option until humans can work together, and there are a lot of challenges here on earth that would be healthy for us to overcome to prepare us for greater voyages.
 

rathi

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The problem with going elsewhere is that we would be completely reliant on artificial means to survive. That isn't an insurmountable problem, but there is little point in not building the same structures here on earth to compensate for any natural disaster. The same Bio-Dome you need to survive on mars can be built here on earth to compensate for nuclear winter without the insane costs of shipping material millions of miles. If we can create a sustainable lifestyle in space, we can do it easier on earth, no matter how badly we screw up the planet.
 

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If the human race were to disappear, who would be around to care?
 

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The problem with going elsewhere is that we would be completely reliant on artificial means to survive. That isn't an insurmountable problem, but there is little point in not building the same structures here on earth to compensate for any natural disaster. The same Bio-Dome you need to survive on mars can be built here on earth to compensate for nuclear winter without the insane costs of shipping material millions of miles. If we can create a sustainable lifestyle in space, we can do it easier on earth, no matter how badly we screw up the planet.

That's true in the more immediate sense... but we still have to contend with the earth's core, which is gradually cooling, or the death of our star which would consume the planet. I know these events are absurdly far away and so there's not much point in talking about them, but ultimately we will have to leave this planet, or risk becoming a dead-end species.
 

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Solar systems with potentially habitable planets can't be reached unless we can develop faster than light travel.

At our current rate of technological change, doing that in 200 years isn't unthinkable. It seems impossible, but then, in the 17th century, human flight seemed impossible.

I do disagree with Hawkings that we're going to die otherwise. We've lived a few hundred thousand years, we can live another few thousand without going elsewhere. Doesn't mean we shouldn't be looking, though.
 

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At our current rate of technological change, doing that in 200 years isn't unthinkable. It seems impossible, but then, in the 17th century, human flight seemed impossible.

I do disagree with Hawkings that we're going to die otherwise. We've lived a few hundred thousand years, we can live another few thousand without going elsewhere. Doesn't mean we shouldn't be looking, though.

Hawkings is entirely correct. The law of averages say so.. By the way, we've been here, on Earth, way more than a few hundred thousand years. :)


Tim-
 

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given what has been achieved in over 50 years of space exploration, will 200 years be enough time to find another potential habitat?
will this be a wake-up call to those who seek to further de-fund the space program?

The biggest barrier to space exploration for us is that, as human beings, we simply do not live long enough for long-term space travel to be truly feasible.

Were faster-than-light flight possible it would still take a human almost 4 years to travel to our nearest star Proxima Centauri ... and 30,000 years to just the very centre of our own galaxy !!!

The speed of light (670,616,629.51 mph / 1,079,252,849 kph) is a very long way beyond anything we can achieve today ... so until we are even near that ... space travel shall remain just a dream !!!

APOD: 2005 December 4 - Proxima Centauri: The Closest Star
 

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Technology isn't the problem, as the human imagination, given time and resources, is limitless in what it can achieve.

Space won't be a viable option until humans can work together, and there are a lot of challenges here on earth that would be healthy for us to overcome to prepare us for greater voyages.

here here to that one orion until we no longer consider ourselves as christians, muslims, jews, americans, mexicans ect... and think of ourselves as earthlings we won't advance much more as a species. imo.
 

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I am not so sure Hawking is correct in the near term, but overall we know that this planet is only destined to live so long before it goes the way of Mars. So, in all frankness everyone with half a brain realizes that if this race is to survive for the far off future we must move to space.
 

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The biggest barrier to space exploration for us is that, as human beings, we simply do not live long enough for long-term space travel to be truly feasible.

Were faster-than-light flight possible it would still take a human almost 4 years to travel to our nearest star Proxima Centauri ... and 30,000 years to just the very centre of our own galaxy !!!

The speed of light (670,616,629.51 mph / 1,079,252,849 kph) is a very long way beyond anything we can achieve today ... so until we are even near that ... space travel shall remain just a dream !!!

APOD: 2005 December 4 - Proxima Centauri: The Closest Star

Interstellar travel will certainly take much faster engines than we have now, but given that the only possibly viable faster than light travel (aka wormholes) is clearly a hugely long way off from being developed (unless of course the technological singularity occurs) any travel will take a long time, so humans actually surviving the journey to another system (especially one with a potentially habitable planet) and back is unrealistic. Thus we're dealing with generation ships for the foreseeable future. Of course that isn't really the biggest limitation to space travel...getting off the Earth is.

Sure we launch things into orbit on a regular basis, but only at enormous cost. For every kilogram of payload we launch into space it costs $300. If we wanted to launch an average size car into space that would cost about $300,000. The international space station cost $100 billion dollars to build and took over a decade. Unless we can get a handle on these costs, building the necessary space infrastructure to even think about regular interplanetary travel much less interstellar travel. We know how to do this, build a space elevator or space launch loop (I favor the latter), but we're not investing enough in it. Instead we keep spending money on stuff we've already done. We keep using our resources to send space probes into areas they've been sent (the Voyager craft are decades old and we're still not surpassing...we're only getting more specific in what our probes are studying), or building stations to replace stations we had in the past, or doing low Earth orbits that are half a century old, or talking about visiting the moon that we've already been to. We're stuck replicating things we've been doing at a glacially slow pace, and its all because we simply can't afford to do more at current launch prices. If we had a space launch loop we could have launch 20 Galileo missions to Jupiter, established a moon base by now, and begun serious work on resource extraction from asteroids.

We're never going to make real progress in "getting our eggs out of one basket" until we move beyond chemical rocket launches. The day we get beyond that is the day that the real space age begins.
 

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The biggest barrier to space exploration for us is that, as human beings, we simply do not live long enough for long-term space travel to be truly feasible.

Were faster-than-light flight possible it would still take a human almost 4 years to travel to our nearest star Proxima Centauri ... and 30,000 years to just the very centre of our own galaxy !!!

The speed of light (670,616,629.51 mph / 1,079,252,849 kph) is a very long way beyond anything we can achieve today ... so until we are even near that ... space travel shall remain just a dream !!!

APOD: 2005 December 4 - Proxima Centauri: The Closest Star

There's a common misconception that travelling to the stars is unfeasible unless we can develop faster-than-light travel. This is untrue. The theory of relativity tells us that the faster we move in space, the slower we move in time. Therefore, the amount of time that the crew of an interstellar spacecraft would experience on a journey to another star depends on exactly how close to the speed of light they are travelling. At 90% of lightspeed, the time dilation effect is about 2:1, so the crew of a ship travelling to proxima centauri would only experience 2 years of time passing, while 4 would pass on earth. At 99% of lightspeed, a flight to proxima centauri would pass in 7 months for the crew. At 99.9999% of the speed of light, every hour on the ship equates to 2 years on earth, so that trip to proxima centauri would pass by in 2 hours.

This discounts needing to accelerate and decelerate of course, but at 1g of acceleration (9.8 m/s^2) a ship could accelerate to just a tiny fraction away from the speed of light in a year, and decelerate in the same time at the other end. So you could pretty easily travel to stars within a few thousand lightyears of earth and only 3-5 years would pass on the ship (depending on exactly how close to lightspeed you could get).
 

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Hawking: It's outer space or die for humans | Technically Incorrect - CNET News


given what has been achieved in over 50 years of space exploration, will 200 years be enough time to find another potential habitat?
will this be a wake-up call to those who seek to further de-fund the space program?

Sometimes you can be so smart you outthink yourself.

Seriously...if we are able to continue to develop advanced technology, then logic says that advanced technology would be better employed HERE. Nothing wrong with space exploration...but not a whole lot right about the concept of spreading our seed throughout an unreachable galaxy.
 

VanceMack

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I am not so sure Hawking is correct in the near term, but overall we know that this planet is only destined to live so long before it goes the way of Mars. So, in all frankness everyone with half a brain realizes that if this race is to survive for the far off future we must move to space.

based on the relative proximity to the sun how does that compute to "going the way of Mars"? The only thing that destroyes this planet might be a planet killing asteroid. Even if we blow ourselves up we will rebuild, probably in a much healthier and more efficient manner.
 

molten_dragon

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Interstellar travel will certainly take much faster engines than we have now, but given that the only possibly viable faster than light travel (aka wormholes) is clearly a hugely long way off from being developed (unless of course the technological singularity occurs) any travel will take a long time, so humans actually surviving the journey to another system (especially one with a potentially habitable planet) and back is unrealistic. Thus we're dealing with generation ships for the foreseeable future.

See my explanation above about why travelling to the stars in slower-than-light ships is perfectly feasible.

Of course that isn't really the biggest limitation to space travel...getting off the Earth is.

Sure we launch things into orbit on a regular basis, but only at enormous cost. For every kilogram of payload we launch into space it costs $300. If we wanted to launch an average size car into space that would cost about $300,000. The international space station cost $100 billion dollars to build and took over a decade. Unless we can get a handle on these costs, building the necessary space infrastructure to even think about regular interplanetary travel much less interstellar travel. We know how to do this, build a space elevator or space launch loop (I favor the latter), but we're not investing enough in it. Instead we keep spending money on stuff we've already done. We keep using our resources to send space probes into areas they've been sent (the Voyager craft are decades old and we're still not surpassing...we're only getting more specific in what our probes are studying), or building stations to replace stations we had in the past, or doing low Earth orbits that are half a century old, or talking about visiting the moon that we've already been to. We're stuck replicating things we've been doing at a glacially slow pace, and its all because we simply can't afford to do more at current launch prices. If we had a space launch loop we could have launch 20 Galileo missions to Jupiter, established a moon base by now, and begun serious work on resource extraction from asteroids.

We're never going to make real progress in "getting our eggs out of one basket" until we move beyond chemical rocket launches. The day we get beyond that is the day that the real space age begins.

While it's arguable whether or not getting things into orbit is the biggest hurdle facing serious future space exploration (any exploration beyond our own solar system will require technology we haven't even developed yet), it's actually FAR more expensive than you think. The costs to lift a pound of payload to LEO (low earth orbit) average $3500-$4500 per pound. For Geosynchronous orbit, the costs rise significantly to an average of $9200-$11200 per pound. Fixing this is going to be extremely important to our future as a spacefaring culture. It's clear that chemical rockets are never going to be cheap/efficient enough to do the job, so we need to look elsewhere. Fusion drives would be a good option for space travel, but are not very feasible for earth launches, since they would create quite a bit of dangerous radiation. Antimatter would be even worse. The ideal solution would be a space elevator, but at the moment, we cannot create the sorts of materials that would be necessary to build one. Carbon nanotubes are a possibility, but at the moment we cannot create strands long enough, and they're extremely expensive. Hopefully we'll get there though.
 

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based on the relative proximity to the sun how does that compute to "going the way of Mars"? The only thing that destroyes this planet might be a planet killing asteroid.

Which given enough time, will almost certainly happen.

Even if we blow ourselves up we will rebuild, probably in a much healthier and more efficient manner.

I'm not sure that this is a safe assumption to make. I can think of several ways that we could damage our planet to the point that it could no longer support human life (and possibly could not support any life at all)

Also keep in mind that given enough time, it is absolutely certain that our planet will become uninhabitable as the sun expands and engulfs the planet, turning it into a charred cinder.
 

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Which given enough time, will almost certainly happen.



I'm not sure that this is a safe assumption to make. I can think of several ways that we could damage our planet to the point that it could no longer support human life (and possibly could not support any life at all)

Also keep in mind that given enough time, it is absolutely certain that our planet will become uninhabitable as the sun expands and engulfs the planet, turning it into a charred cinder.

1-maybe we should be working harder on those astroid games...
2-I think the planet is a pretty AMAZING system. As far as closed ecologies go it has everything it needs to be sustainable. But if we are going to have this advanced level of thinking that enables space travel to a heretofore unidentified inknown planet capable of sustaining human life, then it stands to reason that we will have a better grasp of how to avoid the kind of cataclysm you see. and 3
3-as I understand it based on our knowledge of the sun we are about 3 billion years into a projected 10-15 billion year run for the sun. Is there some sort of valid theory that says Mars was destroyed as a viable life sustaining planet because it drew too close to the sun or the sun expanded? Id be interested in reading that theory.

If it holds true...its going to make the theories on Global Warming look pretty silly...
 

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1-maybe we should be working harder on those astroid games...

As it stands, it's not very likely that we could divert or destroy a dinosaur killer before it struck the earth. Probably, the best we could do would be to try and protect as many people as possible from the effects of a strike. If the object is large enough, this will be a futile exercise. Fortunately, many of the same technologies that will advance our ability to leave the planet (improved propulsion systems, better launch methods, etc.) will also be of great use in improving our ability to divert a large object before it could hit the earth. Regardless of whether or not our species eventually spreads to other worlds, I believe that earth will always be the centerpoint of humanity. Given a long enough span of time it is nearly certain that an object large enough to threaten earth's ecosystem will hit it again. Due to those two facts, I strongly believe that it's important that we invest in these sorts of technologies, in order to insure our futures.

2-I think the planet is a pretty AMAZING system. As far as closed ecologies go it has everything it needs to be sustainable. But if we are going to have this advanced level of thinking that enables space travel to a heretofore unidentified inknown planet capable of sustaining human life, then it stands to reason that we will have a better grasp of how to avoid the kind of cataclysm you see.

I hope you're right. I hope that our future as a species doesn't depend on our ability to leave planet earth for a billion years or so. I'm not that optimistic though. There are so many natural (and unnatural) things that could happen to this planet that could render it uninhabitable that I think it's dangerous to just assume that we'll be able to handle anything that comes our way.

3-as I understand it based on our knowledge of the sun we are about 3 billion years into a projected 10-15 billion year run for the sun. Is there some sort of valid theory that says Mars was destroyed as a viable life sustaining planet because it drew too close to the sun or the sun expanded? Id be interested in reading that theory.

If it holds true...its going to make the theories on Global Warming look pretty silly...

The sun is slowly expanding over time, and within a billion years or so, will be about 10% bigger than it is currently. By this point nearly all life on earth will be extinct (with the possible exception of some single-celled organisms) due to the fact that surface temperatures will have reached the boiling point of water.

As far as I know, there is no theory that suggests that mars's ability to sustain life was destroyed by passing too close to the sun or the sun expanding.
 
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I agree with Hawking.... One, because he's about 1000x smarter than anybody who posts here. Two, because while others argue we need to "worry about things here first" I say that there will always be imperfections in our societies and our species. If we wait around trying to fix all these "imperfections" before we band together for the journey into space, we will never leave. Human history demands that we journey forth and expand our knowledge, experience, and ability to exploit resources to our advantage. Space colonization presents unique and sometimes terrifying challenges, but I think that we should continue to tackle those challenges and keep our eyes forward on the prize. In fact, what may eventually push us into space colonization will be massive imperfections in our societies. Brave souls who know that the price of true progress is in sacrifice and risk taking.

I'm not anything close to any kind of physicist, but I understand the implications of us dragging our feet with regards to space exploration/colonization. Do I wish we could all drop our differences and work together on this noble goal? Absolutely. Do I think we can reasonably wait for that to happen? Absolutely not. I am typically a smaller government minded person, but with regards to our space program I wish it were funded better and expanded.
 

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based on the relative proximity to the sun how does that compute to "going the way of Mars"? The only thing that destroyes this planet might be a planet killing asteroid. Even if we blow ourselves up we will rebuild, probably in a much healthier and more efficient manner.

If our atmosphere is destroyed through pollution the planet will no longer be able to support life. Mars lost its atmosphere due to the cooling of its core, but Earth minus an atmosphere would be much the same.
 
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