Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Humanity must colonize to survive

Recently, cosmologist Stephen Hawking won The Copley medal, which was previously awarded to such accomplished folks as Darwin and Einstein. In his remarks Hawking stated that as long as it inhabits a single planet, humanity is at great risk for annihilation. An asteroid collision or a nuclear war could wipe out the entire population.

Hawking further stated that chemical rockets are too slow for colonization ventures. Inter stellar travel to a suitable solar system could take 50,000 years with current technology, but matter/antimatter reactions might be harnessed to move spacecraft at speeds close to that of light. Star Trek might be poor sci fi in some respects, but the energy source used by the Enterprise is inline with the physicist’s analysis of the problem.

Although Hawking’s remarks were made last week, they remind me of a similar statement made quite a few years ago by author Robert A. Heinlein, who also believed that humanity would have to leave this planet and colonize to preserve itself. Indeed, regarding the landing of astronauts on our moon, he stated, “The door they opened leads to the hope that h. sapiens will survive indefinitely long, even longer than this solid planet on which we stand tonight.” This sci fi grand master believed in mankind and longed for a secure future for all of us.

I’ve heard all of the arguments in favor of abandoning our space program, and while some of them are valid, I believe, as Hawking does, as Heinlein did, that humanity must reach out and explore space. I doubt that I’ll live to see science solve this issue, but I do think that when great minds choose to work on it, that there will be a solution to the propulsion problem.

In past centuries, some thought mankind would run into trouble because there wouldn’t be enough wood. However, most of the human population made the transition to fossil fuel, with trees to spare. Nowadays, people worry that we’ll run out of dead dinosaurs, but there will some new technology to take the place of oil. I’m betting on hydrogen, not because it is the best, but because nuclear power has too much political baggage at the present time. More folks remember Chernobyl than the Hindenburg.

Further along in the human time line, mankind will see technologies with the power to propel spaceships beyond this solar system. I won’t see it, but I certainly believe that it will happen. Science fiction today often predicts tomorrow’s science facts. The details may differ, but the gist of that story is being written today, and I’m glad to made a small contribution to forward thinking literature.

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At Dec 6, 2006, 9:39:00 AM, Anonymous Valentina said...

Chernobyl is one of the most polluted places. All information about disaster and more than 6000 pictures can be found here: http://pripyat.com/en/

At Dec 10, 2006, 11:30:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pam, how odd that you found my quilting journal, and when I come over here, you have a science/scifi discussion going on, and I'm definitely a fan of both!

I agree. Man has the capacity to create anything, and I choose to believe we will use that, rather than destroy ourselves. I believe if we can think it up in scifi, we can create it in science.

Thanks for dropping by.

At Dec 11, 2006, 5:09:00 PM, Blogger Pamela J. Dodd said...

Hi Susan,

You have some lovely stitchin' going on over at your blog. I just make up stuff about people in space, and you actually do beautiful work.

I enjoyed your blog.


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