Dr. Hawking, while a genius in Astrophysics and Cosmology needs to lay off the Star Trek:
The survival of the human race depends on its ability to find new homes elsewhere in the universe because there’s an increasing risk that a disaster will destroy the Earth, world-renowned scientist Stephen Hawking said Tuesday.
The British astrophysicist told a news conference in Hong Kong that humans could have a permanent base on the moon in 20 years and a colony on Mars in the next 40 years.
“We won’t find anywhere as nice as Earth unless we go to another star system,” added Hawking, who arrived to a rock star’s welcome Monday. Tickets for his lecture planned for Wednesday were sold out.
He added that if humans can avoid killing themselves in the next 100 years, they should have space settlements that can continue without support from Earth.
“It is important for the human race to spread out into space for the survival of the species,” Hawking said. “Life on Earth is at the ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as sudden global warming, nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus or other dangers we have not yet thought of.”
Amada Marcotte’s response is much more pointed, so I’ll quote her:
Religious wingnuts have invented the Rapture to avoid talking about taking responsibility for the future of the human race (also to justify having more and more Virility Objects, i.e. children, even though the planet is suffocating from the massive explosion in wasteful human beings). Now Stephen Hawking has just put his authority behind an escape fantasy that allows wingnuts who aren’t Rapture fanatics to ignore the fact that we’re destroying our planet and very soon going to make in uninhabitable.
Chris Clarke shoots down the technical aspects of such a monumental brain fart, even bringing up the horrible memories of Biosphere:
And that was on this planet, where the designers could just have a thousand yards of specialized concrete and a million square feet of tempered glass driven up to the site on flatbed trucks. I suspect an attempt to replicate the Biosphere experiment in the Valle Marineris would be a bit more difficult. The construction crew here could actually breathe without tanks, for one thing, and what happens when the New Martians realize they have the wrong gauge turnbuckles for the shadecloth awning, and all the lettuce plants get UV poisoning? We’re talking about an agency that forgot to do a English-Metric conversion for an unmanned Mars probe here. Would you really trust them to buy compatible plumbing fixtures from 400 million miles away?
The heart of the matter though, as Amada points out, is that this is a sad example of escapist fantasy for geeks. Our current policies (and by our, I mean not just the US but China and Russia and everyone else as well) amounts to prolonged attempt to kill Planet Earth before it kills us. That is civilization in a nutshell.
By the time I’m an old man, global warming-spawned superstorms will probably have submerged the city where I was raised, my current home and turned Florida into a barrier reef. That’s the positive scenario. The bad version involves wars for the last bit of oil going nuclear, turning all our old Cold War fears into Hot World realities. Maybe if we adopt sensible ecological policies and implement new technologies, cooperate across international boarders to end our dependance on oil, then we’ll have the time and man-power to devote to Hawking’s wet dreams of living on Mars. But that’s an awful long way to go and we haven’t even started building that road.