Hello. My name is Stephen Hawking. Physicist, cosmologist and something of a dreamer. Although I cannot move and I have to speak through a computer, in my mind I am free. Free to explore the universe and ask the big questions, such as: is time travel possible? Can we open a portal to the past or find a shortcut to the future? Can we ultimately use the laws of nature to become masters of time itself?
Time travel was once considered scientific heresy. I used to avoid talking about it for fear of being labelled a crank. But these days I’m not so cautious. In fact, I’m more like the people who built Stonehenge. I’m obsessed by time. If I had a time machine I’d visit Marilyn Monroe in her prime or drop in on Galileo as he turned his telescope to the heavens. Perhaps I’d even travel to the end of the universe to find out how our whole cosmic story ends.
To see how this might be possible, we need to look at time as physicists do – at the fourth dimension. It’s not as hard as it sounds. Every attentive schoolchild knows that all physical objects, even me in my chair, exist in three dimensions. Everything has a width and a height and a length.
But there is another kind of length, a length in time. While a human may survive for 80 years, the stones at Stonehenge, for instance, have stood around for thousands of years. And the solar system will last for billions of years. Everything has a length in time as well as space. Travelling in time means travelling through this fourth dimension.
Scientists haven’t found E.T. just yet, but they may be pinning down the best places and ways to look for alien life during future space missions, NASA researchers said Wednesday.
Experts on the search for extraterrestrial life spoke to reporters from the Astrobiology Science Conference near Houston to celebrate 50 years of astrobiology research.
Scientists there said they are still eager to find life elsewhere in the universe despite the firestorm this week kicked off by famed cosmologist Stephen Hawking, who suggested that perhaps humans shouldn’t be so eager to find aliens since there’s a chance they would want to colonize Earth or strip it for resources.
“We’re interested and prepared to discover any form of life,” said Mary Voytek, astrobiology senior scientist at NASA Headquarters, during the teleconference.
According to Alfred Lambremont Webre, Stephen Hawking’s April 25, 2010 public statement that “To my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational,” Prof. Hawking stated on April 25, 2010. “The real challenge is to work out what aliens might actually be like.”
He further added : “We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach,” Hawking says.
“If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans,” the scientist says. While there may be benign aliens out there, Hawking says trying to make contact is “a little too risky”.
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My first contact with the legendary Isaac Asimov, perhaps the most prolific author in human history, came in 1978, when I commissioned him to write an article for the inaugural issue of Second Look, a magazine about the search for other intelligent life that I co-edited with Robert K.G. Temple.
By the time he died in 1992, Asimov’s published books numbered 500, with the best known being The Foundation Trilogy and the I, Robot series of novels. He was a Ph.D. professor of biochemistry at Boston University before he retired to write fulltime. His last nonfiction book, in 1991, titled Our Angry Earth, was a prophetic warning about global warming. Yet, this genius at portraying the future of technology was afraid of flying (he only flew in an airplane twice early in his life) and he never learned to swim, ride a bicycle, or drive a car (until late in life).
The assignment that I gave Asimov was to answer this question: “Is it wise to contact advanced civilizations?” This topic held far less relevance to science reality in 1978 than today because over the past 30 years, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) has evolved many-fold in its capacity to detect radio signals from civilizations elsewhere in the Universe, if indeed they are doing any broadcasting.
With our increased technological capacity to detect interstellar signals has come a renewed debate about whether we should even be attempting to make contact. They might be so superior to us technologically that we would be easily conquered and exploited, goes one argument. Their technology might be so advanced that it would appear to us as magic, goes another line of thought, resulting in the human species losing all meaning and collective self-esteem. We might worship these visitors and become their slaves. Are we wasting billions of dollars in a fruitless search for aliens who either don’t exist, or have no interest in knowing us? The list of fears and doubts voiced seem endless.
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