9 August 2010, JellyBean @ 3:06 pm

Stephen Hawking has warned that unless the human race colonises space within the next two centuries it will disappear forever.

The famous astrophysicist says that our only chance for long-term survival is to move away from Earth and begin to inhabit new planets.

In an interview with website Big Think, Hawking said he was an ‘optimist’ but the next few hundred years had to be negotiated carefully if the human race is to survive.

He said: ‘I see great danger for the human race. There have been a number of times in the past when survival has been a question of touch and go. The Cuban missile crisis in 1963 is one of these.

‘The frequency of such occasions is likely to increase in the future. We shall need great care and judgment to negotiate them all successfully.’

‘But I am an optimist. If we can avoid disaster for the next two centuries our species should be safe as we spread into space.’

Earlier this year, Hawking warned that humans should be wary about trying to make contact with other alien lifeforms in space as we could not be sure that they would be friendly.

‘If we are the only intelligent beings in the galaxy we should make sure we survive and continue.’

Read more: Daily Mail

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12 May 2010, JellyBean @ 4:27 pm

FIFTEEN years ago, I was a physicist hard at work hunting for a theory of nature that would unify the very big and the very small. There was good reason to hope. The great and the good were committed. Even Einstein, who recognised that our understanding of reality is necessarily incomplete, had spent the last 20 years of his life searching for a unified field theory that would describe the two main forces we see acting around us – gravity and electromagnetism – as manifestations of a single force. For him, such a mathematical theory represented the purest and most elegant expression of nature and the highest achievement of the human intellect.

Fifty-five years after Einstein’s death, the hunt for this elusive unified field theory continues. To physicist Stephen Hawking and many others, finding the “theory of everything” would be equivalent to knowing the “mind of God”. The metaphor is not accidental.

Modern critics say that Einstein and other giants of 20th-century physics (including Wolfgang Pauli, Erwin Schrödinger and Werner Heisenberg) failed because their models didn’t include all particles of matter and their fundamental interactions. Factor them in, they argue, and we stand a much better chance of success. Dreams of a final theory (as a book on the subject, by Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg, was titled) live on, stronger than ever.

But are we really getting any closer? Do we dare ask whether the search is fundamentally misguided? Could belief in a physical theory that unifies the secrets of the material world – a “hidden code” of nature – be the scientific equivalent of the religious belief in oneness held by the billions who go to churches, mosques and synagogues every day?

Read the article here:

New Scientist

6 May 2010, JellyBean @ 3:04 pm

The Stephen Hawking controversy continues to bubble, with discussion on the Larry King show and the appearance of David Brin’s essay The Other Kind of Aliens. It’s all to the good to get such discussions widely circulated, even if it can be dismaying to find that so many respondents believe the answers about how alien cultures will behave are obvious and can be readily deduced from our own cultural experiences. But maybe that’s because this is a new controversy, one that the search for exoplanets is only now bringing to a wider public in any serious way. There is plenty to ponder, and while we debate the nature of alien culture, let’s look at something more immediate.

The Protocols of SETI Success

SETI continues to look for signals of extraterrestrial civilizations. What happens if a signal is actually detected? For the answer, we can look to the SETI Post-Detection Taskgroup, created by the SETI Permanent Study Group of the IAA (International Academy of Astronautics). The Taskgroup’s job is to look at what would happen if we do get a confirmed detection. Understand that we’re talking about a group that is purely advisory in nature, but one whose insights may help scientists. It’s an impressive group whose members are listed here.

Step one is obvious. The reception of a signal would be met with the Taskgroup urging its discoverer to evaluate its authenticity beyond any shadow of a doubt. If it is genuine, the Taskgroup then advises that details be disclosed to the astronomical community first, beginning with the International Astronomical Union (IAU), which would then pass the news along to the United Nations and other govermental bodies. The discoverer would then be free to call a press conference to announce the finding, and soon the airways and computer networks would be filled with discussion.

Read more:

Centauri Dreams

6 May 2010, JellyBean @ 2:56 pm

Most people who know me well are aware that I haunt used book stores, thrift shops, flea markets, or any other place I might find a deal on unique old books. I just love ‘em… and from time to time, I find that rather serendipitous circumstances begin to develop when I’m looking for certain titles. Lately, my fix has been Stephen Hawking.

Seriously, I’ve speculated as to whether the guy might be a time traveler or something, and along with John Titor, John Connor, and all the other “Johns” of the future, whether he might have purposely placed copies of his famous book, A Brief History of Time, in random locales knowing that I’d later discover them. Okay, maybe that’s just a bit far fetched sounding, but it seems that recently Hawking himself has opened up considerably to the idea.

In an article appearing in the UK’s The Daily Mail, Hawking admitted recently to his obsession with time. “Time travel was once considered scientific heresy,” he says. “I used to avoid talking about it for fear of being labeled a crank. But these days I’m not so cautious.” Likening himself to those who, centuries ago, built the famous Stonehenge monument, Hawking says he is “obsessed by time,” claiming he’d visit Marilyn Monroe or “drop in on Galileo as he turned his telescope to the heavens” if only he had a vehicle that would get him to such lost eras. “Perhaps I’d even travel to the end of the universe to find out how our whole cosmic story ends.”

The entire article, which can be read by clicking here, is a lively and interesting read, especially on the heels of yet another cosmic controversy the famous physicist recently drummed up, after various news outlets seized on the notion proposed by Hawking that aliens, if they do ever visit Earth, likely won’t be very friendly. This prompted a rebuttal from former Canadian defense minister Paul Hellyer, who says Hawkins is engaging in disinformation.

Read the whole article at:

Mysterious Universe (Don’t forget to check out their highly recommended podcasts!)

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