Thursday, March 1, 2007

stephen hawking in space

So the "Brief History of Time" author is apparently leaving gravity behind, as he wants to take a ride in space (a NYT article about his pre-trip preparations here).

What I found interesting about this article were Mr. Hawkings' statements about space travel and its importance. According to the article, he says that spaceflight is "critical to the future of humanity," and "humanity's ultimate survival depend[s] on colonizing the solar system and beyond."

Honestly? Is it actually considered a real possibility that we could literally colonize another planet? Mr. Hawking makes it sound like doing so is necessary since we're shittifying our planet at an alarming rate...but I wasn't aware that people considered it a possibility to ever "move out" of Earth. Anybody have any thoughts?


Anyway...happy first post of March!

2 comments:

gary said...

Dave! Yeah, I've got thoughts. In my opinion, Stephen Hawking seems to be thinking even farther than shittifying of the planet (well, in the environmental sense, anyway). He's thinking even as far as, in the extreme case, the sun burning out in about five billion years. EVENTUALLY, we will either have to go somewhere or die. Oh, asteroids hitting the Earth, that could happen too. At least....eventually.

Mmm, as far as I understand what's going on these days, we are just starting to get better at detecting planets orbiting stars really far away. Stars are easy to see because they're bright, but planets are hard to find. Then, once you find a planet, there are lots of things that make it inhospitable to life:

(1) Star's too big.
(2) Planet's too young...buncha stuff flying around in the solar system slamming into things...not good for colonizing.
(3) Planet's too close to the star (too hot!) or too far away (too cold!).

Then, if ALL of the other things are great and we find a completely Earth-like planet, well there's another problem: how far away is that planet? If the planet is 100,000 light years away (relatively close), that means the light coming from that planet and star is 100,000 years old. A couple of problems there: First, it would take us at the VERY least 100,000 years to even get there since we can't go any faster than the speed of light (this limitation probably will improve much anytime soon...). So anytime in the last 100,000 years (time it took for the light from that planet/star to get to us) to now, the star could have blown up (big problem...) or any number of other things. Oh, then it takes us 100,000 years to get there. Shit, that's 200,000 years of uncertainty. Lots of stuff could happen. We could get there and the damn thing could be destroyed by an asteroid. Talk about a waste of money...

Anyway, while Stephen Hawking may be ...sort of... *correct*, there's really not a damn thing anybody can do about it anytime soon...

...and that's why space is AWESOME. Now I'm going to click a button written in Chinese and hope it publishes this long comment...

gary said...

It worked! I think...