Stephen William Hawking born January 8, 1942 and died March 14,  2018 was an English theoretical physicist and Director of Research at the Center for Theoretical Cosmology within the University of Cambridge, he has been known as the last most prominent scientist of our current era. His scientific works included a collaboration with Roger Penrose on gravitational singularity theorems in the framework of general relativity and the theoretical prediction that black holes emit radiation, often called Hawking radiation. Hawking was the first to set out a theory of cosmology explained by a union of the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.

Stephen Hawking at the Stockholm Waterfront Congress Center, 24 August 2015.  Image Credit: Alexandar Vujadinovic 

Through several presentations and conversations in public during the recent years before his death, showed concern about how humanity is heading to a destination not necessarily promising. According to Hawking there is a list of potential dangers that can unleash the end of the world or at least the human civilization as we know it.

In 2006 Hawking posted an open question on the Internet as follows: “In a world that is in chaos politically, socially and environmentally, how can the human race sustain another 100 years?”, later Hawking clarified: “I don’t know the answer. That is why I asked the question, to get people to think about it, and to be aware of the dangers we now face.”

Hawking expressed concern that life on Earth is at risk from a sudden nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus or global warming among other dangers humans have not yet being known. Such a planet-wide disaster need not result in human extinction if the human race were to be able to colonise additional planets before the disaster. Hawking was a vigorous supporter of spaceflight and the colonisation of space as necessary endeavors to ensure our future as species. 

The Doomsday Clock is a symbol which represents the likelihood of a man-made global catastrophe.  The graph shows from 1947 until 2018 the lower and higher points, the lower the worst probability of technologically or environmentally-induced catastrophe, and the higher points represent a lower probability. Graph Credit: Wikimedia Commons. 


Hawking stated that, given the vastness of the universe, aliens likely exist, but that contact with them should be avoided. He warned that aliens might pillage Earth for resources. In 2010 he stated in his own words “If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans.”

The revised Drake equation which envisions the “statistical probability” of the existence of alien civilizations out there. Image Credit: University of Rochester.


Hawking warned that super-intelligent artificial intelligence could be pivotal in steering humanity’s fate, stating that “the potential benefits are huge… Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history. It might also be the last, unless we learn how to avoid the risks.” In addition he argued that computer viruses should be considered a new form of life, and stated that “maybe it says something about human nature, that the only form of life we have created so far is purely destructive.




This hazard fell into same category as climate change and pandemic, used by Hawking to make the broader point of a need to evacuate our planet.He has repeatedly urged the importance of colonising Mars and the Moon, an achievement which currently lies way beyond our horizon. As per Hawking´s own words: “The Earth is becoming too small for us,” he told the Starmus science festival in Norway. “Our physical resources are being drained at an alarming rate.”

Graph of human population from 10000 BCE to 2000 CE. It shows exponential rise in world population that has taken place since the eighteenth century.



Hawking, who says “we are close to the tipping point” at which it becomes irreversible, says we risk turning our own planet into one like Venus. Venus, the second planet from our Sun which is with a 250C atmosphere.

Global mean surface-temperature changes from 1880 to 2017. The black line refers to the global annual mean, and the red line is the five-year local regression line. The blue uncertainty bars show a 95% confidence interval. Graph Credit: 
NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies 



Author: Jesus Padilla

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