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Environment Guard Report any individual or party whose activities are hazardous to our environment

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  #1  
Old 08-09-2006, 12:13 AM
ipohan ipohan is offline
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Exclamation How can the human race sustain another 100 years?

It has been an unusual move for one of the world's most eminent scientists. Having built a career shedding light on the darkest secrets of the universe, from the essence of space-time to the complexity of black holes, Professor Stephen Hawking has turned to the Internet for answers to the latest conundrum occupying his thoughts.


Prof Stephen Hawking
Dear ATCA Colleagues; dear IntentBloggers
[Please note that the views presented by individual contributors are not necessarily representative of the views of ATCA, which is neutral. ATCA conducts collective Socratic dialogue on global opportunities and threats.]

Re: Question of Our Survival from a Genius -- "In a world that is in chaos politically, socially and environmentally, how can the human race sustain another 100 years?" -- Prof Stephen Hawking
It has been an unusual move for one of the world's most eminent scientists. Having built a career shedding light on the darkest secrets of the universe, from the essence of space-time to the complexity of black holes, Professor Stephen Hawking has turned to the Internet for answers to the latest conundrum occupying his thoughts.

Prof Stephen W Hawking was born on 8 January 1942 (300 years after the death of Galileo) in Oxford, England. His parents' house was in north London, but during the second world war Oxford was considered a safer place to have babies. At eleven Stephen went to St Albans School, and then on to University College, Oxford, his father's old college. Stephen wanted to do Mathematics, although his father would have preferred medicine. Mathematics was not available at University College, so he did Physics instead. After three years and not very much work he was awarded a first class honours degree in Natural Science. He then went on to Cambridge to do research in Cosmology, there being no-one working in that area in Oxford at the time. His supervisor was Prof Denis Sciama, although he had hoped to get Prof Fred Hoyle who was working in Cambridge. After gaining his PhD he became first a Research Fellow, and later on a Professorial Fellow at Gonville and Caius College. After leaving the Institute of Astronomy in 1973 Stephen came to the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, and since 1979 has held the post of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics. The chair was founded in 1663 with money left in the will of the Reverend Henry Lucas, who had been the Member of Parliament for the University. It was first held by Isaac Barrow (1630-1677), and then in 1663 by Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) -- the greatest English mathematician and physicist of his generation, who laid the foundation for differential and integral calculus and whose work on optics and gravitation makes him one of the greatest scientists the world has known.

Prof Hawking has worked on the basic laws which govern the universe. With Prof Roger Penrose he showed that Einstein's General Theory of Relativity implied space and time would have a beginning in the Big Bang and an end in black holes. These results indicated it was necessary to unify General Relativity with Quantum Theory, the other great Scientific development of the first half of the 20th Century. One consequence of such a unification that he discovered was that black holes should not be completely black, but should emit radiation and eventually evaporate and disappear. Another conjecture is that the universe has no edge or boundary in imaginary time. This would imply that the way the universe began was completely determined by the laws of science. His many publications include The Large Scale Structure of Spacetime with G F R Ellis, General Relativity: An Einstein Centenary Survey, with W Israel, and 300 Years of Gravity, with W Israel. Stephen Hawking has two popular books published; his best seller A Brief History of Time, and his later book, Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays. Prof Hawking has twelve honorary degrees, was awarded the CBE (Commander of the British Empire) in 1982, and was made a Companion of Honour in 1989. He is the recipient of many awards, medals and prizes and is a Fellow of The Royal Society and a Member of the US National Academy of Sciences. Stephen Hawking continues to combine family life (he has three children and one grandchild), and his research into theoretical physics together with an extensive programme of travel and public lectures.

His question "In a world that is in chaos politically, socially and environmentally, how can the human race sustain another 100 years?" appeared on an Internet website two months ago, immediately stirring up an internet storm that saw more than 25,000 people log on to give their deeply-considered views: some said we should just learn to get along, others predicted technology would see us through, and more still invoked the powers of God, love and peace. But what the world wanted most of all was to hear the great scientist answer his own question, an intervention, most were convinced, that would amount to nothing less than a definitive treatise for human survival.

Last month, Prof Hawking's response finally arrived. In a video-clip submission, the familiar electronic voice pronounced:
"How can the human race survive the next hundred years? 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.

Before the 1940s, the main threat to our survival came from collisions with asteroids. Such collisions have caused mass extinctions in the past, but the last one was 70m years ago, so the likelihood that we will need the services of Bruce Willis [Allusion to Film: Armageddon (1998)] in the next hundred years is very small.

A much more immediate danger, is nuclear war. America and Russia, each have more than enough warheads to kill everyone on Earth, several times over, and the same may now be true of China. The world came perilously close to nuclear annihilation on more than one occasion in the last 50 years. With the ending of the cold war, the threat has become less acute, but it has not gone away. There are still enough nuclear weapons stockpiled to kill us all, and their use might be triggered by an accident that convinced a country that it was under attack. There is now a new danger from small and potentially unstable countries acquiring nuclear weapons. Such minor nuclear powers might cause millions of deaths, but they would not threaten the survival of the entire human race, unless they sparked a conflict between the major powers.

These dangers of asteroid collision and nuclear war, have now been joined by a host of other threats to our survival. Climate change is happening at an ever increasing rate. While we are hoping to stabilise it, and maybe even reverse it, by reducing our CO2 emissions, the danger is that the climate change may pass a tipping point at which the temperature rise becomes self sustaining.

The melting of the Arctic and Antarctic ice reduces the amount of solar energy that is reflected back into space and so increases the temperature further. The rise in sea temperature may trigger the release of large quantities of CO2, trapped at the bottom of the ocean, which will further increase the greenhouse effect. Let's hope we don't end up like our sister planet Venus with a temperature of 250C and raining sulphuric acid. There are other dangers, such as the accidental or intentional release of a genetically engineered virus. Each time we increase our technological powers, we add new possible ways in which things could go disastrously wrong. The human race faces an increasingly dangerous future. There's a sick joke that the reason we haven't been visited by aliens is that when a civilisation reaches our stage of development, it becomes unstable and destroys itself. In fact, I think there are other reasons why we haven't seen any aliens, but the story shows how perilous the situation is. The long-term survival of the human race will be safe only if we spread out into space, and then to other stars. This won't happen for at least 100 years so we have to be very careful. Perhaps, we must hope that genetic engineering will make us wise and less aggressive."

Source: Intent Blog
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Old 08-09-2006, 03:04 AM
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Chinerama Chinerama is offline
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We can't if we're going to continue on the path that we're on now. Period.
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