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Stephen Hawking Receives Copley Medal

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the i-certainly-didn't-deserve-it dept.

Space 118

smooth wombat writes "Stephen Hawking, Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, has been awarded the Royal Society's 275th Copley medal for his contribution to cosmology and theoretical physics. Other notables to receive the award, established by Stephen Gray in 1731 'For his new Electrical Experiments', include Charles Darwin, Louis Pasteur and Albert Einstein. In his remarks, Professor Hawking reiterated his previous comments that man must colonize other planets. The medal presented to Professor Hawking was sent into space onboard Space Shuttle Discovery and spent some time on the International Space Station in July of this year. Hawking has expressed an interest in going into space and commented, 'My next goal is to go into space, maybe Richard Branson will help me.'"

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I'm embarassed to ask, but-- (2, Insightful)

Nomihn0 (739701) | more than 7 years ago | (#17055370)

I know that Stephen Hawking is a remarkable scientist and fellow human, but does this medal reflect any recent breakthrough of his or is this merely a lifetime achievement award?

Re:I'm embarassed to ask, but-- (5, Informative)

volsung (378) | more than 7 years ago | (#17055864)

It's almost certainly a lifetime achievement, though not just for papers he wrote 30 years ago. Hawking is pretty active, as a quick look at the SPIRES index will show:

http://www.slac.stanford.edu/spires/find/hep/www?r awcmd=FIND+EA+HAWKING%2C+S+W&FORMAT=www&SEQUENCE=d s(d) [stanford.edu]

His most recent paper of interest is the 2005 paper on information loss in black holes, where he argues that information can in fact leak out of a black hole due to a quantum mechanical effect. The irony of this paper is that he made a public bet with another famous general relativity researcher 9 years ago that information which went into the black hole could never come out again. After publishing his paper, Hawking conceded the bet, though the paper is still somewhat controversial in the field.

Re:I'm embarassed to ask, but-- (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17055914)

Thank you!

Re:I'm embarassed to ask, but-- (1)

foreverdisillusioned (763799) | more than 7 years ago | (#17060198)

I'm not sure if that really qualifies as "ironic", considering Hawking repeatedly and purposefully bets against his own theories with that other "famous researcher" (his longtime friend/colleague, Roger Penrose.) Hawking says it's so he'll have a consolation prize if it turns out he's wrong.

Re:I'm embarassed to ask, but-- (1)

foreverdisillusioned (763799) | more than 7 years ago | (#17055938)

Could be wrong, but I don't think Hawking has made any major breakthroughs since the mid-70s. That said, though some people consider him to be overrated due to his condition and his pop science books, I think the work he did with Penrose in the 70s is very much worthy of recognition.

Re:I'm embarassed to ask, but-- (0, Flamebait)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 7 years ago | (#17056452)

I was actually pretty surprised when I watched an old Star Trek NG episode the other day and there was Hawking playing poker with Data, Einstein and Newton on the holodeck. I'm not sure who, among today's physicists, will be remembered in 300 years time, but I'm pretty sure Hawking won't be among them. A few theorems about black holes doesn't count for much in the big scheme of things.

Re:I'm embarassed to ask, but-- (2, Insightful)

Kagura (843695) | more than 7 years ago | (#17057684)

Damn straight. Who cares about Galileo [wikipedia.org] , Kepler [wikipedia.org] , Tycho Brahe [wikipedia.org] , Copernicus [wikipedia.org] , Newton [wikipedia.org] , Maxwell [wikipedia.org] , the Curies [wikipedia.org] , Einstein [wikipedia.org] , Hawking [wikipedia.org] , and Dr. Emmett Brown [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:I'm embarassed to ask, but-- (1)

foreverdisillusioned (763799) | more than 7 years ago | (#17059838)

Nah, black holes are some of the most important/interesting things in universe, and I think it was some pretty important stuff Hawking figured out (e.g., Hawking radiation.) I think he also did some important stuff relating to the big bang... not sure, though. His works aren't on the same earth-shaking level as Einstein, Galileo, and Newton, but I think perhaps he is on the same level as, say, Teller... perhaps even Bohr. People do pay him too much attention (to the detriment of physicists who have done more) due to his illness, but given all he's been through it's hard to begrudge him that. Again, he's done some very important work about some of the most mysterious and talked-about phenomena in the universe. For that, I'm pretty sure history will remember him.

Re:I'm embarassed to ask, but-- (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17056002)

This is a lifetime achievement award.

Nevertheless, relatively recently, (and motivated by something very strange called the AdS/CFT correspondence), he and collaborators came up with the first formulations of black holes in higher dimensions with cosmological terms (loosely speaking, a small default curvature of the universe completely independent of gravity). These are now a huge area of research, and prompted his former student Gary Gibbons (together with collaborators) to find the completely general analogue of the rotating cosmological black hole (Carter-Kerr solution). These are of massive interest to mathematicians as well as physicists because they produce nice new geometries in higher dimensions.

He has also claimed to solve (his own) Black Hole Information Paradox, but the "Wick rotation" he uses (temporarily replacing the square root of -1 with 1, doing calculations, and then putting it back in again) in order to make certain analytic continuations make sense is widely seen as highly dubious.

He has also recently done work on inflation and cosmology about which I am not competent to comment.

Re:I'm embarassed to ask, but-- (0, Troll)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 7 years ago | (#17058326)

Humans have NO business COLONizing any planets until they conquer:

-- Racism
-- Racist or insensitive investment and reinvestment policies
-- Pestilence
-- Diseases via maldistribution of medicines
-- Poverty
-- Classism
-- Bigotry
-- Rampant corporate fraud
-- Imperialist invasions of negligible countries
-- Waste of non-renewable energy sources
-- Destruction of the Amazon
-- Poising of nuclear and chemical weapons (yeh, still up, and in standby mode) at other countries
-- Duping taxpayers into quasi-fear/Disneyland states to prop up multi-trillion dollar military machines globally...
-- Ghost Planes, illegal "renditions", torture, and more
-- False, corrupt, self-serving news outlets....
-- Gentrification
-- Vote tampering (not just in the US, but in foreign countries by the US and by local corrupt governments...)

(How many TIMES now could have the dirtier, poorer parts of these places been built and RE-built:

Dallas, Chicago, Houston, DC, parts of Atlanta, New New Orleans, Oakland, San Francisco, and on and on and ON?

Fraking idiots would rather play masters of the Universe, sewing hatred, fear, isolationism, racism, drug proliferation and more.

If humans make it to a planet, and try cowboy, expansionist diplomacy, I hope the first crossed, violated other-worlder bombs humans back to proto-protozoa. Maybe re-write the human DNA.

Space and the Cosmos are beautiful. The oceans are wondrous. The forest and all the Earth has to offer are mind-bogglingly mesmerizing, and we temporary residents allow it to be plundered, destroyed and made non-renewable within our lifetimes or our great-great-great-GREAT x10^3 grand children's lifetimes.

Yes Stephen, you're a talented, inspiration, eminent human being, but I wish you could enlighten some of the frakin idiots down on Terra Firma. Please don't again preach the colonization message (or allow suppression of any of your clean up Terra Firma messages I might have missed). There's too much dirt and connotation that will go with it. Humans won't be that enlightened for maybe another 3,000 years.

Thanks, Stephen

Captcha: untidy (hmmm....)

Re:I'm embarassed to ask, but-- (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17058658)

If you think so little of the human species, then might I be the first to suggest you remove yourself from it?

Re:I'm embarassed to ask, but-- (2, Insightful)

RsG (809189) | more than 7 years ago | (#17058850)

Humans won't be that enlightened for maybe another 3,000 years.
Humans will never be "enlightened". The term itself is meaningless - what would change? For all the variation between human cultures and eras, you still have no shortage of jerks ruining it for the rest of us.

Human nature isn't subject to fundamental change; merely the restraints upon it that have changed from time to time. Barring some sort of trans-human ascendancy (and I always thought the whole "singularity" idea was too far fetched), we'll always be that way.

That being said, you're falling into the trap of "first fix mankind's lot on Earth". This line of thinking says that things like space colonization or fundamental research should be postponed until such a time as things are alright here. Truth is, things will never be that way. People forget that the term "Utopia" literally means "no place".

We will never be perfect. We will never be without problems. That is a poor argument against space travel though; if anything it means we have even more reason not to put all our eggs in one basket. And the notion that a few dead rocks are going to be spoiled by human habitation is utter nonsense - a rock is a rock. Ecology can be damaged, geology cannot.

If humans make it to a planet, and try cowboy, expansionist diplomacy, I hope the first crossed, violated other-worlder bombs humans back to proto-protozoa. Maybe re-write the human DNA.
I seriously doubt we'll be colonizing another inhabited planet anytime soon. Not because I think intelligent life is unlikely, but rather because I seriously doubt we can get any further than our immediate neighboring systems, and it is unlikely that they house intelligent life. Barring an FTL drive, we're stuck at C or less - that makes in system travel possible, and nearby star systems eventually accessible, but rules out the galaxy at large.

copley medal (0, Flamebait)

bl8n8r (649187) | more than 7 years ago | (#17055402)

Hoo boy.. wait till the RIAA hears about it. Bet he gets sued for copleying stuff he didn't downleyload.

Bum bum BUUUUMMM (5, Funny)

Beek Dog (610072) | more than 7 years ago | (#17055488)

In space, no one can hear your voice synthesizer...

Re:Bum bum BUUUUMMM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17056148)

Actually according to Steven, they can because "information flows out of a black hole" and we all know the light-wave duality of sound is asymptotically congruent to the doppler effect.

That and Star Trek.

Re:Bum bum BUUUUMMM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17057924)

Has Hawking really done diddly squat? I looked at the math, and while I am not ALL that
good at the 'higher' forms, it looks lackluster. Calculus as much as I could stand and
tensor anaylisis, etc. Math is not easy, but once grasped, not that hard to check. I find
he wrote a book that was a waste of trees. What has he REALLY done?

I suspect very little. So he is in a wheelchair and does math. What has he really done?
I'd give Sagan more credit than I'd give Hawking. What PRECISELY has he done to make the
universe more understandable?

Did he get a Nobel Prize when I was not looking????

Star Trek (1)

GillBates0 (664202) | more than 7 years ago | (#17055538)

Hawking: Ideas in "Star Trek" not that far fetched. My next goal is to go into space.

Well, that shouldn't be tough with a With a couple of warp engines tied to his chair.

(Sorry Dr. Hawking, I do respect and admire you inspite of that seemingly crass joke.)

Re:Star Trek (1)

lilfields (961485) | more than 7 years ago | (#17056050)

He has already strafed jumped his way into space, he is a fucking Quakemaster. /give flight

Big Bizang (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17057932)

>>My next goal is to go into space.

As deserving as he is, I imagine that with his health condition and his delicate physical state even a transatlantic flight is an ordeal. Space travel? No way. Sorry.

(Warp engine on a wheelchair? As a kid I used to put D Estes rocket engines in potatoes and launch them. Not pretty. I image trajectory would be roughly similar.)

A donut shaped universe? (2, Funny)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#17055540)

Stephen Hawking's theories of a donut shaped universe intrigue me, but I heard he stole them from someone else. D'oh!

Re:A donut shaped universe? (2, Funny)

measured_flo (799013) | more than 7 years ago | (#17055766)

Mmmmmm, chocolate covered universe......(drool)

Re:A donut shaped universe? (1)

Clazzy (958719) | more than 7 years ago | (#17058894)

"Who is The Journal of Quantum Physics going to believe?"

Forgive me for the obligatory Futurama quote there, you know it had to be done.

Sorry, Dr. Hawking (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17055558)

You are a great scientist and all, but there's no way in hell we'll be sending cripples into space.

*blink* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17055678)

I really hope I'm not the only person who read that as "Cosplay Award".

Re:*blink* (1)

Jello B. (950817) | more than 7 years ago | (#17055862)

Even the best of us are furries, it seems.

Re:*blink* (1)

Kamineko (851857) | more than 7 years ago | (#17056106)

I did a double take too: I'm sure that ol' Hawking wasn't in Coldplay.

Sorry, can't read "Stephen Hawking" anymore w/o... (5, Funny)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | more than 7 years ago | (#17055702)

Sorry, can't read "Stephen Hawking" anymore without hearing "...and all my shootings be drive-by's..." in my head. (You down with entropy? Yeah you know me.)

Re:Sorry, can't read "Stephen Hawking" anymore w/o (2, Funny)

Beek Dog (610072) | more than 7 years ago | (#17056058)

From MC Hawkings FAQ's:

Q: The song E=mc Hawking contains the line, "my power is my mass times the speed of light squared."

Even a first year physics student in high school knows that energy (not power) is mass times the speed of light squared. Power (the rate of energy) is mass times the speed of light squared, divided by time.

If the song lyric were true, time would be constant and, it goes without saying, the universe would collapse upon itself. Given that this has not occurred, the statement must be incorrect.

A: As I indicated in the above FAQ, I am not a physicist. So, if I had written the song the error could be attributed to simple ignorance. However, since MC Hawking wrote the tune there must be another explanation. Therefore, I passed this question on the MC Hawking himself. He had this to say:

Yo! Fuck you bitch. You wanna to step to the Hawkman on physics? You're in my house now punk! Check it, the rhyme doesn't say that power is mass times the speed of light squared, it says that my power is mass times the speed of light squared.

The song also says that, "E stands for energy, yo that's me...". So, my power is energy motherfucker.

Therefore, the equation can be expressed thusly (where e=energy, m=mass, c=the speed of light and x=my power):

x=mc2 AND x=e THEREFORE e=mc2.

Step-off bitch!

I laughed for hours, then spent a week trying to explain to other people why it was funny...

And all I can hear is (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 7 years ago | (#17056872)

"Oh yes, oh yes, put it in my mouth" ...

(family guy)

Re:Sorry, can't read "Stephen Hawking" anymore w/o (1)

Lord_Dweomer (648696) | more than 7 years ago | (#17060504)

And I can't read his name anymore without a Simpsons flashback.

(Computerized Voice) "If you are looking for trouble, then you have found it."

Re:Sorry, can't read "Stephen Hawking" anymore w/o (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 7 years ago | (#17061234)

My personal favourite MC Hawking lyrics are from the same song - F*ck the creationists:

"Fuck the damn creationists, those bunch of dumb-ass bitches,
every time I think of them my trigger finger itches.
They want to have their bullshit, taught in public class,
Stephen J. Gould should put his foot right up their ass." ...and...

"Fucking punk ass creationists trying to set scientific thought back 400 years.
Fuck that!
If them superstitious motherfuckers want to have that kind of party,
I'm going to put my dick in the mashed potatoes."

I still have trouble stopping myself from laughing out loud when I read that.

Universe in a nutshell.. (1)

zzottt (629458) | more than 7 years ago | (#17055804)

Great book.. Took me forever to read it though.
I would read a page take a day to think about it and then have to reread it just to make sure I understood that part. I would totally recommend it.

Space Colonies: A Waste of Resources? (0, Flamebait)

SuperMario666 (588666) | more than 7 years ago | (#17055888)

Professor Hawking reiterated his previous comments that man must colonize other planets.

Wouldn't it make more sense to spend the billions (trillions?) of dollars needed to put people on other planets on improving the lives of people on this particular planet? I'd rather have, say, clean drinking water for all of Africa than a permanent population of couple dozen shivering and calorie-starved Martians or Mooninites.

Re:Space Colonies: A Waste of Resources? (3, Informative)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 7 years ago | (#17056046)

Wouldn't it make more sense to spend the billions (trillions?) of dollars needed to put people on other planets on improving the lives of people on this particular planet?


Saying that the former is essential is not saying that efforts should not expended on the latter. And, in fact, getting to the point where people can productively and sustainably live on other planets requires lots and lots of fairly generally applicable basic research that would do much to enable new ways of improving life on this planet.

Re:Space Colonies: A Waste of Resources? (1)

kenodi (880090) | more than 7 years ago | (#17058920)

When we will be able to reach planets outside of our solar system, ... by that time, the poverty will be eradicated.

Re:Space Colonies: A Waste of Resources? (1)

EMeta (860558) | more than 7 years ago | (#17056176)

There's a lot of resourses to go around in this world. A very small amount of human productivity goes into providing basic needs (food, shelter, clean water, internet, Zelda sequals, etc.). Even the U.S., by far mostly a service industry country, still exports more food than we import. So we can afford to have some lofty goals. Yes, helping less luckily born humans shrould certainly be one of those priorities, , but even after that there's a bit more left over. I think science and space exploration (and yes, colonization) is one of the better uses of that money.

Getting resources diverted to other issues is a completely different question though. If you want a better target,everyone in the world could have been given the access to clean drinking water for the price the U.S. government is paying to have ousted a really rather small-time megalomaniac who was harming far less of his people than the resulting, foreseeable mess.

Re:Space Colonies: A Waste of Resources? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17056198)

You can spend trillions of dollars giving water to people in Africa and they will still need water. If you spend that Trillion dollars on sending people to Mars you will then be able to give each village in Africa a free hydrogen fuel cell that will produce water and electricity.

Re:Space Colonies: A Waste of Resources? (3, Insightful)

dkone (457398) | more than 7 years ago | (#17056206)

I think his comment goes a bit further then his one sentence reiteration, I believe one of his main points is that he thinks that mankind should not all be on the same planet to ensure propagation.

Let's say we clean this planet to the standards you refer to, then everyone is happy until a large meteor hits the planet and either wipes out mankind or our civilization (along with its technical ability to go into space).

He is thinking much deeper then a knee jerk liberal reaction to global warming and polution.

DK

Re:Space Colonies: A Waste of Resources? (1)

Lord_Dweomer (648696) | more than 7 years ago | (#17060516)

Bingo. Its not a question of IF Earth gets wiped out. Its a question of WHEN. And yes, it probably won't be happening in the foreseeable future for us, but it could really happen at any time and there's not a damn thing we could do if a large enough meteor was heading our way. In any event, when you're talking about the survival of a species, its best not to leave things to chance.

Although personally I think we'll all kill ourselves in stupid wars before we get enough people off this blasted rock to seed a new world.

Re:Space Colonies: A Waste of Resources? (4, Insightful)

tnk1 (899206) | more than 7 years ago | (#17056384)

Honestly, people already spend billions on developing countries. The problem with developing countries and poverty isn't an issue of money or even time. Its a matter of getting people to work together.

Fact is, food is cheap, but getting it to the parts of Africa that need it isn't. Why? The transport system sucks. Why does the transport system suck? Because the African governments are corrupt or the area is filled with warlords who *want* people to starve in genocidal proportions.

You can throw money all day long at a place like Africa today, and all you will end up with is people like Idi Amin or Mobutu Sese Seko, who get just incredibly rich off of aid money and bribes that should be used to develop infrastructure. The people will continue to starve or die of AIDS. Looking at Uganda under Yoweri Museveni (who is now looking a little of the dictator himself), you saw a very real campaign against AIDS that *worked* not because we dumped a billion dollars on Uganda, but because the government and people worked on the problem.

Space, while not perhaps as pressing a goal, is still somewhere we really do need to go, and it is a place where there is a lot of room to throw money around and you will still get a result. What Africa needs is a new mindset, and peace, and simply pushing money at it doesn't help peace. Not with the corruption that thrives off of it.

Re:Space Colonies: A Waste of Resources? (1)

metlin (258108) | more than 7 years ago | (#17059092)

You bring up a great point. Spending money is not the solution to these problems.

Amartya Sen [wikipedia.org] , who won the Nobel prize in economics showed that even such things as famine are man-made. The way to solve these problems is not by throwing large sums of money but rather by a grassroots movement. Which needs to be triggered by the people.

Unless the people themselves inherently want change, it is not going to happen. They would need to invest in education, infrastructure, etc. and do something about their problems (as opposed to, say, buy guns to fuck their neighbour over or invest it in showing how their god is powerful than their neighbour's god or whatever). Until that happens, the problems are not going to go away.

This is why all the problems -- the ones in Africa, the ones in middle east and just about every part of the world -- aren't going to magically disappear. The only way that this is going to happen is if people inherently want to change.

And waiting on them to change is ridiculous, because then you are lowering yourself to the lowest common denominator (i.e. you can wait on me for all I care, in the meanwhile I am going to pray to my tin god and kill my neighbours) or you could go ahead and raise the bar (i.e. you folks can do whatever you want, but we are going to do all these wonderful things, catch up or be left behind).

I do not know about the rest of you, but personally I'd rather do the latter.

Re:Space Colonies: A Waste of Resources? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17056476)

I think you are kinda missing the point of what he is saying. At our growth rate, it will become essential for us to go either into space to new worlds. According to http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/world.html [census.gov] It took us roughly forty years to double from 3 billion to 6 billion. Assume we create more medicines, etc over time. Assume also that birth control is used by more people and the overal growth rate for the world say drops to..... I don't know... a doubling time of 50 years. Slightly slower.

Now say the Earth is at half maximum capacity in the future. If those people have children the way their parents did, then in fifty years the population will double and the Earth will be full. In another fifty years, they will need a second Earth to house all the people. In another fifty years, four Earths. I think that's what he is really trying to get across.

That is to say eventually we will either face famine, war, etc as the Earth simply becomes too populated and is drained of its resources, or we must escape to the cosmos. And honestly, this is probably the most far out reason of why we should go to other planets. There are a lot cooler reasons like simple exploration and things like that.

Re:Space Colonies: A Waste of Resources? (2, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#17056910)

I think you are kinda missing the point of what he is saying. At our growth rate, it will become essential for us to go either into space to new worlds.

Well, then I hope we invent teleportation, too. Even with multiple space elevators and an unlimited space ship carrying capacity you'd be hard-pressed to move a substantial portion of the current population of the planet off of it.

I think what he's saying is more that if we colonize other planets, it's harder for our race to disappear. Just colonizing other planets in the solar system means that an extinction level event is no longer just one rock.

Re:Space Colonies: A Waste of Resources? (1)

RsG (809189) | more than 7 years ago | (#17058432)

As the post above me pointed out, we'll never solve our population problems with space travel. It's like trying to move a huge pile of sand with tweezers.

We can acquire more resources off-world (the asteroid belt would be a good starting point), which will help matters some. But fundamentally, space exploration and overpopulation are unrelated problems. Advancing in one will not solve the other.

Apart from that, I'd also point out that projecting a trend indefinitely will almost always lead you to the wrong conclusion. For one thing, in the case of population growth, wealthy countries have slowed to around replacement fertility. Ergo, if we could imagine a world in which current third world nations became first world ones, the rate of population growth would level off. A well off population with access to modern medicine doesn't have as many kids as a poverty stricken one in which people die young, breed fast, and rely on their children's labor to make ends meat.

If you want practical, self interested reasons for space exploration, think survival of the species, and access to resources elsewhere in our star system. The former from moving some of our eggs to other baskets, and the latter from bringing the wealth of the system home.

Re:Space Colonies: A Waste of Resources? (1)

ExFCER (1001188) | more than 7 years ago | (#17059914)

..."off-world"...

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe.
Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion.
I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate.
All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.
Time to die."

ROY BATTY

Sorry that was a troll. More on topic, kudos to Hawking's....

With his ability through writing help to communicate complex scientific ideas to the masses he has made a significant contribution to science. Is that worthy of an award...yes.

The Copley award? Only his peers can tell and they seem to believe his efforts should be rewarded.

When /. polls...if we need to get off this blue marble my vote will yes.

Re:Space Colonies: A Waste of Resources? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17056570)

Hear Hear. Someone talking sense - the same could be said of all the money spent on advertising the latest gadgets.
You know, we worry about the size of storage in our MP3 player or that our OS might be a bit slow due to the CPU etc being over a year old and so spend a small fortune on upgrades.
A child in some parts of this world would simply like a bowl to eat grain out of, or may wonder what clean drinking water tastes like.
The Professor is insightful (like this post) and he knows what the rest of our best scientists know - we've reached the tipping point and kicked it out of the way in our greedy don't-give-a-damn world.

Re:Space Colonies: A Waste of Resources? (1)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 7 years ago | (#17056592)

Wouldn't it make more sense to spend the billions (trillions?) of dollars needed to put people on other planets on improving the lives of people on this particular planet?

Wait, all we have to do is spend money to solve poverty once and for all? Good lord, why didn't anyone think of this before?

Seriously, if it were just a matter of mere money, all of our problems would've been solved a long time ago. The problem is that you can't pay people to be responsible citizens. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Re:Space Colonies: A Waste of Resources? (4, Insightful)

djp928 (516044) | more than 7 years ago | (#17056600)

Would you rather spend the money increasing the number of mission critical servers in your data center, or creating a hot site so you can survive a catastrophic accident at the main site?

It's all about offsite backups, man.

-- Dave

Re:Space Colonies: A Waste of Resources? (1)

HolyCrapSCOsux (700114) | more than 7 years ago | (#17057056)

I wish I had mod points. That is easily the most concise analogy I have seen in a loooong time here on slashdot!

Re:Space Colonies: A Waste of Resources? (1)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 7 years ago | (#17056718)

Think eggs in baskets, then you get the idea why we need to spread out.

Re:Space Colonies: A Waste of Resources? (1)

dick pubes (963843) | more than 7 years ago | (#17057578)

Especially in this case, where you have a basket of eggs that can't stop eating each other.

Re:Space Colonies: A Waste of Resources? (1)

jlarocco (851450) | more than 7 years ago | (#17059562)

Think eggs in baskets, then you get the idea why we need to spread out.

I've never understood why people think like that.

Yeah, some day humans may be wiped out by war, disease, a comet or something else, but who cares? Life goes on, just not ours.

I'm not saying it's a waste of time to colonize other planets, or that it's not cool, but it seems kind of silly to think of doing it to save the population.

Re:Space Colonies: A Waste of Resources? (1)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 7 years ago | (#17060582)

but it seems kind of silly to think of doing it to save the population.

Uh, what? I know space travel and colonizing other planets is not a trivial task, but it is certainly within our current, not to mention potential future, abilities. Not to mention that by simply colonizing another planet successfully, we exponentially raise the chances for the long-term survival of the human race. You might not care, but it's a worthwile goal and hopefully there's enough people who agree to help make this happen.

Re:Space Colonies: A Waste of Resources? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17056836)

Wouldn't it make more sense to spend the billions (trillions?) of dollars needed to put people on other planets on improving the lives of people on this particular planet? I'd rather have, say, clean drinking water for all of Africa than a permanent population of couple dozen shivering and calorie-starved Martians or Mooninites.


And what good will spending all the money here do if we have exhausted all the natural resources? No more fossil fuels, no timber, no food (at least not enough to support anything more than people within a few days walk).

Depending on who you listen to the max capacity of the earth is somewhere between 8 and 12 Billion people.. given the current growth rates we are likely to
reach that within the next century, barring a major pandemic.

So which do you prefer making life comfortable for everyone now and going extinct within the next century or not everyone is confortable but the human race survives but reducing the load on the planet ?

Re:Space Colonies: A Waste of Resources? (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 7 years ago | (#17060338)

One thing has absolutely nothing to do with the other. There's no monetary limitation preventing Africans from having clean drinking water, or, put another way, why do you think more money will solve the drinking water problem? Trillions of dollars have AREADY been spent on such things, and it hasn't solved the problem.

      Brett

Re:Space Colonies: A Waste of Resources? (2, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#17060840)

I'd rather have, say, clean drinking water for all of Africa than a permanent population of couple dozen shivering and calorie-starved Martians or Mooninites.

And that is why Hawkings is who he is, and why you are who you are. He is trying to look ahead to the time when the earth, or even just the major life forms (human being one of the prominents) WILL be wiped out. While you, OTH, want what is and will always be unobtainable.

Many years ago (~35), I thought that communism was an interesting form of gov. Problem was, that there never has been a communist gov. There were attempts to set them up, but power mongers come along and take hold. Hitler "created" an enemy in the jews and later in other nations. Along the way, he built up the military, ran up a HUGE deficit, and slowly started taking away rights from the citizens. Of course, it turned out that most likely, Hitler arranged a serious of incidents that encouraged the citizens to turn away from liberties and worry about their security. The same thing happened in USSR with Stalin, and in China with Mao. In fact, this approach can and will happen in any country where they allow their leaders to do things quietly or allow them to get by with illegal actions. The problem is that no matter the intention, some new leader will come along and invent new enemies and even engineer things to go their way, such as say, trading hostages for weapons prior to being the head leader or invading a country on false pretext of nuclear weapons( It is for these reason I became a libertarian).

Hawkings has it right. We should be concerned about the long term survivability of mankind rather than the short term survival of a man.

The human race will not survive (3, Funny)

wsherman (154283) | more than 7 years ago | (#17055926)

I agree that transferring someone aspect of human consciousness off the planet has an aesthetic appeal. It would just feel wrong if, after all these years of striving, the human race just totally ceased to exist.

On the other hand, it is highly unlikely that the human race, in it's present form, will survive more than another few hundred years.

One possibility is that the human race will design a new species and raise this new species as it's children allowing itself to die off. This new species will look and act superficially human but it will be sufficiently different genetically that interbreeding with present day humans would be impossible. The main impetus for designing this new species will be to improve on and correct defects of existing humans. This species will be noticeably smarter and stronger and healthier.

Another possibility is that people won't bother with creating a new species at all and will instead transfer their consciousness to something like a computer. Everyone's consciousness will be sufficiently connected that the result will essentially be one collective consciousness.

A final possibility is that humanity will prove beyond any doubt that there is no purpose to its existence and simply allow itself to cease to exist.

Either way, enjoy it while you can - because you are likely to be one of the last generations of the human race in it's present form.

Re:The human race will not survive (1)

Cecil (37810) | more than 7 years ago | (#17056076)

I will have my consciousness implanted in a computer. As long as it happens to be the computer controlling a mech or at least some kind of mobile robot. And I certainly won't join any sort of collective consciousness. My consciousness comes with firewall software built in.

Cyborgs, yay! *stomp stomp stomp*

Re:The human race will not survive (2, Funny)

mmell (832646) | more than 7 years ago | (#17056214)

Not against these [exitmundi.nl] odds!

Re:The human race will not survive (1)

Chosen Reject (842143) | more than 7 years ago | (#17057216)

It would just feel wrong if, after all these years of striving, the human race just totally ceased to exist.

Yeah, tell that to all the other civilizations this universe has seen come and go.

Re:The human race will not survive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17060362)

I suspect it's rather more likely that as soon as we can build robots that can satisfy men sexually as well as natural women can, and make them affordable, the human race will start having some problems.

Re:The human race will not survive (1)

rat10177sd (963462) | more than 7 years ago | (#17061254)

I've been saying for the last few years that it's about time for the Universe to throw a couple rocks at the earth and give the rats and cockroaches there turn to mess up the planet. They can't screw it up any worse than we have.

Re:The human race will not survive (1)

Fengpost (907072) | more than 7 years ago | (#17062626)

Mod parent as +5 Existantial

MOD Parent insightful (1)

LunarCrisis (966179) | more than 7 years ago | (#17062696)

Yes. It's True.

Colonisation (4, Insightful)

VoidCrow (836595) | more than 7 years ago | (#17055970)

I think we should be focusing on colonising the *space* between the planets, using the asteroid belts as a source of raw materials. But, yes, he's dead right.

Space Colonies: A Waste of Good Planets? (1)

trongey (21550) | more than 7 years ago | (#17056138)

Look around. Is this something you want to see done to every planet that can be made marginally habitable?
And before you say it - no we haven't learned from our mistakes here. We're still doing the same old stuff. It's almost certain that we would molest every other planet just like we do this one.
Space exploration is very educational and entertaining. It might even prove to have some real benefits of some sort, but colonization is a very bad idea.
Humans are an insidious parasite that needs to stay quarantined on this one planet that we've already screwed over.

Re:Space Colonies: A Waste of Good Planets? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17056316)

Look around. Is this something you want to see done to every planet that can be made marginally habitable?

What's the worst that could happen? We make it *more* lifeless? ;)

Re:Space Colonies: A Waste of Good Planets? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17056502)

Better for something conscious to use, than to leave to a bunch of rocks. It could be worse, we could leave it to the ferengi(how can firefox consider this a misspelled word?).

Re:Space Colonies: A Waste of Good Planets? (2, Insightful)

djp928 (516044) | more than 7 years ago | (#17056904)

The species is more important than the planet. It's more important than all planets. Continued existence is the primary goal of all life. Some would argue there *is* no other goal. I have no responsibilty to any planet except as it pertains to keeping me and my species alive and thriving. That is the way of life. Parasites who destroy their hosts are inefficient parasites. They will either adapt and evolve into a less destructive parasite, or they will die out. What they will not do is simply stop doing what they do, stop trying to further their species.

Re:Space Colonies: A Waste of Good Planets? (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 7 years ago | (#17056990)

Look around. Is this something you want to see done to every planet that can be made marginally habitable?

Yes.

Humans are an insidious parasite that needs to stay quarantined on this one planet that we've already screwed over.

This is one of the most absurd statements I've ever read.

Re:Space Colonies: A Waste of Good Planets? (2, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#17056992)

Look around. Is this something you want to see done to every planet that can be made marginally habitable?

Short answer: Yes.

Longer answer: Our view of the universe is human-centric. The only reason you even notice the pollution is because it's impacting you. Is it really better if the most versatile form of life we know of becomes extinct than polluting some planets? Anyway, every planet in our solar system is lifeless on any kind of meaningful scale, esp. Mars, the best candidate for terraforming as far as we know so far.

Meanwhile, we are probably very far from the point at which we can colonize planets in other systems, and I suspect that we WILL have either learned our lesson or destroyed ourselves before we get that far. Of course, little prevents a slide back into barbarism, either.

Re:Space Colonies: A Waste of Good Planets? (2, Interesting)

trongey (21550) | more than 7 years ago | (#17057432)

...Longer answer: Our view of the universe is human-centric. The only reason you even notice the pollution is because it's impacting you. Is it really better if the most versatile form of life we know of becomes extinct than polluting some planets?

Pollution? That was here long before humans, and will still be here long after we're gone. How about urbanization, paving, mining, deforestation, irradiation, damming, habitat destruction, species exploitation. There's a long list of bad things we do to this planet that goes way beyond pollution.
Everything we do that is vaguely beneficial to another species is either accidental, or an attempt to repair damage we've already done.
I don't see how versatility imparts any special value to a species. If so then there are plenty of other species that can lay claim to that distinction - especially some of the microscopic ones that we put a lot of resources into destroying. Humans are certainly one of the most invasive members of the macrofauna, and we've demonstrated that we can inflict damage on a much broader scale than any other species.

Anyway, every planet in our solar system is lifeless on any kind of meaningful scale,...

So you ran out and checked them all, and developed a meaningful scale for measuring life? Sounds like the wrong guy got the medal.

Re:Space Colonies: A Waste of Good Planets? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#17058256)

I don't see how versatility imparts any special value to a species.

Well, why don't you stop using your big brain, or stop walking on your hind legs, and let me know how that works out?

I don't see how versatility imparts any special value to a species. If so then there are plenty of other species that can lay claim to that distinction - especially some of the microscopic ones that we put a lot of resources into destroying.

The majority of your microscopic organisms can only survive under a very narrow range of conditions. Humans can make almost anyplace habitable. I don't think that's a very good example.

Anyway, every planet in our solar system is lifeless on any kind of meaningful scale,...
So you ran out and checked them all, and developed a meaningful scale for measuring life? Sounds like the wrong guy got the medal.

ho ho! you are so clever. I will now retire in disgrace.

Since this is obviously a value judgement, it's just an opinion. Barring a judgement from some deity, we can never establish an objective value for a meaningful quantity of or development in life.

Re:Space Colonies: A Waste of Good Planets? (1)

RsG (809189) | more than 7 years ago | (#17058262)

Pollution? That was here long before humans, and will still be here long after we're gone. How about urbanization, paving, mining, deforestation, irradiation, damming, habitat destruction, species exploitation. There's a long list of bad things we do to this planet that goes way beyond pollution.
That statement doesn't even begin to parse. Those things you list are pollution. Or were you working from the idea that "pollution" only referred to air and water contamination?

Side note, what the hell is "irradiation" doing on that list? I do not think that word means what you think it means.

So you ran out and checked them all, and developed a meaningful scale for measuring life? Sounds like the wrong guy got the medal.
Meaningful scale is irrelevant in this case. Simply put, most of the planets and other celestial bodies in this star system cannot support life at all. This isn't a question of looking under every rock and checking for every possible variation on organic chemistry. This is a question of basic environmental conditions.

The one major exception is Mars. And here, I would agree that we should look very carefully for life before considering anything as extreme as terraforming, but that's a long way off yet.

In any case, one cannot prove a negative; it should be easy to demonstrate Mars has life if indeed it does, and impossible to prove that it is totally lifeless. Life can be very small, and planets are very large. We can however prove that it is extremely unlikely that there is life on Mars, and that's good enough for me.

Re:Space Colonies: A Waste of Good Planets? (1)

Hotawa Hawk-eye (976755) | more than 7 years ago | (#17060044)

Simply put, most of the planets and other celestial bodies in this star system cannot support life at all.

You left four words off near the end of your sentence. The other celestial bodies in this star system cannot support life as we know it at all. Scientists have found life forms in volcanic vents [noaa.gov] on the sea floor, where the temperature can reach 400 degrees Celcius. Who's to say that similar life forms don't exist somewhere on Venus, for instance?

Re:Space Colonies: A Waste of Good Planets? (2, Insightful)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 7 years ago | (#17062396)

When it comes to that, you sfall back to your most basic survival instincts. As a species, we should do what we need to survive. There's no "right" or "wrong" in it. If survival means terraforming and "polluting" a planet, so what? Even if that planet has life that will have to die to make way for us, then so be it.

YUO FAIL IT?! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17056184)

of OpEnBsD. How

Is this related to their hit "The Scientist"? (2, Funny)

BenJeremy (181303) | more than 7 years ago | (#17056280)

Sometimes a little too political, but still a great group. Nice to see them give the nod to Hawking!

"Yellow" was pretty good, too.

Is it just me? (2, Funny)

Kabuthunk (972557) | more than 7 years ago | (#17056340)

Ok, is it just me, or did anyone else first mis-read the title as saying "Stephen Hawking Receives Cosplay Medal"?

I must be tired...

Re:Is it just me? (2, Funny)

capsteve (4595) | more than 7 years ago | (#17056666)

yeah, i was thinking "what cosplay award did hawkings win? possibly best scientist in a wheelchair costume award?"

Re:Is it just me? (2, Funny)

NeoBlazeSJX (943994) | more than 7 years ago | (#17059816)

Don't underestimate the man. He makes for a very convincing Professor X, though its nothing compared to his Christopher Reeve costume.

Re:Is it just me? (2, Funny)

JonWan (456212) | more than 7 years ago | (#17056796)

Oh great, now i've got the image of Stephen Hawkins dressed like Sailor Moon stuck in my head! (shudder)

Re:Is it just me? (1)

RichMeatyTaste (519596) | more than 7 years ago | (#17057130)

Nope. I mean yes. :P

Re:Is it just me? (1)

rrkap (634128) | more than 7 years ago | (#17058434)

No, I misread it as Stephen Hawking Completely Metal and was about to welcome our new cyborg overlord.

I think that's the worst thing I've ever heard. (1)

straponego (521991) | more than 7 years ago | (#17059466)

How marvelous.

Why? (2, Interesting)

Apraxhren (964852) | more than 7 years ago | (#17057104)

I always hear this lecture about colonizing to preserve the human race. They bring up the usual asteroid destroying the earth and such, but I've never heard a reason for why the it is necessary to preserve humans. Last time I checked the universe does fine without our input.

Re:Why? (1)

cockroach2 (117475) | more than 7 years ago | (#17057898)

Well, WE certainly can't. So it *is* in OUR interest to colonize...

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17062288)

I don't intend to be snide but I say you should stop interpreting solely from your own point of view and chosen assumptions and realize that what might hold true for you and your life (or me and my life for that matter) might not be universally correct.

Lichen won't be able to spread multicellular life to the rest of our solar system (or beyond) so it boils down to this: do you want more life or less life? You seem to have chosen less life and included yourself; why should anyone or anything care about that opinion since you would be gone if it came into effect?

Re:Why? (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 7 years ago | (#17062366)

Who cares about how universe does with or without us? We should care how we - that is, the human race - do.

not for niceness... (1)

TheCoop1984 (704458) | more than 7 years ago | (#17057346)

I'm currently an undergrad at cambridge (UK, not US...) and, although I've never seen him, from what I've heard he certainly didn't get this medal for being a nice person. A brilliant astrophysicist he may be, but he is certainly not one of the more sociably types. Although I suspect that's for case for most world-famous scientists.

Re:not for niceness... (1)

kb1cvh (88565) | more than 7 years ago | (#17058304)

He's probably an introvert like many successful scientists -e.g. Einstein.
See http://www.typelogic.com/ [typelogic.com]

Re:not for niceness... (1)

The_Wilschon (782534) | more than 7 years ago | (#17058358)

Leon Lederman is quite personable. I met him one day on the 15th floor of Wilson Hall at Fermilab last spring. Just one example. Perhaps it is just theorists who are testy. (This coming from an experimentalist... :)

Re:not for niceness... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17062808)

What do people expect from 'famous' people? Oh my God! He didn't even look at me! What a rude person...

So what? OK, he's not a nice person, who gives a shit, he's an astrophysicist not a caretaker. Fuck you.

Does he have to return his awards if he's wrong? (1)

pln2bz (449850) | more than 7 years ago | (#17058264)

It reminds me of those guys that got the Nobel Physics prize for measuring the cosmic microwave background and attributing it to the Big Bang remnants. If they turn out to be wrong, do *they* have to relinquish their prizes?

I suppose that Hawking though is a little bit safer. Tricky bastard proposed a phenomenon that cannot possibly be observed ...

Oh, *that* medal! (1)

CaptainCarrot (84625) | more than 7 years ago | (#17058524)

On first glance I read the award as "Cosplay Medal" and I could only imagine that he had worn a particularly fine Dalek costume to a con or something.

Re:Oh, *that* medal! (1)

bar-agent (698856) | more than 7 years ago | (#17060458)

On first glance I read the award as "Cosplay Medal"

Yeah, me too. I had a moment of pure cosmic horror... *rimshot*

Do you want a freakin' medal?!! (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 7 years ago | (#17058626)

Oh, I see that you do. Here you go.

Cosplay Medal (1)

rockstar1o9 (951700) | more than 7 years ago | (#17059276)

Am I the only one who glanced at the title and read it as "Stephen Hawking Recieves COSPLAY Medal"?? Definitely had to do a double-take on that one.
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