Humanity should focus its efforts on exploring other worlds that we might inhabit, and to get there, Earthlings may need to ride on a beam of light, famed physicist Stephen Hawking says.
Hawking made his remarks today (June 20) at Starmus, an arts and science festival in Norway whose advisory board he sits on. In his speech, he reiterated his belief that humans need to explore space to avoid the dangers of our own finite world. And then he described how humans could one day travel on a beam of light, harnessing the power of Einstein’s theory of relativity to reach mind-bogglingly distant planets. [8 Shocking Things We Learned from Stephen Hawking’s Book]
Earth in peril
The human imagination has led us to peer ever deeper into the universe with scientific tools, Hawking said. Yet despite this ability to investigate the most distant reaches of the universe without leaving our backyards, humans shouldn’t be content with this sedentary approach.
“Shouldn’t we be content to be cosmic sloths, enjoying the universe from the comfort of Earth? The answer is, no,” Hawking said in his address. “The Earth is under threat from so many areas that it is difficult for me to be positive.”
What’s more, humans are naturally curious explorers who are driven to push into the unknown. Hawking described the looming threats of a too-crowded world facing climate change, the collapse of animal species and the draining of physical resources. (Hawking has previously mentioned his conviction that humanity is doomed in the next millennium unless people can come up with an escape plan.)
“When we have reached similar crises in our history, there has usually been somewhere else to colonize. Columbus did it in 1492 when he discovered the New World. But now there is no new world. No Utopia around the corner,” Hawking said.
Explore the unknown
The easiest targets are the places closest to home: the moon and Mars, Hawking said in his Starmus address. The moon is nearby, but it’s small, has no liquid water…