Stephen Hawking, the celebrated theoretical physicist who just turned 74, made a dire prediction concerning humanity’s chances of survival.
The physicist considered one of the smartest men on the planet, revealed what our future holds during a conference hosted at the Oxford Union. According to Hawking, humanity will become extinct in a millennium if we do not find a way to colonize other planets.
However, this is not the first time Stephen Hawking reminded its hearers that the clock is ticking. On numerous occasions, the physicist told his audience that if humanity fails to discover another Earth-like planet and colonize it, then it’s the end of us.
When asked to elaborate on the potential factors that would ultimately lead to our downfall, the scientist brought up global warming and nuclear warfare. In addition, Hawking also said that another possible factor that could destroy the planet is out-of-control artificial intelligence.
Hawking emphasized that our only chance of escaping extinction is to seek out habitable planets and settle on them.
However gloomy things may be, there’s hope yet. Ever since 2009, when Kepler was launched, NASA wanted to tip the scales in humanity’s favor. Its mandate was and still is to seek out planets with conditions similar to our own green haven.
Kepler had to search high and low in the so-called Goldilocks Zone (an area of space where pressure and temperature are just about right to sustain life). After many years of searching, the probe identified Proxima Centauri B, an exoplanet orbiting Proxima Centauri, a red dwarf star.
Furthermore, according to the readings relayed by Kepler, Proxima Centauri B’s proximity to the red dwarf makes it a good candidate for future colonization missions. However, this isn’t anything like taking a trip to the Red Planet.
Admittedly, Proxima Centauri B is indeed closer to our own Solar System than other similar planets, but we are still separated by a distance of 4.2 light-years (40 trillion kilometers).
At our current level of technological development, a trip to Proxima Centauri B is not feasible. For example, New Horizon, the spacecraft launched by NASA in 2015, can achieve a top speed of 84,000 kilometers per hours, which means that it could reach the exoplanet in approximately 54,000 years.
On the other hand, Juno, another spacecraft launched by NASA, which has a top speed of 265,000 kilometers per second can shorten the trip by approximately 37,000 years. Unfortunately, it’s still a long time to spend in space.
For the moment, Stephen Hawking said to keep our heads up and to stay committed to our goal.
Image source: Flickr