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Hawking: 'Powerful Beam of Light' Could Help Humans Colonize Next Star System

Image: Hawking: 'Powerful Beam of Light'  Could Help Humans Colonize Next Star System
 Scientist Stephen Hawking (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

By    |   Thursday, 22 Jun 2017 09:08 PM

Stephen Hawking says as humans explore other worlds to inhabit, they may need to get there on "a powerful beam of light."

In remarks this week at Starmus, an arts and science festival in Norway, Hawking restated his belief that humans need to explore space to avoid the dangers of our own finite world – and then described how we could harness the power of Einstein's theory of relativity to get to distant planets, Live Science reported.

"Shouldn't we be content to be cosmic sloths, enjoying the universe from the comfort of Earth? The answer is, no," Hawking said, Live Science reported. "The Earth is under threat from so many areas that it is difficult for me to be positive."

"When we have reached similar crises in our history, there has usually been somewhere else to colonize," he added. "Columbus did it in 1492 when he discovered the New World. But now there is no new world. No Utopia around the corner."

Though it's easiest to target the moon and Mars for colonization, it's not practical, Hawking noted. A more promising idea is to explore some of the planets in the vicinity of our nearest stellar neighbor, Proxima Centauri, at a distance of about 4.5 light-years from Earth.

A planet circling it, called Proxima Centauri b., may be similar to Earth in a few respects, Hawking said – but we'll never know unless we get there, and using chemical propulsions, it'd take 3 million years, Live Science reported.

"To go faster would require a much higher exhaust speed than chemical rockets can provide — that of light itself," Hawking said, Live Science reported.

"A powerful beam of light from the rear could drive the spaceship forward. Nuclear fusion could provide 1 percent of the spaceship's mass energy, which would accelerate it to a tenth of the speed of light."

According to Live Science, Hawking, along with physicist and billionaire Yuri Milner, has founded a company called Breakthrough Starshot to make interstellar travel a reality.

"Human colonization on other planets is no longer science fiction," Hawking said. "It can be science fact. … If humanity is to continue for another million years, our future lies in boldly going where no one else has gone before."

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Stephen Hawking says as humans explore other worlds to inhabit, they may need to get there on "a powerful beam of light."In remarks this week at Starmus, an arts and science festival in Norway, Hawking restated his belief that humans need to explore space to avoid the...
stephen hawking, beam of light, help, humans, colonize, next star
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2017-08-22
Thursday, 22 Jun 2017 09:08 PM
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