Physical Science - Other

Extinction of the Human Race

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"Extinction of the Human Race"
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Once again, Professor Hawking displays keen insight in the future of mankind and the need to escape Earth to guarantee survival of the species.  In reviewing his interview on Big Think, he shows migration to space as being Mankind's best chance to survive two different situations either or both which would result in the end of mankind with hundreds of years rather than thousands or millions.  The issue is the proverbial putting all of one's eggs in one basket or in this case, one planet.

The one scenario is due to not anticipating a cosmic event like a meteor or comet scoring a direct hit on Earth.  Even with today's advances in astronomy, detecting this situation in a timely manner would be difficult and once accepted, there isn't much we can do about it.  Science Fiction movies like Deep Impact trivialize the issue of trying to destroy something in space before it connects with Earth.  Even if we use the infamous nuclear warheads to blow the body up, how do we know the pieces will end up being small enough to burn up in Earth's atmosphere?  Or if the decision is to change the course of the comet, how do we know we can develop enough thrust to be successful? 

Finally, the prudent thing to do in this situation, is to evacuate the endangered location for a safer one.  Where would we go?  President Obama has abandoned the idea of creating a permanent colony on the Moon and no other nation has seen fit to do it on their own.  Even if we have a place, can you imagine the chaos of planetary evacuation?  The governmental officials weren't successful in getting everyone to leave New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina hit.

I would have to agree with Professor Hawking if this scenario was to occur, Mankind is doomed.

What about his other scenario, namely environmental destruction of Planet Earth due to Man?  Unfortunately I think this is more likely and in the opinion of many environmentalists, is already happening.  We dump millions of tons of Carbon Dioxide, Sulfur Dioxide, and other chemicals into the atmosphere every day.  We dump millions of tons of toxins into rivers and lakes and accumulate trash at a much faster rate then we can recycle or bury it.  The scariest waste is radioactive waste, primarily from nuclear power plants.  This can remain dangerous for tens of thousands of years before degrading to a point where it is non-toxic. 

To add to the excitement, there seems to be no agreed upon method to just store this waste.  Yucca Mountain in Nevada was selected in 1998 as such a site and after 12 years, has yet to have the 10 year plus construction project started to create the facility.  In the meantime, nuclear plants around the country are quietly storing this dangerous waste at their facilities with no clear cut plan on how to get rid of or where to have it stored.  It is Ironic the Obama administration that promised to promote new forms of energy that weren't dependent on fossil fuels, proposed in 2009 that Yucca Mountain wasn't a viable location and proposed eliminating all funding to create the facility, without designating an alternate site.  This prompted inquires from the Nuclear Regulatory Committee and there it sits to this day.  At the rate Mankind is screwing up the Earth with no one caring, I can see where as a species we can cease to exist within a few centuries.

So I think Professor Hawking is correct and for humans to remain on Earth, is to accept extinction of the species.  Not within million of years or hundreds of thousands of years but a more sobering hundreds of years.  Our only chance is to go to the stars and beyond.

More about this author: R Shimoda

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