Saturday, July 01, 2006

Hawking’s New World

Acclaimed British physicist Stephen Hawking arrived in Hong Kong a couple of weeks ago to a rock star's welcome, where tickets for his public lecture were sold out. The Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge (the same chair held by Isaac Newton) spoke to a crowd of 2500 at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology about one of his favorite subjects, the origin of the universe, and about a new interest, the human colonization of space.

Hawking said that scientists are finally getting close to understanding how the universe began. Despite having had some great successes, not everything is solved. We do not yet have good theoretical understanding of the observation of the expansion of the universe, he told an audience. Without such understanding, we cannot be sure of the future of the universe. New observational results and theoretical advances are coming in rapidly; cosmology is a very exciting subject.

We are getting close to answering these old questions: why are we here, where did we come from?

It seems that Hawking, a founder of superstring theory and a believer that space and time have no beginning and no end, is delving into the realm of metaphysics.

On the subject of space exploration, Hawking said the human race should prepare to leave an Earth that is at risk of being wiped out by a disaster. It is important for the human race to spread out into space for the survival of the species, Hawking said. Life on Earth is at the ever- increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as sudden global warming, nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus or other dangers we have not yet thought of.

He believes humans should settle in space, predicting a lunar settlement within 20 years and a Martian colony in 40, but we won't find anywhere as nice as Earth unless we go to another star system, added Hawking.

However, Alan Guth, professor of physics at MIT and inventor of the cosmological inflation theory, said Hawking's observations were something of a departure from his usual research. He added, I don't see the likely possibility within the next 50 years of technology making it easier to survive on Mars or on the moon than it would be to survive on earth.

Joshua Winn, an astrophysicist at MIT, agreed that the prospect of colonizing other planets is very far off. Hawking's work has been high energy theoretical physics, not astrophysics or global politics or anything like that, Winn added. He is certainly stepping outside his research domain.

Stepping even further outside his usual milieu, Hawking said he plans to team up with his daughter, 35-year- old novelist Lucy Hawking, to write a children's book about the universe aimed at the same age group as the Harry Potter books.

Above all, he joked, he wants to understand women.

Well, now the great man has gone too far. He’d best remain within the strings and loops and branes where his genius is at home.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually Hawking's not the originator of string theory. He's more of black hole, cosmology guy. Would recommend Edward Witten or Michael Green.

3:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

women are easy to understand: they want truthfulness, kindness and respect. Now the Universe is another thing.


8:42 PM  
Blogger Bill Lama said...

Thanks anonymous reader,
I graduated before strings were hatched. I remember it was SU3 and the Eightfold Way, Feynman diagrams and other constructs I can't remember. I'll check out Green and Witten.

Are you a physicist?

8:46 PM  
Blogger pappy said...

I thought strings was a resturant?
Happy Fourth

12:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So what is string theory

NOVA:"The Elegant Universe"

8:51 AM  

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