Sunday, December 03, 2006

Stephen Hawking and Star Trek

There's a sniff of disparagement in current media references to Hawking's current ideas being similar to those used in the science fiction stories. What the journalists are missing is that in the case of Star Trek the show's writers were aware enough of Hawking's theories to be able to incorporate them. This was also the case with Isaac Asimov's Laws Of Robotics.

Hawking even appeared in Star Trek: The next generation, as a hologram of himself (the only person to self-portray in the series).

Nothing should denigrate these words:
"The long-term survival of the human race is at risk, as long as it is confined to a single planet."

"Sooner or later disasters such as an asteroid collision or a nuclear war could wipe us out. But once we spread out into space, and establish independent colonies, our future should be safe. "

Hawking explained last week that if we used the technology that took the Apollo missions to the moon it would take us 50,000 years. However by utilising his theories and flying at a speed as close to that of light as is possibily within known physical laws, Hawking says that we could visit our nearest star in 6 years.

Due to the changed nature of time while travelling at such speeds the elapsed period perceived by the travellers would be less that the time experienced by the rest of the universe. I read an sf story once of two twins, one on earth and one travelling in space, talking to each other via video links. The travelling twin returned to earth many years after his brother died of old age.

In the episode of Star Trek, Hawking is shown the ship's Warp Drive, whiich allows it to travel faster than light. Hawking's line? "I'm working on that."


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