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Colonies in space may be only hope, says Hawking

By Roger Highfield, Science Editor

(Filed: 16/10/2001)

THE human race is likely to be wiped out by a doomsday virus before the Millennium is out, unless we set up colonies in space, Prof Stephen Hawking warns today.

In an interview with The Telegraph, Prof Hawking, the world's best known cosmologist, says that biology, rather than physics, presents the biggest challenge to human survival.

"Although September 11 was horrible, it didn't threaten the survival of the human race, like nuclear weapons do," said the Cambridge University scientist.

"In the long term, I am more worried about biology. Nuclear weapons need large facilities, but genetic engineering can be done in a small lab. You can't regulate every lab in the world. The danger is that either by accident or design, we create a virus that destroys us.

"I don't think the human race will survive the next thousand years, unless we spread into space. There are too many accidents that can befall life on a single planet. But I'm an optimist. We will reach out to the stars."

Current theories suggest that space travel will be tedious, using spaceships travelling slower than light.

But Prof Hawking, Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge, says that a warp drive, of the kind seen in Star Trek, cannot be ruled out.

This method of space exploration and colonisation, apparently the stuff of science fiction, could be one possible escape from the human predicament.

Prof Hawking believes that genetic engineering could be used to "improve" human beings to meet the challenges of long duration space travel.

Cyborgs, humans with computers linked to their brains, will be needed to prevent intelligent computers taking over. "I think humans will have to learn to live in space," he said.

-- PHO (, October 16, 2001


With all due respect to Mr. Hawking; an article like this makes one wonder if Lou Gehrig's got the best of him.

-- Steve McClendon (, October 16, 2001.

I think he should stick to his specialty and stop philosophizing in general as if he was all wise and wonderful The human race is suffering from overpopulation and it will continue to aggravate as our population soars to new records annually.

Doesn't it alarm anybody that we've wiped out entire species of fish in the oceans to the point where its no longer commercially viable to take the boats out? Ho, hum, just another byproduct of our expanding population for which there is no zero population growth foreseeable in the future. I have hundreds of examples of what the onslaught of humanity is causing in our ONLY environment.

Hawking lost any credibility he might have had with me for the above statement. He was right about one thing, he should be worried about biology, but slightly off topic specifically.

-- Guy Daley (, October 16, 2001.

It certainly sounds nice, but I just simply do not see such a thing happening in time to spare us from a global crisis. Either we try to begin to improve conditions on our one and currently ONLY home NOW, or we may never make it to the stars....

-- NoNameYet (, October 22, 2001.

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