Lightspeed, Stephen Hawking

The curators wish to express their regret for the loss of one of Earth’s most prominent scientists.

Professor Stephen Hawking (ED 08/01/1942 – 14/03/2018) brought about huge scientific leaps for humankind, moving forward ideas about relativity, space-time, energy and quantum. Most celebrated for his discoveries concerning black holes and the energy they emit (known as Hawking Radiation), he contributed immensely to the progression of human science and the place of humankind within the known Universe, whilst keeping a healthy skepticism for the future. Concerning the fate of humanity, he is known to have said;

In a world that is in chaos politically, socially and environmentally, how can the human race sustain another 100 years?

Professor Hawking often expressed concern for humanity’s eagerness for space exploration and contacting other space-faring races – as well as the rise of Artificial Intelligence. He also acknowledged that the exponential growth of the human race necessitated inter-planetary colonialisation to ensure the survival of the human species. Put simply, Earth is simply not large enough to sustain a human population that is so large and has such wildly unchecked growth, both physically and technologically. Though Professor Hawking was predominantly a Theoretical Physicist, he raised many important philosophical questions about science, the nature of progress, and the ethics and consequences of the discoveries and inventions that have and continue to come to light.

Regardless of the future of humanity, there are many advances that Professor Hawking has made possible and, if those discoveries are used ethically and with care, he has ensured the possibility of a bright intergalactic future.

[image credits: NASA, ESA, and D. Coe, J. Anderson, and R. van der Marel (STScI)]

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