Wish I'd Said It

Weeds are flowers too - once you get to know them.

- A. A. Milne

Monday, June 19, 2006

When Stephen Hawking Talks....

I've always been a bit of a smartass. My school teachers throughout the years would attest to that, as would my reddened palms from all the times I got the strap. Part of my problem was learning at a fairly early age that teachers weren't infallible, that indeed, they were sometimes wrong. The rest of the problem was telling them so, sometimes obliquely, like laughing when they made some serious point.

Over time though, I got a few teachers I respected very much. What I liked about them was the fact they were intelligent and they listened. When they disagreed, they did so respectfully. They didn't laugh at me when I said something dumb. I learned from them, not just about English, or Latin, but about life and relating to people. I felt shame when recalling some of those earlier teachers I'd laughed at.

As I aged, I learned I had a lot to be humble about. I wasn't nearly as bright as I'd once thought. My wattage was as a candle to some folks' high beams. And then there's the halogen brilliance of Stephen Hawking....

I spend very little time thinking about what he posits because it's way beyond my ken. Most of my thinking is admiration for his tenacity in staying alive despite struggling with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), a fatal wasting disease. I don't know the record for the length of time staying alive after diagnosis but he's got to be approaching it.

Anyway. I rely on other smart people who purport to understand what Hawking theorizes about to attest to his smartness. I concede it.

So when he says something that I can understand, I listen and I think about it.

Last week, in a news conference in Hong Kong, Hawking warned that the human race's survival as a species was dependent upon it seeking out other worlds to colonize. He believes the chances are that mankind will wipe itself out on earth within a hundred years.

He believes we could have a permanent colony on the moon within 20 years and on Mars within 40 - and that we should.

I think we gotta listen to the guy. I believe the US, Canada, Britain, France, Australia and other interested countries should get together, pool their resources, both scientific and monetary, and start making this happen.

Even if Hawking is wrong about earth's and mankind's demise, it's still the right thing to do. The pursuit of knowledge and exploration into the unknown brings out the best in us - it's at the heart of who we are.

Hawking is wheelchair-bound. He speaks with the help of a computer. His disease renders him totally immobile. Nobody is more earthbound than he.

Yet his mind and imagination are not tethered by the law of gravity. They are not encased by dimensional walls. I honestly believe that in a very real way, Stephen Hawking already lives "out there" and is beckoning the rest of us to follow.

I hope there's a few smartasses out there listening, nodding and preparing to do just that.


Esther Avila said...

Man will wipe themselves out in 100 years? Wow. Even with global warming and everything, that is so hard to imagine. One hundred years is just around the corner. That is scary.

Frank Baron said...

Well, it's not engraved in stone but it's at least thought-provoking. And yeah, a bit scary.

Anne C. Watkins said...

Stephen Hawking is so fascinating, and waaay over my head. What an amazing human being, in so very many ways.

On a semi-related note: A friend's mother died a few weeks ago from ALS after a long, terrible struggle. That's one hideous disease, let me tell you.

uniquematerial said...

I hate to disagree with someone 8x smarter than I am but I do disagree.

Human beings have managed to FU the most beautiful planet in our galaxy - so he thinks we should export our insanity?

I don't think so. Push the button and get it over with already.

Frank Baron said...

Anne - sorry about your friend's Mom. It sure is a terrible way to go.

Unique - We ain't ALL bad and where there's life, there's hope. :)

Othmar Vohringer said...

This is a very interesting article in more than one way.

I too had teachers that laughed at me in the school and then I had teachers who took me seriously and worked with what they saw in me. It was the later ones that pulled me up and trough.

I admire Hawking for the way he carries on with life despite the hurdles he has to overcome.

I also believe that the human race will go the way of the dinosaur. Like them we have outgrown our shoes and have used our “superiority” mainly to destroy our habitat and each other. If you believe in evolution as I do, then it is unthinkable that we will not be replaced by another species. Will it happen in 100 years? I do not know! But it will happen and rather sooner than later, there is no doubt about that in my mind.

Frank Baron said...

Interesting Othmar. I don't think we'll be around to see what happens though. I hope.

Lori A. Basiewicz said...

Stephen Hawking has been wrong before and I'm certain he'll be wrong again, but why chance it? Besides, it may be just the challenge we need to pull together as one race.

The stars await. They're out there, beckoning us onward. Where else can we go if not forward?

T. M. Hunter said...

Unfortuntely, it's going to take someone determining that they'll make a LOT of money from doing so before the commercial sector will step up (although they are beginning to set up "space (tourism) ports" in Oklahoma and Texas).

The only way the public (government) sector will get it done is if they can somehow convince the public that they should spend the money on it, and that won't happen until after the commercial sector already proves it to be financially feasible.