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Master of Scaremonies
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Hawking says humans must colonise other planets
28 minutes ago

Renowned cosmologist Stephen Hawking, author of the best-selling "A Brief History of Time," said on Thursday humans must colonise other planets in different solar systems or face extinction.

However, the wheelchair-bound Cambridge University physicist who has a crippling muscle disease said this would require spaceships using technology similar to the "warp drives" of TV science fiction show "Star Trek".

"The long-term survival of the human race is at risk as long as it is confined to a single planet," Hawking told BBC Radio.

"Sooner or later disasters such as an asteroid collision or a nuclear war could wipe us all out.

"But once we spread out into space and establish independent colonies, our future should be safe," said Hawking, who was due to receive the world's oldest award for scientific achievement, the Copley medal, from Britain's Royal Society on Thursday.

He said this would mean travelling to hospitable planets orbiting another star, a journey that would take 50,000 years using the chemical fuel rockets that took man to the moon.

He suggested Star Trek-style propulsion could help solve the problem.

"Science fiction has developed the idea of warp drive, which takes you instantly to your destination," he said. "Unfortunately, this would violate the scientific law which says that nothing can travel faster than light."

However by using "matter/antimatter annihilation", velocities just below the speed of light could be reached, making it possible to reach the next star in about six years.

"It wouldn't seem so long for those on board," he said.

Hawking, 64, a father of three and Cambridge's Lucasian professor of mathematics, has written several books that examine what the future holds.

In October he said he was writing a new book "The Grand Design", to look at how and why the universe was created.

The scientist, who rarely gives interviews and can now only communicate using a computerised voice synthesizer, revealed he also wanted to try out space travel himself.

"I am not afraid of death but I'm in no hurry to die. My next goal is to go into space," said Hawking, who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease at 21 and told by doctors he had only a few years to live.

"Maybe Richard Branson will help me," he said, referring to the entrepreneur who has set up a travel agency to take private individuals on space flights from 2008.
 
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