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Hawking Gives Humans 1000 Years to Leave Earth


There’s big news this week. No, I’m not talking about the delayed opening of ski resorts out West because of the lack of snow. And, believe it or not, it has nothing at all to do with Donald Trump. I’m talking about Stephen Hawking’s prediction that we humans have only a thousand years left here on Earth.

Of course, there are some caveats with that timeline. We first have to survive climate change, the potential for nuclear war, and the growing threat of artificial intelligence. (Surely you’ve already begun preparing for the singularity, right?)

In a widely covered talk he gave at the Oxford Union debating society, Hawking made his pronouncement about our future. “I don’t think we will survive another 1,000 years without escaping beyond our fragile planet,” he is quoted as saying.

Hawking is the most famous cosmologist in the world. (Even though he knows almost nothing about makeup or skincare products!) To most of us, 1,000 years is way off in the incomprehensible future. It’s not in our lifetimes. Or our children’s. Or our children’s children’s. Or…you get the idea. We’re talking about 40 generations or so. We’ll all be long gone by then.

But to a cosmologist, a thousand years is nothing. Their timescale is calibrated in billions of years. The universe is about 14 billion years old. Star ages run from about a billion to about 10 billion years old. The Earth itself is about 4.5 billion years old.

So 1,000 years is a blink of an eye to a cosmologist. If the 14 billion year history of the universe were collapsed to one year, that 1,000 years would be only about 2 seconds. OK, maybe I exaggerated a bit. Two seconds would be a few blinks. Unless you’re a sloth. I bet they blink pretty slowly.

What this means is that we’ve got to get busy. We’ve got planets to find and spaceships to build. I hope you didn’t have other plans for this weekend.

Photo of Stephen Hawking by Lwp Kommunikáció from, used under a Creative Commons license.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. that’s amazing to hear, I

    that’s amazing to hear, I believe a nuclear war will take us out before then or we will get so intelligent that we end up replacing ourselves with robots and computers.

  2. “What this means is that we

    “What this means is that we’ve got to get busy. We’ve got planets to find and spaceships to build. I hope you didn’t have other plans for this weekend.”

    I’m working on one in the garage, but space is limited. Also, I’m still trying to decide where to go.

    All seriousness aside, I fail to see why leaving is such a big deal. Consider…what have future generations ever done for us?

    OK, to be really serious, we are currently living on the best spaceship ever, and with wisdom and determination, I believe we are better advised to expend resources on making necessary adjustments to our lifestyles and technologies right here on Mother Earth. While I have the greatest respect for Mr. Musk, et al, I feel efforts to leave our home are premature, and other than creating exciting video of rocketry and “gee whiz” technology (more efficiently done robotically) I see little impact on day to day lives of current citizenry on our marvelous planet.

    Terra is salvageable and the pursuit of improved building science is just one aspect of changing the trajectory of life on Earth for the better.

    Stepping down from soapbox…

    1. Well said, even the tongue in

      Well said, even the tongue in cheek part.

  3. And in other news,

    And in other news, Nostradamus said…
    I think before any dire predictions come about, the 1%-ers will figure out an answer. For them. Like always.

  4. A 1,000 year window to

    A 1,000 year window to develop interstellar space travel would be easier to accomplish if we didn’t expend so much intellectual capital, resources, and energy on fighting each other or clamoring for the biggest profits. The maturing of humanity towards a benevolent society would be a great asset for developing technology that benefits mankind, including technology for travel to distant planets.

  5. We had better get that tight

    We had better get that tight house business together before we go to no atmosphere. Air leaks would be an issue.

  6. Thanks for the humor &

    Thanks for the humor & perspective, Allison. Lately, I have not seen or heard much.

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