In November, Stephen Hawking and his bulging computer brain gave humanity what we thought was an intimidating deadline for finding a new planet to call home: 1,000 years.
Ten centuries is a blip in the grand arc of the universe, but in human terms it was the apocalyptic equivalent of getting a few weeks’ notice before our collective landlord (Mother Earth) kicks us to the curb.
Even so, we took a collective breath and steeled our nerves.
So what if there’s no interplanetary Craigslist for new astronomical sublets, we told ourselves, we’re human — the Bear Grylls of the natural order. We’ve already survived the ice age, the plague, a bunch of scary volcanoes and earthquakes, and the 2016 election cycle.
We got this, right? Not so fast.
Now Hawking, the renowned theoretical physicist turned apocalypse warning system, is back with a revised deadline. In “Expedition New Earth” — a documentary that debuts this summer as part of the BBC’s “Tomorrow’s World” science season — Hawking claims that Mother Earth would greatly appreciate it if we could gather our belongings and get out — not in 1,000 years, but in the next century or so.
You heard the man — a single human lifetime. Is this nerd serious?
“Professor Stephen Hawking thinks the human species will have to populate a new planet within 100 years if it is to survive,” the BBC said with a notable absence of punctuation marks in a statement posted online. “With climate change, overdue asteroid strikes, epidemics and population growth, our own planet is increasingly precarious.”
“In this landmark series, Expedition New Earth, he enlists engineering expert Danielle George and his own former student, Christophe Galfard, to find out if and how humans can reach for the stars and move to different planets.”
The BBC program gives Hawking a chance to wade into the evolving science and technology that may become crucial if humans hatch a plan to escape Earth and find a way to survive on another planet — from questions about biology and astronomy to rocket technology and human hibernation, the BBC notes.
The cosmologist lives with the motor neuron disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. As the disease has progressed, he has become almost entirely paralyzed. And in 1985, after contracting pneumonia, Hawking underwent a tracheotomy that left him unable to speak. He communicates using the assistance of a voice-producing computer.
In recent months, Hawking has been explicit about humanity’s need to find a “Planet B.” In the past, he has also called for humans to colonize the moon and find a way to settle Mars — a locale he referred to as “the obvious next target” in 2008, according to New Scientist.
Remaining on Earth any longer, Hawking claims, places humanity at great risk of encountering another mass extinction.
Source/More: The Washington Post