Stephen Hawking, the world renown theoretical physicist made his mark with fuzzy black holes and naked singularities. No those aren’t drinks created by a Las Vegas bartender, but cosmological objects that may be the astronomical gears running our entire universe.
Hawking, 68, is no stranger to planet-making headlines, only last he year warned that Mankind has to get off this planet or risk become wiped out by disease, war or a planet-wide catastrophe such as a major asteroid strike—the same type of world-changing event that many scientists blame for the demise of the dinosaurs.
Now the wheelchair bound physicist who’s paralyzed by a progressive form of neuro-muscular dystrophy, has pronounced that intelligent aliens do exist and contacting them may be very dangerous. He warns that rather than seek them, we should do anything we must to avoid contact. In this argument he places himself squarely in opposition to the mission of those astronomers that have supported SETI, the Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence project supported for decades by such legendary astronomers as Frank Drake and the late Carl Sagan.
On the nature of this alien threat, Hawking speculates, “We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach.”
Anyone familiar with the two television series, “Battlestar Galactica” will recognize that scenario, although Hawking envisions the ETs as a little more aggressive.
According to Hawking, life can exist anywhere in the universe, and probably does. It might even dwell in the heart of stars.
To support his contention of life ‘out there’—especially intelligent life—he suggests we consider the fact that our universe contains at least 100 billion galaxies and each of those has around a hundred of million or more stars. In such a place our planet is probably not the only one that’s developed life.
“To my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational,” he admits. “The real challenge is to work out what aliens might actually be like.”
Hawking sounds his alarm in a new documentary appearing on the Discovery Channel. In the documentary, he—along with others who are recognized as some of the greatest minds of the time—extrapolate on the future of Mankind and the nature of our universe.
One segment deals with the possibility of intelligent life other than our own. Hawking believes some extra-terrestrial life forms may be intelligent and pose a threat to our civilization. He contends that contact with such a species could spell disaster for humanity.
The eminent astronomer royal, Lord Rees, also struck a cautionary note during a lecture given earlier this year. He warned that aliens may turn out to be beyond our understanding.
“I suspect there could be life and intelligence out there in forms we can’t conceive,” Rees said. “Just as a chimpanzee can’t understand quantum theory, it could be there are aspects of reality that are beyond the capacity of our brains.”
Hawking agrees, but also postulates that a real danger exists.
Using an analogy to illustrate first contact, Hawking said, “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”
SETI has countered such arguments before, but never coming from someone with the stellar reputation Hawking has. The physicist’s warning directly challenges the seekers of alien intelligence—an intelligence they believe will be benevolent and pose little risk to humanity.
On the matter of risk, the brilliant physicist thinks the odds just aren’t in our favor. He concludes his argument in the documentary by saying that making contact with intelligent aliens is “a little too risky”.