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Aliens? Time Travel? Skipping Generations?

Scientist Stephen Hawking has made a new documentary for the Discovery Channel in which he confesses that, in order to speak frankly about his notions about the future, he had to overcome his fears of “being labeled a crank.”

Thrusting off his heretical shackles, he reportedly suggested that spaceships will one day be so fast that we won’t know whether we’ve come or gone. Hawking suggests that Einstein’s theories of relativity will become as relatively obsolete as, who knows, the home phone. He posits that, at some point when we’re all long gone, a day on a spaceship traveling at 650 million miles per hour would be akin to one year on Earth.

According to the TimesOnLine, Hawking believes that

HUMANS may one day be able to use time travel to skip generations into the future….
He has suggested humans could build spaceships capable of such high speeds that time itself would slow down for those on board. Such a spaceship could travel thousands of years into the future at close to the speed of light, reaching distant star systems within the lifetime of its crew.

In theory it could allow humans to “colonise the future” — perhaps even returning to repopulate Earth if a disaster caused extinction on this planet during the flight.

Hawking himself has published a lengthy piece in The Daily Mail in which he speculates extensively about all these ideas.

Time travel movies often feature a vast, energy-hungry machine. The machine creates a path through the fourth dimension, a tunnel through time. A time traveller, a brave, perhaps foolhardy individual, prepared for who knows what, steps into the time tunnel and emerges who knows when. The concept may be far-fetched, and the reality may be very different from this, but the idea itself is not so crazy.

Physicists have been thinking about tunnels in time too, but we come at it from a different angle. We wonder if portals to the past or the future could ever be possible within the laws of nature. As it turns out, we think they are. What’s more, we’ve even given them a name: wormholes. The truth is that wormholes are all around us, only they’re too small to see. Wormholes are very tiny. They occur in nooks and crannies in space and time. [….]

Given enough power and advanced technology, perhaps a giant wormhole could even be constructed in space. I’m not saying it can be done, but if it could be, it would be a truly remarkable device. One end could be here near Earth, and the other far, far away, near some distant planet.

Theoretically, a time tunnel or wormhole could do even more than take us to other planets. If both ends were in the same place, and separated by time instead of distance, a ship could fly in and come out still near Earth, but in the distant past. Maybe dinosaurs would witness the ship coming in for a landing.

Whoa! You’ve probably heard that Hawking is also warning us that we should stop trying to contact aliens from outer space, because they aren’t going to be nice to us.

“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,” the Times quotes him as saying.

The reasoning behind his less than optimistic view being that, “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 colonize whatever planets they can reach.”

Like this maybe?

According to Canadian Defense Minister Paul Hellyer, Hawking’s warning is too late, because Aliens have already been here and shared their technology with humans.

The 86-year-old cabinet minister accused Hawking of spreading misinformation about aliens. In an interview, Hellyer said, “I think he’s indulging in some pretty scary talk there that I would have hoped would not come from someone with such an established stature.” [….]

Last year, Hellyer delivered a speech in Washington about alien visitations to Earth and said humans should thank Aliens for most of what we have today because they have been visiting Earth for millennia.

“Microchips, for example, fiber-optics, they are just two of the many things that allegedly — and probably for real — came from crashed vehicles,” said Hellyer.

My goodness! I never knew that.

Angela Hill at the Oakland Tribune thinks Hawking is full of it too.

I doubt aliens would have so ravaged their world that, with all the planets in all the galaxies in all the universe, they’d head to this gin joint for resources. If nothing else, our halo of space junk should be sufficient to dissuade visitors and serve as an unintentional force field, like when you’re on a road trip and you reflexively avoid a motor lodge surrounded by mounds of rusty car parts with plates from every state, and the half-lit Eddie’s Motel sign sporadically blinks D-I-E … D-I-E.

Good point, Angela.

George Dvorsky of Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies offers five reasons why Hawking is wrong about Aliens–the gist being that if Aliens were going to ravage Earth and steal all our resources, they would have already done it by now. He ends with this caveat:

Transmit messages into the cosmos. Or don’t. It doesn’t really matter because in all likelihood no one’s listening and no one really cares. And if I’m wrong, it still doesn’t matter—ETIs will find us and treat us according to their will.

My head is spinning. So what do you think? This is an open thread.