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Stephen Hawking Receives Copley Medal 118

Posted by Zonk
from the i-certainly-didn't-deserve-it dept.
smooth wombat writes "Stephen Hawking, Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, has been awarded the Royal Society's 275th Copley medal for his contribution to cosmology and theoretical physics. Other notables to receive the award, established by Stephen Gray in 1731 'For his new Electrical Experiments', include Charles Darwin, Louis Pasteur and Albert Einstein. In his remarks, Professor Hawking reiterated his previous comments that man must colonize other planets. The medal presented to Professor Hawking was sent into space onboard Space Shuttle Discovery and spent some time on the International Space Station in July of this year. Hawking has expressed an interest in going into space and commented, 'My next goal is to go into space, maybe Richard Branson will help me.'"
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Stephen Hawking Receives Copley Medal

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  • by Nomihn0 (739701) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @04:44PM (#17055370)
    I know that Stephen Hawking is a remarkable scientist and fellow human, but does this medal reflect any recent breakthrough of his or is this merely a lifetime achievement award?
    • by volsung (378) <stan@mtrr.org> on Thursday November 30, 2006 @05:09PM (#17055864)
      It's almost certainly a lifetime achievement, though not just for papers he wrote 30 years ago. Hawking is pretty active, as a quick look at the SPIRES index will show:

      http://www.slac.stanford.edu/spires/find/hep/www?r awcmd=FIND+EA+HAWKING%2C+S+W&FORMAT=www&SEQUENCE=d s(d) [stanford.edu]

      His most recent paper of interest is the 2005 paper on information loss in black holes, where he argues that information can in fact leak out of a black hole due to a quantum mechanical effect. The irony of this paper is that he made a public bet with another famous general relativity researcher 9 years ago that information which went into the black hole could never come out again. After publishing his paper, Hawking conceded the bet, though the paper is still somewhat controversial in the field.
      • I'm not sure if that really qualifies as "ironic", considering Hawking repeatedly and purposefully bets against his own theories with that other "famous researcher" (his longtime friend/colleague, Roger Penrose.) Hawking says it's so he'll have a consolation prize if it turns out he's wrong.
    • Could be wrong, but I don't think Hawking has made any major breakthroughs since the mid-70s. That said, though some people consider him to be overrated due to his condition and his pop science books, I think the work he did with Penrose in the 70s is very much worthy of recognition.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      This is a lifetime achievement award.

      Nevertheless, relatively recently, (and motivated by something very strange called the AdS/CFT correspondence), he and collaborators came up with the first formulations of black holes in higher dimensions with cosmological terms (loosely speaking, a small default curvature of the universe completely independent of gravity). These are now a huge area of research, and prompted his former student Gary Gibbons (together with collaborators) to find the completely general anal
  • by Beek Dog (610072) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @04:50PM (#17055488)
    In space, no one can hear your voice synthesizer...
  • Hawking: Ideas in "Star Trek" not that far fetched. My next goal is to go into space.

    Well, that shouldn't be tough with a With a couple of warp engines tied to his chair.

    (Sorry Dr. Hawking, I do respect and admire you inspite of that seemingly crass joke.)

  • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary@@@yahoo...com> on Thursday November 30, 2006 @04:53PM (#17055540) Journal
    Stephen Hawking's theories of a donut shaped universe intrigue me, but I heard he stole them from someone else. D'oh!
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by measured_flo (799013)
      Mmmmmm, chocolate covered universe......(drool)
    • by Clazzy (958719)
      "Who is The Journal of Quantum Physics going to believe?"

      Forgive me for the obligatory Futurama quote there, you know it had to be done.
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @05:00PM (#17055702)
    Sorry, can't read "Stephen Hawking" anymore without hearing "...and all my shootings be drive-by's..." in my head. (You down with entropy? Yeah you know me.)
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Beek Dog (610072)
      From MC Hawkings FAQ's:

      Q: The song E=mc Hawking contains the line, "my power is my mass times the speed of light squared."

      Even a first year physics student in high school knows that energy (not power) is mass times the speed of light squared. Power (the rate of energy) is mass times the speed of light squared, divided by time.

      If the song lyric were true, time would be constant and, it goes without saying, the universe would collapse upon itself. Given that this has not occurred, the statement must
    • "Oh yes, oh yes, put it in my mouth" ...

      (family guy)
    • And I can't read his name anymore without a Simpsons flashback.

      (Computerized Voice) "If you are looking for trouble, then you have found it."

    • My personal favourite MC Hawking lyrics are from the same song - F*ck the creationists:

      "Fuck the damn creationists, those bunch of dumb-ass bitches,
      every time I think of them my trigger finger itches.
      They want to have their bullshit, taught in public class,
      Stephen J. Gould should put his foot right up their ass." ...and...

      "Fucking punk ass creationists trying to set scientific thought back 400 years.
      Fuck that!
      If them superstitious motherfuckers want to have that kind of party,
      I'm going to put my dick in the
  • Professor Hawking reiterated his previous comments that man must colonize other planets.

    Wouldn't it make more sense to spend the billions (trillions?) of dollars needed to put people on other planets on improving the lives of people on this particular planet? I'd rather have, say, clean drinking water for all of Africa than a permanent population of couple dozen shivering and calorie-starved Martians or Mooninites.
    • by DragonWriter (970822) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @05:18PM (#17056046)
      Wouldn't it make more sense to spend the billions (trillions?) of dollars needed to put people on other planets on improving the lives of people on this particular planet?


      Saying that the former is essential is not saying that efforts should not expended on the latter. And, in fact, getting to the point where people can productively and sustainably live on other planets requires lots and lots of fairly generally applicable basic research that would do much to enable new ways of improving life on this planet.
      • by kenodi (880090)
        When we will be able to reach planets outside of our solar system, ... by that time, the poverty will be eradicated.
      • by master_p (608214)
        One issue is the problem of energy source: in order to travel to other planets in human time frames, we need to find new energy sources that can produce big amounts of energy per second and can be sustained over a long period of time.

        But if we discover such an energy source for space travel, perhaps we can use it here on Earth to solve the energy problems, pollution, energy wars etc.
    • by EMeta (860558)
      There's a lot of resourses to go around in this world. A very small amount of human productivity goes into providing basic needs (food, shelter, clean water, internet, Zelda sequals, etc.). Even the U.S., by far mostly a service industry country, still exports more food than we import. So we can afford to have some lofty goals. Yes, helping less luckily born humans shrould certainly be one of those priorities, , but even after that there's a bit more left over. I think science and space exploration (an
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      You can spend trillions of dollars giving water to people in Africa and they will still need water. If you spend that Trillion dollars on sending people to Mars you will then be able to give each village in Africa a free hydrogen fuel cell that will produce water and electricity.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dkone (457398)
      I think his comment goes a bit further then his one sentence reiteration, I believe one of his main points is that he thinks that mankind should not all be on the same planet to ensure propagation.

      Let's say we clean this planet to the standards you refer to, then everyone is happy until a large meteor hits the planet and either wipes out mankind or our civilization (along with its technical ability to go into space).

      He is thinking much deeper then a knee jerk liberal reaction to global warming and polution.
      • Bingo. Its not a question of IF Earth gets wiped out. Its a question of WHEN. And yes, it probably won't be happening in the foreseeable future for us, but it could really happen at any time and there's not a damn thing we could do if a large enough meteor was heading our way. In any event, when you're talking about the survival of a species, its best not to leave things to chance.

        Although personally I think we'll all kill ourselves in stupid wars before we get enough people off this blasted rock to see

    • by tnk1 (899206) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @05:34PM (#17056384)
      Honestly, people already spend billions on developing countries. The problem with developing countries and poverty isn't an issue of money or even time. Its a matter of getting people to work together.

      Fact is, food is cheap, but getting it to the parts of Africa that need it isn't. Why? The transport system sucks. Why does the transport system suck? Because the African governments are corrupt or the area is filled with warlords who *want* people to starve in genocidal proportions.

      You can throw money all day long at a place like Africa today, and all you will end up with is people like Idi Amin or Mobutu Sese Seko, who get just incredibly rich off of aid money and bribes that should be used to develop infrastructure. The people will continue to starve or die of AIDS. Looking at Uganda under Yoweri Museveni (who is now looking a little of the dictator himself), you saw a very real campaign against AIDS that *worked* not because we dumped a billion dollars on Uganda, but because the government and people worked on the problem.

      Space, while not perhaps as pressing a goal, is still somewhere we really do need to go, and it is a place where there is a lot of room to throw money around and you will still get a result. What Africa needs is a new mindset, and peace, and simply pushing money at it doesn't help peace. Not with the corruption that thrives off of it.
      • by metlin (258108)
        You bring up a great point. Spending money is not the solution to these problems.

        Amartya Sen [wikipedia.org], who won the Nobel prize in economics showed that even such things as famine are man-made. The way to solve these problems is not by throwing large sums of money but rather by a grassroots movement. Which needs to be triggered by the people.

        Unless the people themselves inherently want change, it is not going to happen. They would need to invest in education, infrastructure, etc. and do something about their problems
      • by master_p (608214)
        Perhaps when mankind expands to space, people on Earth will realize how stupid they acted so far, and then perhaps people will react to oppressing governments/dictators...thus the large problems of Africa may be solved.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I think you are kinda missing the point of what he is saying. At our growth rate, it will become essential for us to go either into space to new worlds. According to http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/world.html [census.gov] It took us roughly forty years to double from 3 billion to 6 billion. Assume we create more medicines, etc over time. Assume also that birth control is used by more people and the overal growth rate for the world say drops to..... I don't know... a doubling time of 50 years. Slightly slower.

      Now say
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by drinkypoo (153816)

        I think you are kinda missing the point of what he is saying. At our growth rate, it will become essential for us to go either into space to new worlds.

        Well, then I hope we invent teleportation, too. Even with multiple space elevators and an unlimited space ship carrying capacity you'd be hard-pressed to move a substantial portion of the current population of the planet off of it.

        I think what he's saying is more that if we colonize other planets, it's harder for our race to disappear. Just colonizing

      • by RsG (809189)
        As the post above me pointed out, we'll never solve our population problems with space travel. It's like trying to move a huge pile of sand with tweezers.

        We can acquire more resources off-world (the asteroid belt would be a good starting point), which will help matters some. But fundamentally, space exploration and overpopulation are unrelated problems. Advancing in one will not solve the other.

        Apart from that, I'd also point out that projecting a trend indefinitely will almost always lead you to the wro
        • by ExFCER (1001188)
          ..."off-world"...

          "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe.
          Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion.
          I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate.
          All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.
          Time to die."

          ROY BATTY

          Sorry that was a troll. More on topic, kudos to Hawking's....

          With his ability through writing help to communicate complex scientific ideas to the masses he has made a significant contribution to science. Is that worthy of an award...yes.

          The Copley award?
    • Wouldn't it make more sense to spend the billions (trillions?) of dollars needed to put people on other planets on improving the lives of people on this particular planet?

      Wait, all we have to do is spend money to solve poverty once and for all? Good lord, why didn't anyone think of this before?

      Seriously, if it were just a matter of mere money, all of our problems would've been solved a long time ago. The problem is that you can't pay people to be responsible citizens. Quite the opposite, in fact.

    • by djp928 (516044) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @05:45PM (#17056600) Homepage
      Would you rather spend the money increasing the number of mission critical servers in your data center, or creating a hot site so you can survive a catastrophic accident at the main site?

      It's all about offsite backups, man.

      -- Dave
    • Think eggs in baskets, then you get the idea why we need to spread out.
      • by jlarocco (851450)
        Think eggs in baskets, then you get the idea why we need to spread out.

        I've never understood why people think like that.

        Yeah, some day humans may be wiped out by war, disease, a comet or something else, but who cares? Life goes on, just not ours.

        I'm not saying it's a waste of time to colonize other planets, or that it's not cool, but it seems kind of silly to think of doing it to save the population.

        • but it seems kind of silly to think of doing it to save the population.

          Uh, what? I know space travel and colonizing other planets is not a trivial task, but it is certainly within our current, not to mention potential future, abilities. Not to mention that by simply colonizing another planet successfully, we exponentially raise the chances for the long-term survival of the human race. You might not care, but it's a worthwile goal and hopefully there's enough people who agree to help make this happen.
    • One thing has absolutely nothing to do with the other. There's no monetary limitation preventing Africans from having clean drinking water, or, put another way, why do you think more money will solve the drinking water problem? Trillions of dollars have AREADY been spent on such things, and it hasn't solved the problem.

            Brett
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by WindBourne (631190)
      I'd rather have, say, clean drinking water for all of Africa than a permanent population of couple dozen shivering and calorie-starved Martians or Mooninites.

      And that is why Hawkings is who he is, and why you are who you are. He is trying to look ahead to the time when the earth, or even just the major life forms (human being one of the prominents) WILL be wiped out. While you, OTH, want what is and will always be unobtainable.

      Many years ago (~35), I thought that communism was an interesting form of gov.

  • by wsherman (154283) * on Thursday November 30, 2006 @05:12PM (#17055926)

    I agree that transferring someone aspect of human consciousness off the planet has an aesthetic appeal. It would just feel wrong if, after all these years of striving, the human race just totally ceased to exist.

    On the other hand, it is highly unlikely that the human race, in it's present form, will survive more than another few hundred years.

    One possibility is that the human race will design a new species and raise this new species as it's children allowing itself to die off. This new species will look and act superficially human but it will be sufficiently different genetically that interbreeding with present day humans would be impossible. The main impetus for designing this new species will be to improve on and correct defects of existing humans. This species will be noticeably smarter and stronger and healthier.

    Another possibility is that people won't bother with creating a new species at all and will instead transfer their consciousness to something like a computer. Everyone's consciousness will be sufficiently connected that the result will essentially be one collective consciousness.

    A final possibility is that humanity will prove beyond any doubt that there is no purpose to its existence and simply allow itself to cease to exist.

    Either way, enjoy it while you can - because you are likely to be one of the last generations of the human race in it's present form.

    • by Cecil (37810)
      I will have my consciousness implanted in a computer. As long as it happens to be the computer controlling a mech or at least some kind of mobile robot. And I certainly won't join any sort of collective consciousness. My consciousness comes with firewall software built in.

      Cyborgs, yay! *stomp stomp stomp*
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by mmell (832646)
      Not against these [exitmundi.nl] odds!
    • It would just feel wrong if, after all these years of striving, the human race just totally ceased to exist.

      Yeah, tell that to all the other civilizations this universe has seen come and go.
    • I've been saying for the last few years that it's about time for the Universe to throw a couple rocks at the earth and give the rats and cockroaches there turn to mess up the planet. They can't screw it up any worse than we have.
    • by Fengpost (907072)
      Mod parent as +5 Existantial
    • Yes. It's True.
  • Colonisation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by VoidCrow (836595) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @05:14PM (#17055970)
    I think we should be focusing on colonising the *space* between the planets, using the asteroid belts as a source of raw materials. But, yes, he's dead right.
  • Look around. Is this something you want to see done to every planet that can be made marginally habitable?
    And before you say it - no we haven't learned from our mistakes here. We're still doing the same old stuff. It's almost certain that we would molest every other planet just like we do this one.
    Space exploration is very educational and entertaining. It might even prove to have some real benefits of some sort, but colonization is a very bad idea.
    Humans are an insidious parasite that needs to stay quaran
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by djp928 (516044)
      The species is more important than the planet. It's more important than all planets. Continued existence is the primary goal of all life. Some would argue there *is* no other goal. I have no responsibilty to any planet except as it pertains to keeping me and my species alive and thriving. That is the way of life. Parasites who destroy their hosts are inefficient parasites. They will either adapt and evolve into a less destructive parasite, or they will die out. What they will not do is simply stop d
    • by FleaPlus (6935)
      Look around. Is this something you want to see done to every planet that can be made marginally habitable?

      Yes.

      Humans are an insidious parasite that needs to stay quarantined on this one planet that we've already screwed over.

      This is one of the most absurd statements I've ever read.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      Look around. Is this something you want to see done to every planet that can be made marginally habitable?

      Short answer: Yes.

      Longer answer: Our view of the universe is human-centric. The only reason you even notice the pollution is because it's impacting you. Is it really better if the most versatile form of life we know of becomes extinct than polluting some planets? Anyway, every planet in our solar system is lifeless on any kind of meaningful scale, esp. Mars, the best candidate for terraforming as

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by trongey (21550)

        ...Longer answer: Our view of the universe is human-centric. The only reason you even notice the pollution is because it's impacting you. Is it really better if the most versatile form of life we know of becomes extinct than polluting some planets?

        Pollution? That was here long before humans, and will still be here long after we're gone. How about urbanization, paving, mining, deforestation, irradiation, damming, habitat destruction, species exploitation. There's a long list of bad things we do to this pla

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          I don't see how versatility imparts any special value to a species.

          Well, why don't you stop using your big brain, or stop walking on your hind legs, and let me know how that works out?

          I don't see how versatility imparts any special value to a species. If so then there are plenty of other species that can lay claim to that distinction - especially some of the microscopic ones that we put a lot of resources into destroying.

          The majority of your microscopic organisms can only survive under a very narr

        • by RsG (809189)

          Pollution? That was here long before humans, and will still be here long after we're gone. How about urbanization, paving, mining, deforestation, irradiation, damming, habitat destruction, species exploitation. There's a long list of bad things we do to this planet that goes way beyond pollution.

          That statement doesn't even begin to parse. Those things you list are pollution. Or were you working from the idea that "pollution" only referred to air and water contamination?

          Side note, what the hell is "irradia

          • Simply put, most of the planets and other celestial bodies in this star system cannot support life at all.

            You left four words off near the end of your sentence. The other celestial bodies in this star system cannot support life as we know it at all. Scientists have found life forms in volcanic vents [noaa.gov] on the sea floor, where the temperature can reach 400 degrees Celcius. Who's to say that similar life forms don't exist somewhere on Venus, for instance?
            • by RsG (809189)
              If you can show me a terrestrial life form that can live in the total absence of water, then I'll consider Venusian life plausible. Temperature isn't the only variable.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          When it comes to that, you sfall back to your most basic survival instincts. As a species, we should do what we need to survive. There's no "right" or "wrong" in it. If survival means terraforming and "polluting" a planet, so what? Even if that planet has life that will have to die to make way for us, then so be it.
  • by BenJeremy (181303) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @05:29PM (#17056280)
    Sometimes a little too political, but still a great group. Nice to see them give the nod to Hawking!

    "Yellow" was pretty good, too.
  • Ok, is it just me, or did anyone else first mis-read the title as saying "Stephen Hawking Receives Cosplay Medal"?

    I must be tired...
  • Why? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Apraxhren (964852)
    I always hear this lecture about colonizing to preserve the human race. They bring up the usual asteroid destroying the earth and such, but I've never heard a reason for why the it is necessary to preserve humans. Last time I checked the universe does fine without our input.
  • I'm currently an undergrad at cambridge (UK, not US...) and, although I've never seen him, from what I've heard he certainly didn't get this medal for being a nice person. A brilliant astrophysicist he may be, but he is certainly not one of the more sociably types. Although I suspect that's for case for most world-famous scientists.
    • by kb1cvh (88565) *
      He's probably an introvert like many successful scientists -e.g. Einstein.
      See http://www.typelogic.com/ [typelogic.com]
    • Leon Lederman is quite personable. I met him one day on the 15th floor of Wilson Hall at Fermilab last spring. Just one example. Perhaps it is just theorists who are testy. (This coming from an experimentalist... :)
  • On first glance I read the award as "Cosplay Medal" and I could only imagine that he had worn a particularly fine Dalek costume to a con or something.
    • by bar-agent (698856)
      On first glance I read the award as "Cosplay Medal"

      Yeah, me too. I had a moment of pure cosmic horror... *rimshot*
  • Oh, I see that you do. Here you go.
  • Am I the only one who glanced at the title and read it as "Stephen Hawking Recieves COSPLAY Medal"?? Definitely had to do a double-take on that one.
  • > The medal presented to Professor Hawking was sent into space onboard Space Shuttle Discovery and spent some time on the International Space Station in July of this year.

    Well that's just a shocking display of incompetence.

    When will someone finally get around to creating a competent courier service that sends parcels straight to where they are supposed to be, rather than mis-directing them, and losing them for months on end.

    It's a disgrace.

    Z.

  • Space colonization is more than survivalism. President Reagan in 1988 also called "to colonize the galaxy." But rather than a warning of possible extinction, it was an optimistic call to fulfill our "manifest destiny." Reagan said, "It is only in a universe without limits that we will find a canvas large enough for the vastness of the human imagination." http://theklugblog.blogspot.com/2006/12/reagan-198 8-anticipates-hawking_03.html [blogspot.com]

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