Witt: The end of the world as we know it

Published 12:27 pm Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Stephen Hawking, world renown physicist, has allegedly suggested mankind must begin to colonize other planets within the next 100 years in order to insure the survival of the human race.

He asserts overpopulation, epidemics, overdue asteroid strikes, the threat of nuclear war and other elements assure the end of mankind is a certainty.

Hawking is a very prescient person. He can visualize, as so many others cannot, the effects overpopulation will inevitably bring.

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Epidemics are rife throughout history. Despite the fact modern medicine has managed to cope with so many of the epidemics of the past, there is little doubt new viruses and pathogens will continue to adapt and visit new plagues on humans.

Even now, there are germs which are defying the most powerful antibiotics available and a new virulent fungus, Candida auris has been identified in some American hospitals. This fungus is not only hard to identify, but is multi-drug resistant and has possibly been the cause of some hospital deaths.

Continuing developments in agriculture have managed to deal — mostly — with the burgeoning population of the planet, but how long can this continue? Eventually, the amount of arable land will reach a point of stability at which not enough food can be produced to meet needs. Are we destined to reach a Soylent Green era?

With more and more belligerent nations securing nuclear armaments, it may be inevitable that someday a nuclear event will occur, whether accidental or deliberate.

There seems to be an inevitability of some events. The asteroid that killed off 90 percent of living creatures 66 million years ago could very well repeat. There are constant predictions that the super volcano which lurks under Yellowstone National park will let go eventually, based on the geological record of the frequency of its past eruptions. The eruption of this volcano would make Mt. St. Helens looks like a high school laboratory experiment.

Apparently, Hawking is optimistic a suitable planet for the habitation of humans will be found in time for the exodus to begin, but such a likelihood seems remote indeed.

Venus, the closest planet to Earth at an average distance of 26 million miles apparently has an average surface temperature of 800 degrees, which even our best air conditioning systems couldn’t cope with.

And Mars, some 48 million miles away and undergoing intensive robotic exploration, does not seem a very hospitable place for man to exist since it does not seem to have a recognizable supply of water and its surface temperature — at the Viking landing site — ranged from about one degree Fahrenheit down to -167 degrees Fahrenheit, hardly ideal temperatures for raising crops of any sort.

Perhaps one of the moons of the more distant planets, either Jupiter or Saturn, could support human life, but their distance from the sun would seem to mitigate against it.

So the next likely scenario for finding a “Goldilocks” planet lies outside our solar system and the closest likely candidate is 14 light years away, an insurmountable distance for transporting humans with current or expected technology.

If Hawking’s predictions are reliable, it does not bode well for mankind since the expectations for global disaster are so high and the prospects for actually sending humans through space to another habitable planet so remote.

The march of science has a way of fooling man. In this case, the odds are astronomically (pun intended) high.

Our best hope is the emerging sanity of humans. Not a lot to rely on.

Chuck Witt is a retired architect and a lifelong resident of Winchester. He can be reached at chuck740@bellsouth.net.