Tag Archives: extinction event

Hawking still hawking the Great Diaspora

Stephen Hawking made a fair media splash back in 2006 when he announced that humanity needs to clamber out of the gravity well if it wants to ensure its survival. But the internet’s memory is short, despite its theoretical depth, and hence Hawking’s reiteration of the call for a Great Diaspora in a video interview at BigThink is rippling around the world again.

The logic of the argument is pretty inescapable – when all your eggs are in one basket, the odds of losing the game to the statistical inevitability of a global extinction event tend towards unity – but it will be interesting to see how the response differs this time round, given how much the world has changed since 2006. We seem a lot more focussed on the immediate future than we were… and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, though I think we’d be wise to keep one eye on the horizon. Is it just me, or did everything seem a whole lot more optimistic back then, before the economic implosion was anything more than a grim warning on the lips of a few outsider economists?

Or was it just me that was more optimistic, perhaps? Strange how five years of blogging about the future has made me a lot less confident that everything will work out just fine.

Well, that was a close one…

… but you probably didn’t even notice it. Earlier this week, we apparently came within a cosmological gnat’s whisker of colliding with an asteroid of similar size to the one that caused the Tunguska astrobleme:

The asteroid, dubbed 2008 DD45, whizzed just 72,000 kilometres above the Earth’s surface. That is less than a fifth of the distance to the Moon and just twice the distance to geosynchronous satellites.

Yikes. It was first reported on Saturday; that’s all the warning we might have had. And had it been a bit bigger, it could have caused a planetary extinction event that would make the climate crisis look like a tea-party. Chalk another one up to human luck, eh?