Stephen Hawking is best known for thinking about time, space, and those teratoid trash mashers known as black holes. But in a recent talk in Hong Kong, the famous physicist digressed from his usual subject matter to tell the audience that they'd better get off the island, and he didn't mean Kowloon. Instead, the Cambridge don was urging the crowd to get off the whole, gosh-darn planet. Hawking was hawking space colonization.
I don't even know where to start criticizing this article. First, the idea that population pressures will force us to colonize space. Second the theory that a round planet is an inefficient use of surface area. Third, the challenges of space travel. Fourth, the challenges of living on another planet.
I'll stick to my main objection: Maybe I'm too cynical, but I find all this talk of colonizing space to be a collosal waste of brain power. Even if you could find a way to travel quickly enough, it's just too dangerous at our current technological level. And, if you believe scientists at all, global warming is a much more pressing issue. My answer to people who want to live on Mars is, let's try setting up a human colony at the bottom of the ocean first. If we can figure out how to live safely in a place that's only a few miles away, then maybe we can move on to more dangerous environments.