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Steven Hawking at large April 27, 2007

Posted by dorigo in humor, news, physics, science.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words…. The one below, showing Steven Hawking fluctuating in zero gravity, was taken during a B-727 flight which took off from Cape Canaveral yesterday.


1. jeff - April 27, 2007

Ciao Tommaso
you beat me to it. I was deeply moved in seeing Hawking free-fall. I bet he has happy as a physcist can be, just like a child! Galileo-Newton-Einstein all wrapped up in a free-fall. What a dense experience. I wish one day to experience it too. For the moment I am planning to go to Garda Land.

2. dorigo - April 27, 2007

Also noticeable is the red apple, symbolizing Newton’s intuition on gravitation.


3. Alexander W. Janssen - April 27, 2007

On a funny note, I wonder how he could tell anyone that he’s getting sick without his speech-synthesis thingy…😉


4. island - April 27, 2007

My location allows me a birds-eye view of everything that goes up from the cape, and for some reason that I don’t really understand, I was very moved by the sight of that 727.

Nothing like seeing Glenn go up for the second time while I held my kids hands, after watching him go the first time from Cocoa Beach as a very, very young child holding my own mother’s hand, but moving, never the less.

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[…] completely change the picture? It’s certainly worth pursuing, but very few people (who are not zero-gravity tourists) think that we already understand the basic features of the wavefunction of the […]

7. Quantoken - April 27, 2007

Good for him. For the first time since his physical sickness, he is no longer bounded by gravity. He can actually move around freely like every one else does. What a feeling.

8. The Flight of the Astrophysicist « any illimitable star - April 27, 2007

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9. Quantoken - April 28, 2007

Steven Hawking said: “First of all, I believe that life on Earth is at an ever increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster such as sudden global warming, nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus, or other dangers. I think the human race has no future if it doesn’t go into space. I therefore want to encourage public interest in space.”

He is very wrong on this. Those threats he listed are very real and they could very well wipe out modern human civilization. But life on earth will continue. And some humen will survive, maybe no more than a few million, but survive in a state that live like rats.

Space is no solution. We could not transfer and migrate all 6 billion people on earth to an earth like planet a thousand light years away. If we could not figure out a way to live on earth sustainably, without destroying it totally, then what good does it do even if we find another earth and manage to move some people there? We will just manage to pollute and destroy one more liveable planet besides our own earth. Space migration has NEVER been proven workable by any civilization in the whole universe. If it works we would have long been invaded by space aliens already who already spread throughout the whole universe billions of years ago.

10. island - April 28, 2007

Not that I disagree with the apparent impracticality of it all, but there is very good reason to believe that other civilizations are no more devleloped than we are, so we shouldn’t expect them to be flying around in our airspace just yet, so your rationale is crap.

But Quantoken, I have a real question for you, buddy:

We will just manage to pollute and destroy one more liveable planet besides our own earth.


Where does this “morality” of yours come from?… greenpeace?… heheh

11. Quantoken - April 28, 2007



So destroying a whole liveable planet is no big deal to you. SO WHAT? Wow such mentality is terrible! Iran is developing NUKES and they might wipe out a little country called Isreal, and SO WHAT, no big deal right? Nothing is a big deal to you, unless a whole universe is destroyed? Go ahead born down your own home. It’s no big deal. Because it is just “SO WHAT”.

Please come to your sense. If we destroy our own earth, we are destroying the human race. And that is the end of it all. I am not a member of Green Peace, but I understand it better than Green Peace.

But if the human civilization is wiped out, SO WHAT? The Big Bang The whole universe starts as a bubble, and ends in a bursting bubble. So it’s all empty. SO WHAT? Does any thing still mean anything to you? Reality, please?

12. island - April 28, 2007

Please come to your sense. If we destroy our own earth,

Ding!… I didn’t say that.

You’ve convoluted the distinction that you should have made between the significance of preserving our planet, (which is necessary, since we can’t practically get off of this rock), and what it would mean if we COULD leave.

So what, we spread out and eat the rest of the universe before we crap out. You think that other “civilizations” won’t be doing the same thing?… (were this even realistically plausible).

Yeah, right… so what does the universe care if our survival instinct RIGHTFULLY drives us to survive. Your ethics are lame.

13. Quantoken - April 29, 2007

We can not leave the earth. We simply can’t. Do you realize that the earth itself is a giant spaceship with 6×10^26 kg in mass, averaging 1×10^17 kg per person. And this spaceship even has an external power supply we can the sun. And we manage to destoy this giant spaceship within just a few hundred years. Now if we can not live on this giant spaceship, how do you expect that a dozen astronauts will be able to live a couple thousand years in a tiny spaceship we build probably no more than a few hundred tons at most, and with no external power supply either. They are going to eat each other alive soon after departure.

Spreading out in the whole universe, is simply NOT possible from a first principle, not even if you can overthrow the second law of thermal dynamics. If you believe the Copernicus Princple, our civilization is nothing special. There maybe half of ET civilization far advanced than ours and another half far behind ours. If it had been possible the advanced one should already spread out the whole universe already and should reach the earth by now. Light speed should not be an obstacle to them if they are that far advanced. That does not happen. So my guess is most advanced civilizations have all self-destructed in a nuclear war, just like what is going to happen to US. Frankly most particle physicists think the discovery of chain reaction and invention of nuclear weapons is a good thing, or they would not have proposed and co-operated with the endeavour. How wrong that is! Human that lives in caves are a million times better off than human that grasps the nuclear secret. The former at least can survive sustainabily, the later has very good chance of foolishly wiping itself out of existance. If a race can not survive, what good is progress in knowledge and technology?

Fortunately we will see the demise of high energy physics in the next decade or so. It’s physically impossible to build a machine even more powerful than LHC. It goes beyond the limit of technology and resource. And LHC itself, even if it operates successfully, will soon run out of helium, an element that ironically is second most abundant in the whole universe but scarce nevertheness in the earth. Without earth bound helium, space flight also becomes impossible.

14. jeff - April 29, 2007

Quantoken. In psychological terms if a person believes there is a limit then he will find it. On the other hand some limits are for real, a characteristic of the world and not just self-castration! For ages people thought a perpetual motion machine could be invented if enought creativity and/or funds could be brought to play. But no solution could be found for fundamental reasons that had to do with properties of nature. Before you say there are limitations ask yourself what type of limitations are you really considering.

LHC might be the last example of a way of doing high energy physics that may no longer be sustainable (too long to perform, increasing costs and diminshing returns). Developing new acceralators might give a new lease on life but the sociological problems of getting students and not only tax payer’s money would I fear remain. But there are ways of doing high energy physics without accelerators.

15. dorigo - April 29, 2007

Ahem. I do not wish to interrupt this fair exchange of opinions here, but let me just point out that

1) a machine larger in scope and more powerful than the LHC was designed as far back as 20 years ago. It was called the SSC. It could be running now, if it had not been killed by the US congress. No reason to believe we cannot do a 100 TeV machine. Really none.
The question is, is it worth the pains ? Well, let me answer by saying that if we found no new physics at the LHC, and we had no ideas of what could be there to solve the naturalness problem or the other puzzles that demand solution, I still think that investing fractions of a percent of our GNP (globally, of course) to build and operate larger machines which would push our horizon of understanding of subatomic physics, would still be a good idea. For several reasons:
– by looking further and deeper we are sure to understand more of our world
– we might be on the verge of amazing discoveries and so we cannot sit on our improving technology and stop progress.
– the resources allotted to particle physics have always been very small when compared to other sciences, and even larger machines would fit in that bill.

2) We will soon learn how to produce helium through nuclear fusion. So no worries about the lack of coolant for magnets. Also notice that lack of helium is not a intrinsic problem preventing ever more powerful accelerators.


16. Andrea Giammanco - April 29, 2007

Somewhere (maybe even in this site?) I have once read about the comparative costs of a typical particle physics experiment on one side and of a bomber aircraft, or a submarine, on the other side.
Unfortunately i can’t remember the numbers, but they were quite surprising (roughly: a minor cut on US defense would allow tens of SSC to be built and operated…)
Does anybody help me to find such figures? I was stupid enough not to save them😦

17. Andrea Giammanco - April 29, 2007

Particle physics is not-so-incredibly-expensive also in the comparison with some civilians enterprises, I’ve been told. (Again, I would like to find the numbers.)
For example, there is a proposal for a new accelerator near Rome (a Super B Factory, improving over the similar accelators in SLAC and KEK), motivated by the fact that a lot of money can be saved since the tunnel escavation can be done by the same machines which will escavate the new Metro line in Rome.
If I remember well, also the existence of the Gran Sasso lab was obtained “parasitically” benefitting from the excavation of the motorway tunnel.

18. dorigo - April 29, 2007

Yes Andrea, the US defense budget is ridiculously high. It is sad, very sad, that so much effort is put on building killing machines rather than instruments for the furthering of our knowledge.
I doubt the figures you mention were on this site, I have not seen them. Maybe others can help you though ?


19. jeff - April 29, 2007

The comparison of scientific expenses and militay one is a difficult one. The equation “less guns = less deaths” so ridiculed in this forum was valid enought that it kept the USA and USSR form destroying the world in a thermouclear war. That is history.

The military of all ages, not only now, have got their expensives toys and it is hard to take them away from them, especially as long as there is an enemy. Defense-budgets have always been a huge black hole for all societies and it is not new. Of course even when a real enemy is not present, imaginary one are concocted up. Science instead has always been a luxury for a small few until the military learned they could get newer toys effective for defending the State.

Big science in the 50s was a by-product the big money that had become available once military science had got big wheels and money in motion. Then in the 60s, science became more and more civilian product that allowed unversities to compete. It is a complicated and interesting evolution.

Personally I am pessimistic and ultimately think that pure science will die because people really don’t care, NOT because the military or other groups (applied science, technology, ecology) take larger portions of the cake.

20. Quantoken - April 29, 2007


You need to understand that the power, complexity, cost of accelerators grow exponentially. When something grows exponentially, it might start as a tiny fraction to the cost of the society but will quickly grow to a big fraction and then exceed 100%. That’s the nature of exponential growth, any exponential growth. I don’t know how powerful SSC could be, if it were to be 100 TeV, 7 times more powerful than LHC, I doubt it could have actually been built. LHC consumes half of Geneva’s electricity, something several times more powerful will consume several city’s worth of electricity. There is not that much resource available. Putting something on the drawing board is easy. You know according to NASA’s original blue print they should have landed human on the mars in the year 1981. How ridiculous that looks like today!

Manufactoring helium? It can be done already by today’s technology. But a few microgram at a time, at a cost maybe a million times more expensive than gold. How could you compare with LHC consuming maybe 3% to 10% of the world’s total helium production. The world helium price keeps skyrocketing in expectation of the LHC operation and that is a fact. But it is still astronomically less expensive than man made helium.

21. dorigo - April 29, 2007

Quantoken, the SSC was designed to run at 40 TeV energy, three times higher than the LHC but actually a 22-fold increase over the then existing most powerful accelerator, the Tevatron. But it was not just designed: a third of the tunnel was dug before the decision to cancel the project came. It was not unfeasible, its cost was a tiny fraction of the US defense budget, as Andrea would say, and its resource consumption was well under control.

Ultimately, I agree with Jeff – if you place a limit, you are bound to lose the bet – it will be overridden if there is a reason to go beyond.


22. jeff - April 29, 2007

Quantoken: science grows exponentially too!

I don’t think it is wise to place limits unless there are good REASONS to do so. And I think it is wise to always ask whether one is being ideological. Every person, to be honest, should ask himself: are my reasons reasonable or ideological?

ERRATA CORRIGE. The equation that is ridiculed in ths forum although it historically kept the USA and USSR from blowing us all away is “More guns = less deaths”. I typed instead “Less guns = less deaths”. Sorry. I type bad and too fast and I rarely re-read (proof-read) what I write.

23. Biggest Fan - June 20, 2008

You Rock My world

24. Biggest Fan - June 20, 2008

You are so strong and i hope you get a chance to go to the moon😛

25. How Did the Universe Start? | Cosmic Variance | Discover Magazine - June 8, 2009

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