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Traveling Into the Future

Posted May. 05, 2010 10:02,   


Following Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking is considered a physicist who has come closest to unlocking the secret of the universe. The Cambridge University professor, 68, has not simply been a bookworm. At Oxford University, he was on the rowing team and rowed six days per week. Since he has Lou Gehrig’s disease, he has to rely on his wheelchair. Hawking must also speak through a voice synthesizer since he lost his voice after a tracheotomy. Nevertheless, he has sought to explain physical phenomena in a manner understandable to the general public.

The creator of the theory of black holes has released a series of more interesting theories. In the documentary series “Stephen Hawking’s Universe” to debut on Discovery Channel next week, he said alien life almost certainly exists in many parts of the universe, but humanity should avoid all contact with them. He suggested that aliens who have used up all resources on their home planets could become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they can reach. The story is reminiscent of the plot of the blockbuster film “Avatar,” in which humans attempt to steal resources from the tribe Na’vi on the planet Pandora.

Hawking also said people are capable of time travel into the future. According to the theory of relativity, objects must move faster than light to travel in time. Nothing is faster than the speed of light, however, so time travel has largely been considered impossible. Hawking said a day on a spacecraft moving at light speed would equal one year on Earth because time slows for an object traveling at high speed. He also dismissed the idea of traveling back in time, saying it would violate the fundamental rule of cause coming before effect.

The concept of time travel has long aroused people’s curiosity and desire for exploration. This explains why numerous novels, animated films and movies have dealt with time travel and teleportation. Even Hawking said that if he had a time machine, his first stop would be to visit Marilyn Monroe. Regardless of feasibility, Hawking’s support for time travel has led to people thinking outside of the box. A brilliant scholar says people are capable of time travel. I want to board his time machine.

Editorial Writer Chung Seong-hee (shchung@donga.com)