Stephen Hawking Says Earth Will Become ‘Sizzling Ball of Fire’ in 600 Years
By Phineas Rueckert
Last year, scientist Stephen Hawking gave humans a shelf-life of 1,000 more years on Earth.
Apparently, 2017 hasn't been to his liking—as Hawking shaved another 400 years off that prediction.
The world-renowned scientist said Tuesday that he believes humans will only last another 600 years before Earth becomes a "sizzling ball of fire" that marks the end of humanity, The Sun reported.
Hawking's comments came as part of the Tencent WE Summit in Beijing. The scientist, who suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and speaks with a speech-generating device, dialed into the conference with a video call urging humans to instead look toward colonizing a neighboring star system called Alpha Centauri, according to Metro UK.
So, how does he want humans do this?
Hawking believes something called the "Breakthrough Starshot" project may offer a way to find life beyond Earth. The project aims to reach the nearest star system to our own, Alpha Centauri, where last August scientists discovered a "potentially habitable Earth-like planet," by sending out ultralight nanobeams that would reach Alpha Centauri in a couple of decades.
"Such a system could reach Mars in less than an hour, or reach Pluto in days, pass Voyager in under a week and reach Alpha Centauri in just over 20 years," Hawking said Tuesday.
"Maybe if all goes well, sometime a little after the middle of the century, we'll have our first picture of another planet that may be life-bearing orbiting the nearest star," he added.
The relationship between population growth and climate change is clear. Rapidly industrializing countries like India and China are expected to contribute half of all CO2 emissions by 2050, according to the United Nations Population Fund.
Global Citizen advocates for countries to adopt the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, including goal number 13: climate action. You can take action here.
"If we cannot stabilize climate and we cannot stabilize population, there is not an ecosystem on Earth that we can save," the nonprofit Worldwatch Institute told Scientific American.
Hawking has been critical of U.S. climate change policy under President Donald Trump. The U.S. will soon be the only country to not sign the Paris agreement, which aims to put a cap on global temperature rise at 1.5 degrees Celsius.
U.S. Now the Only Country Not in Paris Climate Agreement https://t.co/XBYj1lZu7x @ecowatch #COP23— Sierra Club (@Sierra Club)1510071828.0
"Trump's action could push the earth over the brink, to become like Venus, with a temperature of two hundred and fifty degrees, and raining sulphuric acid," Hawking said in an interview with BBC this past July.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Global Citizen.
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What Is Ammonium Nitrate?<p>Ammonium nitrate is a white crystalline salt that can be fairly cheaply produced from ammonia and nitric acid. It is soluble and often used as fertilizer, as nitrogen is needed for healthy plant development.</p><p>Ammonium nitrate in its pure form is not dangerous. It is, however, heat sensitive. At 32.2 degrees Celsius (89.96 degrees Fahrenheit), ammonium nitrate changes its atomic structure, which in turn changes its chemical properties.</p><p>When large quantities of ammonium nitrate are stored in one place, heat is generated. If the amount is sufficiently vast, it can cause the chemical to ignite. Once a temperature of 170 C is reached, ammonium nitrate starts breaking down, emitting nitrous oxide, better known as laughing gas. Any sudden ignition causes ammonium nitrate to decompose directly into water, nitrogen and oxygen, which explains the enormous explosive power of the salt.</p>
Deadly Disasters<p>As ammonium nitrate is a highly explosive chemical, many countries strictly regulate its use. Over the past 100 years, there have been several disasters involving the chemical.</p><p>In 1921, for example, a massive blast occurred at a BASF chemical plant in Ludwigshafen in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate. About 400 metric tons of a mixture of ammonium sulfate and ammonium nitrate exploded, killing 559 people and injuring 1,977. The plant was largely destroyed in the blast, which could be heard as far away as Munich, some 300 kilometers (186 miles) distant.</p><p>In 2015, explosions caused by ammonium nitrate ripped through the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/china-convicts-dozens-for-last-years-giant-explosions-in-tianjin/a-36324321" target="_blank">Chinese port city of Tianjin</a>. Eight hundred metric tons of the chemical were said to have been stored along with other substances in a warehouse for hazardous materials. The blasts killed 173 people and destroyed an entire city district.</p><p>Two years earlier, in 2013, an ammonium nitrate explosion occurred at the West Fertilizer Company site in Texas, killing 14 people. And in 2001, 31 people died in Toulouse, France, in an explosion caused by the chemical.</p>
Terrorist Favorite<p>In Germany, the purchase and use of ammonium nitrate is regulated by the explosives act. This is because the cheap, highly explosive and relatively easily obtainable material has in the past been used by terrorists to carry out attacks.</p><p>For example, in 1995, U.S. conspiracy theorist and gun enthusiast Timothy McVeigh used a mixture of ammonium nitrate and other substances to bomb the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Norwegian far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik also used ammonium nitrate in a car bomb attack in Oslo in 2011.</p>
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