Famed physicist and super brain on wheels Stephen Hawking doesn't have comforting words about what could happen if aliens ever come to Earth. In an "exclusive" interview with the Spanish publication El País, interviewers referred to statements Hawking made in the past recommending humans avoid extraterrestrials if we find them. Hawking hasn't changed his mind.
"If aliens visit us, the outcome could be much like when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans," Hawking told El País. "Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets They can reach. To my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational. The real challenge is to work out what aliens might be like."
Professor Hawking's reply to the El País journalists is memorable and chilling — which is probably why he's been saying the same thing in the exact same way for years. Despite the "exclusive" tagline on the El Pais story — and the hundreds of other news sites, like the Telegraph, that have aggregated Hawking's alien anxieties under the pretense of "news" — Hawking's apparently been giving the same canned answers in interviews for some time now.
First, the Columbus analogy. Here's a BBC interview from 2010:
"If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn't turn out well for the Native Americans ... To my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational. The real challenge is to work out what aliens might actually be like."
Next, in Hawking's answer to a question from El País regarding black holes, he said in part, "Falling into a black hole is like going over Niagara Falls in a canoe, if you paddle fast enough, you can get away." This has been Hawking's illustration of what a black hole experience not related to a liter of vodka might be like for several years, and a nearly identical statement can be found in a lecture published on the great physicist's website.
While it might be easy to suspect the journalists who interviewed Hawking of cheating a bit with a little help from their old pal Google, Hawking gives a similar repeat answer about how "science and technology are changing" the world in a well-made video accompanying the interview. He gives apparently original short answers to some questions, such as his recommendation Spanish youth who want to become scientists should "[go] to America," because the US values science that "pays off in technology."
As far as we're concerned, Professor Hawking has much more important things on his mind than answering the press. The quick form-letter response Hawking's assistant sends to email queries underscores how many demands the general public, not to mention other scientists, must make for his attention every day. The great scientist "very much regrets that due to the severe limitations he works under, and the enormous number of requests he receives, he is unable to compose a reply to every message."
That's totally OK. He's Stephen Fucking Hawking. We say give him the Nobel Prize already and quit asking him the same lame questions. He's got better things to do. And he's probably right about aliens.
Photos by Dave J. Hogan/Getty Images Entertainment