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Science mourns as Stephen Hawking dies at 76

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A wom cycles past flowers placed outside Gonville and Caius College, at Cambridge University in Cambridge, on March 14, 2018, following the announcement of the death of British physicist, Stephen Hawking, who was a fellow of the University for over 50 years.<br />The flag over the late Stephen Hawking’s Cambridge University college flew at half-mast on Wednesday, as students and academics came to pay tribute after the physicist’s death. / AFP PHOTO / Tolga AKMEN

Stephen Hawking, one of the most influential physicists of the twentieth century and perhaps the most celebrated icon of contemporary science, has died at the age of 76.

The University of Cambridge confirmed that the physicist died in the early hours of Wednesday March 14, 2018, at his home in Cambridge, England.

Since his early twenties, Hawking had lived with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a disease in which motor neurones die, leaving the brain incapable of controlling muscles. Hawking’s health had been reportedly deteriorating; just over a year ago, he was hospitalized during a trip to Rome.

Hawking’s had months before his death warned humans must leave Earth in the next 200 years if we want to survive.

The legendary physicists believed that life on Earth could be wiped out by a disaster such as an asteroid strike, AI or an alien invasion.

He also warned over-population, human aggression and climate change could cause humanity to self-destruct.

He believed, if our species had any hope of survival, future generations would need to forge a new life in space.

One of Hawking’s main fears for the planet was global warming. “Our physical resources are being drained, at an alarming rate. We have given our planet the disastrous gift of climate change,” Hawking warned in July.

“Rising temperatures, reduction of the polar ice caps, deforestation, and decimation of animal species. We can be an ignorant, unthinking lot.”

Hawking said that Earth will one day look like the 460°C (860°F) planet Venus if we don’t cut greenhouse gas emissions.

“Next time you meet a climate change denier, tell them to take a trip to Venus. I will pay the fare,” Hawking quipped.

The physicist also believed President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement has doomed our planet. He warned Trump’s decision would caused avoidable damage to our ‘beautiful planet’ for generations to come.

“We are close to the tipping point where global warming becomes irreversible,” the celebrated scientist told BBC last year.

If global warming doesn’t wipe us out, Hawking believed Earth would be destroyed by an asteroid strike.

“This is not science fiction. It is guaranteed by the laws of physics and probability,” he said.

“To stay risks being annihilated. Spreading out into space will completely change the future of humanity. It may also determine whether we have any future at all.”

Hawking was working with Russian billionaire Yuri Milner’s Breakthrough Starshot project to send a fleet of tiny ‘nanocraft’ carrying light sails on a four light-year journey to Alpha Centauri, the nearest star system to Earth.


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