Stephen Hawking isn’t always the world’s cheeriest soul – in fact, he has sometimes predicted the end of mankind several times in one week.
To be fair, the Brief History of Time author often has a positive point to make, namely that we should all calm down a bit and focus on something other than killing each other.
Here’s five of the different, horrible-sounding ways Hawking thinks life on Earth could be snuffed out forever.
Crushed beneath the heels of hi-tech aliens
Hawking is a vocal opponent of the METI (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence) project, which aims to send messages into space and contact intelligent aliens.
Professor Hawking thinks this is a terrible idea, as any aliens hi-tech enough to get our message and travel here may well crush us without mercy.
He said, ‘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.’
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Incinerated on a giant ball of fire
Hawking reckons the world’s going to turn into a sizzling ‘ball of fire’ by the year 2600 – due to climate change, demands for energy and a soaring population.
Hawking says our only hope of survival is to escape our planet into space, and says his Breakthrough Starshot project could be the first step on the way.
Professor Hawking said that he hoped that tiny spaceships propelled by beams of light could reach Alpha Centauri within his audience’s lifetime.
Bathed in sulphuric acid by Donald Trump
Professor Hawking has been a vocal critic of Donald Trump (describing him as a ‘demagogue’), and in particular has criticised Trump’s stance on climate change.
In this regard, he goes further than many others in how he believes Trump’s policies could leave us.
Hawking said, ‘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.
‘Climate change is one of the great dangers we face, and it’s one we can prevent if we act now.
Replaced by robots
Speaking at the Zeitgeist event in London this year, the physicist warned that machines would inevitably overtake human intelligence, and could, in the end, replace us altogether.
‘Computers will overtake humans with AI at some within the next 100 years,’ he said.
‘When that happens, we need to make sure the computers have goals aligned with ours.’
Prof Hawking has previously warned of the dangers of artificial intelligence, saying last year, ‘The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.
‘Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.’
Killed by our own ‘caveman instincts’
Professor Hawking has said that human aggression is a trait which worked for us during the early days of the human race, but is now a deadly liability in the age of nuclear weapons.
In an interview with The Independent, he said, ‘The human failing I would most like to correct is aggression. It may have had survival advantage in caveman days, to get more food, territory or a partner with whom to reproduce, but now it threatens to destroy us all.
‘A major nuclear war would be the end of civilization, and maybe the end of the human race,” he explained.’
Hawking previously said that we’re at the ‘most dangerous point in history’.
It’s to do with the fact that we currently have the ability to destroy our planet – but not the ability to escape it, Hawking says.
Hawking said last year, ‘We are at the most dangerous moment in the development of humanity.
‘We now have the technology to destroy the planet on which we live, but have not yet developed the ability to escape it.’