I recently came across an article about Dr. Stephen Hawking which supported many ideas I've had for a number of years.

Hawking is an English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, author and Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology within the University of Cambridge. Possessing one of the most brilliant minds of our time, Hawking has published "A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes," a popular book about many of the fundamental building blocks of our very existence. Although diagnosed with motor neurone disease at age 21, Hawking has, for more than 50 years, advanced numerous theories and scientific thought - many of which have proven correct - about the cosmic workings of the universe.

In the article in question, which was actually quoting a lecture Hawking recently gave at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, he expressed his thoughts about space flight and exploration. The doctor explained he believes it is absolutely essential for mankind's continued existence to colonize habitable planets. During the lecture Hawking said humanity would likely not survive another 1,000 years "without escaping beyond our fragile planet."

Dr. Hawking has long been an advocate of space exploration as a way to ensure humanity's survival. It is his contention that living on a single planet leaves the human race at risk of self-annihilation through war or accidents, or a cosmic catastrophe like an asteroid strike.

And in this, Dr. Hawking has my full support. Not only are we at risk for the things he mentions, but other factors as well.

Around 1800, the human population finally reached the 1 billion mark, after working many thousands of years to get there. Now, a little over two centuries later, the number is hovering around 7 billion - and still continues to grow at a geometric rate. Through the years, this geometric progression of the number of people on the planet has raised great concern among a number of thinkers, such as Thomas Robert Malthus, a British cleric and scholar, who predicted in the 19th century that human population could not continue to expand at such an unlimited rate, because the land and other resources on the earth necessary to support such numbers are not unlimited.

Such predictions have proven true and continue to become more dire with each passing year. For example, as I pointed out earlier, the human population of the earth was just 1 billion around 1800. By the year 2000, that figure was 6 billion, and now, just 13 years later, it is around 7 billion. At the rate things are going, it will take even less time for another billion human beings to be added to the pile. If the human population explosion continues unabated, it will eventually get the point where the earth's resources will not be enough to feed and otherwise support those numbers. At that point, humanity will be facing a number of very unpleasant crises - including famines, pandemics, and other major problems caused by a lack of resources.

Even today, we are facing problems caused by the strain of an ever-increasing population basis. Not only do more people require food, they also require energy and other resources to live. As a result, we see the cost of producing energy rise - which translates into things such as higher gas prices at the pump and paying more for electricity - with no end in sight. These and other factors are what make it so crucial for the human race to start taking a very serious look at the possibility of pouring research, time and resources into space exploration with the ultimate goal of finding, reaching and colonizing other inhabitable worlds. Because if we don't, I believe, like Dr. Hawking, that the human race will eventually be doomed to extinction on the planet of its birth.