October 13th, 2008
11:18 AM ET

Stephen Hawking: "I see great dangers for the human race"

CNN's Becky Anderson holds an exclusive interview with scientist Stephen Hawking on his views of the world.
CNN's Becky Anderson holds an exclusive interview with scientist Stephen Hawking on his views of the world.

Becky Anderson | BIO
CNN International anchor

This was one of those moments in any journalist’s career when you realize just how lucky you are to do your job. What wouldn’t anyone give to get the chance to interview Isaac Newton or Albert Einstein? Professor Stephen Hawking is arguably our generation’s most important scientist and this was my Eureka moment.

Aside from the rather vacuous fact that I’d get a chance to get my photo taken with this great man, getting to spend time in the presence of such a brilliant thinker was one of those rare opportunities in life when u sit back and think… wow.

He first achieved international fame with the publication of the scientific bestseller “A Brief History of Time 2 decades ago.

I have to admit that it’s not easy to sit down with a man whose only means of communication is a sort of vague blinking of the eye. It’s with a slight muscle twitch that he activates his voice synthesizer rigged up to a computer that’s pre-loaded with the answers to my submitted questions. He is disabled by a condition that has left him almost completely paralyzed.

It was a humbling experience. And a real learning experience in life for me.

Just consider what he said: “I see great dangers for the human race. There have been a number of times in the past when its survival has been a question of touch and go. The Cuban missile crisis in 1963 was one of these. The frequency of such occasions is likely to increase in the future. We shall need great care and judgment to negotiate them all successfully. But I’m an optimist. If we can avoid disaster for the next two centuries, our species should be safe, as we spread into space.”

“I don’t think the human race has a moral obligation to learn about space, but it would be foolish and short sighted not to do so. It may hold the key to our survival,” he told me.
I asked how his beliefs have shifted in the last 2 decades, to which he noted that the one major development that was not anticipated, was the discovery that the expansion of the universe is accelerating now, rather than slowing down.

Last year, Hawking took the skies above Florida and experienced zero-gravity onboard a commercial jet especially converted for weightless flights.

Now he is looking forward to a space flight of his own next year.

“The Zero G flight last year was wonderful. After 40 years in a wheelchair, it was so good to be floating free. But the flight was just a warm up for space. The real thing should be much better, and last much longer. The sky will be black, and the stars will shine brightly”.

Thank you Professor Hawking.

Filed under: Becky Anderson • Space • Stephen Hawking
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Megan Dresslar (Shoreline, Wa)

    That is so amazing for Stephen Hawkin......... he is my favorite author....... I am proud of him, what he is so brave!!! Thanks interview with him and sharing me of him!!!!! I agree with bloggers.

    October 13, 2008 at 5:53 pm |
  2. Mary V., Salt Lake City, UT

    I agree completely, Stephen. Godspeed.

    October 13, 2008 at 5:15 pm |
  3. Jackie in Dallas

    A man of intelligence, and, I understand, a rather interesting sense of humor! Hawking is one of two great scientific minds that made a difference in my life...the other was Arthur C. Clarke. Both are/were humble about their own accomplishments, but dazzling with their brilliance to see the long term. I envy Becky's opportunity to meet with him.

    October 13, 2008 at 4:54 pm |
  4. Phyllis Herman

    I have been fascinated by Stephen Hawking for years and alway take advantage of any of his speeches, appearances and writings. To be so great an intellect, imprisoned in a paralyzed body must be almost unbearable, but he has put his mind far beyond his body! His mind soars to the very edges of the universe and looks beyond the trivialities of daily life that must be a constant travail. If the human race continues to survive I think, at times, it will be a miracle. Maybe he is one of the miracles that will help us to survive if we but listen.

    October 13, 2008 at 4:32 pm |
  5. Jennifer - Michigan

    WOW, amazing that you could spend some time with Stephen Hawking. It must have been surreal speaking with him, very humbling I'm sure. A brief history in time was a great read! Ever since I was a small child, I've been facinated with the Earth, space, time, nature etc., still am. There's something magical about it all. Very cool. It's interesting to hear his take on everything going on. He is a living legend. Glad he enjoyed his zero gravity ride. Have a good day.

    October 13, 2008 at 3:31 pm |
  6. Martina Ilstad Germany

    Hey Becky
    I realy enjoy your verry human interview with Prof.Stephan Hawking.
    What a man!
    Thank you Becky Anderson

    October 13, 2008 at 2:33 pm |
  7. Kim B

    I'm sorry, but did we really need a genius to tell us this?

    October 13, 2008 at 12:41 pm |
  8. Alexandra Russo

    He also wrote in A Brief History of Time, "I think that there is a good chance that the study of the early universe and the requirements of mathematical consistency will lead us to a complete unified theory within the lifetime of some of us who are around today, always presuming we don’t blow ourselves up first." He's undoubtedly one of the most brilliant persons to ever live and you're very lucky to have met him.

    October 13, 2008 at 12:29 pm |
  9. Jolene, St. Joseph, MI

    Becky: It was refreshing to see one of your reports. I have a great appreciation for space exploration (perhaps because I'm a big Battlestar Galactica fan) and also believe we would be foolish not to try and understand it more. I was especially touched seeing Professor Hawking floating during his space flight. You could clearly see his eyes shining with happiness and he was smiling too! Although it's unfortunate that he is paralyzed, it was great to see that his mind has not faltered one bit. Great piece.

    October 13, 2008 at 11:57 am |
  10. sharon from Indy

    Brilliance is not a popularity contest. Professor Hawkings is just one example of an individual who despite his disability strived to contribute to this world.

    Can we say we have done as much?

    October 13, 2008 at 11:56 am |