Stephen Hawking stresses the importance of space travel and understanding science

"It is important that the public understands basic science, if they are not to leave vital decisions to others"

Published January 13, 2015 6:44PM (EST)

  (Reuters/Kimberly White)
(Reuters/Kimberly White)

Stephen Hawking continues to both steer thought on cosmology, and dominate pop-culture headlines. (On Sunday, Eddie Redmayne took home a Golden Globe for his portrayal of the scientist in the biopic "The Theory of Everything.")

The 73-year-old cosmologist (he celebrated his birthday last week), recently sat down with Wired to discuss black holes, the importance of space travel, the questions he is currently asking about our universe, and of course what role he'd like to play in a film. Here are some of the most illuminating responses. (The entire interview can be found here -- do read it!)

Stephen Hawking explained the questions he's currently asking about black holes:

"I’m working on how to reconcile the apparent loss of information when a black hole evaporates with our understanding of physics that information is never lost. I raised the question 40 years ago and, despite a large number of papers since, no satisfactory resolution of the paradox has been proposed. Indeed, it has been shown that there is a contradiction between information not being lost and the usual assumption that physics is local. It has been suggested that the resolution is that there is a firewall just outside a black hole that would burn up anything falling in, but I don’t believe in firewalls. Instead I think space-time is warped."

He expounded on the importance of communicating science to the public:

"I was able to speak with a speech synthesiser, though it gave me an American accent. I have kept that voice, because it’s now my trademark. Before I lost my voice, it was slurred, so only those close to me could understand, but with the computer voice, I found I could give popular lectures. I enjoy communicating science. It is important that the public understands basic science, if they are not to leave vital decisions to others."

Hawking also described why space travel is an absolute necessity:

"I believe that the human race will not survive indefinitely on Earth without some disaster. I would like us therefore to spread out into space, so humanity doesn’t have all its eggs in one basket, or on one planet."

And of course, Hawking explained his ideal pop-culture role:

"My ideal role would be a baddie in a James Bond film. I think the wheelchair and the computer voice would fit the part. I know little of popular culture, having spent my time on science."

By Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on innovation. Follow @sarahhhgray or email

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