Stephen Hawking (1942-2018) | He hoped to see fusion in his lifetime

Subscribe options

Select your newsletters:

Please enter your email address:

@

Your email address will only be used for the purpose of sending you the ITER Organization publication(s) that you have requested. ITER Organization will not transfer your email address or other personal data to any other party or use it for commercial purposes.

If you change your mind, you can easily unsubscribe by clicking the unsubscribe option at the bottom of an email you've received from ITER Organization.

For more information, see our Privacy policy.

News & Media

Latest ITER Newsline

  • Cryodistribution | Blowing cold and hot

    If the cryodistribution system were a railroad, the cryogenic termination cold box would be its main switch. A massive structure packed with pipes, valves, elec [...]

    Read more

  • Pre-assembly activities | Captured from on high

    With assembly tools standing 22 metres tall, massive bridge cranes straddling the width of the building, and alien-shaped components placed at regular intervals [...]

    Read more

  • 27th ITER Council | Assembly moves ahead

    The Twenty-Seventh Meeting of the ITER Council took place by videoconference on 18 and 19 November 2020, chaired by LUO Delong from China. Representat [...]

    Read more

  • Fusion world | Translating JET into ITER

    With an inner wall made of beryllium and tungsten, the European tokamak JET is the only tokamak in the world to share the same material environment as ITER. Whe [...]

    Read more

  • Worksite | Major progress you don't see from the air

    There was a time when aerial pictures of the ITER worksite taken at six-month intervals showed spectacular change. Buildings and structures sprouted from previo [...]

    Read more

Of Interest

See archived entries

Stephen Hawking (1942-2018)

He hoped to see fusion in his lifetime

Stephen Hawking came into life on the very day that Galileo Galilei had left it, some 300 years earlier. He passed away on 14 March, the date of Albert Einstein's birth. If these coincidences are not enough to make one wonder, 14 March—which can be written as 3/14—is also celebrated by mathematicians around the world as "Pi Day" ... "Pi" (Π) being a mathematical constant that even non-mathematicians are familiar with.

Weightless—in 2007, Stephen Hawking experienced ''zero gravity'' during a parabolic flight aboard a NASA Boeing 727, feeling ''like Superman for a few minutes.'' (Click to view larger version...)
Weightless—in 2007, Stephen Hawking experienced ''zero gravity'' during a parabolic flight aboard a NASA Boeing 727, feeling ''like Superman for a few minutes.''
Confined to a wheelchair, paralyzed by a neurodegenerative condition, and unable to communicate without a computerized voice system, Hawking, like Galilei and Einstein before him, radically redefined our perception of the Universe.

Hawking was not only interested in black holes, quantum mechanics and the "theory of everything"—he was also preoccupied by the future of our planet, which he considered "under threat from many different areas."

Fusion energy, in his view, offered promise for the main challenges that mankind would inevitably face. In 2010, asked by Time Magazine which scientific discovery or advance he would like to see in his lifetime, he replied without hesitation: "I would like nuclear fusion to become a practical power source. It would provide an inexhaustible supply of energy, without pollution or global warming."

In June last year at the Starmus Festival of arts and sciences in Norway, he entrusted nuclear fusion with another mission: providing the fuel that would open the way to mankind's relocation—which he deemed inevitable—to another habitable planet. But travelling to this new home, he said, would require a "much higher exhaust speed than chemical rockets can provide."

As fusion reactions deliver millions of times more energy per mass unit than today's rocket fuels, a fusion-propelled star ship and its human cargo could, according to Hawking's calculation, be accelerated to "one tenth of the speed of light" and reach habitable worlds in acceptable time.

Science-fiction? Moonshine? Pipe dream? Maybe, or, like so many things Hawking ... simply visionary.


return to the latest published articles