When he's not rocking out with his old mates Pink Floyd, theoretical physicist and cosmologist Professor Stephen Hawking happens to be one of the brightest minds in the galaxy. In an interview with the Evening Standard, Hawking shared some predictions on the breakthroughs he expects to see over the next few years that will drive the adoption of clean, affordable energy.
“High temperature superconductivity will provide cheap power transmission and rapid transport, and nuclear fusion would give us an unlimited supply of clean energy,” Hawking told the Standard.
Super conductors allow for more efficient transportation of energy through power lines, losing less energy on the journey through the grid to your appliances, which could eventually lead to cheaper energy bills. When paired with magnetic fields, they also provide the means to operate Maglev trains -- those that use the repellant forces of magnetism to lift trains above the rails, effectively making them float and reducing the friction that must be overcome to set each train in motion.
Nuclear fusion on the other hand is the process of replicating the reactions that occur in stars, fusing hydrogen atoms to create helium and releasing monumental amounts of energy. As well as the gigantic energy yield created, fusion reactions are an attractive future energy solution because they would generate no nuclear waste -- provided of course that they are handled with delicacy and care.
Hawking also discussed primordial gravitational waves -- the remnants of the big bang -- which he called predicts will be the next "major scientific breakthrough", helping us to piece together the ongoing mysteries of the universe.
“I think the major scientific breakthrough in the next few years will be primordial gravitational waves,” he said.
“These come to us direct from the Big Bang, the origin of the universe, unlike light, which is scattered many times. They are a prediction of inflation, the theory that the universe expanded at an ever-increasing rate, like the way prices go up.
“They will tell us how the universe began and about physics at far higher energies than any particle accelerator we can build. There has been a claim to detect primordial gravitational waves but this is doubtful and remains to be confirmed.” [Standard]