In a rare interview, Stephen Hawking shares that there is much more he wants to do - go to space and co-write a third book for children based on the Big Bang Theory. Wong Chun Wai interviews Hawking through a voice synthesiser at the University of Cambridge with the help of Lucy STEPHEN Hawking has been described as the most brilliant living genius. In the realm of physics, he is ranked only after Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein. Hawking is more than deserving of the title of worlds most famous living scientist. He has achieved so much, charting new frontiers despite his disabilities and being confined to a wheelchair. His 1988 book A Brief History of Time topped the best-selling lists for 237 weeks, reportedly having sold one copy for every 750 people on earth. The book is regarded as a laymans guide to the origins of the universe and the theory of Black Holes and has since become a modern classic. And he is currently working on What Happened to the Big Bang, a book which simplifies the subject matter for a young audience, with his daughter Lucy, 41, a journalist and author. At 68, his health has deteriorated further but it is not stopping him, just as it has never stopped him before. Afflicted with neuro-muscular dystrophy since 21, he is unable to use his fingers and has long lost his ability to speak. He has nurses watching over him 24 hours a day. He can only communicate using facial gestures including eye blinks. His computerised voice system is controlled by using a blink-activated infrared monitor embedded in his glasses. There is a barely perceptible movement of his lips but his eyes are incredibly knowing. Hawking no longer gives press interviews these days. His office, located at the University of Cambridge, is said to receive thousands of e-mail each day. They include requests for media interviews, some of which come with offers of payment for the privilege of meeting the world-renowned British scientist whose career spans over 40 years. Hawking is now the director of research for the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (DAMTP). He was the universitys Lucasian Professor of Mathematics - the worlds most famous academic chair - for 30 years until last January when he had to give it up because it is the universitys policy for the holder of the chair to retire at 67. Previous holders include Isaac Newton, who formulated the gravitational theory. It is hard to associate the Hawking in a wheelchair with the young Hawking who loved riding horses and coxed a rowing team when he was studying at Oxford. As a first-year doctorate student at Cambridge and shortly before his first marriage, he was diagnosed with a motor neurone disease and told that he could only live for a few more years. But he has certainly defied the odds. The disease did not stop him from marrying language student Jane Wilde in 1965 and having three children, Robert, Lucy and Timothy. He wrote scientific papers, delivered lectures and wrote his best seller, despite being in his electric wheelchair which is fitted with a portable computer and speech synthesizer. Then there is a picture of him in his room with United States President Barack Obama, who awarded Hawking with the Presidential Medal of Freedom - Americas top civilian award - at the White House in August 2009. Below is the interview with Stephen Hawking. How is your health? I was very ill last year but I am happy to say I have made a full recovery. You have mentioned that the earth will be wiped out either by a sudden nuclear war, genetically engineered virus or others. Do you still think so? The universe is expanding and will continue to expand forever, but only very slowly, at a rate of about one part in ten billion each year. Of more immediate concern is that the sun will exhaust its nuclear fuel in five billion years. It will swell up, and engulf the earth. It will be time to move to another system, if we are still around. But will the human race even survive the coming century, let alone the coming millennium? There are many dangers, but the one that worries me most is global warming, as it may trigger the release of large amounts of carbon dioxide from the oceans, which would add to the warming. We might end up like Venus, with a temperature of 250C, and raining sulphuric acid. You once said that mankind has no future but to go to space. Is time on the side of mankind or are we really far off? Moving the human race out into space wont happen quickly. By that, I mean it could take hundreds, or even thousands, of years. We could have a base on the moon within 30 years, reach Mars in 50 years, and explore the moons of the outer planets in 200 years. By reach, I mean with manned flight. We have already driven Rovers on Mars and landed a probe on Titan, a moon of Saturn, but if one is considering the future of the human race, we have to go there ourselves and not just send robots. In looking at the universe, what is your view on the issues of the earth like poverty, disease, war, hunger, etc? Im not worried about the future of the universe. The universe will continue whatever happens. But the future of the human race, and of life on Earth, is much less certain. We are in danger of destroying ourselves by our greed and stupidity. What about climate change? What are your thoughts on that? Climate change is happening at an ever increasing rate. While we are hoping to stabilise it, and maybe even reverse it, by reducing our CO2 emissions, the danger is that the climate change may pass a tipping point at which the temperature rise becomes self-sustaining. The melting of the Arctic and Antarctic ice reduces the amount of solar energy that is reflected back into space, and so increases the temperature further. The rise in sea temperature may trigger the release of large quantities of CO2 trapped at the bottom of the ocean, which will further increase the green house effect. Will mankind survive the next 100 years or more? I see great dangers for the human race. If we can avoid disaster for the next two centuries, our species should be safe as we spread into space. -The Star