Stephen Hawking: I fear I may not be welcome in Donald Trump’s US
Stephen Hawking, the leading British physicist and cosmologist, has said he no longer feels welcome in the US under Donald Trump.
Prof Hawking is a recipient of the prestigious US Franklin medal for science and received the presidential medal of freedom from Barack Obama in 2009. Now he has spoken out about his fears for the country’s “definite swing to a rightwing, more authoritarian approach”.
“I would like to visit again and to talk to other scientists, but I fear that I may not be welcome,” he said in an interview with Good Morning Britain on Monday.
The 75-year-old Cambridge scientist said he was particularly concerned about Trump’s environment policy.
“He should replace Scott Pruitt at the Environment Protection Agency,” he said. “Climate change is one of the great dangers we face, and it’s one we can prevent. It affects America badly, so tackling it should win votes for his second term. God forbid.”
“Trump was elected by people who felt disenfranchised by the governing elite in a revolt against globalisation,” he told ITV1’s breakfast programme. “His priority will be to satisfy his electorate, who are neither liberal nor that well informed.”
Hawking said, however, that he saw signs of hope for the world in the rise of women to powerful positions in public life, and he revealed his excitement at the possibility of sending tiny robots into space to investigate earth-like planets trillions of miles away.
Asked about the ascent of Theresa May, Nicola Sturgeon and Cressida Dick, the new Met police commissioner, he said: “If we factor in high-powered women in Europe as well, such as Angela Merkel, it seems we are witnessing a seismic shift for women to accede to high-level positions in politics and society.
“But there may still be a gap between those women achieving high public status and those in the private sector. I welcome these signs of women’s liberation.”
When asked whether he thought the Nasa space programme should be restarted following the discovery of new planets, Hawking said: “The recently discovered system of seven Earth-sized planets is 39 light years away. With current technology there is no way we can travel that far.
“The best we can envisage is robotic nanocraft pushed by giant lasers to 20% of the speed of light. These nanocraft weigh a few grams and would take about 240 years to reach their destination and send pictures back. It is feasible and is something that I am very excited about.”
On British politics, Hawking said he felt a “hard Brexit” should be resisted, with the UK retaining strong links with the EU and China. He also said that Labour, which he backed at the 2015 general election, would not win the next election under Jeremy Corbyn.
“He doesn’t come across as a strong leader, and he allowed the media to portray him as a leftwing extremist, which he’s not,” he said. “It’s no good having the right principles if you never get in power.”