Dang, that long title is guaranteed to screw up some formatting. But, it addresses a whole bunch of my posts very well. What got this post going was a recently released article written by Ian O’Neill for Universe Today. In it, he cites scientists who conclude:
It is highly improbable that humans will ever explore beyond the Solar System. This downbeat opinion comes from the Joint Propulsion Conference in Hartford, Connecticut, where future space propulsion challenges were discussed and debated. It is widely acknowledged that any form of interstellar travel would require huge advances in technology, but it would seem that the advances required are in the realms of science fiction and are not feasible. Using current technology would take tens of thousands of years, and even advanced concepts could take hundreds. But above all else, there is the question of fuel: How could a trip to Proxima Centauri be achieved if we’d need 100 times more energy than the entire planet currently generates?
Now, I have breeched that topic here before. Namely, the technology involved to travel with ease to other planets is profound by our standards today. These scientists put it in even simpler context by basically saying it’s not there. That no matter how powerful we make our thrust, it will still take hundreds, if not thousands of years to get there. That’s been my point regarding UFO’s. Why would they sacrifice the resources necessary, and the lives, to travel thousands of years to gut cows and taunt people in small towns? There’s just not been a logical argument to date made for UFO’s.
However, the assumption has always been made that the technology we need, as well as the aliens piloting UFO’s effortlessly throught the universe, is just not here yet. We have the concepts down, we jsut haven’t mastered the technology. One guy on the Universe Today post even puts the math there to assert it is feasible:
August 20th, 2008 at 4:22 am
Very poorly researched article.
“According to Brice N. Cassenti, an associate professor with the Department of Engineering and Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, at least 100 times the total energy output of the entire world would be required for the voyage”
Assuming a cruising speed of c/10, the enregy required to reach that speed would be 1/2 mv^2, a payload of 10 tonnes would need an energy of 1/2 X (10,000) x (3 X 10^8/10)^2 = 4.5 X 10^18 Joules. Earth consumes more than 6 X 10^20 Joules every year. That is 1/133 rd of energy consumption p.a.
Considering a total roundtrip of 85 years and two accelration and deaccelration phases. The eneregy required would be 4 X 4.5 X 10^18 joules over 85 years that would be 1/2833 times the consumption of earth energy during comparable time.
If we send a compact probe of 100 Kgs the requirement would come down by 100 times……
Simple huh? I don’t have a clue about math at that level, so I’ll just take his word for it. All he’s proving is the energy required is actually available, maybe. Problem is, we have never figured a way to generate that much energy in a concentrated situation. When, and if, we do, all our energy issues will have been solved. Then, once we’ve solved all our energy issues, the issue of time has to be addressed. The most popular theory is some type of warp drive. In essence, shortening the distance between to points. That comes from Star Trek. It makes too much sense to ignore. Only problem is no one has a clue, mechanically, how to make it happen. The laws of physics simply prevent it from happening as we understand them now. The problem, as I see it, is if you reach the speed of light, you become light. Your atoms spray all over the place and your energy goes flying in all directions. Just doesn’t sound too good to me. So, we have to get around that pesky issue. However, since the fastest we’re going now is about 50,000 mph, and light, in regards to warping, travels at 670,616,629 mph, we’ve got a long ways to go before we have to worry about that. And when we do get to that point, it would only take about 4.2 years traveling at the speed of light. And, if you got there without hitting anything at all, not even a grain of dust, at over 670 million miles per hour, you probably see something like this:
And nothing else. We’ve been pointing our telescopes at Proxima for a long time. If that trip proves fruitless, then the trip starts getting a lot longer real quick:
Once you get past the closest 15, it starts jumping pretty dang quick. Within a very brief span, you’ll easily be past 100 light years. In a not too lengthy list, you’re past 1,000. So even if you’re travelling at warp 10, you’re still talking, as I understand warping, decades, if not centuries at the speed of light. My main issue with warping tho is what do you do with all the stuff between point A and point B? Dodging comets and asteroids at fifty times the speed of light just sounds real dicey to me.
OK, so now you’ve figured how to get more energy than mankind has ever generated, you’ve figured out how to bend matter, you’ve figured out how to travel faster than mass is known to exist, and you’ve figured out how to dodge stuff while traveling billions of miles an hour. The question then becomes, why would you even want to? The plausible explanations have always been that Earth was dying and man would be looking for new places to live. That seems plausible enough other than if Earth were truly in that dire a situation, I doubt the technology would be available to do it. In simpler terms, that technology would be used to fix the problems here on Earth. If you can do all that, you can fix the planet. Or, man’s curiosity just keeps expanding and the desire to explore strange new worlds kicks in. That would be about the only one I would buy off-hand, but the technology would have to be there and ready to use before man could put the concept to practice. In other words, why would a person be interested, and willing to finance the development of the technology involved in inter-stellar travel other than to do inter-stellar travel? We developed rockets not for space travel, but to bomb other countries. Once the tchnology was developed to destroy ourselves, we put men on them and went to the moon. Even after fifty years, most rockets are still intended to do others harm. If someone developed the technology necessary to generate the energy necessary to travel at warp speed, who’s to say it wouldn’t be used for destructive purposes initially? And, if it is, man won’t have the resources to use it for much else. So, to say the least, man, with the mindset man has right now, isn’t mature enough to deal with the power necessary for inter-stellar travel. When man does develop that maturity, we won’t be the same animal we are now.
A lot of sci-fi movies have pondered alternative means of transportation. I think my personal favorite has to be from the movie Contact:
You got this huge magnetosphere and you drop someone into it while the turbines are spinning incredibly rapidly. At that point, the pod is magically transported exactly where it was intended to go. You never really know where it is she is, but she’s there. Since it apparently distorts time as well, no one ever knows she was even gone. Pretty cool huh? All problems solved. Distance becomes a non-issue entirely. However, we’re not certain what exactly she goes to. Even though she travels great distances, when she’s there she has no pod. So, I’m too sure this concept is too well thought out. I’m not sure I want to get somewhere and have nothing when I get there. So, as neat as this concept is, it’s not terribly useful. Other than Concept, most sci-fi just ignores all the issues of physics and just gives us inter-stellar travel with ease.
Bottom line, I tend to agree with the scientists who are skeptical of inter-stellar travel in man’s distant fufure. Sure, technology has exploded in the last century, but it’s still bound by the very simple laws of physics. None of those laws have been broken in any way. They haven’t even changed. The “next level” for science will be changing and breaking the current understanding of physics. And, given man’s current fear, nay paranioa, over things he doesn’t understand, I don’t expect those laws of physics to be changed any time soon.