How Humans Could Go Interstellar, Without Warp Drive

By David Warmflash | August 10, 2016 1:06 pm
alpha-beta

Alpha, Beta and Proxima Centauri (circled). (Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0)

The field equations of Einstein’s General Relativity theory say that faster-than-light (FTL) travel is possible, so a handful of researchers are working to see whether a Star Trek-style warp drive, or perhaps a kind of artificial wormhole, could be created through our technology.

But even if shown feasible tomorrow, it’s possible that designs for an FTL system could be as far ahead of a functional starship as Leonardo da Vinci’s 16th century drawings of flying machines were ahead of the Wright Flyer of 1903. But this need not be a showstopper against human interstellar flight in the next century or two. Short of FTL travel, there are technologies in the works that could enable human expeditions to planets orbiting some of the nearest stars.

Picking the Target

Certainly, feasibility of such missions will depend on geopolitical-economic factors. But it also will depend on the distance to nearest Earth-like exoplanet. Located roughly 4.37 light years away, Alpha Centauri is the Sun’s closest neighbor; thus science fiction, including Star Trek, has envisioned it as humanity’s first interstellar destination.

In 2012, a planet was identified orbiting closely around Alpha Centauri B, one of three stars comprising the Alpha Centauri system. Three years later, astronomers were unable to find that same planet, but if it exists it would be too hot for life anyway. What we really want to know is whether planets exist further out from the two main stars, or whether their much smaller, dimmer companion star, Proxima Centauri, located just 4.24 light years from Earth, has planets of its own.

Very soon, these questions will be answered by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) that NASA will be launching into space in 2018, and by other instruments that will follow, instruments capable of more than merely detecting a planet’s presence. They will also be able to read the chemical composition of planetary atmospheres.

JWST

An artist’s rendering of the James Webb Space Telescope. (Credit: Northrup Gruman)

Imagine this: If there’s an Earth-like planet around Alpha Centauri or another nearby star system, astronomers will know about it within a decade or two—certainly long before we can build a ship like the Enterprise.

Maybe we could consider flying under the speed of light.

Propulsion

It is not widely known, but the US government spent real money, tested hardware and employed some of the best minds in late 1950s and early 60s to develop an idea called nuclear pulse propulsion.

Known as Project Orion, the work was classified because the principle was that your engine shoots a series of “nuclear pulse units”—atomic bombs of roughly Hiroshima/Nagasaki power—out the back. Each unit explodes and the shockwave delivers concussive force to an immense, steel pusher plate, which is connected to the most immense shock absorber system that you could imagine.

orion-propulsion

An Orion propulsion schematic. (Credit: NASA)

The researchers calculated that the ship could reach five percent the speed of light (0.05 c), resulting in roughly a 90-year travel time to Alpha Centauri. The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963, which forbade nuclear explosions in the atmosphere, and the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, which forbade nuclear explosive devices in space, effectively ended Orion.

In his epic TV series Cosmos, Carl Sagan noted such an engine would be an excellent way to dispose of humanity’s nuclear bombs, but that it would have to be activated far from Earth. But back when Orion was being funded, amazingly, the plan was to use the nuclear pulse engine even for launching the vessel, in one massive piece, from the surface of Earth. Suffice it to say it does not seem likely that we’ll every build a nuclear pulse ship, but it’s something that we already have the technology to build.

A Cleaner System 

But what about a less explosive, cleaner propulsion system that could achieve the same end? The British Interplanetary Society took on this goal in the 1970s with Project Daedalus. Named for the inventor from Greek mythology who built wings to escape the island of Crete, the design was based on projected development of inertial confinement fusion (ICF), one of two main strategies for generating nuclear fusion energy on Earth.

The other strategy is magnetic confinement fusion (MCF), and similar to ICF, designs exist for adapting MCF to space propulsion. Like Orion, a Daedalus craft would have to be rather large. But using deuterium and helium-3 (obtained from the lunar surface, or from Jupiter’s atmosphere) as fuel, Daedalus craft could reach 0.12 c, cutting travel time to Alpha Centauri to something like 40 years.

There are other ingenious ideas, such as the Bussard ramjet that could approach the speed of light, but the size of the engines and technological gaps that we must fill become so large that they may not seem easier than warp drive. So let’s limit our discussion to capabilities up to the neighborhood of the 0.12 c of Daedalus as we consider what form a human interstellar voyage might take

The Generation Starship

It has been said that if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together. This proverb characterizes the strategy of building an interstellar ship so large that you don’t worry so much about the travel time.

Effectively, the ship is a space colony. It contains a large population—current estimates are that a minimum of tens of thousands of colonists are needed for a healthy gene pool—and all that is needed for people to live comfortably, but it follows a trajectory out of the solar system. Ideas for an interstellar ark taking millennia to reach a destination date back to the fathers of the Space Age—Russia’s Konstantin Tsiolkovsky and America’s Robert Goddard—but the idea really set sail with mid 20th century science fiction writers.

In a two-part novel series written in 1941, Robert A. Heinlein wrote of a vessel that took so long to reach its destination that the people aboard had forgotten they were on a ship. Instead, they believed the large craft to be their natural world.

Torus_Interior_AC75-2621_1920

An artist’s concept of a toroidal space colony that could accommodate 10,000 people. (Credit: NASA)

Sending colonists on a voyage lasting centuries or millennia raises social questions, such as whether it is ethical to commit unborn generations to live out their lives in transit between planets.

10,000 years is a rather long time and means a large number of generations to commit to the interstellar void. But if we’re talking 40 or even 90 years, that’s probably more palatable to many more people. Still, it raises questions as to who would volunteer for such an expedition.

But what about people with shorter attention spans and what if we have no will to build enormous, moving colonies? 

Egg Ships

Here’s another science fiction strategy: sending cryopreserved human embryos, or gametes (ova and sperm) into deep space. Upon reaching the destination star system, the embryos would be developed. This would require an artificial uterus, which we don’t have yet, but like fusion, here we’re also talking in terms of a matter of decades.

At some point in this century, motherless birth could become a technological reality. Theoretically, we’ll be able to send cryopreserved embryos through space, for centuries if needed due to propulsion limitations, and set them to develop into full-term infants on the new planet.

artificial-womb

An artist’s conception of an artificial womb system. (Credit: Genetic Literacy Project)

Then, all you need are robot nannies to raise and educate the infant colonists. And if there’s one area of technological progress that people are supremely confident will keep advancing at warp speed, it’s robots and artificial intelligence.

The egg ship concept is loaded with ethical questions, which can be hashed out in the comments section.

Suspended Animation

As technically ambitious as it may sound, medical science is making incremental progress toward a safe form of human hibernation.

Currently, it’s routine to lower a patient’s body temperature intentionally by a few degrees, thereby inducing a mild hypothermic coma, following cardiac arrest. This enables the brain to recover after oxygen has been cut off, whereas remaining at normal body temperature results in what’s called reperfusion injury.

Not routine yet, but now under clinical trials, trauma surgeons are cooling patients down to just above freezing temperature in cases of severe blood loss. This is true suspended animation. It’s done just for two hours, or possibly three, stalling death so that injuries can be repaired and blood replaced, but the person is basically hibernating during that time.

With incremental progress, the procedure may eventually be extended to time frames of many hours, and eventually days or weeks to treat other conditions. Perhaps, in time, we’ll put people to sleep long enough, and with enough supervision by computers, to slumber away for an entire interstellar voyage the way you now doze off for a transoceanic flight.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, Top Posts
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  • Fraser MacDonald

    “steal”. Come on.

  • Scott Furtwengler

    Or digitize consciousness.

  • David Evans

    Kim Stanley Robinson’s novel “Aurora” gives a convincing (to me) account of the problems experienced by a generation starship. For instance, buildup of impurities in the biosphere which weren’t evident in short-term tests. And much more. I recommend it.

    • Kimberly Mckay-Waugh

      The novel “Aurora is very pertinent to this article. I believe there was also an issue in the generational star ship regarding the different mutation rates between microbes and larger organisms in a very small closed system and how it affected biome interactions that had to be very precise to work. Ha, I also recently re-read the 1980’s novel “Footfall” by Larry Niven/Jerry Pournelle, in which humans built a nuclear pulse space ship to fight back against invading aliens who came to Earth using Bussard ramjet technology.

  • rrocklin

    2 words, freezer burn

  • Erik Bosma

    It ISN’T possible to travel faster than the speed of light. Plus the amount of fuel required to get to that speed would be almost infinite. Even getting up to half or one-quarter light speed would require a huge amount of fuel. Pretty sure we’re stuck here, however we could try sending tiny ships which could be accelerated from Earth with lasers. In other words – mini-probes equipped with quantum computers and sensory devices.

    • TomD

      Yep, it would seem that one-third of the speed of light would be the fastest practical speed possible, assuming that the EM drive doesn’t work. Given the mass of proper radiation shielding and stellar gravitational assists, that is. If the EM drive works then a higher sub-light speed would be possible – the limit would be determined by the radiation damage to the breaking EM drive.

      • bwana

        Or sending a sentient AI which would require a whole lot less shielding, food, life support, etc. than a biological entity…

        • TomD

          Which defeats the premise of the article above…

    • bwana

      Yes, but it IS possible to expand space faster than the speed of light. That is the concept of a warp drive and it is possible.

      • TomD

        I do recall the most serious proposal from a physicist in Mexico City has only 2 problems:
        1) It requires a form of exotic matter that has not been discovered yet
        2) In what may be the worse problem – one that might apply to all warp drives – the inside of the warp bubble around the ship would begin to emit Hawking radiation if the speed of light is exceeded. Cross that line and you cook your ship.

        • bwana

          NASA just published a couple of papers on progress in this direction. Slow but (potentialy) sure… Not going to happen overnight UNLESS someone has a major eureka moment.

    • brch2

      Very few scientists working on FTL travel are doing so thinking Einstein was wrong. They’re looking for methods that Einstein’s theories don’t apply to.

      • Erik Bosma

        Yes, very very few.

  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

    Outside Earth’s atmosphere (yard thickness of lead mass/area, without pair formation) awaits 90 REM/year of ionizing radiation. The Alcubierre drive is isolated within its spacetime bubble, disallowing navigation. The Starflight Handbook, 1989, Mallove and Matloff. Your post lacks real worldliness. To go interstellar, 1) uncouple inertial and gravitational masses (the Lensman series), or 2) a star drive that goes backward in time as it goes forward in space, traveling in a flash even at 3 mph, or

    3) “Local soccer Mom discovers warp drive using a simple kitchen microwave trick.”

    • mbkeefer

      You are way over estimating the shielding necessary. It would take less than half a yard of lead to match the Earth’s atmosphere. Probably a lot less, since lead has a much high Z number then the atoms that make up the atmosphere. A couple of yards of lunar rock woud do the job. This is not counting shielding that ship’s structure, fuel and supplies could provide.

    • Juliana Brown

      Hey, which crazy thing happening are you guys screaming about?

  • Jonathan

    It is not possible to build FTL engines. And more and more people are in fact absolutely not confident that we will ever build a real AI, in fact in 70 years we haven’t moved a bit in this direction and a computer of todaty is as stupid as a computer of 50 years ago, just faster. What we call AI today are just algorythms.

    • disqus_atlq8Zmtsd

      Everyone seems very confident about that 3E8 as an absolute speed limit thing in a scientific field where Newtonian mechanics was once more sucessful at describing the observed universe than any current theory has been.

      • mbkeefer

        Newtonian mechanics does not describe the observed universe better than General Relativity. One of its obvious failures was the orbit of Mercury does not obey Newtonian physics.

        • TomD

          I didn’t read disqus_atiq8Zmtsd as saying that Newtonian mechanics is better than current theories, merely that at the time of its intellectual apogee it was more unchallenged by any competitor than today’s theories are. For example, we all know about today’s relativity versus quantum mechanics inconsistencies; no such intellectual parallel existed in the late 1800’s.

          • disqus_atlq8Zmtsd

            Exactly this

    • Jim Dodds

      …and what makes you think the human brain is any more than algorithms, with massively parallel processing?

      • Jonathan

        Well it’s not. At all.

        • Jim Dodds

          Why do you say that it’s not? Your answer is on the order of, “Because my Dad and Mom told me so.”

        • bwana

          You say it’s not. I say it is. Bit of a deadlock, no?

        • Jim Dodds

          Jonathan, that response adds up to the equivalent of, “Because my Dad told me.” You have said nothing about why you believe the human brain is not run by algorithms, etc.

    • brch2

      In 1961 it wasn’t possible to go to the moon. Until one person issued a challenge to. A few years before that we couldn’t even get to space. It took a few hundred years after Newton realized it was possible before humanity achieved it. And that was centuries/millennia since people started considering the idea.

      In 1938 it wasn’t possible to split an atom. Until a group of scientists were brought together to figure it out. And that research only started 6 years after the last unknown subatomic particle, the neutron, was discovered. 100 years give or take since the first subatomic particle, electrons, were discovered. And centuries/millennia since the idea was considered.

      We can’t travel FTL now. No one can say if or when that will change until the day it does. Einstein explained something that was true to the extent of his observations, and as far as we know is a fact regarding observations at the atomic level. But the quantum level has different rules, and we’ve yet to figure them all out. Or even figure out how many more subatomic particles we’ve yet to find. And that’s the only level we understand anything about as of now, we don’t know if any of the “theories of everything” are on the right track or not, or if there’s even more layers to the universe we can only guess about. Never claim something’s impossible. Anyone who would ever make the claim that something’s impossible shouldn’t get involved with discussing science… and should absolutely never be a scientist. If all research stopped regarding something the first time someone said that something is impossible, we wouldn’t be too far past the stone age, if we got past it at all.

      • Jonathan

        The difference is that FTL travel is not even possible theoretically. There is no research on this issue, not theoretical and of course not experimental. Of course maybe, in the future we will discover a way to do it. And maybe unicorns and care bears will appear and everybody will be happy. Everything is possible.

  • m242424

    Why are people saying we can’t travel faster than light.
    Of course we can.
    Quantum entanglement has been proven.
    All you need to do is robotically set up a base at another location, Set up a quantum entanglement information network.
    Transmit your body via information and remake yourself at the other end.
    Certainly there are difficulties if you look at everything from todays technological point of view.
    Yes as science stands today that is a vast amount of information, 3d printers no better than for making nuts and bolts.

    But spread that concept further to what we can do in a million years. Would we be able to have a quantum communications system, I dont see why not. 3d printers that can create biological organisms, I don’t see why not. Upload our selves into a robotic body on a far away rock, I dont see why not.

    So will we be able to go FTL, I don’t see why not.

    The only limitation I see is the communication network would have to be deployed at sub-light levels first. Which means a gradual expansion away from our system.

    • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

      There is no mechanism by which information can travel faster than lightspeed. Entanglement conveys no information at all until separated datasets are compared. Such transmission is bounded by lightspeed. You don’t even get Morse code or 8-bit ASCII. The universe is strictly causal.

      3d printers that can create biological organisms, I don’t see why not.” 3D print a soap bubble. I wish you well, sweet pea.

      • bwana

        You of little faith. Look beyond your little bubble of current information. Think into the future.

        • zlop

          The future is limited — not by our fantasies.

          • bwana

            More lack of imagination for what could be possible; sad!

          • zlop

            What is the future limited by?

          • bwana

            As far as I’m concerned, absolutely nothing!

      • zlop

        “Entanglement conveys no information at
        all until separated datasets are compared.”

        If a long distance entangled network is established,
        highly correlated (sharp pictures) could be sent.

        Is high bit-rate, long distance, entangled data
        transmission possible? Decay of entanglement . ..?

    • TomD

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t the entangled particles require to be MOVED to your network nodes, and isn’t that movement limited by the same light-speed issues as human travel? Even if such teleportation is possible there is no free lunch. If teleportation via quantum entanglement were perfected in 2020 we would still not be able to teleport to Alpha Centauri until the entangled particles get there in hundreds or thousands of years, correct?

  • OWilson

    This could be an article in Popular Science circa 1955, not much has changed.

    These concepts are certainly not new, (especially to Trekkies).

    Warp Drives, FTL travel, matter transmitters (beam me up, Scotty), and worm hole subways do not exist in the real world.

    I would advise the New Agers, with their grandiose plans to terraform human colonies to look at where it has actually been tried.

    Biosphere 2, launched in 1992, was either “the most exciting scientific project to be undertaken in the U.S. since President John F. Kennedy launched us toward the moon” or “New Age drivel masquerading as science”. – WIKI

    In any event, it failed and was abandoned amid dissension, strife, jealousy, discord, even law suits, cheating and vandalism, otherwise known as human nature. :) An embarrassing and very costly failure.

    (Nobody mentions it anymore)

    Look it up, it’s worth a read.

    • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

      We will Progressively WILL ourselves to other stars shortly after we end poverty, hunger, and disease on Earth. We will Progressively promise you a hamburger next Tuesday for full payment today and every day thereafter.

      Buying a stairway to Heaven is silly. Polish the banisters all the way up, then sneak in.

      • Cajun Exile

        …LOL…Progressive Utopia that’s just around the corner…just slither on those tights, sprinkle a little faerie dust about ones person and its “Time to fly Tinkerbell”

    • mbkeefer

      The Biosphere 2 main problem was all the concrete they used to build it. As it was still curing the concrete was sucking CO2 out of the air. Since there were plenty of sources of carbon this resulted in a declining concentration of oxygen that forced them to end the project.

      • OWilson

        And the vandalism, cheating (smuggling in food and oxygen) and the law suits?

        LOL

        • mbkeefer

          If it had not been for the concrete sucking CO2 out of the air, it would not have been necessary to smuggle in food or oxygen.

          • OWilson

            How about the cheating, jealousy, the vandalism and the law suits?

            Keep trying.

            This is fun!

          • beelzeblob

            One can always find failure if you look hard enough. Sure Biosphere 2 had failures (especially social ones) but it’s failures were actually successes in that we learned so much. We learned a lot about what won’t work for long-term colonization, about how complex bio-systems are and how they can’t easily be reproduced, and so on. Nay sayers are a serious impediment to progress. If you want to be critical, put it to good use and create solutions to these failures instead of gloating smugly at the ‘fools’ who dare to dream.

          • OWilson

            Just pointing out the facts, Ma’am! :)

            As you can see, it takes more than wishful thinking to achieve success.

          • Smarter than Your Average Bear

            One of the differences between biosphere 2 or any such experiments is that the participants all know it is temporary and that there is a way out. In space that is not likely to be the case as there is no out (short of death) and that forces the inhabitants to focus more.

          • OWilson

            Ah, the Brave New World!

    • Lorie Franceschi

      We may not yet have FTL ships, but we do have medical scanners, and pulse laser weapons. We also have shoot and forget missiles. Yes they are very primitive compared to Star Trek, but we do have them.

      • bwana

        And this is just in the last generation… Let’s think 50, 100 or 500 years into the future with the current state of technology growth.

        • OWilson

          You’ll still have to deal with human nature.

          At any given time, half the world wants to kill the other half.

          Even in your Trekkie Land today, you are almost in civil war, with half your population hating the other half.

          As the poster above says, “We also have shoot and forget missiles, and “pulse laser weapons”.

          Indeed!

          • bwana

            Human nature will resolve itself! We either work together to leave this rock we call Earth or we go extinct… We simply cannot remain on Earth and survive!

          • OWilson

            The fittest will survive, like we have been doing for the last 3,000,000 years or so.

            I’ll be on the pad bidding you goodbye!

          • bwana

            The Earth (and everything on it) will eventually be “devoured” by the sun. For “humans” to survive we’d better have a plan beyond your “on the pad bidding you goodbye”!

            And probably a few killer asteroids prior to then…

          • OWilson

            You have little faith in the government.

            Obama’s election, was, he told us, “the time when the oceans will cease to rise, and the planet will start to heal”.

            Oh, and those pesky asteroids?

            Leave it to NASA. If they can tell you the weather a hundred years from now with “settled science” certainty, they will certainly take care of that threat.

            All you need is love, belief, and an open door to your treasury.

          • bwana

            You’re is a great mood this fine morning! :) I do love a laugh.

          • OWilson

            Be careful what you ask for (or demand) there are any number of crooked politicians around willing to borrow more money to spend on true believers (and themselves and their friends and relatives) and stick the bill to your grandchildren :)

          • bwana

            Or simply become a 3rd world country, declare bankruptcy every decade or so, and start the cycle again…

          • OWilson

            The problem is it takes a long time for a prosperous, militant, self diciplined society to become that way again.

            It takes blood, sweat, treasure, and deferred gratification, and a collective societal memory of the what it cost.

            Egypt, Greece, Rome, Britain, and more recently the U.S. will not be “Great Again” anytime soon, despite the promises of opportunistic politicians.

            The future belong to those who will make the necessary sacrifice.

          • OWilson

            We can’t even get past 85 years or so :)

            Does your world exist if you are dead?

          • bwana

            If we truly live in a virtual reality, then probably not. If reality is truly reality, then probably the world continues on without you…

      • Teleri

        Also tablets, cell phones, replicators ie 3D printers (Trekkies became engineers, you know, & back engineered a LOT of Star Trek stuff)

    • bwana

      “Warp Drives, FTL travel, matter transmitters (beam me up, Scotty), and worm hole subways do not exist in the real world.”

      Today… Tomorrow is whole new place.

      All one has to do is look back a century or two to see how wrong one can be!

    • brch2

      No technology exists in the real world until it’s been invented. And we don’t know if something like a wormhole, or subspace, hyperspace, whatever, is out there until we discover it and invent any tech needed to utilize it, or we build tech to create wormholes or other anomalies. Finding a way to explore the galaxy is not just about human survival.

      • bwana

        Sorry to disagree BUT it is totally about human survival for the long term!

        • brch2

          What’s your point? Space travel research and saving the planet aren’t mutually exclusive goals.

          • bwana

            They aren’t mutually exclusive goals; however, for the long term we do have to expand beyond our origins of Earth to survive…

          • OWilson

            I’m an eternal optimist :)

            Mother nature, with her vast array of WMDs, earthquakes, floods, volcanoes, hurricanes, tornadoes, asteroids, comets, droughts, wars, pestilence and disease will keep the human populations within limits.

            There has always been a market for walled mansions and armed guards.

          • brch2

            Sorry, confused your reply as agreeing with the idiot saying we should give up continuing and advancing in space, and acting like our lack of current knowledge or observation of something means it’ll never happen. Thus I was replying from that angle. However, I never said space travel didn’t or shouldn’t have a long term goal of species survival. And regardless of whatever any particular goal is for specific missions, even just all it took and all the things needed to get to the moon led to massive improvements in a huge range of fields, and is overwhelmingly one of the things primarily responsible for much of our technological boom that it led. To much extent, we didn’t improve our space program as technology was improved and new technology invented, we improved and invented a lot of that tech because we needed it to carry out our goals in space. So the space program is extremely beneficial just from the the relatively limited progress we’ve so far made, and has had FAR more benefits than almost anything we would learn from bio domes (even if we ever had to build giant bio domes to survive if we let the planet degrade too far, we’d get more usefulness from all of the space research over the decades than we would from any bio dome itself). So yeah, I misunderstood you, but agree with you.

            However… you misunderstood me with your first reply… I said exploring the galaxy was not JUST about long term survival. It’s also about desire to explore, desire to advance technology, and desire to simply have options of things to do and places to see that we can’t now. And frankly it doesn’t matter what any particular person’s goal is for being in the program or doing the research, etc… all outcomes that are possible from success can, and most of them will be mutually inclusive. For instance, someone that wants to just do something new and has chosen FTL and succeeds in creating it, would then give the explorers a way to explore, which would then require new ways to survive in space and on hostile planets to enable them to do so, which would then lead to knowledge of what planets are out there and which ones are or aren’t habitable (or can be with certain methods of adaptation), which then leads…. yeah. It’s not JUST about survival, but nevertheless requires and would enable a lot of things that would benefit us and increase our chances for longer term survival.

          • brch2

            Also, as I can’t believe I only just realized, even if bio dome research were a better route for long term survival, the fact is that as long term space settlement will ultimately require the ability to build them and live in them if we ever want to have long term presence on hostile planets/moons, then that goal will lead to more bio dome research being done than would be without the space goals. And on top of that, any other research required to settle new planets would also almost certainly be applicable to solutions to problems with our own. And a lot of what we’ve learned in space so far will benefit bio dome research and other aspects required to more efficiently build and maintain them. So not only are the two not mutually exclusive, the two are almost entirely mutually inclusive, in that they’re mutually beneficial and one partly/one entirely dependent on the other, but in that both space and bio domes provide research that is going to be required to extend and ensure continual human existence… whether it be here, somewhere else, or both plus spread far beyond that.

  • advancedatheist

    What kind of “people” would you have permission to send on a multigenerational starship in the current political climate?

    If you have to choose the first generation of colonists according to objective criteria for success, you would wind up with intelligent, wholesome, conservative people with healthy sexuality, kind of like the Duggars in Arkansas, but with a few more IQ points.

    But consider the alternative if you had to send colonists based on social-justice ideology – itself a cultural fad which lacks roots in historical experience: “I don’t get it. We loaded up the starship with gays, lesbians, transgenders, feminist, otherkins, pajama boys and other representatives of diversity, vibrancy and fairness; yet the colony ship failed on the way and everyone in it died without offspring. What did we do wrong?”

  • ivank2139

    The Super AI will figure it out. And send out a scout in constant communication with it.

  • shrinkwrap

    Politics politics politics. Speed of light, speed of light, speed of light. The world was flat at one time, thinking otherwise put your life in serious jeopardy. Einstein said we can’t go the speed of light? Did he live a hundred years ago? Have there been developments in this field since then? Please go away all you who think in absolutes. Tell me what we can do, not what we can’t do. We all know what is improbable. We all know why perhaps something couldn’t happen. Nothing will happen if we accept the status quo. Stop trying to dissuade scientific progress due to your political, religious or economical bent.

    • TomD

      The world was never flat, until Washington Irving wrote that people had said so, That myth was debunked years ago.

      • White Elk Clearwater

        Loooonnng before Washington Irving flat world was a very common myth.

        • TomD

          Not true. Everyone who sailed the Mediterrian or any other large body of water could see hills and mountains rise above and fall below the horizon. a survey of historical documents show that only 5 named people can be found who believed it. Augustine of Hippo argued that the use of Isaiah 11:12 (which says the earth has four corners – an obvious metaphor for a map) is wrong because “we know it is really round”. Go read Skeptical Inquirer magazine or “Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and Modern Historians” by Jeffrey Burton Russell.

          • White Elk Clearwater

            I presume you never saw the ancient “earth maps” that showed the “world” on a tortoises back. While not totally flat, its curve explained the rising |& lowering horizons while still maintaining the limited expanse with a drop off edge myth. Anyhow, IMHO, articles in magazines like the one you mentioned are not worth arguing over, to put it politely.

          • Thomas W. Yale

            Said maps were produced by ancient Hindu, Chinese and Lanape Indian mythologies.

          • White Elk Clearwater

            RIGHT! & to the best of my knowledge they were considerably before Washington Irving.

          • TomD

            And none of them figured into Western intellectual history

          • OWilson

            The Greeks figured it out 2500 years ago, and only the iliterates and their religious leaders hung on to fanciful notions of heaven and earth.

            The equivalent today are Popes who claim God talks to them, and the iliterates who believe the planet is dying.

          • TomD

            Yep, the Earth’s shadow on the Moon was the giveaway 2500 years ago, but it also confirmed what Greek sailors already knew.

            Since about 6.5 billion people believe that God (or something) talks (or might talk) to them, why single out Popes?

            The planet may not be dying, but it is possible that the continued solar warming in the core will cause a decrease in bio-diversity down the road. Perhaps we arrived just in time to save the planet – tell that to the Gaia followers!

          • OWilson

            It’s also possible that the Earth will continue it’s 4,500,000,000 Goldilocks existence beyond this special, self centered, precious little lifespan of Al Gore and his followers.

          • mbkeefer

            Nope, Earth will definitely toast within 600 million years.

          • OWilson

            Can we start the candlelight vigils now?

          • TomD

            Yes, but the odds are pretty low. mbkeefer points out why below.

          • mbkeefer

            The Sun does not heat the Earth’s core, in spite of what they showed in the movie “2012”. The Sun however, is SLOWLY getting brighter. Sometime between 100 to 600 million years from now it will become too warm for water to remain a liquid in most of the oceans. The increased water vapor in the atmosphere will trigger a runaway greenhouse effect. The Earth will become another Venus. A burn out dead rock.
            Of coarse if we worked at it hard enough and pumped enough CO2 into the atmosphere fast enough we might be able to trigger the runaway in one or two thousand years.
            Then if there are any survivors on Mars, in a few thousand years they will never believe there was any life on Earth.

          • TomD

            The oceans will be steaming in only 60 million years. Frankly, shielding the planet via terraforming technology will be the only way to go. The dismantling of our industrial civilization so we can “get back to the balance of nature” is NOT the way to go. Nature has NEVER been balanced, at least not consistently so,

          • mbkeefer

            Barring running the atmosphere’s CO2 content up to ridiculous levels the earliest estimate for the oceans to start evaporating is a 100 million years from now. A solar powered industrial installation at the Earth Sol LI point would be a great way to prevent that.

          • TomD

            Exactly. Actually, we SHOULD use L1 shades IN ADDITION TO slightly elevated CO2 levels. A little bit of CO2 would prevent the Earth from getting TOO cool in the next Maunder minimum.

          • mbkeefer

            At our current levels we do not have to worry about the next Mauder minimum or another glacial period. The CO2 level is just too high for the Milankovitch cycle to return the planet to another glacial age.

          • TomD

            Right. So, why do we want to go back to the pre-industrial age? It doesn’t make any sense. We should move forward and manage the climate over the long term the results will be better.

          • zlop

            Run asteroid mass cyclers between Earth and Jupiter
            to move Earth’s orbit. Move Mars into the asteroid belt?

          • zlop

            “Sometime between 100 to 600 million years from now it will
            become too warm for water to remain a liquid in most of the oceans.”

            To gain more time, mass of Earth’s atmosphere could be reduced.
            Half atmosphere pressure would drop present surface temperate to 0C.

            “pumped enough CO2 into the atmosphere fast enough we might
            be able to trigger the runaway in one or two thousand years.”?

            Are you referring to releasing CO2 from carbonate rocks?
            It comes down to surface pressure increase.

          • mbkeefer

            Just burn up all the recoverable fossil fuels as the primary means of generating energy. We would have them all used up in a couple hundred years. Within a thousand years after that, the ice sheets would be gone and then the oceans would start evaporating.
            It is the total CO2 content that counts. Dropping atmospheric pressure will not matter unless you reduce the CO2 total.
            It would be easier to build a sun screen at the Earth-Sun LI point. A massive solar powered industrial facility would do nicely. But, it has got to be built before the oceans start to evaporate.

          • zlop

            “It is the total CO2 content that counts. Dropping atmospheric
            pressure will not matter unless you reduce the CO2 total.”

            CO2 warming is a deception — Mars has ore than 20 times CO2
            per volume than Earth. CO2 freezes out on Mars.

            Solar covered satellites are the way to go — not only beaming
            power through the Solar system, but also, designing the weather.

          • mbkeefer

            Mars’ atmosphere is basically a hard vacuum. Having 20 times and much per volume as Earth is still less than what Earth has. 20 times practical nothing is practically nothing. 1 times a lot is still a lot. CO2 freezes out on Mars, because during the winter it gets below -200 degrees there.

          • zlop

            “Mars’ atmosphere is basically a hard vacuum”?

            10 millibar, 0.01 bar Mars maximum pressure
            400 / 1 000 000 = 0.0004 per volume Earth CO2
            0.01/0.0004 = 25 times more CO2 molecules/volume.

            “CO2 freezes out on Mars, because during the winter it
            gets below -200 degrees there.”

            Mars needs a lot of nitrogen to increase surface pressure.
            Maybe SF6? — Make a deep valley for a settlement?

          • mbkeefer

            Where did you get the value of 10 millibars? At most it is 6 millibars. And it is not in a dense blanket close to the planet but spread out about ten times further into space. That makes the green house effect much less effective.

          • thaddeusbuttmunchmd

            “…in fact it’s Cold as Hell.” HEY, Elton John said it…not ME

          • Lorie Franceschi

            You are correct, even Columbus knew the world was round otherwise he would not have tried to reach Asia by going West.

          • TomD

            The funny thing is, Columbus was wrong. He thought the diameter was much smaller than what it is. The big argument between Columbus and the Church prelates at Isabella’s court was over this value. The Church scholars did not say the Earth was flat, they said that the diameter was closer to the value found by Eratosthenes. In effect Columbus cooked the books on his grant proposal, and he was just “lucky” that the New World existed.

          • Lorie Franceschi

            You are right, Columbus thought it was smaller. Good thing the Islands of North America got in the way. He never did land on the main land of the Western Hemisphere.

          • TomD

            Not on the first trip. His third voyage made it to Venezuela and the fourth to Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama.

          • thaddeusbuttmunchmd

            Maybe the ancients thought the World was a flat circle, instead of spherical. Like the Old Hindu World on the Back of four elephants standing on a turtle deal

    • White Elk Clearwater

      Only a Sith thinks in absolutes….. hmmm where did I hear that comment?

    • bwana

      Real progress is made by those that think outside the box and consider what everyone else thinks is impossible. Yes, the speed of light may be a limitation; however, you can stretch space faster than the speed light. The speed of light is no longer a limitation, just the means of overcoming it!

      • robyns1

        Hi Bwana, “you can stretch space faster than the speed of light”. This is an idea I have also been keeping in mind. However, the difficulty is that on the outermost known edge of a expanding universe, it is supposedly dark energy that is creating this faster-than-light speed behind space expansion.

        Currently we have no concepts to explain dark energy, and certainly none to recreate the effect to use in space travel. Do you have any thoughts on this problem?

        • bwana

          Stretching space faster than the speed of light requires more energy than humans have produced to this point in time and, if I recall, requires negative energy at some point to kick the process off. Of course I might be thinking about propping open worm holes??

          As for dark energy, there is still a question whether dark matter and/or dark energy even exist…

          • robyns1

            Hi Bwana, that is a good question. Astrophysicists have called it dark energy because they propose that any force behind an expanding universe must not reflect light and be pure energy, but even this is just purely a guess, to try to explain how an inflating universe can be pushed at its outer edges at faster than light speeds. Beyond this guess there’s no concepts proposed to explain how it could exist, let alone one to confirm the idea as valid in explaining what’s observed. Much fun.

    • cre8iveman@aol.com

      If you don’t understand time dilation, you simply don’t get Relativity.

  • Fire them all

    While nothing with mass can travel faster than light, space itself can and does expand faster than light. So we just need to hitch a ride on a patch of space expanding in the right direction. Hey, I don’t have all the details worked out yet, but it will probably involve black holes and dark energy.

    • Maia

      Your suggestion sounds about as plausible as the other, er, “theories” here.

      • Fire them all

        No soup for you! Come back one century!

        • Maia

          My comment was actually meant to be a complement… of sorts. :)
          In a century, your soup will be mighty cold…

          • Fire them all

            Apology accepted. And I’m upgrading you to Business Class on StarSurfer One.

      • TomD

        No need to denigrate speculations. We know they don’t rise to the level of theories. So what? And what about having fun, as ‘Fire them all’ appears to be doing (” Hey, I don’t have all the details worked out yet”)?

        • Maia

          No need to project denigration. Guess you missed the smile….

          • TomD

            Yeah, sorry, I saved that before your explanatory post below,

    • bwana

      Actually the science on this is pretty much resolved… Now all we need is the technology and energy source to accomplish it.

  • TomD

    No mention of solar sailing, the EM drive, or gravitational assist off of stars. No mention of the universal constructor robotic technology likely to be needed to build this stuff in space or to travel in advance of the manned vessels.

  • Maia

    What is a human being? A pile of molecules or an
    immensely complex planet-dependent organism that requires other (fairly together) humans
    to become human?

    WHY are we in such a hurry to get (other) humans off our home planet?

    • TomD

      Why? It’s speciesism, just the same as every other species perpetrates, only we have technology.

    • Barbie

      Because we have idiots running politics, and they’re destroying this world with their anti-science, climate change is a Chinese hoax, mentality. That’s why we have to get off this world.

      • Maia

        It’s going to be far far too late to escape the messes we’ve made. Maybe we could think about how to live more in harmony with the planet right now? Before it’s 100% ruined? Will spending money, time and resources on escape fantasies (for others, you and I will be flying ash in the wind) help turn things around?

        • zlop

          “Maybe we could think about how to live
          more in harmony with the planet right now?

          Harmoniously controlled by unconstrained
          Global World Order psychopaths?
          Dissonance leads to development.

          • Maia

            By “we” I mean the likes of you and me. Not starting from the top, but the bottom. There are always ways in our communities that we can move further toward caretaking land and water, trees and wild life, and thereby, each other. What if we put as much into such projects as into building ships to escape? Besides, are “we” going to be allowed on those ships? Who do you think will grab all the seats?
            I have no desire to leave home planet, but those who do, IF they do, will not be the 99%.

          • OWilson

            I agree.

            Instead of putting your money on globalism, maybe we could start in your own communities, educating the poor illiterates, that live in your gang banging, crime infested, vandalized neighborhoods.

            Until that’s done no more money to the U.N. to give to third world genocidal despots.

          • Maia

            “…your gang banging, crime infested…neighborhood”? I wonder who are you talking to? I have no investment funds, and my neighborhood is nothing like your projected negative fantasy. Where is all this coming from?
            Nevermind, I know where it’s coming from.

          • OWilson

            If you don’t live in the U.S., my remarks are misdirected at you.

            If you do live in the U.S. You need to open your eyes!

  • Carl Martin

    FTL would be an important discover but the ability to stop would be more important.

    • okiejoe

      Yes, it is easy to forget that small detail. It takes as much time and energy to stop as it takes to get there.

      • mbkeefer

        That is why my fusion powered star ship designs back in the 70’s could only get to 4% the speed of light. They needed to have fuel to slow back down and explore the star system they reached.

        • zlop

          There was a design to beam power, using an element which reacts radioactively with a push plate.

          • mbkeefer

            It was not a radioactive reaction. just an explosive one. The beam would vaporize a thin layer of reactant. That would create thrust against the push plate. The advantage of such a system is a lot less mass is needed to build the ship. The fuel takes less weight as the energy is coming from the beam. No fuel tanks no plumbing and no pumps and supporting power systems

          • zlop

            “It was not a radioactive reaction.”?

            Design was of a push plate, made of an isotope, which reacts, fissions with the incoming beam. I forget the isotopes to be used. It should still be on the internet, somewhere.

          • mbkeefer

            To get fissions would require a beam of neutrons or gamma rays. Both way beyond known physics. Anybody that could do either of those, could use antimatter for fuel and go well beyond 10% of the speed of light and still have fuel to slow down at the other end of the trip.

          • zlop

            Type of a Fission-Fragment Rocket — A sub-critical reaction plate, pulse beamed with an isotope, to produce a small nuclear explosion. I cannot find the article which analyzed the isotopes to be used.

          • mbkeefer

            For your beam to have any kind of range it has to be either neutral particles (which cannot be focused) or gamma rays (which are very very hard to focus). If neutrons, can be used a host of materials that will fission when hit will work. With gamma rays your target has to be a combination of deuterium and fissionable material. The gamma rays can knock loose a neutron from the deuterium that can react with your fissionable material.
            But, as pointed out above anyone who generate those kind of beams in enough strength to power a ship would not bother. They would have the tech to just use anti matter as fuel.

          • zlop

            “neutral particles (which cannot be focused)”

            Use a setup similar to a Xenon rocket engine.
            The charged beam can be focused. How can
            adding electrons be compensated for?

            Rail gun type of setup?

          • mbkeefer

            A charged beam like the Xenon ion engine disperses as soon as it leaves the engine. It has very little range. The positively charged ions push each other apart. A rail gun setup on the outer reaches of the solar system (where gravity fields will not be messing up the flight path.) has potential. But, it will not take long for the ship to be going faster than the rail gun can shoot.

          • zlop

            “The positively charged ions push each other apart.” — that is why electrons are added to neutralize. — “The neutralizer, another hollow cathode, expels an equal amount of electrons to make the total charge of the exhaust beam neutral.”

            As for the railgun, heating seems to be the limit.
            Linear motor limit?

          • mbkeefer

            Very good. But, the velocity of the electrons have to exactly match the velocity of the xenon atoms. Otherwise, they will separate. In the ion engine there is no effort to do this. Also, the electrons are far more influenced by the magnetic fields in space. This means at the high velocity of your beam they will quickly start moving in directions other then the one the xenon atoms are moving.

          • zlop

            It comes down to the limits of linear motors,
            with near impact guidance from the star ship.

          • mbkeefer

            Rail guns do not use linear motors. Those are no where near powerful enough. They use a traveling magnetic pulse. A superconducting area on the back of the projectile, pushes the projectile ahead of the magnetic pulse. This give acceleration is hundreds of Gs.

          • zlop

            “Rail guns do not use linear motors”

            Rail guns have a heat problem.
            Linear motor launcher, with liquid
            helium coolant. What is the resulting
            speed to length equation?

          • mbkeefer

            Figure it out. 10 meter naval rail gun with 200 G acceleration. S = 1/2(200(9.8))t*t) and S = 10 and the other equation is V = 200(9,8)t. Use the first equation to find out what t is and plug that into the second.

          • zlop

            To accelerate to 1/4 light speed using a 200 g linear motor
            Motor length would be 1.33 light hours

            (((299 792 458 / 4)^2) / (2 * 9.8 * 200)) * 9.26600 * (10^(-13)) = 1.32778468
            (V^2)/2a times light hours in a meter

          • mbkeefer

            10 meters = 100 x 9.8 m/secsec x txt
            1 = 98/secsec txt yields txt = 1/98
            yields t = 1/9.9 sec or about 1/10 sec.

            V = 200 x 9.8 x 1/10 yields about 20 x 9.8
            gives 196 meters/sec or about 706 Kmph that is merely 441 mph.

            We are going to have to make that Naval rail gun longer, or punch up those G’s or both it is an effective weapon.

          • zlop

            To get to 1/4 light speed at 200g, length is 1.33 light hours
            “Light itself takes 4.6 hours to travel from the Earth to Pluto”
            Plausible and it would be effective in destroying Alien warships.

          • mbkeefer

            So you can see that even a rail gun, cannot get solid matter to a star ship traveling at any significant fraction of the speed of light.

          • zlop

            An object, traveling 1/4 speed of light, launched by a 200g,
            1.33 light hour long linear motor, would be difficult to build.

          • mbkeefer

            If would have to be used in interstellar space. Within the solar system, orbital mechanics would keep bending it.

          • zlop

            “orbital mechanics would keep bending it.”
            There are feedback methods to compensate.

            Materials, infrastructure and energy required limit possibilities.
            And, what is in the way?

          • mbkeefer

            At that length the part closest to the Sun will be moving faster the the parts further away. You are going to end up with a spiral of some kind.
            It is just too big to be made of any known material and hold its shape unless you get well out into the Oort cloud or beyond.
            Then what will you use for power?

          • zlop

            Deployed a light day into the Oort cloud?
            Not enough material, even if a Moon is dismantled?

            AS in an adaptive optics telescope — negative feedback corrections could be used.

            Power, beamed from solar powered satellites.
            Energy needed would be large — need equation to compare to solar output.

          • mbkeefer

            A light month maybe. Then the difference in orbital speeds of the two ends can be used to help track the target.

  • okiejoe

    If we could actually build a 0.5C or 0.12C spacecraft it would be worth sending a robotic mission to Far Centaurus to confirm that it is feasible and to see what is actually there. A biological experiment would be a good prime payload. The problem of communication would have to be solved before launch of course. Considering the power required to communicate with Voyager which is perhaps one per cent of the distance that may be a bigger problem than propulsion.

  • TomD

    Artificial womb technology is one evil we should avoid. If perfected it will lead to the development of ‘mirror image’ people with DNA spiraling in the reverse direction (because they would be immune to most disease), and thus a resultant mirror image ecosystem. The human conflict that would result would be immense. Just don’t go there, at least not on earth!

    • mbkeefer

      You would also have to build an entire ecosystem to support such people as they are going to require mirror image organics to survive.

      • TomD

        Yep, I said that.

  • mbkeefer

    Once we have fusion power we can travel to the stars. But, probably not in the way most people are thinking.
    Fusion power will allow us to settle other livable locations in this solar system.
    First, there is Titan. Once there going outside only requires protection from the extreme cold and an oxygen source. Titan has an ample non toxic atmosphere. Do not need pressurized suits or habitats. Do not need radiation shielding. There is plenty of water as rock and carbon as random organics. No problem building structures out of ice or plastics.
    LED lighting to grow plants for the base of your food chain and provide oxygen.
    Mars is not as nice, but will probably be settled first. The atmosphere is nearly a vacuum and provides almost no radiation protection. Water will be hard to come by. On the plus side you have dirt and lava tubes. Can build pretty large cities in lava tubes where will not have to worry about radiation.
    Combine Mars style life with Titan style and you can settle Ceres, Europa, Titania, Triton, Pluto and other larger Kuiper belt objects. Eventually even larger Oort cloud objects. Once have settlements in the outer Oort cloud you are already a light year out. From there it is just a 2 light year hop to the Oort cloud around around Alpha Centauri.
    In just a few centuries humanity could already have settled in the two closest star systems. In a couple of million years we will have settled the galaxy. All at less than 10% the speed of light.

    • TomD

      Uh, have you given any thought to the effects of different gravity fields on human evolution? Right now the effects of natural selection on us is negligible, aside from disease resistance and altitude variations, because we select our environment, it does not select us. Going to different planetary bodies will change that. We may find that we might survive only in a narrow range of gravitational field strength.

      • mbkeefer

        It will be interesting to find out what the minimum gravitational field will be for healthy development. Someone who grows up on mars or Titan will probably not be able to go to Earth. Their muscles and circulatory system probably could not handle a 1 G gravity field. The other option is to build a spinning torus in each colony where everybody (or least the children) spend the bulk of their time.

        • brch2

          Unless we at some point discover the graviton and learn how to create/manipulate them to invent artificial gravity.

          • mbkeefer

            It is easy to create artificial gravity. Just spin a torus. You can get any level of gravity you want above the ambient field by how fast you spin the thing.

  • Davidktd

    Hmmmm robot raised humans. If they found another civilisation and introduced themselves, could they ever be thought of as truly human?? They would lack the upbringing of a human parent and the experience of a life on Earth. Raised in an AI environment would they develop emotions as we know them? They could be a really peaceful representation of our species leading to a false representation to the rest of humanity and a shock for any life making contact with them coming to visit us.

    • bwana

      I’d much prefer sentient AI’s making first contact and roaming the universe on our behalf.

    • brch2

      By time that happened, we’d have long since killed ourselves off if we never got our act together and evolved into a more utopian society. And if those aliens with the wrong impression could get here to be shocked, then FTL is possible and we’d surely have figured it out in thousands to tens of thousands of years or more.

  • Rene Fox

    None of these methods of space travel is feasible. Let’s forget about Nuclear Pulse Population. Generation Starships: The! What can be done about over population, ops there is nothing at this star system, what about the next and the next and so on! Egg Ships! Mechanical breakdown, babies being raised by robots, baby eating creatures! Do I hear, Dave, Dave… (2001Space Odyssey) Suspended Animation, fusion drive, particle drive can work but we need to first find a way to protect the crew of these ships from micrometeorites, radiation, solar flares, electrical, fuel and mechanical malfunctions, and zero gravity would have to be eliminated and safe guards in case of malfunctions. Mankind has prepared for deep water dives, and has eliminated most of the risk under immense pressure, although there is still a risk of death in the bottom of the ocean at least attempts can be made to rescue, but not yet for space voyagers!

  • The History Man

    Nowhere in the article do you mention the consequences of living in zero gravity and the effects on the human body, whether in suspended animation or in generation star ships. Creating artificial gravity is still some time away too, and simply spinning your ship to create centripetal force doesn’t do the trick.
    As we have vast areas on earth currently uninhabited and with a good breathable atmosphere, if we have these technologies for creating food and self sustaining in a closed system, why haven’t we already used them down here, with everything we need close at hand?
    Humans don’t actually need to go into space for scientific exploration, and in terms of colonisation and survival, it would be far more prudent to actually start giving a damn about the perfect planet on which we already live instead of choking it to death.

    • Maia

      I could not agree with you more. Why not “give a damn about the perfect planet on which we already live instead of choking it to death” , why not apply our capacities and knowledge to the difficulties of living right here on Earth??

      • zlop

        “why not apply our capacities and knowledge
        to the difficulties of living right here on Earth??”

        Earth is going to be destroyed. A dark interstellar onject could be detected only a few years before impact.

      • Ryan Ferretti

        First of all, we can do both at once. Interstellar travel will only be achieved via incremental steps. We have to start now. We have to dream and imagine, now. There is no reason not to. There is no reason we can’t dedicate brain power to such things as well as the current problems facing us here on Earth. As for “choking Earth to death”…We have significantly reduced pollution and carbon emissions here in the US. We had the least carbon emissions in the industrialized world last year and we weren’t even part of the Paris Climate Accord. It was achieved through private sector innovation alone. If we leave innovators alone to solve our problems, they will. Hell, abject poverty and world hunger is set to be eradicated by 2030 because of free trade and market economics.

  • antonio carlos motta

    I think that the asymmetry between particles and antiparticles,that lead to the warp of spacetime,doing that the speed of light is variable ,inotropic due the pt symmetry breaking ,but the speed of light to be constant is due the deformation of spacetime with isopropy conserving the constant to the propagation of electromagnetic with different frequency ,giving a different to the speed of light.due the asymmetry of cp,violating the reversal time invariance,that does breaks PT with infinities bifurcation so far spacetime continuos,then the ticks of the clocks are not linear and in part anti unitary given by PT,the occur super luminal signal as neutrinos in exchanges of flavor a and when try change its oscillations makes turn the anti neutrinos,then there are neutrinos running with super luminal speeds without be need use the artificial aspects in the spacetime with. Transformation the create the Lorentz ‘s invariance( orthochronous and antichronous

  • William Holz

    The idea of sending humans-as-we are into space honestly sounds awful and beyond boring. We’re just not well designed to live there.

    It seems like with the advent of CRISPR and the fact that we’re already going down this road thanks to the needs of healthcare, we’d open up a lot of opportunities once we’ve properly hacked our own genome (all we are is code that can turn into tiny machines…which is normal. The idea of having code on an artificial substrate is what’s weird as far as this planet’s concerned).

    Not only do ‘brain in a jar’ type options suddenly become feasible (and actually enjoyable) but plenty of ‘barely-even-imagined-in-sci-fi-because-it’s-impossible-to-write-for-a-human-audience’ options should open up too.

    Way better than sending people into space on a generation ship that’d border on cruelty and it should happen around the same time we can rely on stored gametes or any sort of suspended animation.

    • Maia

      Can’t imagine any more torturous life than being “a brain in a jar”.

  • zlop

    In the near future, a solar system sized synthetic array is possible.

    Looking at an Alien near Alpha Centauri
    Using Solar System size radio telescope at 100 GHZ

    distance to Alpha 4.35*9.461 * 10^15 meters
    λ= 0.003 meters (100 GHZ)
    distance to Pluto 5.9*10^12 meters
    r/( 4.358*9.461 * 10^15) =1.22* 0.003/(2* 5.9*10^12)
    Resolution of 12.8 meters, cannot see the Alien

  • Lorie Franceschi

    Science Fiction has driven real Science everyday since the beginning of time. A child playing with an adult watching may have triggered an idea and we progressed. We may not go FTL for a few more hundred years, but we will get there eventually.

    • bwana

      We actually know how to do it today BUT the technology to actually accomplish the task is still lacking.

      • mbkeefer

        As a physics professor I know once said, “The physics is solved, the rest is just engineering.”

        • bwana

          Sometimes the “just engineering” can take a bit of time to catch up with the physics :)

          • mbkeefer

            A VERY long time. Just because it is theoretically possible, does not mean we will ever be able to pull it off.
            Can you think of any practical way to handle neutronium with known physics?
            Build a torus that contained rings with charged particles of neutonium. Spin those rings up in the same direction. The frame dragging of the neutronium would cause a net flow of space time in one direction through the torus.
            The result would be one of two things;
            A reactionless drive. Or a device for accelerating or decelerating anything sent through the center of the torus with no G forces.
            Line up a bunch of these things and the result would be a device that would accelerate a ship to nearly light speed without using any fuel. An in coming ship could be decelerated the same way.
            Either way, if could build such a device could travel to different star systems in just a few years.
            The physics is solved, it is just engineering. How do you get your hands on stable chunks of neutronium and build objects containing it.

          • bwana

            We’ve known about nuclear fusion for a long time as well and the Sun makes it look easy. The “engineering” is taking a long time to get to a working fusion reactor BUT I suspect we will accomplish it at some point. People felt the same way about nuclear fission at one time.

            I’m the eternal optimist… If physics says it is possible, we will find a way to accomplish it, even though it may appear totally impossible with today’s technology.

          • thaddeusbuttmunchmd

            Perhaps. But, what most folks don’t realize is that Stars employ an Economy of Scale. A Blue Giant Star probably fuses atoms at the rate of one trillion hydrogen bombs/second. But-Stars are BIG Mothers! The Metabolic rate of a Star is actually much LESS-on a kilogram per kilogram basis-than the metabolic rate in a living organism (including Humans.) The core of the Sun -where all the Magic happens-is about 100000 miles across. And it will burn for another five billion years-which is Good for us Earthlings. But-it took a tremendous amount of Gravity to heat up that plasma and ignite those nuclear reactions. Here on Earth we need Magnetic Confinement, and it hasn’t worked so Well. Even if you get sustained Fusion, you have to convert that heat to electricity, which is less than 40% efficient. Electricity is required, in the First place, to confine and heat that plasma. With Fission, these problems don’t Exist.

  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

    Local soccer Mom discovers warp drive using a simple kitchen microwave trick. (“What smells like blue?”)

    The Starflight Handbook, Mallove and Matloff, 1989; ISBN 0-471-61912-4 Engineering is more than opinion. Know something about that which you write.

    • zlop

      High power microwave tubes are available.
      Giant solar powered satellites, used as a synthetic array . ..

      • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

        Loft a tonne of dry sand, loop it around the moon into counter-orbit, two burns to get it roundly anti-geosynchronous, and gently pop the load. End of satellites – all the way down.

    • OWilson

      “The Simple Kitchen Secret that Nuclear Fusion Scientists are trying to hide!”

      (Sorry, couldn’t resist!)

  • zlop

    For he near future, humans are too difficult, except in the inner solar system.
    Robot probes will map the gravitational field and find every sizeable object in
    the solar neighborhood. That would take hundreds of years?

  • OMGWTFZPMBBQ

    If all the money wasted on nuclear weapons was instead spent on improving the human condition then we would achieve warp travel by around 2063.

  • Carl Rood

    Here’s the real problem: Who Benefits? In other words, who is going to put up the billions, possibly trillions of dollars it will take to do this and what do they get out of it? You are talking about essentially sending people out into the ocean in a rowboat to discover a new continent. The odds of success are low and even success means probably never hearing from them again or in thousands of years, at best.

    Who’s going to fund such an expedition and why when there’s literally no useful information to come out of it. The argument would be the value of the new technologies, which could offset the cost. However, once you have them, there’s really no reason to pay the extra money to send anyone or anything.

    Considering that we can’t conceive of everything that would be encountered along the way, that means adequate testing is impossible.

    • Maia

      Yes. Not mention that we here on Earth have a few urgent problems we should be funding and paying intense attention to!

  • sk8n barrow

    Cosmic radiation/prolonged weightlessness/Moon dust/Mars dust = Game Over. Period. Wake up from the 60’s ‘Conquest of Space’ Disney/Nazi brainwashing movies.

    • Ryan Ferretti

      What a pathetic, defeatist attitude. We are capable of incredible feats. You have no idea what is actually possible until it is attempted. One day we will have to leave this star system, so interstellar travel will become necessary. There is no reason we can’t start dreaming and imagining right now. So save your cynicism.

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