Sunday, January 15, 2012

Can't get there from here

A perennial point that SETI seems to bring up in relation to extraterrestrials is that there is just no way to get here from there or vice versa.

The distances between stars are unthinkably vast, the energy required for such a journey would be equally so, the speed of light is a constant, the time required to reach even the nearest star (25 trillion miles away) let alone an outrance star system is many times more than that of a human lifetime, and so on and so forth.  I do not dispute any of this but something about discounting the notion of interstellar travel disquiets me.

I believe we're looking at the issue from a sort of esoteric myopia when it comes to the universe, namely our own levels of technology and understanding.  There is much that we don't know and there are many times when our own preconceived notions have been overturned.  Among these latter points have been flight, breaking the sound barrier, and even (relatively) simple space travel between here and the Moon.  What else haven't we considered?  What are our assumed barriers keeping us from?  There are scientists who are beginning to consider the speed of gravity as being well above that of the speed of light.  What if propulsion could be achieved through the generation of gravity?  That would drastically cut down the amount of fuel needed for movement.  Admittedly the means and energy needed to bring about such a thing is undetermined.  Another alternative is the notion of using the gravity of your destination to pull you across space, "folding" or "warping" the distance.  Sound like TV?  Well DARPA, the research arm of The Pentagon, must not entirely think so.  Earlier in the year, they offered half a million dollars as seed money to the best idea for making interstellar travel possible.  That's a fair pile of coin to be tossing around for pipe dream notions.

Again, just because we haven't found a way to do it doesn't mean someone else hasn't.  Look at the varying levels of technology right here on our own world.  Just because pygmy bushman lack the opportunity, the resources, or the specialized know-how to build a rocket does not preclude other nations from doing it.
So is interstellar travel either impossible or impractical?  Yes...from our limited point of view.

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