Saturday, July 18, 2015

Interstellar travel not likely, but we can still observe the universe

Where are the star ships? Well, interstellar star ships are not likely in the future of humankind. At least according to author Kim Stanley Robinson who was recently interviewed on NPR Science Friday. The stars are just too far away. It would take several human generations to get to any star system even within 50 light years. The amount of energy it would take to get up to just 10% of the speed of light would be stupendous. Then it would take lots of energy to slow down again at the destination. A star ship couldn't be very large as more mass just means more energy needed to get it to speed.

Science is also discovering that over 80% of our DNA is shared with other earthy creatures. We are of Earth and the Earth environment goes through us; like jellyfish in the ocean. We may not be able to spend long periods, like generations, in the small environment of a star ship.

In my own opinion, this doesn't preclude space exploration, however. Curiosity can lead to great astronomy as well as space missions to places like Pluto. Even human space exploration and colonization could be in our future. (My own opinion not mentioned in this article). We could build large colonies in our solar system and bring much of the earth environment with us. These colonies could be larger than the star ships we could build as they wouldn't have to accelerate so fast because they would not have to go beyond the solar system. They could be larger and more earth like; which is something our species needs.

Philosophically, to me, it is interesting to note that science seems to pull us in two directions. It gives us technology to get farther into space than any other earthly creature, yet at the same time it tells us that we are mere animals, ourselves. Made from the same DNA and needing the same environment as other creatures of Earth. Science seems to be dethroning the image we have of ourselves as being in the realm of the gods or being able to live beyond an earth like environment.

Now, some other type of intelligence, like artificial intelligence, could supersede us making for a different situation, but barring that we are still of earth. Faster than light travel (warp drive) could change this prediction also, in my opinion.

Barring something like faster than light travel, we can only look beyond our solar system and look we do. Even just looking inspires us to great achievement.

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