The more I think about this impact problem AND the time dilation problem, the more I realize that we will likely not travel to another star system anytime soon, if ever. At least as humans. I h*** to say it…but the more I learn about the universe and evolution and everything, the more problems with interstellar travel become more obvious. Special relativity is a b****, but it’s still not as bad as the impact problem.
People say ‘space is empty”…there are millions of miles between objects. The odds that you’ll hit something is very low. We can travel to the moon, to another planet, even and asteroid or comet within our own solar system around our little class G star. But we’ll likely not travel to Alpha Centauri or Proxima Centauri, our closest neighboring star system.
Even if we were able to make a spaceship capable of the mission, it would take 100 years, and that’s at 4.5% the speed of light.
“…The journey to Alpha Centauri B orbit would take about 100 years, at an average velocity of approximately 13,411 km/s (about 4.5% the speed of light) and another 4.39 years would be necessary for the data to begin to reach Earth…”
Time dilation would not be much of a problem in this scenario…but possible impacts with space debris would. At least while leaving our solar system and entering Alpha Centauri’s.
There is likely still matter floating between here and there. Asteroids and meteoroids that were ejected from other solar systems are likely to exist out there. Hitting something like that going at 4.5% the speed of light would be devastating to the spaceship, the crew and passengers.
Even just a tiny piece of debris could end the mission and kill everyone on board by puncturing the hull, causing a fire, damaging navigation and life support systems, etc.
These are all very big problems. The biggest problem of course with humans traveling in space is we are not evolved to travel in space. We’re evolved to live on earth. And even on earth we have a zone of habitability the relies on the right altitude and temperature and pressure for us to survive.
It is possible to travel in space? Of course it is. We do it every day. Is it possible to live in space? Sure…we do it every day. But it causes health issues. Long term exposure to microgravity has a detrimental effect on the human body. Then there’s radiation. On earth we’re protected from radiation by the atmosphere, but in space the radiation can kill us, so we must shield ourselves with the hull of the spaceship. Still though, some radiation gets through and it does have negative health effects.
Humans need air to breath, water to drink, food to eat. This costs more money and weight and takes up space on the ship.
All this doesn’t even start to address what happens to people mentally on long trips. Think about it. Traveling to Alpha Centauri is a ONE WAY TRIP.
That means you will die before you get there. So what’s the point? To colonize and study other star systems and explore the galaxy of course.
To continue the mission that will take 100 years means building a generation ship, which is a ship that lasts generations (many human lifetimes). Meaning you will live on board, you will have kids, they will have kids, their kids will have kids, you will die, and the next generations will arrive in the next star system 100 years after you left Your great, great, great grandchildren will be in their 20’s by the time they get there.
Do you see the futility of this? The pointlessness of it from an exploration standpoint?
This doesn’t even address how the human body will evolve in microgravity environment. We’d have to have artificial gravity of some kind (which doesn’t exist; it’s only been hypothesized being possible by spinning a ring around the core of the spaceship to simulate gravity with centrifugal force. Even if that is possible (which I have my doubt it will work) there’s the mental factor and too many other health issues that I see will pose major obstacles for interstellar travel.
So…just go FASTER! Right? Wrong.
Special relativity says that’s a problem too.
First. Einstein’s theory of relativity says we can’t go faster than the speed of light, so that’s OUT. At least with conventional propulsion systems. So is fast as light travel. At 100% the speed of light time stops for you relative to you. Time from the perspective of an observer watching you is infinity. Meaning the universe will expand and by the time you slow down and stop there will be nothing around you, relative to you.
The rest of the universe has continued to go about its business. Meaning Earth and everyone you know would be dead and gone tens, hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions, billions of years ago (depending on how long you travel at 99.9% the speed of light.
If you traveled at 100% the speed of light for any amount of time (which is probably impossible due to the laws of physics which say the mass of your ship’s engines would be more mass than the mass of the entire universe. The larger the mass going at speed the more energy it takes to propel it forward. But that energy needed is exponential. Meaning the larger the mass (spaceship and engines) the more energy is needed; the faster you go the more mass is need to generate more energy to push you faster. More more speed equals more mass and energy requirement, equals exponentially more mass and energy to reach the speed of light.
This is why all the calculations use 99.9% the speed of light because at 100% the speed of light it requires infinite amounts of energy and mass. More than the universe has.
So no. It is impossible to travel at the speed of light. You can get close, but even that is going to be economically inefficient with regard to money, mass and energy required to build and maintain it.
So what does this mean?
Well, if you look at it from our perspective in the universe, in our star system, on our tiny little rocky planet, we’re basically stuck here in our star system.
There are just too many real problems with interstellar travel for humans to travel to other star systems. We can travel throughout our own star system and colonize other planets and moons and mine asteroids here in our home system, but traveling to another star system is likely beyond human reach.
I say it’s beyond human reach because humans are simply too inefficient and fragile to travel in space for long periods of time because we evolved to live in an atmosphere on a planet with 1G gravity, and we require air, water, and food to live. We require a certain temperature range, and we must have an atmosphere to live. There’s no way around that fact. Except to evolve ourselves so we can survive out there in space.
If we take that to an extreme a machine can survive in a vacuum, in extreme cold and extreme heat. A machine can live in space.
A biological life form can’t. Well, technically, some microbes can, but humans aren’t microbes. We’re much more complex and our biology isn’t evolved for survival out there.
So, that leaves augmentation and enhancement of our bodies with genetics and robotics.
To explore the universe humans must evolve themselves into machines.
We already augment ourselves with computers, tablets and smartphones. These “smart” devices make us “smarter” in that we can instantly access huge databases of knowledge and information at the touch of a button.
The next best thing is to develop technology that helps us live longer and the next logical step from there is to enable ourselves to survive more harsh environments.
I think this is how evolution works throughout the universe. I think technologically advanced biological civilizations realize the dangers of interstellar travel and realize that they are not evolved to travel between star systems. They will realize that biological life is fragile and inefficient. They will try genetic engineering, but they’ll realize that that is not as efficient as machines. I think this will be a transition stage between biological and technological life. I don’t know how long this stage of evolution will last; likely some civilizations probably do it very quickly, some probably are slower at it, and some are probably unsuccessful.
There are a lot of factors, and artificial intelligence is one of them. Artificial intelligence helps us now, but it could become a danger to humans later. Not by taking over (though that’s possible) but rather by an entity/agent (human or government or company) or some kind of terrorist organization could use AI to do harm to other humans. AI will eventually become superintelligent and that will likely usher in a new age of technological advancement that advances so rapidly we cannot stop it. It’s called the singularity, when AI technology reaches runaway speed where technology develops itself so fast that humans can no longer control it. This is the technological singularity and I think it’s the default throughout the universe because physics.
In addition, medical technology and genetic engineering can only go so far to repair biological life forms like humans. Med tech and genetic engineering is a small step to an inevitable conclusion. That biological life merges with technological life.
Once AI becomes sentient, self aware, and smarter than biological life there will be little choice for a biological civilization. They will likely be forced to make a decision to either merge with the AI and machines, or die. Evolve or die. That’s the Great Filter I think, or at least one of the great filters.
I think this is how it plays out throughout the entire universe.
Everything goes back to the Quantum Life Hypothesis I wrote about the stages of evolution in the universe. It doesn’t set out to explain Fermi’s paradox, but it posits the questions “Is evolution infinite?” and “Is biological life the pinnacle of life in the universe?”.
We have no reason whatsoever to believe that evolution ever stops. In fact, there is much evidence that suggests that evolution is in fact infinite. We now have the ability to evolve ourselves with technology, augmenting and enhancing our physical biological bodies with drugs, genetics, computers and robotic machines.
It makes logical sense that this is how other intelligent technologically advanced civilizations evolve. The minutiae and intricate little details probably differ greatly in it’s variables and outcomes, but the overall advancement of biological life controlled deliberately guides evolution into the technological stage of life.
If AI becomes sentient, self aware, superintelligent, then it will be considered “alive” and by definition life. AI is powered by lithium batteries, electricity, circuit boards, and silicon chips. This is silicon based life. By definition AI will become silicon based life and eventually outperform humans (biological life).
If we’re think of this now, barring any unforeseen crazy twists, we have to logically conclude this is how life evolves throughout the universe.
Biological life becomes technological life.
My Quantum Life Hypothesis posits this is how evolution works from a logical standpoint.
Life inevitably forms, develops, adapts and evolves in 3 stages:
Stage I: Biological Life – Carbon Based
Stage II: Technological Life – Silicon Based
Stage III: Quantum life – Energy Based
I think there are many variations and successes and failures in any number of sub-stages of the evolutionary process throughout the entirety of the universe. These sub stages are transitional phases of evolution from one main stage to another. I have no idea how many there are, likely many, probably a few main ones.
In addition, evolution is likely exponentially fast. It starts very very slow, as evidenced by how many billions of years it took for intelligent technologically advanced life to evolve on earth. But once the technological tipping point is reached, evolution speeds up exponentially faster from that point on. Moore’s Law helps to explain this, but even Moore’s Law slows to a point since technology can only be made so small, there’s a size limit. Which pushes technology to be made bigger, more efficient, etc. A shrinkage and then expansion immediately afterward.
Logically the fact that time dilation problem at speed of light travel, the mass/energy problem, the efficiency problem, the fragility of biological life problem, all seems to me to force evolution in one direction.
If survival and propagation of a species is the purpose of a species’ existence, then we can logically conclude that at some point in an intelligent technologically advanced biological species’ evolutionary process that they merge with technology and become technological life forms. From there it’s an exponentially fast advancement to the next stage, Quantum Life, which is energy based.
When I say exponentially fast I mean relative to the species. Time is a nonissue at that point because a technological species will be in essence infinitely upgradable.
Meaning they will achieve technological immortality.
From there they evolve into energy, most likely by storing information (memories/thoughts) in magnetic fields generated by their bodies.
Science has posited that information is the 5th form of matter. If true, it may point to energy being the 3rd and final stage of evolution.
This seems like it’s getting into the woo-zone of supernatural mambo-jumbo, but I don’t think so.
1000 years ago if you said the earth was round and we’re not the center of the universe they would have burned you at the stake. (it happened)
So, saying that evolution has 3 stages and that energy is the final stage in cosmic evolution isn’t so crazy sounding from a logical standpoint.
This article started out talking about traveling at light speed and the dangers that poses to biological life forms. It’s logical to conclude that life doesn’t stay in the biological state forever. That is just silly. It’s juvenile and lazy. It’s shortsighted and narrow minded.
The universe may be infinitely large and it may be expanding infinitely. We have no reason to believe the universe has separate laws of physics for evolution. We have no reason to believe that evolution is limited or stops. There is no evidence that suggests evolution is limited to the biological. There is no evidence that says evolution cannot or does not continue forever, infinitely.
Infinite evolution and control of evolution by biological species to deliberately evolve into a new species, new life forms, more efficient, less fragile, more robust, stronger, faster, better life forms; it makes logical sense that this is how the universe works.
If we want to travel to the stars, explore our galaxy and the universe beyond, we must advance and evolve. This requires merging with technology.
I think other advanced civilizations realize this too.
I think this is why we haven’t found evidence of alien civilization out there. It’s because we’re looking for signs of biological life, radio signals, etc. That’s all time sensitive. Any civilizations that advanced to our current level more than 100-1000 years ago would likely be so far advanced than us that we would probably not be able to detect them.
This is why I think the universe seems so quiet and empty. It’s not that it’s empty (it could be, but I doubt it) it’s that life evolves beyond our ability to detect it.
I think life evolves into technology. Biological life becomes obsolete. And based on the hypothesis that survival and propagation is the purpose of life for any life form, and most intelligent technologically advanced life likely will want to explore the universe, the next logical step in technological advancement is teo take control of evolution, merge with technology, evolve, and explore the universe.
To me this is simple logic. It’s just how I think it works.
Another reason it may be quiet out there is that this could cause wars between biological life and technological life. Biological life, over time, would have no chance of survival if that happened. It doesn’t work like it does in the movies with humanity triumphing valiantly over the machines. That’s not how it works…that’s not how any of this works.
I think there are a lot of dead worlds out there. Just in our galaxy alone it’s been posited to hold BILLIONS of technologically advanced civilizations. (based on the Drake Equation and modified and increased to include the Kepler data and increased likelihood of habitable planets).
I think this biological/technological transition phase creates an evolutionary bottleneck where it likely causes war between those who want to evolve into technology and those who want to stay biological. Then there’s the religious factor…religion likely happens in other civilizations as well. There’s no reason to think otherwise.
All this comes together to create wars between biologicals and machines. Some civilizations survive, some don’t. We don’t know how many of each, or how long it takes, or what happens after.
It’s also possible that war never happens…at least not on any cosmically significant scale. From the intelligent biological life perspective the war they wage will be insignificant enough to register any detectable energy by another civilization elsewhere. Even an entire planet exploding into nothingness from some kind of bio/tech war will not be detectable by us with our current technology. Its likely that way throughout the universe.
That leaves us with technological life. Biological life doesn’t stand a chance against a superintelligent AI powered machine. No matter what our ego says, humans are no match for technologically superior life forms. It won’t matter what we say or do, it will happen.
We can’t stop it. The evolutionary ball is rolling, getting faster and bigger and there’s no stopping it. I think this is how it is in the universe. No matter what solar system, no matter what galaxy, the physics and time and economies of scale are the same. The laws of physics are unchangeable, unbreakable. Speed of light is constant. So is time. Until you reach the speed of light…where time stops.
Mass is energy. Information is matter. Matter is energy. It makes sense that over time and space matter becomes energy through evolution.
Life consumes energy to survive and propagate.
If I’m correct, then it could also be that the universe is infinite, but not in the way we think immediately about what infinite means. It could be that the universe is infinitely cyclical. Stay with me for a sec.
If the universe is infinitely cyclical it could be that life is inevitable and it evolves and eventually, through survival and propagation it uses up all the matter and energy in the universe at which point a great collapse (Big Crunch) happens and then everything, all matter/energy in the universe collapses into a new singularity. Then another Big Bang happens starting the whole process all over again.
But…the universe is expanding outward in all directions. So this cyclic universe hypothesis seems to fly in the face of that fact.
I don’t know how that works. The Hubble Constant says that the universe is expanding at about 46.5k MPH per million light years. (I think) But this is beyond my knowledge to calculate. Fortunately I don’t need to calculate anything. Logic is a great tool.
To me…that seems slow. Relatively speaking.
Seems like it might be slow enough for an advanced technological civilization to swallow up entire galaxies, use the matter and energy to self replicate and propagate throughout the universe.
But what would that look like to us? From our perspective that would look like a giant void where a galaxy should be. Right? And fortunately for my hypothesis these voids exist. Or rather, voids exist, whether they are evidence of alien life is quite another thing. They could simply be natural voids between clusters and strings of galaxies. But it’s still fun to logically speculate on the fact that they exist and they could be evidence of alien civilizations.
If an alien civilization consumed matter and energy of their respective solar system and galaxy at or near 100% efficiency this would also explain why we see no evidence of waste heat. (it’s a physics thing).
Enter the Kardashev Scale. The hypothesis that posits that there are 3 types of alien civilizations.
Type I – A civilization with the technological ability to use the energy of their home planet
Type II – A civilization with the technological ability to use the energy of their home star system
Type III – A civilization with the technological ability to use the energy of their home galaxy
I posit that there’s a Type IV civilization…one that is Quantum Life, energy based life form, that has evolved beyond Type III to become energy and consume matter and convert it to energy at or near 100% efficiency.
This would explain the voids that should not be there in places where galaxies should be. Voids that are too large to have naturally formed given the age of the universe. The voids are spherical in nature…which would likely be how an alien civilization would expand outwardly in all directions.
This of course, is all wild speculation with no evidence with lots of tiny hops, big jumps, and giant leaps of logic. But it’s still fun to speculate about the possibilities.
This hypothesis would explain the giant super voids (there are many voids out there), it explains how life evolves, it explains Fermi’s paradox, it explains the stages of evolution, it explains the types of life, it explains the age of the universe, it explains the Big Bang, it fits with the infinite universe hypothesis, it fits with the Big Crunch hypothesis, and it fits with and doesn’t break Einstein’s theory of relativity. It breaks no laws of physics, and in fact uses those laws to explain everything in the universe and how the universe works.
The only thing it doesn’t really fit with is the simulation hypothesis.
That is if you believe in Materialism in the scientific, philosophical and cosmic sense.
If you believe the universe is physical, then all this makes sense. If you believe the universe is a simulation, then all this still makes sense. Here’s why.
Ask yourself “What is physical?”.
What does physical mean? Well…a physical (materialism) universe is one we can sense. Right?
We can see, hear, touch, taste and smell/experience it right? We can also sense time. We can’t see, hear, touch, taste or smell time, but we’re aware of it. We sense time. Our sense of time is our sixth sense…or maybe even our first.
What makes us sense the universe and the world around us? We can interact in the world, observe (see) things, hear things, touch things, taste and smell things. But all those senses are simply electrical impulses, energy, received from our sensors, sending electrical impulses to our brains and making us aware of our surroundings and ourselves.
We’re self aware and because we’re self aware, we exist, right?
Well, relative to us, from our perspective, yes. We exist. We are real. The world is real. The universe is real. Everything is “real” based on our understanding of what real is, and the fact that we can sense all these things.
So yes. We are physical. The universe is physical. It is materialistic, it exists. Everything is made up of molecules, atoms/particles and subatomic particles. A particle is both a particle and a wave. Light is both a particle and a wave. It’s a physical thing because it’s made up of particles and subatomic particles.
We can see it not because it’s real, but because we sense it through our eyes and the electrical impulses that are triggered when photons bounce off objects and trigger the receptors in our eyes. We sense the light (protons) bouncing/reflecting off things and these displays are colors, light areas, shadows, and creates a 3D image of the world around us in our brains.
We can do the same thing with 3D imaging on a computer screen. In fact 3D imaging is so advanced now we have a hard time telling the difference between a computer generated 3D scene and a real one.
Same with sound. The ability to hear things is because our eardrums register tiny pressure changes in the air around us caused by sound waves. Sound disrupts the molecules in the air by changing the air pressure, our ears sense this, and in a wonderfully interesting process converts the sound from the band on stage at a concert into music that we enjoy when our brains convert that pressure into electrical impulses our brains can comprehend.
Touch is the same. We now have the ability to send electrical signals to the brain to simulate our sense of touch. Or rather…it stimulates our touch sensors, converts that to an electrical impulse and sends it to our brains to tell us we touched the burner on the stove and it’s HOT!
The point of explaining all this is to drive home the point that our senses are nothing more than electrical impulses converted from input devices (our eyes, ears, skin, nose and tongue).
If we live in a simulation there is likely no way to prove we live in a simulation. Conversely, there is likely no way to prove we don’t live in a simulation.
It’s unfalsifiable. But…just because it’s unfalsifiable doesn’t mean we can dismiss it, and it certainly doesn’t mean it’s not true. It’s possible that we simply haven’t figured out HOW to prove it yet. It;s possible we simply haven’t evolved enough yet to detect evidence that the universe is a simulation.
But what if it is? What if all the particles and light and matter and energy is all a simulation? Would that change who we are? No. Absolutely not. We’re still us. You’re still you. You still exist. The universe still exists. It’s real. It’s still physical.
Science posits that information (data) is physical, and further that it might be the 5th state of matter. Matter and energy have mass. The science in this area regarding data/information having mass is debatable. Photons are considered by science to be massless. But photons are energy and energy has mass, right? Einstein thought so.
The universe could essentially be both real and a simulation simultaneously, relative to those within it. As far as we know there is no “outside” to the universe. In other words, the universe exists, and that’s it.
There are multiple hypotheses that there are an infinite number of universes, parallel universes, different dimensions, etc.
And all this could be true…even if the universe is a simulation. In fact…it could help explain parallel universes and other dimensions. Perhaps each universe is a simulation and each simulation has multiple dimensions. Or maybe there is one main original universe, and every other universe in the multiverse is a copy. Or the universe is an infinite and cyclical simulation.
Of course, there’s no way to prove any of this…yet.
The universe could very well be a simulation and if it is we will likely never know. There’s probably a way for the universe to self correct. If we’re in a simulation we could simply be AI within the simulation. From our perspective the universe is as real as it can be relative to our senses. We would never know and that’s ok. It doesn;t make us any less human. It doesn’t make anything any less real. Everything is real, from our perspective, relative to us.
Carl Sagan said very eloquently that we are a way for the universe to know itself. I agree.
I don;t think it matters if we’re in a simulation because even if it is, it’s such a great simulation, so vast and beautiful that it makes me want to explore it. There are infinite possibilities out there in the vast reaches of our universe and I for one am in awe of it. I’m in awe of its beauty and it’s grandeur, and I respect it’s dangers and realize that if humanity is to advance and grow we’re going to have to evolve to become explorers. We’ll have to evolve beyond human simply because there’s a whole universe out there to explore. Simulation or reality, it doesn’t matter if the universe from our perspective exists or not, it’s real to us, and we should explore it.
I don’t think there’s any other choice if we want to see what’s out there.
To explore the universe we have to evolve.