January 17, 2005

Space Aliens

It's been requested that I tackle the issue of extraterrestrial life. Captain Jimmy is an avowed believer in the existence of such creatures and even in some of the X Files style abductions and such. Me, I'm not so sure.

I know there are supposed "answers" for what I'm about to bring up, but I don't put a ton of stock in most of them, so here goes. Today I'll talk about the obstacles in the way of us meeting beings from another planet. Maybe some other time I'll talk about why I don't think they exist, regardless of whether we will ever contact them.

Physics seems to stand in the way of interstellar travel at this point. Star Trek used so-called warp drive to travel between the stars by traveling at speeds up to and exceeding the speed of light. This doesn't quite cut the mustard relativistically. You see, the theory of relativity states (among other things) that as you approach the speed of light, time slows down, and the traveler shrinks in the direction of travel until reaching the speed of light at which point time stops and the object is flat relative to the direction of travel. In other words, we go sailing off into space near the speed of light, we're gone for a year (as far as we know), but 50 have passed back on earth. Exceeding the speed of light seems ridiculous given the above, not to mention that nothing has yet been observed exceeding the speed of light, probably because it is impossible. Then there's the old standby, the wormhole. This avoids the relativistic problems by bending space and time to affect great travel distances in short amounts of time. This is the basis behind such shows as Stargate SG-1. The first concern there is a practical one. Let's say you built one stargate. You need a second one to get you to where you're going, but you have to go there to build it, which is why you need the stargate in the first place. You can see what I mean. There are also hyperspace and hyperdrive engines that perform a similar tactic as a wormhole. I'm not as familiar with the concept behind these, so I'll leave it as seeming like it would take an inordinate amount of energy to do whatever it is they're supposed to do, which is why every show that has such devices also invents some new element with great energy producing power.

There it is, in terms of the technology that seems to prevent contact between distant planets. I'm waiting for your comments.

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