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Journey 06: This section deals with UFO "technology" as it pertains to interstellar flight.
Journey 06: This section deals with UFO "technology" as it pertains to interstellar flight.

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Published by: Christopher C. Humphrey, Ph. D. on Nov 29, 2006
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Journey 06 - SPACE TECHNOLOGYA sizable percentage of the population believes that UFOs are not unidentified, but really are spacecraft from a distant star, or the future, or some other dimension. The trouble is, nearly all of this population of believers think the inhabitants of the UFOs merely have a more advanced technologythan we do. This does nothing to make belief in UFOs respectable among scientists.There is good reason to think that interstellar travel cannot use any known space technology. Thereis only interstellar exodus, by means of the solar-sailed Ark. Lawrence Krauss, a well respectedneutrino physicist, has taken the Starship Enterprise apart, piece by piece, done the calculations andshown that there isn't one single thing that Star Trek got right, unless it is the Prime Directive. Seehis book THE PHYSICS OF STAR TREK. As one example, he has calculated that it would take allthe energy the sun has produced and ever will produce just to achieve Warp One.Thus, FTL (Faster Than Light) travel is impractical. Teleportation is not FTL because it has novelocity. A teleported object does not travel through space-time. It takes a shortcut, through other spatial dimensions.Star systems capable of evolving complex life are not very common, though there may be a greatmany with bacteria. Only certain kinds of stars will do. Our own star is a metal rich, middle agedG2 singlet. We have the only such star within a radius of at least thirty light-years. The planetscircling multiple star systems would not have stable orbits. Only a narrow range of K2 to G2(orange dwarf to yellow dwarf) stars will live long enough for intelligence to evolve and at thesame time be warm enough to produce a comfort zone for a planet, where some liquid water willalways be present. The hotter the star, the shorter is its life. Somewhere in the middle, we find the possibility of intelligent life. Only stars older than 4.5 billion years are likely to harbor intelligenthumanoids, since it takes 4 to 5 billion years for intelligence to evolve. A planet which remains astectonically active as the Earth, after 4.5 billion years, is unlikely unless the system formed out of adust cloud high in heavy metals, including radioactive metals. Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridani are possible target stars. They are about 10 or 11 light-years away.However, they are too young, too small, too low in metals, and both appear to be part of multiplestar systems. See http://www.solstation.com/stars.htm for information about our immediateneighborhood. Links disappear, so if there is anyone or anything you want to know more about, just Google it. Chances are the information is on the Web somewhere.Planets with our Earth-Moon combination are rare. Without a large single Moon, our Earth wouldnot maintain its stable angle of tilt. It could wobble as much as 90 degrees, and could sometimeslie over on its side, like Uranus. Our Moon was created by a collision with a Mars sized objectvery much like Earth, in that it had a metal core. The first collision was a glancing blow that gaveour Earth-Moon combination its present angular momentum. Some of Earth's mantle splashed outto form the Moon, while the Earth got the metal core of the smaller planet on the second collisionthat captured the errant planetoid. Without this event, we would neither have such a large metalcore (half the radius), nor would we have 24-hour days. By contrast, Venus has no metal core, andhardly any angular momentum. It slowly rotates backwards. Plate tectonics ceased long ago on both Venus and Mars. They are dead planets, incapable of supporting complex life. Planets will1
suffer many collisions in the formative stage of planetary development. It is pure chance if there isa final big collision at just the right angle to produce something like the Earth-Moon combination.This is the thesis of a book called RARE EARTH. Thus, planets suitable for humanoiddevelopment are rare and the combinations of perfect star and perfect planet-moon are likely to befew and far apart, probably thousands of light years. There is no known technology that can traverse thousands of light-years in anything less thanmillions of years.The fastest possible rocket would expel an ionized propellant. This rocket could conceivably reach1/10th the speed of light. The limiting factor on this kind of rocket (impulse power to Trekkies) is alaw of vanishing returns, not Einstein's speed limit. To go faster requires more propellant and thatincreases initial mass, making the spaceship accelerate more sluggishly. At about one-tenth thespeed of light, simply adding more propellant does not increase the velocity one can reach. Thereis no known power source to reach 0.1 C. For one thing, all known power sources have mass thatmust be subtracted from the propellant.Existing interplanetary probes might some day travel one light day in about ten years. Our Solar System is one-half a light day in diameter. A light day per decade is two or three times faster thanany existing probes. A light year in distance would thus take roughly 3650 years in time. Sincethe nearest star system is 4.3 light-years away, it would take 15695 years to get to the AlphaCentauri system, roughly 16,000 years. In this multiple star system, star A is a G2, about 1.5 timesthe mass of the Sun. It probably won’t last 5 billion years. Another star is 40 AU (AstronomicalUnits) away from A. Planets around A might not have stable orbits. The unit of AU is the averagedistance from the Earth to the Sun. 40 AU is also the radius of the Solar system, if we ignore theOort Cloud. A solar sailed Ark would be a better alternative than rockets since it could provide acceleration toleave home and deceleration when it approached its target star. The G forces involved would beenormous, 14 to 17 G. A blastocyst is the only form of a human being which can withstand suchforces. A blastocyst is just a fertilized egg that has formed a hollow ball with a little pile of stemcells inside. Unlike a fetus, a blastocyst can be made in a test tube, and it can be frozen and thawedout years later and still be viable. The first and last generation on an Ark journey would thus likely be blastocysts.A solar-sailed Ark would not get there any faster. It would still take millions of years to reach other humanoid civilizations, if we assume they are thousands of light-years apart. An "Ark" is a self-contained ecological system, capable of renewing itself generation after generation, each of which would be born on the Ark, reproduce, live to a ripe old age, and die. Theinhabitants might all be blastocysts for long periods of time. A primitive culture like ours could build such an Ark within this millennium. By traveling at a lower speed, we wouldn't have toworry so much about interstellar dust grains exploding into the hull with the force of an H-bomb,although shields would still be necessary. It wouldn't really matter how long it took to crossinterstellar space. It would eventually get there. It could carry nuclear generators to createelectricity. It would not have to carry much propellant, just enough for maneuvering. It has the2
virtue that the same method used to propel it also stops it at the other end of the journey. For interstellar takeoff, it would maneuver as close to the sun as possible, point itself in the rightdirection, and unfurl an enormous solar sail. After gaining escape velocity, furl the sail and spin upthe ring shaped ark to provide artificial gravity. It would then coast. At the end of the trip thereverse process would be used for deceleration, many thousands or millions of years later. This isthe only technology of space travel proposed so far that might actually work, but only as a form of exodus.When I think of "travel”, I think of trips that might take a few hours, days or possibly even a fewyears. Anything longer than that would be a one-way trip, where one is not likely to come back.Another way of saying the same thing is that interstellar travel by technology is impossible.Some of the people who leave messages in the guest book on my interstellar web site present anargument from analogy. They say, "Look how far we have progressed in technology in the last 200years. Surely, in another 200 years we will have developed technology we can't even imagine."Maybe. On the other hand, technology may have run its course.I have often thought it would be interesting to go back in time (something I believe to beimpossible) and talk to Thomas Jefferson. In philosophy and science, history and art, we would bein the same mental world and that would not be true if I visited Luther or Augustine or Plato. As Ilooked around his palatial mansion, I am sure I would find it remarkable that every single item had been hand made by a craftsman, often designed by Jefferson himself. Every gadget or item of furniture would be unique, without any interchangeable parts. Technology goes for long periods of time with little or no change. Neither people nor ideas could travel any faster in Jefferson's timethan in Ancient Roman times or in the times of the Sumerians and the pyramid building Egyptians.Both people and ideas could travel about 9 knots, or 10 mph. No more. That is the speed of a fastsailing sloop, or the average speed of a pony express, with remounts.Any student of Toynbee must realize one can never extrapolate the past into the future. The onething we can be sure about the future is that it will have surprising and unpredictable changes indirection for our civilization. The areas that have seen the most active change in the past fewchanges might cease to change. Change might pass to metaphysics or the arts. We can now communicate worldwide at the speed of light, and we can travel at the speed of sound.Will we be communicating any faster in 200 years? Of course not. That would violate afundamental law of physics. Will we be traveling any faster than the speed of sound? Through theair? Not if we value the ozone layer. I propose a return to the bicycle and the train since this would provide much faster commuter times than we now have with cars (only 5 mph at rush hour inBoston or LA). In many ways, technology reached apogee in the last quarter of the 20th Century,when we decided not to build an SSC (Superconducting Super Collider), decided not to build theSST (Super Sonic Transport) and decided not to send any more people to the moon. Computersand communications are reaching apogee now, with the World Wide Web. There are a lot of computer users (me for one) who think the capabilities of their present systems are quite sufficientand would prefer to avoid upgrade or change, though it may be impossible to avoid.3

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