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Is interstellar travel possible?

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01-26-2013, 06:19 PM
  #1
Cloned
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Is interstellar travel possible?

Is it?

And I'm not just talking about humanity, either.

I firmly believe there is sentient life somewhere else in the universe, but I don't know if any civilization will ever develop technology on a level needed to travel vast interstellar distances. I don't know if the lifespan of a civilization from beginning to extinction - regardless of where in the universe and how that life develops - allows enough time to fully grasp the physics and engineering required to develop a method for interstellar travel.

It's not a comforting thought.

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01-26-2013, 11:49 PM
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"Possible" and what you're actually asking are two completely different things.

I'm pretty sure that you're asking whether we think any civilization will ever be able to transport actual living, breathing members of its species interstellar distances, not unmanned probes.

I'm guessing you mean within the lifetime of a single "person", so that the crew that boards the ship at home base actually makes it to the other stars.


Does this sound about right?

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01-27-2013, 03:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Unaffiliated View Post
I'm pretty sure that you're asking whether we think any civilization will ever be able to transport actual living, breathing members of its species interstellar distances, not unmanned probes.
Yes.

Quote:
I'm guessing you mean within the lifetime of a single "person", so that the crew that boards the ship at home base actually makes it to the other stars.


Does this sound about right?
I'm asking if it's possible for a civilization to develop the technology needed to harness the enormous amounts of energy required to send members of its own species outside of its own star system and travel to different stars. You can look at it from more than one perspective. Is it a theoretical impossibility to develop that type of propulsion? Is it an impossibility to develop the kind of energy recycling and processing technologies needed for some kind of generational colony ship?

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01-27-2013, 12:26 PM
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I think the fundamental issue missing from the question is what are the chances life on other planets is as short as ours. Could species on other planets live for many times the length we do, as in perhaps mellenia or what we might call eons? If so, then the question is yes, even if they have technology comparable to our own.

Though we don't quite have the ability right now to do long travel safely, we'd probably be much closer to it if our lifespan didn't make it completely impractical. If we each lived for a couple thousand years, it'd be much more practical to make lengthy journeys through the cosmos.

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01-27-2013, 04:01 PM
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Is it a theoretical impossibility to develop that type of propulsion?
No. There may be practical impossibilities, but concepts already exist.

As just one example of an idea limited by practical reasonings:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project..._propulsion%29
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_pulse_propulsion

The idea is that you explode nuclear bombs at the back of your ship, hitting a "pusher plate".

This is limited in practice by bans on nuclear testing, among other things.


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Is it an impossibility to develop the kind of energy recycling and processing technologies needed for some kind of generational colony ship?
Don't think so. There have been rocket designs that collect interstellar hydrogen gas (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstellar_medium) and fuse it with large EM fields to power the propulsion of the entire craft.




None of the things related to travel are really physical impossibilities. The problems will probably be related to limited resources, practicality/feasibility, etc.

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01-27-2013, 07:54 PM
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Good stuff Unaffiliated.

Next question - will it ever be possible to develop a method to transverse vast interstellar distances within a reasonable timeframe? Say, a journey of more than 100 light years to reach the destination before it no longer exists as you knew it when you started the journey?

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01-27-2013, 08:42 PM
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Good stuff Unaffiliated.

Next question - will it ever be possible to develop a method to transverse vast interstellar distances within a reasonable timeframe? Say, a journey of more than 100 light years to reach the destination before it no longer exists as you knew it when you started the journey?
I would think it would have to do with the theory of warping space/time, the idea of the shortest distance between two points is actually no distance at all. The problems with this is how to get enough energy to actually bend space/time to create a 'wormhole' from point A to B, and how that kind of travel would affect the construction of our craft and the beings manning it. There are theories on how now his could be possible, and seems like the most likely concept, aside from faster than light travel.

FTL travel could be possible with the breakthroughs we've seen recently, but how would you control going that fast through space, and not getting sucked into a galactic black hole, or tearing through a huge gas giant at more than 187,000km/s...

The future holds some amazing ideas, and I think we won't be exploring the universe unless we create FTL or wormhole travel. The idea of suspended animation for thousands of years just doesn't seem feasible.

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01-27-2013, 10:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cloned View Post
Good stuff Unaffiliated.

Next question - will it ever be possible to develop a method to transverse vast interstellar distances within a reasonable timeframe? Say, a journey of more than 100 light years to reach the destination before it no longer exists as you knew it when you started the journey?
Kind of impossible under Newtonian or Einstein physics, but fortunately we're still learning how stuff really works.

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01-28-2013, 11:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cloned View Post
Good stuff Unaffiliated.

Next question - will it ever be possible to develop a method to transverse vast interstellar distances within a reasonable timeframe? Say, a journey of more than 100 light years to reach the destination before it no longer exists as you knew it when you started the journey?
There are some vague ideas on how it might be possible. NASA just allocated some special funding to this research actually.

http://techland.time.com/2012/09/19/...ht-warp-drive/

http://io9.com/5963263/how-nasa-will...rst-warp-drive

If you watched Futurama, there was an episode where they (possibly intentionally?) acknowledged this idea. Basically, the ship doesn't move through spacetime, instead spacetime moves around the ship. The net effect being something that resembles faster-than-light movement as we know it, but in such a way that, local to the ship, the laws of relativity are never broken.

An analogy might be if, instead of swimming through water, you could create and ride a wave that would carry you the same distance much faster than you could swim it. You've been repositioned (you've "moved"), but you didn't really swim that distance, so you really weren't swimming any faster than you are physically capable.

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01-28-2013, 05:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sevanston View Post
There are some vague ideas on how it might be possible. NASA just allocated some special funding to this research actually.

http://techland.time.com/2012/09/19/...ht-warp-drive/

http://io9.com/5963263/how-nasa-will...rst-warp-drive

If you watched Futurama, there was an episode where they (possibly intentionally?) acknowledged this idea. Basically, the ship doesn't move through spacetime, instead spacetime moves around the ship. The net effect being something that resembles faster-than-light movement as we know it, but in such a way that, local to the ship, the laws of relativity are never broken.

An analogy might be if, instead of swimming through water, you could create and ride a wave that would carry you the same distance much faster than you could swim it. You've been repositioned (you've "moved"), but you didn't really swim that distance, so you really weren't swimming any faster than you are physically capable.
I remember reading about this a year ago. What i find interesting in this concept, if there were such an exploitable loophole in physics to create FTL travel, then contrast that against the vastness of the universe and the possibility of other intelligent life that could have been around much longer than human civilization, and it should lead to a Star Trek like universe where you have multiple intelligent species interacting with each other.

I wonder what the math would be behind this possibility? Looking at it from this angle one believing if interstellar travel is possible or not could come down to depending on whether they believe in the existence of UFO's or not.

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01-28-2013, 06:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sevanston View Post
There are some vague ideas on how it might be possible. NASA just allocated some special funding to this research actually.

http://techland.time.com/2012/09/19/...ht-warp-drive/

http://io9.com/5963263/how-nasa-will...rst-warp-drive

If you watched Futurama, there was an episode where they (possibly intentionally?) acknowledged this idea. Basically, the ship doesn't move through spacetime, instead spacetime moves around the ship. The net effect being something that resembles faster-than-light movement as we know it, but in such a way that, local to the ship, the laws of relativity are never broken.

An analogy might be if, instead of swimming through water, you could create and ride a wave that would carry you the same distance much faster than you could swim it. You've been repositioned (you've "moved"), but you didn't really swim that distance, so you really weren't swimming any faster than you are physically capable.
Came here to post the same links.

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01-28-2013, 06:24 PM
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Whoa, I hadn't seen that. Those are exciting theories.

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01-28-2013, 07:50 PM
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Didn't read the entire thread, but without using any wormhole or magic like that, ion propulsion first came to mind.

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01-29-2013, 12:15 AM
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Next question - will it ever be possible to develop a method to transverse vast interstellar distances within a reasonable timeframe? Say, a journey of more than 100 light years to reach the destination before it no longer exists as you knew it when you started the journey?
Really depends on what you mean by "as you knew it".

Obviously, even if you travel at almost c, it'll take you 100 years (of destination time) to make it there.

To make it worse, without some kind of FTL communication, all your information about your destination would be at least 100 years old.

What I mean is:
-You leave in the year 2600.
-All the information you have about your destination is from the year 2500, since it took 100 years for information to arrive.
-Even if you travel at basically the speed of light, you won't get there until around 2700
-So, your destination is 200 years older than it was as you knew it before leaving.
[Note: if you're travelling at c, then you haven't really aged at all during this trip. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_dilation]

So really, you're stuck with these sketchy sci-fi wormholes and magic warp drives that are only even mathematically possible to create (within GR) if you do some funky math voodoo with "imaginary mass" and other weird stuff.

(Here's a paper that I can't really comment on with much authority because I don't have enough Math/Physics background, but that apparently allows traversable wormholes given "exotic matter": http://arxiv.org/pdf/1203.0523v2.pdf)

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01-29-2013, 07:45 AM
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Yes, but is it possible to reach the speeds necessary to 'catch-up' to other solar systems moving away from the milkyway? That i'm not so sure on...

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01-29-2013, 01:36 PM
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Yes, but is it possible to reach the speeds necessary to 'catch-up' to other solar systems moving away from the milkyway? That i'm not so sure on...
We're talking about interstellar travel. Meaning in between stars in the Milky Way.

The Milky Way, and I believe even (don't quote me on this) our local galactic supercluster is loosely bound by gravitation, effectively cancelling or vastly reducing the effect of the expansion of space.

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01-30-2013, 01:04 PM
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We need someone really smart to do the job.

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01-30-2013, 05:11 PM
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Call me a fool but, I believe that one day it will be possible. Who are we to say it isn't?

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02-08-2013, 12:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Unaffiliated View Post
Really depends on what you mean by "as you knew it".

Obviously, even if you travel at almost c, it'll take you 100 years (of destination time) to make it there.

To make it worse, without some kind of FTL communication, all your information about your destination would be at least 100 years old.

What I mean is:
-You leave in the year 2600.
-All the information you have about your destination is from the year 2500, since it took 100 years for information to arrive.
-Even if you travel at basically the speed of light, you won't get there until around 2700
-So, your destination is 200 years older than it was as you knew it before leaving.
[Note: if you're travelling at c, then you haven't really aged at all during this trip. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_dilation]

So really, you're stuck with these sketchy sci-fi wormholes and magic warp drives that are only even mathematically possible to create (within GR) if you do some funky math voodoo with "imaginary mass" and other weird stuff.

(Here's a paper that I can't really comment on with much authority because I don't have enough Math/Physics background, but that apparently allows traversable wormholes given "exotic matter": http://arxiv.org/pdf/1203.0523v2.pdf)
We will simply communicate via Quantum entanglement

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