Sure, who hasn’t seen – or at least is familiar with – the Star Trek series (or, for the matter, Battlestar Galatica, Babylon 5, Firefly and, well, you get the idea). The plot(s) usually revolve our cast of characters dealing with a problem / challenge, answering it with style and bravado – and all the while the biggest character in the show(s) is usually overlooked: the spaceship.
Let’s face it: regular space travel is boring. NASA estimates that if we were to take a trip to say, Jupiter (ala “2001: A Space Odyssey”) it’d take over several years to go there and back. But hey: enter ‘Deus Ex Machina’ – aka “FTL” (Faster Than Light) travel – and we got ourselves a show! Bring on Spock with the goatee with the agonizer and the wild west flair of Firefly!
After all, it’s just science fiction – right?
Work done by one Burkhard Heim is now serious gaining traction and attention by physicists. Heim was a colleague of one Albert Einstein, working on a number of Einstein’s postulations (principally dealing with Einstein’s Unified Field Theories) and theorems so much so that today some of Heim’s calculations are still in use today. Heim took off where Einstein stopped in regards to linking electricity and gravity (believe me, there’s a lot more to this than meets the eye, but suffice to say Heim is no piker when it comes to his mathematics).
Seems as though the Higgs boson search (the so-called “God particle”) re-ignated interest in such matters and Heim’s work actually makes some rather compelling mathematical approaches that are both viable and realistic – i.e., hyperdrive can be made into a mechanical reality and not just some mathematical discussion. So much so that some officials as NASA considered utilizing Heim’s work for possible space propulsion, including that of the original Apollo moon missions (Heim’s work was later on considered for other applications – primarily Mars)!
But as with many governmental programs, the inevitable cutbacks took place and what we wound up with was a bunch of science fiction shows – but we’re still going nowhere.
That may not be the case anymore.
Heim postulated a system by which FTL travel could be attained without a massive energy consumption to the order that (according to Heim) we could very well develop a means of FTL travle enabling us to reach the nearest star system within 2 months.
Designing a FTL ship is not so much the challenge as it is coming up with the means to propel the damned thing. Sure, some designs are “easy” and merely require using a lot of mass – like, take the entire mass of the planet Jupiter or just casually capture and encapsulate a small black hole within a magnetic bottle. Sure, no problem; piece of cake (!). Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to place an entire planet the size of Jupiter and LaMachine it to hell to convert the mass necessary to go from point A to far away point B into energy, let alone try to capture a black hole and place it some magnetic bottle.
So consider this: we’re (that is, our Sun and Solar System) part of smaller star cluster and many of the nearest to Earth stars are within a sphere approximately 51 light years in diameter (a light year is 5,878,625,373,183.61 miles; multiple this by 51 and you’ll get 2.9981E+14 – or 2,998,100,000,000,000,000 miles, give or take an odd million or so).
Heim’s estimated that a “typical” hyperdrive vehicle could travel roughly this full distance within two years time.
We’re talking about being able to have an immediate human sphere of interstellar influence no more than 2 years (earth time) travel. In other words, the farthest stars within this sphere could (theoretically) take about 2 years of travel (from Earth).
Suddenly, those stories of interstellar adventures doesn’t seem so far fetched – not to mention having a summer home on Mars or a palace amidst the rings of Saturn seems so weird (kudos to Kim Stanley Robinson “On the North Pole of Pluto”).
But consider this: what kind of government ultimately would all this entail? What manner of trade would take place, outside of the usual colonial / mother base trade of raw materials for essentials / specialties? Would people be selected to go (the best of the best) – or, like the Australia of old, would a number of these interstellar outposts become mere dumping grounds for the unwanted (think Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven)?
Historically speaking, it is rarely those democratic societies which fostered expansion; for those who did (think Athens of ancient Greece following the Peloponnesian Wars, or the Roman Republic becoming an Empire) in time they eventually became despotic in nature. Some would argue that things are heading in that direction anyway,…
Does such thinking border on lunacy?
Aren’t there far better things to dwell on?
No doubt. But as history has shown every society that entered into a period of expansion beyond it’s physical domains underwent radical changes both within itself and for those whom they interacted with (think Jared Diamond’s seminal work “Guns, Germs and Steel”). It’s also worth noting that the technological age which we are now living in actually took off following the Apollo moon missions, with the introduction of semiconductors and other advances, later on appearing in calculators and home computers.
We may very well stand on the verge of a societal jump – and one that’s badly needed: as our planet faces growing problems – dwindling resources, over population and climate changes – it may be wise to consider our options and see where else we can set up shop. Rather than pay off a bunch of bankers who are morally bankrupt or financial institutions consistently losing money, maybe it’s a far better – and wiser – idea to invest into a new future.
Here are some links for consideration: