Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Is Space Travel Possible?: Prerequisites to Interstellar Space Travel

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I'd laugh if we actually managed to become a space faring civilization by becoming a peaceful race, but then all we get for our efforts is war with other species instead of ourselves, as is found in the Star Trek universe.
Now there is a lot going against humanity when it comes to space faring, far more than what meets the eye. Below are some basic variables that we will encounter that you may have already guessed, however, prepare to be floored since your guesses probably do not capture to true largeness of the hurdles we'd have to leap to make space travel possible at the very beginning!
In Fun We Trust
Variable 1-- Now the day the Earth manages to build a $100,000,000,000,000 (trillion) spaceship, I'd rather it not explode on its first day! Even without building a new particle accelerator (real), the antimatter (real) alone is estimated to cost about $62,200,000,000,000 ($63 trillion). That's nearly two and a half times (2.33x) more money than the entire U.S. debt back a few years ago. Damn! Let's put this in perspective then. Just how much is $100 trillion bucks anyway? 2010 census stated there were 310,234,678 or so Americans, so here we go: If all 310 million Americans all gave an unprecedented $100 to NASA, it would only be $31,000,000,000 ($31 billion). And you know that most Americans wouldn't give a single penny, let alone $100 check for free! But let's keep going anyway. If all 310 million Americans each gave NASA $10,000 it'd only amount to $3,100,000,000,000 (3 trillion). Still not enough. If all 310 million Americans gave NASA $100,000 each, it'd be $31,000,000,000,000. We're still about 66% short! Every American would have to give at least $350,000, which amounts to $108,500,000,000,000, just a tad over the mark, but remember there will be screw ups, do-overs, redesigning due to unforeseen flaws. Certainly the cost would be triple or quadruple since this is a trial-by-fire thing. If we build cars and recall them each year yet we've been building cars for nearly a century then I can't imagine how many times we'd have to build and rebuild something as complex as a star ship. I can't imagine how many times we'll realize something is not right and have to redo entire sections of the ship.
Variable 2-- In a star ship, you might think that speed is the biggest hurdle we face, but while you're not entirely wrong, technically we already know how to go faster than the speed of stupid, since any percentage of the speed of light is stupid, even 0.05% light speed. A joke, yes, but the truth remains, for going even a minuscule percentage of light speed we'd face destructive forces not even mother Earth faces as she zips through space at 66,490mph (18.5mi/s). And that's an entire planet. No human star ship could ever boast such size, but being the size of an ant and the size of a planet makes no difference even when going 1% the speed of light, let alone Project Daedalus' estimated 12% light speed. We'd face the power of atoms and energies against the hull at speeds that typically cause things to become, like hitting water at even mild speeds is like hitting concrete!
Neutrons colliding (neutrons
are uncharged particles)
Assuming you have been at least skimming my other articles on this web page such as my "Atoms" article, you should know that when certain atoms collide with each other, they often stick, called nuclear fusion, and this connection causes small amounts of energy to be released, called BOOM! The energy released is small, but for the size of the atoms it's actually a large amount of energy for their relative size. That's the technical name for this atomic process. Pretty much everyone by this point has seen the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima via YouTube, along with a bunch of other really stupid bombs so large you wonder why they were ever built, since they would serve only to annihilate all life, where some of these are so huge they would disturb the planet on such a large scale it's doubtful people on the other side of the planet would not be affected. When the Russians dropped their 50 megaton Tsar Bomba, it could be seen 620 miles away and the radiation was felt in California thousands of miles away! The bomb had only half of its yield and only 3% of its total radiation potential (50% of explosive force was purposely taken away for sake of reducing nuclear fallout by 97%, and yet the radiation was still felt in California!!) This process, called nuclear fusion, is what powers the stars of our universe, but the process itself usually only occurs naturally on massive scales far away from Earth, like in stars, and so on. This fusion of atoms produces gargantuan amounts of radiation on cosmic scales. The Earth was never meant to handle such catastrophic forces, and yet we humans like to play with it. To know more about atoms and fusion which is used today in bombs and rocket ships, read my article called "Atoms: From Boiling Water to Bombs."
A star ship would not simply cause fusion to happen for propulsive purposes, but these atoms would inevitably fuse to the hull. Not only that, but star ships would use antimatter, but a thought occurs regarding this: Not even the stars could handle antimatter atoms fusing. It's simply too violent of a reaction and assuming a star could even form at all, it'd devour itself and probably have the heat and luminosity of several blue supergiants. No balance could be struck and the star would pretty much fuse itself together and supernova, which would probably consume a small galaxy ha-ha, knowing our luck. Even the atoms in the star ship hull and blast chambers would be forced to participate in this fusion process since there is no known practical way to halt atomic processes of this magnitude. What is the hull made of anyway?....atoms of complex inorganic materials, like space alloys and metals like titanium.
Atoms make up every "thing" in the whole universe and are even known to create organic molecules with proper methodology and conditions. And the universe is not empty. It is full of atoms, mostly hydrogen. Hydrogen is exceedingly common. It just seems to be absolutely everywhere for some reason. Who cares, the point is that we don't want to explode with thousands of pounds of antimatter at light speed, where a couple pounds is equal to a 25 megaton bomb, I can't imagine thousands of pounds at over 600 million mph.
Scientists say we'd need a sort of static or electric shielding over the hull to neutralize this atomic energy, otherwise we'd just explode. In layman's terms, it's a shield like on Star Trek. Electricity and magnets and other types of energies like those can generate fields, known as magnetism and static field, and may be capable of protecting a ship in a limited capacity, theoretically, of course. They can charge up particles or deionize charged molecules depending on how you use it, and as you've seen, magnets cling to your fridge as well as push other magnets away, and you've seen electricity make your hair stand up on end as well as push other molecules away. The key factor for some of these "push" techniques seems to be heat production as well as energy consumption. I don't care much to talk about it, but suffice it to say that this topic is utterly endless, one thing leads to another, and the variables never seem to end.
Variable 3-- Time is the last problem, because even if we managed to send off a star ship at sub-light speeds, we'd never reap the benefits of all the discoveries due to time dilation. As I wrote in my two other articles on time dilation on this web page, basically we'd travel forward through time due to the fact that time is not the same for all objects in the universe and time is greatly affected by speed. The faster you go, the faster your "time" speeds up relative to everyone else, but sadly, only you speed up....which means the Earth will experience millennia when you experience a single year. I bet you didn't see this coming as a variable. It's real, it has been proven many times. There are mountains of experiments and results confirming it. Even sub-light speed travel would result in massive increases in time experienced only by the object/person going fast, since time is not a constant for the whole universe. The time on Earth is not the same time as Pluto, in fact, when we send satellites, we have to account for large time delays and dilation, which makes it very difficult to interact with probes the farther and faster they go from Earth. I will say this though, that time does not change like what you may think. The person going fast does not see their clocks going fast or see anything at all unless they are looking at other objects that are going a lot slower. So when the astronaut looks out the window, he sees only a blur because other objects are experiencing time differently in a slower capacity, but in your super speed, you'd see them go super fast, so planets would be zipping along their orbits in a blur since you are feeling faster time. You'd see everything else faster, but unless you see other objects outside your ship you'd never realize this. So this does not mean you will live for 10,000 years! Think of a wormhole and traveling into the future. When you arrive on the other side of the wormhole, does that mean you lived for 10,000 years? Nope. You simply experienced time differently than everyone else, like a needle on a record skipping forward. This is the essence of time dilation, and I promise you that it is extremely hard to fathom because it is so abstract. However, I can explain it better. Read my time dilation articles (two of them), I promise it's ten thousand times easier to understand than what I just talked about.

Well, there are a lot more variables as you can probably guess. But these are the big guys! I hope you enjoyed that!

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