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Madhavi Gavini

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What is the probability of man exploring other galaxies in our lifetime?

The record breaking jump from space by Felix Baumgartner has renewed my interest in space travel.
Until now space travel has been limited to our solar system.
Is there a possibility for us to travel to other galaxies beyond the milky way in the near future?

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    Oct 17 2012: Hi Madhavi,

    There are two ways to interpret your question. One way is to ask when will we be able to start a voyage of exploration towards another galaxy. The second way is to ask when will we be physically within another galaxy exploring its stars and planets

    In the first sense, I think a calculation like the one by Krisztian can provide some idea. I am not a big fan of so specific calculations, because it is anybody's guess what the impact of the next technologies will have in shortening that wait. But I would still guess that it will take at least more than a single life span (~100 yrs). So the answer in the first sense is near 0% probability

    In the second sense, lets imagine for a second that we manage to find a way to travel at almost the speed of light and start the voyage tomorrow. Excluding satellite galaxies, let's take Andromeda as the target. That means that it will take at least 2,500,000 years to get there, provided there are no stops on the way. So the answer in the second sense is an even more certain 0% probability

    But that should not prevent us from pursuing it on behalf of future generations!

    cheers
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    Oct 17 2012: let us do some calculations

    the task

    http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=%28distance+of+alpha+centauri%29+%2F+%28distance+of+moon%29

    http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=%28distance+of+closest+galaxy%29+%2F+%28distance+of+moon%29

    getting to the moon cost the richest country on earth a decade, and many many billions of dollars. closest star is 100 million times farther, closest galaxy is 600 billion times farther. and the energy need is not proportional, but closer to exponential with time.

    but even if it is proportional, assuming 10% annual growth, how much time it needs to reach 600 billion times increase? the answer is near to 300 years.

    these numbers are huge, people.
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      Oct 17 2012: Chriz

      What's our chances of landing on an asteroid in a 5 year olds lifetime from today?
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        Oct 17 2012: human or automated? automated is 100% if you count occasions happened in the past. manned ... i would go with 6.5% (yeah, that's precise i am)

        correction: i took it as within 5 years. 6.5% is within 5 years. in, say, 75 years, my guesstimate is 70%
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        Oct 19 2012: Ken, I could not reply directly to your comment about Mars below...so I am commenting in this section.
        Mars is the most likely planet to be colonized by humans if earth becomes hostile (eg. nuclear war, asteroids hitting earth), so I would bet my money on Mars:)
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      Oct 17 2012: Krisztian, 300 years is a long time. With technological advances over the coming decades, do you still think it would take 300 years?
      If we find a way to travel at the speed of light..it may be with automation(not with humans), then maybe it can happen before 300 years.
      How did you come with the calculation for the asteroid? My assumption is that there are many asteroids in our solar system and their orbits/paths are inconsistent.
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        Oct 17 2012: i can not really take technological breakthroughs in account, since nobody can foresee that. i assumed 10% increase in our capabilities. in IT, it is more like 70%, so lets redo the calculation. with 70% annual increase, we can reach it in 50 years. but as of now, 70% annual growth in our space exploration potential seems impossible.

        speed of light is ridiculously slow. at that speed, the closest galaxy is tens of thousands of years away. we need some breakthrough that allows for much higher speeds.

        it was not actually a calculation with the asteroid, but a guesstimate. asteroids are close, and landing on them is within our reach today. but not before it becomes cheap, we will attempt to do something like that. my reasoning was that we are at the dawn of private space exploration. burt rutan will start delivering tourists to space, bigelow already has a model space station, spacex rocket delivers supply to the ISS. what's next? i assume orbital manned missions, moon missions, and then ... asteroids? can happen in the upcoming decades. so i gave it 70%, more likely than not.
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          Oct 17 2012: I completely forgot about automated.

          That's a good guesstimate and what i would say what everyone would agree with, Moonbase 1999 then mining asteroids , possibly the belt within a 150 years.

          Far more attractive to invest in rather than Mars, if the planet got behind it then we could be sending our first asteroid bot within 5 years.
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          Oct 18 2012: Krisztian, 50 years sounds great...wishful thinking perhaps!
          You are right about the speed of light. I came across an article about NASA's quest for space travel faster than light.
          http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/136408-nasa-working-on-faster-than-light-travel-says-warp-drives-are-plausible
          I hope the interest and investment in private space exploration continues to grow.
          I have high hopes on Jeff Bezos ,Richard Branson to make space travel more affordable.
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        Oct 19 2012: "50 years sounds great"

        for you maybe :) i won't be here that time
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          Oct 19 2012: do you want to be ?if you want ,i will continue to put my attention on the Ever-young pill.
          if success,i hope you can afford it .
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          Oct 19 2012: Krisztian, advancements in medicine and health care will continue to increase the life expectancy of humans. You might still be around:-)
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        Oct 19 2012: ah, chen, would you? thanks in advance!

        (i've already donated to the SENS foundation, but they are sloooow)
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        Oct 19 2012: Madhavi, are you aware of this talk? :
        http://www.ted.com/talks/aubrey_de_grey_says_we_can_avoid_aging.html
        seriously offtopic here, but after all ... you said our lifetime. maybe that "lifetime" thing is about to change?
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          Oct 20 2012: Thanks for sharing the link ,Krisztian. I just listened to it. RHR, LEV that Aubrey talked about ,do change the definition of "lifetime"!
    • Oct 20 2012: "getting to the moon cost the richest country on earth a decade, and many many billions of dollars. closest star is 100 million times farther, [...]"

      It's not that simple: Mars is (at minimum) 143 times farther away than the Moon, but it won't cost 143 times more to go there, it would probably cost less than the total cost of the Apollo Program. In spaceflight the introduction of one new technology can cut the cost a hundredfold, this has happened before and it will happen again. And that is in peace time, with corrupt, slow contractors who don't share technology with each other and only have access to specialists from a handful of countries, if need be we could probably put a man on Mars for only a couple of billion $.

      Of course faster than light travel requires new physics, but anything sublight could, in principle, be achieved today with Earth's resources.
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        Oct 20 2012: exactly, it won't cost 143 times more, it costs a lot more than that. if it was proportional, getting to the saturn directly would be a few times more costly than getting to mars. but it is not, it is unreachable without using gravity swings. look up "rocket equation" for more info.
        • Oct 20 2012: "it won't cost 143 times more, it costs a lot more than that."

          No, it's the opposite, it would be cheaper to go to Mars now than it was to go to the Moon in the 1960s. It's all about technology. The R&D costs were what made the Apollo Program so expensive, not the construction of the actual rockets and the refining of the fuels. Once they had all the R&D worked out in 1969 (for example, they literally had to invent faster computers for this, something we wouldn't have to do to get to Mars) it became rather cheap to send more people to the Moon: the program would have been only marginally less expensive if only one mission was sent instead of seven. Today most of the technology required to go to Mars already exists, this was not true for a mission to the Moon in the early 1960s.

          Also, it's not a matter of money, it's a matter of natural resources: if Earth has the natural resources required for some project then that project can be carried out in principle, you may have to use self-replicating robots, mobilize an army of formerly unemployed, outlaw trade in the specific resources required, confiscate existing supplies and mines, or a combination of the above, but it can be done.
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        Oct 20 2012: no kidding! it is cheaper now than 50 years ago? wow, i'm super impressed. the only problem is that i did not compare that. i said that cost goes up with distance exponentially. at any given time. you obviously did not look up the rocket equation. otherwise you would know why.

        and it is NOT about R&D. getting stuff in space is still ginormously expensive. every kilogram you get in orbit costs thousands of dollars. the running cost is also huge. new technology might bring it down one day. but that day is not here yet.

        it is not about money but resources? what do you think money represents? resources. money represent natural resources and work hours.
        • Oct 20 2012: "you obviously did not look up the rocket equation. otherwise you would know why."

          Not only have I seen the "rocket equation", I can derive it from scratch.

          "i said that cost goes up with distance exponentially."

          Yes, but the cost of the fuel is only a tiny part of the cost of any space program: it doesn't actually cost billions of $ to launch a large rocket, the entire project costs billions of $ because many other costs are included in that figure.

          "getting stuff in space is still ginormously expensive. every kilogram you get in orbit costs thousands of dollars"

          That's mostly because you have to overcome Earth's gravity first. That's a one time thing that's the same whether you go into low-Earth orbit or to Saturn.

          "what do you think money represents? resources. money represent natural resources and work hours."

          Only loosely, the precise relationship depends on the current state of technology, scale of your operations, the amount of hot-air in the economy, the degree to which you count untapped resource reserves as existing monetary wealth as well as speculation and regulation. Even in monetary language this is obvious since investment can grow GDP.
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        Oct 20 2012: " I can derive it from scratch."

        i heavily doubt that.

        "fuel is only a tiny part of the cost"

        as it grows exponentially, soon it becomes the biggest. exactly the case in interstellar travel. but since you are such a math expert, you can do some fun math. go ahead and calculate the required mass of nuclear fuel to get to the nearest star (4ly) in 10 years, assuming we want to deliver 1 metric ton of payload. then you can do the same with fusion. the fact is, even using annihilation, the payload will be a small fraction of the vehicle, the large part being fuel.

        "Only loosely, the precise relationship depends on the current state of technology,"

        the most strictly. the ratio being dependent on factors. what you can buy using one unit of money is dependent on them. but money was, is and will represent resources, it is its only function. so stop pretending that something being expensive has nothing to do with the amount of resources goes into its production. space exploration is expensive exactly because it soaks up a mother lode of resources. millions of work hours and megatons of natural resources are put into a rocket and its fuel.
  • Oct 17 2012: Why not to be an optimist?
    I strongly believe that there is a great possibility for us to travel other galaxix in out life time. In noways, the statement you are going to say, might contradict with tomorrows science advancements and achievments of humanity. Well, I do not think people from 1950s had any idea how the internet would be but they knew there going to be something like internet. They had no idea how or what will make it work. I think for now we know that there is a chance to traverl with antimatter fuel. And I believe most of people wo did not knwo how to build it, now enjoing the beief they had.
    The other thing is our bodysytem and how the brain works. I heard a statement, which says. WE fear because WE ARE POWERLFU;; BEYOND THE MEASURE.
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      Oct 17 2012: Good logic Andrey. I am an eternal optimist as well!
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    Oct 16 2012: negligible. there should be a completely unseen breakthrough in physics, which allows us to defy eintein's laws, and it should be very cheap. here are some facts:

    to get to the nearest star at subluminal speed, in say 6 years, we would need as much energy as the entire human energy production of 50 years. the cost of it would probably surpass the world's gdp of many hundred years. the only viable fuel is antimatter, and we have no idea how to use it as fuel or how to manufacture it in the required quantity (thousands of tons).

    the LHC cost billions of euros, took 10 years to build, and eats up 100+ MW of energy. but it was not able to create anything we didn't yet know. it did not bring new particles, it didn't create tiny black hole, nothing that would open a window to any new knowledge. probably we need several orders of magnitude bigger instruments to even gather more information, and be able to set up correct theories. let alone implement something interesting application.

    in our lifetime, it is unlikely that even an automated probe could reach the nearest star.
    • Oct 20 2012: "to get to the nearest star at subluminal speed, in say 6 years, we would need as much energy as the entire human energy production of 50 years."

      It would sure cost a lot of energy, but not "50 years of the entire human energy production". A couple of modern nuclear reactors would be enough to drive a small probe with a solar sail using a huge maser.
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        Oct 20 2012: introduce your plans, especially detailing how the solar sail would work far away from any stars, and especially what masers have anything to do with it.

        nuclear fuel is not dense enough, so better forget that. even hydrogen fusion can not give the necessary energy per fuel-mass.
        • Oct 22 2012: The maser "pushes" photons against the sail instead of starlight, until the probe is at full speed and too far away from the maser to still "feel" it. The maser would be sent out from somewhere in the solar system and derive its power from nearby powerplants (and/or a huge electrodynamic tether in say Jupiter's upper atmosphere).
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        Oct 22 2012: are you absolutely sure you know what a maser is?
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        Oct 22 2012: show me a link to the highest energy maser ever made. and let it a page that does not have new age crap on it, and does not have "science fiction" mentioned anywhere. also show me to a site that describes a narrow beam created by masers, and how narrow that beam actually was.
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    Oct 16 2012: The only thing stopping us is knowing how.
    And knowledge is the only one thing that cannot be predictible.

    So why not...
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    Oct 20 2012: Why wouldnt we just explore our galaxy?
  • Oct 20 2012: Physics is physics Progress is progress This proposition does not clearly view reality. Why would we always want to do that. he greatest adventure might be Young Alice hearing a Mathematical story from her Dad's subordinate Charles Ludwig Dodgson. Now that's a journey into a real Wonderland.
  • Oct 20 2012: In addition, isn't that what we are doing? Isn't that what SciFi does? Couldn't it be dangerous? Notwithstanding, science esp. physics is not to be taken lightly.
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      Oct 20 2012: George, for sure, science/physics is not to be taken lightly. However, we limit our potential if we choose to safely stay within the accepted,time tested theories and boundaries of science.
  • Oct 20 2012: "Is there a possibility for us to travel to other galaxies beyond the milky way in the near future?"

    It may not ever be possible. There is a small possibility we may one day learn how to utilize natural wormholes or create artificial ones, but if it were to happen it would be long after our lifetime (unless aliens give us the technology or we find alien technology that was left on Earth).
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    Oct 19 2012: Let's get our own house in order first.
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    Oct 19 2012: To get a vehicle, manned or unmanned to Canis Major Dwarf, the nearest galaxy to the Milky Way, requires 25,000 Earth years IF TRAVELING AT THE SPEED OF LIGHT!! Sorry Ms. Gavani, you can take it off your bucket list.
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      Oct 20 2012: Mr Long, "25000 years if travelling at the speed of light"...If we devise a way to travel faster than the speed of light, then it will not take that long. Scientists have made some breakthroughs this year in this realm..and it is only the beginning. I still intend to keep it on my bucket list in addition to travelling to the moon and the Mars :-)
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        Oct 21 2012: The concept of time travel (faster than light) allows you to accomplish things in anyone's lifetime. Does the smiley face mean you are kidding about your post? :-(
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          Oct 21 2012: Mr.Long, I am not kidding. The smiley face indicates a smile...a positive facial expression.
  • Oct 19 2012: I like the comment about getting to the moon. While physics and economics require the use of Pixie dust or hwatever - We can have fun with hard science fiction. I enjoyed the idea of a multigenerational star-ship traveling through space. We got here ??? We left where????? and Why??????? Is there intellegent life out there? Better - Is there intelligent life here? If there is - How best to communicate/ Or would the more intelligent aliens even be something that we would expect to treat us better than less advance men have been treated here or how we have treated the great apes. Being sure there is no other intelligence. How would we seed the Universe. Would that even involve human travel when a synthetice womb might be so much better. Then some fellow would find a verse in the Bible or whatever saying No No No
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      Oct 19 2012: George, science fiction may turn into reality at some point...if we can dream it, we can do it :-)

      "Being sure there is no other intelligence"
      How are you sure that there is no other intelligent life, other than humans on this universe?
      I am an ardent follower of Stephen Hawking who believes that aliens exist :)
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    Oct 19 2012: The probability of man exploring other galaxies in our lifetime is zero. If it's even possible, we are at least thousands of years away from even starting such a journey.

    Of course one could get creative with the meaning of your question. What do you mean by "man exploring" - in person? Or simply exploring by observing very carefully? By sending a remote probe? What about a spiritual journey? What about using quantum entanglement principles?

    Should we calculate the distance to the nearest galaxy - Andromeda - and then how long it would take to get there at the speed of light? Or assume faster than light travel will be invented? How much faster? Or diving through a worm hole to instantly transport from one region of our universe to another? Or travel to another multiverse? Or time travel?

    Lacking some exotic discovery like that, it's going to be a very, very long time before our species gets to another galaxy. And by that time, our species will likely have changed so much that one might hesitate to call that "man" in the sense of your question.
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      Oct 19 2012: zero is a very small number
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      Oct 19 2012: Danger,
      By exploring, I mean either sending remote probes or in person.
      "our species will likely have changed so much that one might hesitate to call that "man" in the sense of your question."
      Homo sapiens (modern man) has been around for over 200000 years. So,it will take a very long time for us to evolve into another species. I do not think it will take that long for humans/probes to travel to another galaxy.
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        Oct 20 2012: I think you're right about how long our species would be around if we were relying on the same kind of evolution. I subscribe to theories like the singularity theory, which I think implies that our technology will eventually get so advanced that we will have full control over our own genetics, body shape, and brain function. If you believe that our brains carry our minds, then we should be able to extend our minds into other realms. In a 100 years or so when we Combine the power of quantum computing with nanotechnology this will give us near god like powers over matter and ourselves - issues like practical immortality, and identity boundaries will be very interesting issues - hot topics explored in science fiction today.
    • Oct 20 2012: "Lacking some exotic discovery like that, it's going to be a very, very long time before our species gets to another galaxy. And by that time, our species will likely have changed so much that one might hesitate to call that "man" in the sense of your question."

      Even at sublight speeds the journey doesn't have to take long for those ABOARD the ship because of time dilation (and/or some form of stasis).
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        Oct 20 2012: An excellent point!

        As the question used the phrase "in our lifetime", I interpreted that to mean the timeline of us here on earth. It's also valid I think to consider whether we could reach another galaxy within the life time of the person on the trip.

        If you add a form of stasis for passengers on a spaceship such as cryonic suspension (with the thawing out problems worked out), you can effectively take however many thousands or more years you like to get there. I don't think that helps an argument one way or the other, other than to say that eventually, some time, we could get there.

        As far as time dilation goes though, that's an interesting point. I put together a scenario and looked at the hard relativistic math to see whether it actually pans out. Let's put together the most optimistic scenario possible: Let's assume we could build a rocket ship with an engine that was 100% efficient at converting mass to energy maybe using antimatter - theoretically, the most efficient way to achieve near light speed travel. Let's say you accelerate at a constant 1G, simulating earth gravity. The equations tell us only 28 years would have passed for those on board the spaceship by the time they safely reach the next galaxy. So you could get there in your life time, while many thousands of years have passed on earth.

        How would you build such a space ship? You would need 4.2 billion tons of fuel to safely propel each 1 kilogram of payload to the nearest galaxy. That's a one way trip, by the way.

        So assuming we are limited by the speed of light, it would take way too much fuel to get there in our life time by relying on time dilation. At least according to this scenario.
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    Oct 17 2012: Unless we discover a way to project a field elsewhere in the universe and transport through it, then no but i am hoping to see man land on a asteroid in the lifetimes of the youngest members on Ted.
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      Oct 17 2012: Ken, do you mean time travel?
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        Oct 18 2012: No Madhavi, just pure Sci Fi.

        The closest to even resembling a projection was a quantum spin experiment between two connected systems, i can't remember where i read it or truly remember the results properly but the result was fairly good, the result produced similar spin in the other system.

        Read Hitch hikers guide to the galaxy and the probability drive, at the moment we can only dream.
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          Oct 18 2012: Thanks for your suggestion Ken. I will check out the Hitch Hiker's guide to the galaxy.
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        Oct 18 2012: If anything Madhavi, take a look at the university research across the planet and see where they are headed in R & D and then try and look at the private sector.
  • Oct 17 2012: People who have the goal for space my identify themself as such first we need numbers of people and willpower to make this are top goal. I'm starting a mega project platform to make this possible with people who give a damn and understand what we do know builds the future not what we would like to do.
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    Oct 17 2012: it is inevitable. not sure of the time-frame though.

    it will speed up now that private companies are getting into it.
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      Oct 17 2012: Scott, the private companies are more into space tourism. I doubt if they will go beyond our solar system..or even beyond the moon!
  • Oct 17 2012: I don't think the jump will have anything to do with it since we've already gone to the moon. If nations plan to invest more in space travel and space colonization , then I think we'll begin to visit other worlds. But as long as they find no incentive for such a large investment, I highly doubt it.