Danger Lampost

Futurist & Technology Consultant,


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Maybe this is how we can travel to other galaxies in our lifetime?

Madhavi Gavini posed this great question here: What is the probability of man exploring other galaxies in our lifetime? (http://www.ted.com/conversations/14450/what_is_the_probability_of_man.html?c=552358). I responded with a discussion of how much energy it would take us to travel there and that therefor this would be impossible for quite some time. Then I read a blog posting about why haven't we seen aliens yet? And I started thinking...

The problem is that it takes too much energy to accelerate our massive human bodies to near light speed, where we could take advantage of time dilation effects to travel many light years within the life time of a person on such a trip. So what if...

What if alien civilizations, millions of years more advanced than us, have folded the space time continuum in such a way as to create hills that are always running downhill or uphill, fed by gravity. One side or the other would always be running "up hill" or "down hill" which would send you one way or the other in the universe, and the two sides would perfectly balance each other out. A bit like one of Escher's infinite staircases.

Such superhighways could be shielded with gravitational lensing so as to be undetectable to us here on earth, and there would be on-ramps to allow you to control your own acceleration. Not knowing where one is located, the odds of us finding one by chance would be pretty much impossible.

But if someone shows us where it's located, or sends out a beacon - then we could use normal rocket power to maneuver close to one of these gravity superhighways, jump on the downhill side and just "coast downhill" up to just under the speed of light, reach the halfway point of your trip, and flip around to the other side of the highway to slow down (going uphill effectively).

So this is a shout out to any aliens listening out there, to please show us where you've folded space time so we can explore the universe too.

Does this idea have any merit?

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    Oct 22 2012: It is very easy to get lost in fantasy in a world where cyberspace is real. Only 40 years ago all of this would have had you committed to the looney house. One hundred years ago it did not exist at all, however Science has grown exponentially as of date. I suggest that before we make such loud suggestions that we plant our feet deeply into true physics, and not run away from true logic. Einstein teaches us that we cannot travel beyond the speed of light, as a matter of fact, not even close. Yes there's also the String theorist with their space bending solutions but, as of yet it has not passed the general consensus that it is the theory of everything or anything at all. Danger, to quickly answer your question, my answer is, it is possible but, not in the way that you would imply. Let me present you with a little synopsis; NASA would have never gone to the moon had they stopped to think about all the dangers that they would face. To try and perceive a way to travel to other Galaxies based on our present knowledge is kinda silly. To build something that could endure such a journey would take years, the problem with that is, we would be starting something primitive that in the years to come would be obsolete, hence the project would have to be started again, and again till we actually find a totally different way to travel. Please note that dreaming is important, it is the first step to reality but it could also lead to insanity...... Now my proposal. We can go to other worlds!! Now here is the BITTERSWEET news. It will be much easier and much more perceivable to send the GENOME of life from our planet to inseminate possible uninhabited worlds. They would require much smaller vehicles with less human demands. We would then cross our fingers, and hope that it would be fruition, thus trying to ensure the existence of life as we know it on other worlds' and in Galaxies far, far away. I am sure that there are lots of other ideas out there.
  • Oct 25 2012: Danger! Danger! Lampost!
    I already believe that as a result of "gravitational lensing",
    space is closed, open and flat all at the same time.
    What we see is the light reflecting back on itself (creating a mirror image), and distorting,
    or multiplying images into many.
    As a result of our universe gravitationally lensing all the light in the universe,
    we sense we see infinity but it is really a mirror image of eternity, so it looks infinite,
    like looking into mirror, into a mirror, into mirror, into a mirror, and so on., back and forth.
    We measure bouncing back and forth between the mirror images caused by gravitational lensing, and
    the distances seem to be immense, and unreachable.
    Well, they are because we cannot travel into a mirror image.

    There is a tremendous amount of light in the universe.
    If massive, far away galaxies can produce gravitational lensing (and they do because they are large enough masses to bend space and light),
    why then, can't our universe with its great mass do the same and create my mirror theory?

    I know. It's stupid but I like it. Thanks :)
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    Oct 23 2012: And if there was a motorway toll? I assume the dollar hasn't reached out that far yet... :o)
  • Oct 22 2012: "What if alien civilizations, millions of years more advanced than us, have folded the space time continuum in such a way as to create hills that are always running downhill or uphill, fed by gravity. One side or the other would always be running "up hill" or "down hill" which would send you one way or the other in the universe, and the two sides would perfectly balance each other out."

    I'm not an expert on cosmology but I think what you propose is impossible because a) you can't have "up hill" and "down hill" highways next to each other, it would always be either "up hill" or "down hill" within a wide radius and b) there's probably no way you can generate that much gravity without a supermassive black hole. The supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy may be able to propel you to near light speed if you orbit it long enough but you'd first have to get there (it's about 30k lightyears from Earth).
    • Oct 27 2012: "up hill" and "down hill" exactly. You make me think that if we have to create such type of distorted path, we need gravity. And to have such kind of gravity i can only think about a path with black holes "up" and "down".
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    Oct 22 2012: Many innovations have occured in propulsion and metalurgy. Theroies have been proposed on sustaining life over years to make deep space travel possible. The bio dome near Tuscon Arizona has shown us many thing that will be of value both on Earth and in space.

    The ability to successfully target our drones to a specific location inspires confidence that travel within our system has been achieved. Deep probes are enroute and we monitor those to better travel to systems beyond.

    Recently the DCT Project in Flagstaff Arizona has provided us with the ability to see into deep space which is an asset.

    I applaud these efforts and the men and women who have made it possible.

    While I am a fan of the science that has brought us to the brink of understand in other planets .... we still have much work to do here on our rock to understand nature and the inhabitants ... this should deserve the same degree of attention and funding.

    All the best.

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    Oct 22 2012: Science fiction is fun, but we still have to live within science fact as we know it to be today.

    It's interesting to consider the future as it is portrayed in science fiction media, such as books, movies, and TV shows. But I wonder how many Star Trek "Trekkies" ever realize that each episode of the series was an analogy of Mankind's trials and tribulations of just surviving together on Earth. The episodes dealt with Human problems...prejudice, discrimination, the distribution of resources, how our faiths and beliefs originated, and all the other things we struggle with as Humans on Earth.

    The "Star Wars" movies did the same thing. So did classic science fiction works from authors like Bradbury, Heinlein, Asimov, and Clark.

    I wonder if the "Trekkies" who dress up as their favorite characters and go to all those conventions even realize what the purpose of those Star Trek episodes really were? Or what they represented?

    Maybe we'll find a way to use a "Warp Drive" someday. But in the context of something like Star Trek, it was a convenient way to get from civilization to civilization (planets) across the vastness of the cosmos so a new episode, with a new Human problem, could be addressed every week of the series.

    In the meantime, science will keep looking at the possibility of something like "Warp Drive" existing. But unless it is actually discovered, Mankind is going to be very limited in our ability to travel throughout the cosmos due to our own limited lifespans.
  • Oct 22 2012: Excellent Proposal, but i must add that, reaching the speed of light, could be just one step. Because the distances in the universe are so extreme, i do not think that reaching the speed of light can take a manned mission too far. In order to get to certain places in the universe chances are that you will need to double or triple the speed of light in order to reach those places.

    If you send a manned mission to planet Gliese 581 c, 20.3 light years from earth. You will have to put 12 guys 20 year old each, in a space ship and push them to the speed of light so they can get there when they are all 40 years old. On the way during this time, some of them may develop undesired health conditions. So we must put them in some sort of suspended metabolism state. And we must device a way to stop the bone density loss due to the lack of gravity. Even at 2 times the speed of light it will be a 10 year voyage, we will need to take measures to control metabolism and bone density loss.

    Maybe we don't need to generate so much energy, we can give the first push here on earth and take advantage of the gravitational pull of some objects on the way to accomplish the final speed. This same vehicle must then perform some research activities and travel back to earth, So its propulsion system must have the fuel and the endurance to pull it out of the gravity of Gliese and gain this speed in order to come back to earth also using the gravitational pull of some objects in its behalf.

    This things will be possible as technology evolves and humanity starts living in peace. Because this projects need resources, be it human resources, financial and material resources. But a world teared apart with country fighting against country will not be resourceful enough to reach this kind of high profile goals.

    i would like to see replies, because i am not a scientist, i am only an observer and i dont really know much about astronomy or astrophisics thanks for the replies.
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      Oct 22 2012: In 2008 the U.S. sent a digital spacegram to Gliese. It is due to arive there in 2029.
      • Oct 27 2012: Thanks,
        This means that we must sent a crew to Gliese that will have to spend 40 years traveling through space, only if we are able to build a vehicle that can be pushed to the speed of light.
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    Oct 20 2012: if we could ride the wave like Einstein talked about the wave of the energy could propel us forward
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      Oct 22 2012: "IF".
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        Oct 22 2012: yes as of now big if, however I think if we look at the tech behind the LHC and reversed engineered it someway we might might figure out how to travel with energy then against it.