The Daedalus star ship, proposed in the 1970s, would propel itself forward using controlled fusion explosions Credit: Nick Stevens/starbase1.co.uk

Bad News: Interstellar Travel May Remain in Science Fiction

Article Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
by

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Some sobering news from a recent rocket science conference: It is highly improbable that humans will ever explore beyond the Solar System. This downbeat opinion comes from the Joint Propulsion Conference in Hartford, Connecticut, where future space propulsion challenges were discussed and debated. It is widely acknowledged that any form of interstellar travel would require huge advances in technology, but it would seem that the advances required are in the realms of science fiction and are not feasible. Using current technology would take tens of thousands of years, and even advanced concepts could take hundreds. But above all else, there is the question of fuel: How could a trip to Proxima Centauri be achieved if we’d need 100 times more energy than the entire planet currently generates?

In a previous article on the Universe Today, I explored how long it would take to travel to the nearest star using the slowest mode of transportation (the ion driven 1998 Deep Space 1 mission) and the fastest mode of transportation (the solar gravitational accelerated 1976 Helios 2 mission) currently available. I also discussed the theoretical possibility of using nuclear pulse propulsion (a series of fusion bombs dropped behind an interplanetary spaceship to give thrust), much like the 1970’s Daedalus star ship concept (pictured top).

Unfortunately, the ion drive option would take a whopping 81,000 years to get to Proxima Centauri, our nearest star, and using the Sun for a gravitational assist would still take us at least 19,000 years to reach our destination. That is 2,700 to 600 generations, certainly a long-term commitment! To put these figures into perspective, 2,700 generations ago, homo sapiens had not developed the ability to communicate by speech; 600 generations ago the Neanderthals had only recently become extinct. The nuclear pulse propulsion option seems far better taking only 85 years to travel to our nearest star. Still, this is a very long trip (let’s hope they’d offer business class at least…).

Already there are huge challenges facing the notion of travelling to Proxima Centauri, but in a recent gathering of experts in the field of space propulsion, there are even more insurmountable obstacles to mankind’s spread beyond the Solar System. In response to the idea we might make the Proxima trek in a single lifetime, Paulo Lozano, an assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT and conference deligate said, “In those cases, you are talking about a scale of engineering that you can’t even imagine.”

OK, so the speed simply isn’t there for a quick flight over 4.3 light years. But there is an even bigger problem than that. How would these interstellar spaceships be fuelled? According to Brice N. Cassenti, an associate professor with the Department of Engineering and Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, at least 100 times the total energy output of the entire world would be required for the voyage. “We just can’t extract the resources from the Earth,” Cassenti said during his conference presentation. “They just don’t exist. We would need to mine the outer planets.”

For mankind to extend its reach into the stars, we need to come up with a better plan. Even the most advanced forms of propulsion (even anti-matter engines) cannot make the gap seem any less massive. Suddenly the thought of a warp drive seems more attractive…

Original source: Wired


127 Responses

  1. Peter Brouwer says:

    Listen a minute, its a bit of an exaggeration to say home sapience could not communicate by speech 81,000 yrs ago. Some of our non-african ancestors were exploring the wider world. Speech is fundamental to that journey.

  2. Tman says:

    I wonder what scientists one hundred years ago would have said about the possibilities of landing on other planets in one hundred years.

    We have discovered technologies and aspects of physics inconceivable a century ago. Isn’t it possible we’ll make discoveries regarding energy, time and space completely out of our current grasp?

    We are FAR from knowing everything at this point.

  3. quantum_flux says:

    How long with antimatter?

  4. LLDIAZ says:

    Some scientists exist in a realm all their own apart from reality. There is no doubt in my mind that if we were to overcome the trivial pursuits of wayward governments we could absolutely topple any obstacle in our way to the stars. First fix your home then worry about your neighbors…

  5. Feenixx says:

    “come up with a better plan” – that’s exactly IT. Several different plans working together, probably, and not necessarily to do with propulsion.

    In the fifties, the teacher at school told us a very similar (in many ways identical) story about traveling to the moon. It took two bright ideas and a little over 20 years…

    Later, at college (after the first moon landing), I wrote a paper for an examination, demonstrating clearly that sustained flights with electric planes would not be possible… and I passed that test…

  6. Torbjörn Larsson, OM says:

    Unfortunately, the ion drive option would take a whopping 81,000 years to get to Proxima Centauri, our nearest star, and using the Sun for a gravitational assist would still take us at least 19,000 years to reach our destination. That is 2,700 to 600 generations, certainly a long-term commitment! To put these figures into perspective, 2,700 generations ago, homo sapiens had not developed the ability to communicate by speech; 600 generations ago the Neanderthals had only recently become extinct.

    You have to be careful there to make the comparison fair, going back in time generations were shorter. Compare with other apes like chimps that become fertile at 7ish or so. I would use 20 year/generation for convenience, while suspecting that it could have been even less.

    As regards speech (and Neanderthal extinction) we can as in so many other cases of biology only estimate minimum numbers. Some place modern speech concurrent with human behavioral modernity (at the latest 50 ka), some earlier (up to, say, 500 ka). But no one knows for sure.

    I’m with alan on this, the drive and so mode for exploration will depend on if it’s pure exploration, colonization or exploitation. Even if it’s pure exploration people have released scenarios for Oort cloud exploitation for that purpose alone, say by von Neumann replicators.

    @ Gabriel:

    the so called scientists

    Um, yes, the 44th AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference & Exhibit was indeed an aerospace industry conference, not a science conference. And in no case is conference proceedings peer reviewed as such.

    But I suspect you will find that there were scientists attending and science presented as well. No need for derogatory and unsubstantiated implications.

    And remember, science is revisable. Keep watching that space [sic!] for updates!

  7. troglodyte says:

    It is too possible!
    I’ve done it.

  8. OpenMind says:

    This article comes only 8 days after this one:

    http://www.universetoday.com/2008/08/11/warp-drive-and-cloaking-devices-not-just-science-fiction-anymore/

    And I’ve seen similar articles on the (future) possibility of super-luminal space travel.

    Perhaps a search of arXiv might be in order…

  9. OpenMind says:

    Oops, make that 9 days, lol.

  10. alan says:

    Non stop from one star to another may require to much energy but a gradual approach may be easier.

    Start by colonizing the asteroid belt, move out from there to the Kuiper belt, then to the inner Oort cloud, followed by the outer Oort cloud.

    If all stars have an Oort cloud colonists could drift from one star’s cloud to another.

    No need for star drives just generational ships, fusion power, and some way of detecting a comet sized body from a very long distance. Average distance between outer Oort cloud objects should be 10-20 AU by my calculations.

  11. Damian says:

    Take a Resource Rich Asteroid, Fling it towards the sun as fast as we can, Put a high degree of spin on it to create a molten core. On its retrograde orbit, as its cooling bombard it with smaller water rich asteriods.

    Leave it on a few orbits to cool and create a hard mantle. Move in the Mining and building equipment.

    Use the Heat from the Core as an energy source to create sustained SPIN and propulsion.

    Extract water to create ocean and atmosphere.

    We need water and heat, and a nice magnetic shield. Once done, slingshot to Proxima Centauri.

    Full of people of course, perhaps as we figure out how to live longer and living space becomes a premium in this solar system this will be an attractive notion.

    Just a thought. 🙂

    Damian

  12. Jetlack says:

    Oh how ridiculous. The life-span vanity of humans never fails to amaze me, and the fact these are propulsion scientists navel gazing their own mortality is pretty frightening.

    It is utter tripe that any scientists today can have the temerity to say interstellar space travel is an impossibility. This reminds me of all those supposed geniuses who were telling us about 25 years ago that our solar system was a universal fluke and there existed no other planets revolving stars.

    Its almost hilarious except its coming from the scientific community which just makes it scary.

  13. James says:

    Echoing Tman’s comment, I’d say it’s preposterous to try and predict where science and technology will be in twenty years, let alone another hundred, so categorically denying the possibility of interstellar travel at this stage is premature (at least!).

    As for the problem of lifespan (or even just the energy requirements to keep a human or humans alive for such a long journey)–who knows what medical science will be able to do in the near or distant future? Some kind of suspended animation, or uploading of consciousnesses to a computer so they survive such a long trip is not out of the question.

    While it’s obvious Star Trek-like planet-hopping is out of the question for the near future, it’s embarrassingly near-sighted to say we’ll be trapped in the Solar System for forever.

  14. Molecular says:

    What’s more unlikely to happen, that we never arrive at the technological means of venturing out from the solar system, or, we never make contact with alien beings that might give us the answer to mapping our way throughout the Universe?

    If neither is likely to happen, then we’ve wasted enough time already. So, let’s just move on to something else that will eventually make absolutely no sense at all in the years to come.

  15. Maxwell says:

    Traveling to another star is not impossible. Making the journey in our lifetime with some kind of simple warp drive system is whats unlikely.
    Nothing prevents us from using a brute force method combining conventional drive systems with robotics or colony systems that can survive the lengthy journey.

    I believe the the solution to Drakes equation is showing itself.
    Of the few life giving worlds that have spawned even fewer civilizations, only an infinitesimally small number of them have made the difficult and expensive decision to become space fairing.
    That number again being divided by the few who survive to see themselves successful.

    Don’t bother asking “where are the aliens?” if you can’t make a successful argument to go and find them yourself.

  16. Andy says:

    Most people seem to think that Proxima Centauri is the logical first step in interstellar travel. Why? Until we are certain that there are habitable planets in the system, what would be the point? First, we need to send out probes to the dozen or so nearest stars to find out which, if any, would be a good destination. Then, the ship we construct would have to be capable of carrying several hundreds of people. Keep in mind, once they get there they’re going to have to have everything they need to function as a new society. This isn’t a camping trip! Just think of all the people you need to have doing their jobs here on Earth just so you can get through your day. It wouldn’t be any different on another world. Unless, of course, the cave life appeals to you. I know that FTL travel would probably make all these points moot but, until then, I think interstellar travel is every bit as daunting as these scientists make it sound.

  17. Essel says:

    Very poorly researched article.

    “According to Brice N. Cassenti, an associate professor with the Department of Engineering and Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, at least 100 times the total energy output of the entire world would be required for the voyage”

    Assuming a cruising speed of c/10, the enregy required to reach that speed would be 1/2 mv^2, a payload of 10 tonnes would need an energy of 1/2 X (10,000) x (3 X 10^8/10)^2 = 4.5 X 10^18 Joules. Earth consumes more than 6 X 10^20 Joules every year. That is 1/133 rd of energy consumption p.a.

    Considering a total roundtrip of 85 years and two accelration and deaccelration phases. The eneregy required would be 4 X 4.5 X 10^18 joules over 85 years that would be 1/2833 times the consumption of earth energy during comparable time.

    If we send a compact probe of 100 Kgs the requirement would come down by 100 times.

    “To put these figures into perspective, 2,700 generations ago, homo sapiens had not developed the ability to communicate by speech; 600 generations ago the Neanderthals had only recently become extinct.”

    Forget 2,700 generations and focus on what happened in the last two generations and think of what could happen in the next 2 generations.

  18. R2K says:

    “at least 100 times the total energy output of the entire world would be required for the voyage. “We just can’t extract the resources from the Earth,” Cassenti said during his conference presentation. “They just don’t exist. We would need to mine the outer planets.”

    Wrong. The energy stores of the earth include – an ocean full of heavy water, and continents loaded with fission fuels. That is more than enough energy.

    We will never make it if the “experts” dont know what they are talking about.

    We already have several methods for getting there in several generations, but there is little reason for people to go right now. More practical would be unmanned probes that could make the trip (using near future technology) in about a century.

    Project Daedalus is a good, if slightly flawed, plan for such a trip. Even better is project long shot:

    http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19890007533_1989007533.pdf

  19. GregG says:

    We as a society are hardly likely to fund a mission which won’t bring results until 1000 years after our death. If we did – our descendants might think better of us than they probably are going too!

    Incidentally fuelling issues aside – what kind of transmitter would the spaceship need to be carrying to send a receivable signal 7 light years?

  20. Dutch Delight says:

    If we can’t point out why interstellar flight is not possible today, we’ll never manage to overcome that obstacle tomorrow. Regardless of the silly stories that persist regarding what people thought possible years ago.

    Everyone seems to forget that those people usually pointed out serious obstacles that had to be overcome, the fact that those obstacles were overcome sooner then expected does not mean that the people pointing them out were stupid or out of touch.

  21. Hunnter says:

    GregG is totally correct.
    Nobody would fund it if it won’t bring create “anything” from it, other than some crazy buzz that will die down in a couple years.
    All i’d have to say about that is… just don’t tell anyone >_>

    Also, Damian, i LOVE your idea.
    Surprised i haven’t thought of something like that, it could work too.
    Would save a LOT of time in building a stable habitat.

    These guys are a bit stupid for saying that though.
    Saying things are impossible is being small-minded, always. (even if it was stupid, like saying a TV could grow some legs and say it was going to the pub for a drink)
    I sorely hope they get proven wrong in the next couple decades.

  22. Hunnter says:

    Won’t bring create? sorry about that, wasn’t watching what i wrote there…

    Also, Andy, i think the main reason for going there could be just to create a habitat around it at first.
    Anything we were to send out there would probably be large enough to create its own gravity, then have spin added.
    This will lessen the nausea of spinning. (which apparently happens)

    The habitat might also be equipped with more ships which could go out and harvest anything around the system, maybe even set up massive capturing devices to harness the solar winds.

    Lets face it, by the time this were to happen, science will have progressed massively.
    These humans might even live to see the star they are travelling to, by the time we actually launch this thing.

  23. SPACERIDER says:

    A wonderfull and somehow sad thought to know that we will have to wait for another great mind like Elbert Einstein. This article just made me realise that where far from having one soon with those people suggesting its impossible.

  24. Thameron says:

    Sending fully grown human beings to other stars is extremely wasteful. The life we seed to the stars will likely not be us. What we need to do is master biology such that we can design plants that will grow (say from pods) the (likely biped) independent mobile creatures we designate all from local materials and sunlight. This will cut down on transport costs considerably. After they achieve a certainly technical level (helped along by DNA encoded memory) these neo-humans would contact Earth and let them know how things are. Designing life for a planet is a hell of a lot easier than changing a planet to suit a particular form of life.

  25. David R. says:

    I find more creative and imaginative possibilities reading Douglas Adams’ fiction than listening to the gloomy prospects from trained scientists. I do recall a noteworthy scientist once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Perhaps the problem lies in the fact that we are looking at the problem of interstellar travel from a very narrow point of view (propulsion systems). I doubt that traveling the universe will be limited to conventional propulsion systems. Interdimensional travel and subatomic particle studies are two possibilities beyond the scope of the drudgery of propulsion systems. I’ll stick with a healthy dose of crazy science fiction writers to accompany the melancholy that seems to pervade the conventions of scientists.

  26. Gabriel says:

    No one can predict the future or the discoveries that will occur in the future.In time,Anything is possible.These attempts to predict the future of space exploration are foolish statements from the so called scientists and that is an understatement.

  27. Dave S says:

    Let’s just stay here and take care of the place. Let’s put our energy into improving life on this planet. Once we get things in order here we can then think about exporting our success to other places. Maybe there are other life forms monitoring our planet and waiting for us to work things out before sharing with us the advanced knowledge that will give us warp drive and remote controls where the battery covers don’t fall off.

  28. Silver Thread says:

    {~Maxwell~

    Don’t bother asking “where are the aliens?” if you can’t make a successful argument to go and find them yourself.}

    Excellent point man.

    Alright the argument that we will never be able to travel to the Stars sounds a lot like a quote from Arthur C. Clarke in the “Story Childhood’s End”. If we, as humans currently stand, must be content to explore the Solar System then Let’s Do It! The Solar System in it’s self is a remarkable region of space considering the amount of science and research to be done in our own proverbial back yard.

    To The author of the original statement said “In those cases, you are talking about a scale of engineering that you can’t even imagine.” I will not speak to what my fellow humans can Imagine but they never cease to amaze. We can’t possibly now know what sort of insights the future holds. I will Wager the Large Hadron Collider might give us some insight that we hadn’t ever conceived. Imagine trying to propose that instrument to a Physicist 500 years ago.

    The responses here have all been resoundingly for the idea that we will someday reach the stars. where there is a will there is a way.

  29. John Mendenhall says:

    The article would be more credible if the speech figures were correct.

  30. Fenring says:

    Obviously, with current knowledge and technology traveling to other star systems is pretty much impossible. Even if you could somehow pack enough energy to propel you at high speeds, wherever you go, you will either travel a long time or, if you have a really really super fast spaceship, suffer at the cruel hand of theory of special relativity (time dilation: you get there quickly only to find out that everywhere else hundreds of years have already passed).

    On the other hand, at the moment, our scientific knowledge doesn’t even encompass how gravity works. All we have are couple of approximate models that fairly successfully describe gravity at large scales, but don’t really say what makes it work. I believe, once we figure that one out, a few new doors would open towards a new kinds of propulsion technology. That might not happend as soon as we’d like though, if ever in the course of our existence.

  31. Nobody read Non Stop by brian Alldis?
    An interstellar multi generational starship is affected by disease, malfunction and sabotage, and the survivours decendants don’t realise they are on a craft travelling thru space, and have no concept of anything external to the ‘ship’, which they believe to be the entire universe.

  32. Richad Kirk says:

    The Auguste Comte, one of the founders of logical positivism and an empiricist argued in 1835 “On the subject of stars, all investigations which are not ultimately reducible to simple visual observations are … necessarily denied to us…. We shall never be able by any means to study their chemical composition. … I regard any notion concerning the true mean temperature of the various stars as forever denied to us.”‘

    Actually, as he was writing that Fraunhofer was examining the details of the solar spectra, and the linking of spectra and atomic chemistry was to follow about 15 years later.

    It is easy with hindsight to call Comte a silly old fool. I have seen since I was at college the theories of the early universe being extrapolated backwards from ‘something went Bang about 8-12 billion years ago’ to trying to rescue detail below the first 10^-34 seconds. I might have thought that sort of information might be ‘forever denied to us’. However, in the end there may be some things that we cannot investigate – the physics in other universes, for example – and we just end up picking the theory with the prettiest equations.

    However, in another sense, Comte was probably imagining going to the sun, making a hole in it, and measuring the temperature. In that respect, he was quite right – we are unlikely to do that. What we have done is find the information a different way. In that respect, we may get information from the stars, but it probably won’t by sending people in Flash Gordon suits into Tintin’s rocket, and setting coordinates for the Bug People of Neptune. A pity, but there it is.

    Probably our next step is a one kilometer space telescope so we can get a good look at these stars. Developing a really light probe that could travel interstellar distances and report back comes next. By then we would have thought of the step beyond that.

    I would love to be wrong. We shall see.

  33. Benduha says:

    Since it’s highly unlikely we’ll ever be able to travel to other stars, it’s equally unlikely that aliens have ever been here, or ever will be here in the future.

    I’ve been saying this all along though. I just don’t think people realize the distances involved here. And we’re only talking the nearest star, but what about traveling beyond that?

    It’s clear, at least to me, that we are indeed stuck here to this solar system, and anyone who thinks otherwise is in denial.

  34. Torbjörn Larsson, OM says:

    [Knock, knock; does this thing work?]

  35. Pop says:

    @Benjamin Horrendous is right about our perspective. We forget WE are on a space ship hurling through space. Earth may not be the glamorus, sexy design of SciFi, but space ship none the less. If we could control where the Sun system goes, we could go visit other places and take our life support system with us. Far fetched? Maybe, but no more so than FTL or Interdimensional travel. We do need to get things in hand at home though. Stop population growth to only replacement numbers, clean up the environment, improve our life span, and many other “house-keeping” things. Else we will not live long enough to discoverd and develop means to get off Earth and explore the far reaches. We also need to take the long view. This will not happen (extra-Solar exploration) in the near future of two or three generations. We must live long enough as a species to make those discoveries and developments. My money is on the inventiveness of the human mind and our technical skills. We will do it, because we want to do it. Or at least some of us want to.

  36. Torbjörn Larsson, OM says:

    Okay, once again, with link removed to pass spam filters:

    Unfortunately, the ion drive option would take a whopping 81,000 years to get to Proxima Centauri, our nearest star, and using the Sun for a gravitational assist would still take us at least 19,000 years to reach our destination. That is 2,700 to 600 generations, certainly a long-term commitment! To put these figures into perspective, 2,700 generations ago, homo sapiens had not developed the ability to communicate by speech; 600 generations ago the Neanderthals had only recently become extinct.

    You have to be careful there, going back in time generations were shorter; compare with other apes like chimps that become fertile at 7ish or so. I would use 20 year/generation for convenience, while suspecting that it could have been even less.

    As regards speech (and Neanderthal extinction) we can only estimate minimum numbers. Some place modern speech concurrent with human behavioral modernity (at the latest 50 ka), some earlier (up to, say 500 ka).

    I’m with alan on this, the drive and so mode for exploration will depend on if it’s pure exploration, colonization or exploitation. Even if it’s pure exploration people have released scenarios for Oort cloud exploitation for that purpose alone, say by von Neumann replicators.

    @ Gabriel:

    the so called scientists

    Um, yes, the 44th AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference & Exhibit was indeed an aerospace industry conference [link removed], not a science conference. And in no case is conference proceedings peer reviewed as such.

    But I suspect you will find that there were scientists attending and science presented as well. No need for derogatory and unsubstantiated implications.

    Also, please remember that science, especially non-tested speculation, is revisable. (I wouldn’t call this specific proposal a scientific hypothesis as they haven’t proposed a test of their “no exploration” idea.) Keep your eyes on this space [sic!] for future updates!

  37. Torbjörn Larsson, OM says:

    Um, of course the eventual falsification test would be to have exploration. Or as some here have done, simply showing that their power requirement criteria is wacky. [Headdesk.]

    I plead lack of coffee.

  38. Chris says:

    I agree that science has recently progressed at an exponential pace this past century, allowing humans to travel into outer space, the moon, and sending probes to the outer-reaches of the solar system. However, there is a huge theoretical jump when it comes to sending anything outside our solar system. First, unless you have credible tangible proof that the “experts” were wrong on the fuel problem (rather than simply spouting out unconfirmed numbers), then I actually have to defer to their judgment that we probably don’t have the resources to travel outside the solar system here on Earth.

    Second, what do you think the failure rate of sending anything to another star would be? How would a probes’ life be affected once it travels past the heliopause? I know we currently have two probes that have recently done so, but there is still a lot of unknown. If we’re talking about manned missions, then we’re also talking about subjecting people to possible gamma ray bursts or other radiation that might render the entire crew sterile or worse.

    Third, the theories of using dimensional warp drives or FTL drives are simply theories that do not relate to the physics of our world as we currently understand it. Wishful or “creative” thinking does not change this. I honestly think there are many who do in fact deny that humans may have a technological limit. “Anything” is certainly NOT possible. There is a tendency to discount people who think FTL and inter-dimensional warp drives will never exist in reality, but I sincerely think that there is an absolute limit as to what humans can accomplish. No amount of genius or creative thinking can overcome this, unfortunately. I would love to be wrong, however…it would be so much more inspiring.

  39. Gary Ansorge says:

    Incremental passage from one OORT cloud to another, by self contained space colonies, dependent only on the availability of fusion power, is a possibility. The rationale for such passage is to take advantage of the material resources within the OORT cloud, which, at our present best guess, comprise several trillion comets and other water bearing structures and extend outward as far as the OORT cloud of the next solar system. No need to worry about how long the journey requires, since it’s not the destination that’s important, it’s the journey.

    Just a long, strange trip, YA Know.

    GAry 7

  40. Jim Walczak says:

    At this point in time and at this point in our evolution, I think it’s -FAR- to early to make any assumptions about anything of this nature. On the issue of space and time, I think people also must remember that it’s only been within that last 100 years that we humans have actually broken the bonds of gravity to achieve air flight and only within the last 50 that we’ve been able to achieve space flight. To say “we can’t do it” based on what we know -now- is incredibly foolish and naive. It’s incredibly arrogant to assume that we “know everything” about this stuff when we are only just beginning to scratch the surface of understanding. We humans have been around for a few thousand years, but most of what we know and understand about our planet and the universe around us has only came in the last hundred years or so. Just 500 years ago, the “industrial revolution” hadn’t even taken place yet…the idea of something as basic today as a personal computer was well beyond the realms of science fiction. Think of where we may be and what we may know in another 500 year!

    People…even these so-called educated scientists seem to be incredibly impatient about all of this. Because we -can- imagine it, people seem to want it NOW. But that’s not the way science and understanding works…sometimes it takes a very very long time to grasp even basic principles about how things work (especially when you consider how many people on this planet still chalk so much up to “the will of God”, etc). In my mind, trying to understand the intricacies that would be involved with inter-galactic space flight at this point in our understanding is analogous to trying to explain a simple “air plane” or a personal computer to someone of the Roman Empire…they simply wouldn’t get it and would say it’s impossible. This however does not mean that just because we don’t understand it -now- that we won’t in another 500 or 1000 years or so! So just because we don’t have the technology now, does that mean we should just give up completely?

    There is a bottom line here. Being a “Sci Fi” fan, I once heard something that struck a very profound note with me; “Ask ten different scientists about the environment, population control, genetics and you’ll get ten different answers, but there’s one thing every scientist on the planet agrees on. Whether it happens in a hundred years or a thousand years or a million years, eventually our Sun will grow cold and go out. When that happens, it won’t just take us. It’ll take Marilyn Monroe and Lao-Tzu, Einstein, Morobuto, Buddy Holly, Aristophanes .. and all of this .. all of this was for nothing unless we go to the stars” – Jeffrey Sinclair, Babylon 5

    Yes, we could just “stay home” and except that there’s no way to get off this little rock that we live on…whether it’s actually true or not. We could just blindly accept that there’s no other intelligent life out there as well. If we do this however, then when that day comes…the day when our Sun starts to die, then EVERYTHING we’ve done…every last one of us…every last memory…will be lost and gone forever. Perhaps these scientists are right., perhaps we never will be able to travel to the stars. The way I see it though we have two choices here; we can sit here and wait for our planet to die (and perhaps even hurry things along) -or- we can at least try to do something about it and just maybe in a billion years or so, humanity will still be around for the effort. As the old saying goes, you never know until you try 😀

    The majority of people on this planet once believed that “if man were meant to fly, he’d have wings”…should we really apply that same mentality to space flight?

    Peace

  41. sps says:

    agreed.

  42. Bill Illis says:

    It really comes down to whether it is possible to travel faster than light.

    Conventional (non-warp-drive) ships have to be intergenerational.

    Sorry, the intergenerational ships will break-down or the people will die from ill health or lack of resources. No expedition will ever be successful, overcoming the extreme odds against them over hundreds of years.

    Or, against all the odds, they finally reach Proxima and find out there is absolutely nothing there of interest. They will all die of heartbreak – knowing it is a herculean effort to return to Earth or the next nearest star again.

    Is it possible to travel faster than light? That is your answer of whether we will explore the stars or not.

  43. It’s our generation’s job to begin thinking about interstellar travel but it’s certainly not our job to do it. Every generation of Christians believes in their heart that Jesus will return in their lifetime and they’ll keep saying it until religion is abolished or forgotten. We’re stuck in the same ‘me, now’ way of thinking.

    With all the leaps in bounds in the last couple of decades, it’s easy to think we’ll be the ones visiting other planets but that’s just silly. We’ve landed on the moon and sent probes across the solar system and that’s what we’ll be remembered for and that’s actually pretty cool. We’re the pioneers making the first maps which will be expanded on by future generations.

    If billions of dollars are going to be invested in things, let’s make Earth a utopia first and leave galaxy hopping to the 24th century folks. There is even a very simple solution for making Earth a universal haven: kill all humans.

  44. James says:

    Yeah, uh, like has probably been said ad nauseam, this guy has no clue what’s going to happen in the future.
    This was a pretty lame thing to say.

    I read it on one of the first comments, 100 years ago, nobody on Earth would have thought we’d ever reach another planet. Now look at us. We’re inching closer and closer.
    One hundred years from now, we may have the technology to seriously consider launching things out of the solar system. Even if we’re not quite there yet, though, we’ll be getting closer, and closer, and closer…!

    p.s. the above comment has some good truths to it, but seeing as I’m a human and I care about existence, I’d rather we find a happy medium for the planet and humans to exist happily together in.

  45. Fst says:

    Essel, I totally agree with you. I think an interstellar probe to Proxima Centauri is a few generations distant only.

  46. Kill only SOME humans….?

  47. John Mendenhall says:

    Re human speech and language, try the article ‘Origin of Language’ in Wiki.

    I’ll buy into 150,000 years, no less.

  48. dollhopf says:

    Dave S said: “Let’s just stay here and take care of the place. Let’s put our energy into improving life on this planet. Once we get things in order here we can then think about exporting our success to other places.”

    Dave, it is easier to reach Proxima Centauri than to successfully realize your proposal.

    Who is that “we”? And what is the “order”? What are “improvement” and “success”? Who defines and decides, so that it is without any doubt true and valid? Wasn’t the original idea of Marxism exactly that desire? And in what did this project gain? Corruption and deprivation, oppression and murder. And in the end the incapability to withstand the competing system, while we heard the bard humming the “Song of the Insufficiency of human Struggling” in the background.

    Herbert Simon once joked about a spezies that has reached highest peak of it’s evolutionary development. So they stand on the top and look around, finding out that they are in the shade of real big mountains. And between them stands their poet, singing “what’s good is bad what’s bad is good you’ll find out when you reach the top you’re on the bottom.”

    So how should we approach your demand? Is it with McCain or with Obama? Or are they both wrong or both right? Is it more useful to tread those who have completely other ideas and ideologies to “get things in order” peacefully? Or was it alright to fight Hitler with military force?

    Is it more useful to “put our energy into improving life” of those who have the best chances to succeed, or shall we improve the life of the ten year long comatose patient? Who should give us the rules to organize ourselves accordingly? The messenger of an almighty God or the practical ethics of Peter Singer?

    Is it a better world with or without capital punishment, abortion, gun control? Should there be higher taxes on fuel to develop new fuel saving technologies?

    I guess we better reach out for Proxima Centauri while decay not yet reached us with all it’s might.

  49. Dark Gnat says:

    One thing is certain:

    We will NEVER get there unless we try.

  50. Craig Whitman says:

    When I was in high school science I learned how the great minds of the world once said that the atom would never be split because it was too small to manipulate. Less than twenty years after this little tidbit from the science community was put into text books the atom was split and a new age began.
    I strongly suspect that these low end predictions for space travel will soon be listed in the same category
    with everything else that could not be done.

  51. “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!” – John Locke

  52. sfwrtr says:

    This is good news!

    Once the scientific community decides something is possible but infeasible, somebody immediately proves them wrong.

    I’m waiting…

  53. Chris says:

    There is a fundamental flaw in citing all of humanity’s scientific progress in the past and saying that we will most assuredly be capable of interstellar travel. Einstein’s theory, for instance, has significantly LIMITED the possibility that humanity will “reach to the stars.” There is a universal speed limit: light. So far, there is no credible evidence to the contrary. As we humans begin to understand the universe more and more, we are also beginning to understand our own limitations. Yes, we’ve made huge accomplishments that previous civilizations could not have dreamed of, but citing that argument and analogizing it in today’s terms is flawed.

    It is not because we are unable to understand the universe or future technology that scientists in this article believe we are unlikely (not impossible) to reach beyond our solar system. Instead, it is because we are realizing the limits of our physical existence through better understanding of the nature of light, mass, and time. Once again, wishful or creative thinking, especially based off pseudo-scientific theories, will not get us to the stars.

  54. David R. says:

    On our menu tonight: Red Herring.

  55. Tyler Durden says:

    “Once again, wishful or creative thinking, especially based off pseudo-scientific theories, will not get us to the stars.”

    But sitting on Earth and whining to your peers about how it just can’t or shouldn’t be done won’t get us their either.

    What happened to inspiring people to do the seemingly impossible? What happened to “Going to the Moon, and doing the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard!”

    We need another Kennedy to get us off our complacent laurels.

  56. Tyler Durden says:

    typo : “won’t get us there” not ‘their’

  57. Gary says:

    150 years ago, nobody would have thought it possible for us to generate in an instant the amount of energy unleashed in an atomic explosion, but some brainiac discovered a way to do this. And while I don’t anticipate we will discover a way to generate planet size amount of energy any time soon, I do anticipate we will find a short cut that makes it so we don’t have to expend so much energy to get somewhere.

    I think the biggest hurdle really will be to figure out how to send humans out into the universe. We are pretty fragile beasts all thing considered. But we may figure out how to send robots, cyborgs, or even “beam” ourselves to some where else.

    The future is for optimists not pessimists.

  58. Cool Guy says:

    ah…you guys are dorks

  59. Cool Guy says:

    Now i feel badly. The truth is that i am an RPI graduate so obviously this is right up my alley…but c’mon…we’re all dorks 🙂

  60. H-town Mack says:

    This article-FAIL. Landing on the moon was once thought impossible.

  61. The Null Dragon says:

    “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” Arthur C. Clark.
    In my lifetime I have seen much “magic” and I am certain future generations will see it also

  62. YOGIH says:

    why wouldn’t we channel our energy towards other more important things, logical steps that have to be taken Before thinking of any manned trip to another planetary system: like building thoe giant mirrors/telescopes on the Moon or/and other natural satellites of Saturn, Jupiter and so on, to allw first to SEE those Earth sized exo-planets around other stars, and only then, based on the available resources and technologies to plan/talk about posibility to reach those far far away planets. Personally I believe that for humans anything slower than half of light speed will not worth the interest for manned missions. Probably if we could build an “army” of self replicating and self-sustainable super-intelligent robots and send them to explore the whole galaxy at once and send information to Earth… just a tought

  63. ulgah says:

    I watch with interest all the time and find it a waist of my time to argue with most of you, smart people, LOL. This is one of the most interesting and truthful, articles, according to my minimal knowledge, that I have seen in a long time. I have believed this for a long time, But trying to talk to all you dreamers, just frustrates me. I believe most of you are Ufologists. I sympathize with you dreamers, but realism must at some point be realized. I am not much of an articulate r, that’s why I am poor! But if you want to know what I think of this article, please check this post:

    Benduha Says:
    August 20th, 2008 at 8:25 am

    Since it’s highly unlikely we’ll ever be able to travel to other stars, it’s equally unlikely that aliens have ever been here, or ever will be here in the future.

    I’ve been saying this all along though. I just don’t think people realize the distances involved here. And we’re only talking the nearest star, but what about traveling beyond that?

    It’s clear, at least to me, that we are indeed stuck here to this solar system, and anyone who thinks otherwise is in denial.

  64. BigJon says:

    what a load, zero point energy, tesla come on people, traveling without moving, this is only one persons view, good luck! thats not my future.

  65. Cynthia says:

    @Benjamin Horrendous Says:
    “August 20th, 2008 at 8:10 am
    Nobody read Non Stop by brian Alldis?”

    Was that written before or after the old TV show Star Lost???

    For the world is hollow…and I have touched the sky!

  66. Yael Dragwyla says:

    I keep thinking of the head of the US patent office who, at the end of the 19th century, declared that “everything that can be invented, has been invented,” and wanted to lock up the patent office and call it a day. I think that’s what we’re seeing here — a sort of constitutional pessimism with which some people are afficted, that directs them to reject anything new and applications stemming from it before we even know it. There’s always the asteroid-turned-space-habitat sent outward bound at a constant velocity — or even a slightly accelarating one, powered by sunlight — stocked with a good cross-section of Earthly life, water, the whole monty. By initially aiming so that at its velocity (and any accelaration thereof) such that it will cross the path of some stellar system before, say, 100,000 years have elapsed, that may do the trick. I’m betting, however, that we come up with something *much* better than that within the next 50 years. In the last two hundred years we went from sailing ships, railroads, and cross-country travel via Conestoga Wagon to Earthly life’s first tentative steps off-planet, and technological progress is still accelarating exponentially. “Never say ‘never’ ” is still an excellent piece of wisdom.

  67. Hunnter says:

    Ulgah, you are obviously pretty clueless.
    Hell, you even admitted to have little knowledge, so anything you say is already null.

    Anyone who ever tries to say something is impossible is small-minded, period.
    The fact that these people said it is pretty damn insulting to science in every respect.
    Do they have some sort of time machine? Oh wait, that is probably impossible too, right?

    It is entirely possible to travel to other stars.
    Build a spaceport.
    Harvest rocks in space for materials (google apophis, if someone captures that, it will be a “godsend” to space ports.)
    Build a large colony. (specifically, Damians idea was nice, simpler too)
    Add a cold fuel store. (maybe even collect some on the way out into the Oort cloud)
    Get some life stored on there. (whether living, or DNA storage)
    Send it on its merry way.

    While WE might be stuck here, our children could easily make it there in their lifetimes, if time and resources were commited to this.
    This is where it probably won’t happen, in our childs liftime that is, not “never evr happening ever, gt a live dreamers”.
    So please let the adults converse.

  68. Thomas S. says:

    There are some important points here, with regard to the scale of engineering or the massive amount of fuel required. But I think it’s hasty to say that it’s highly improbable humans will make it to another star system.

    It will be a long time from now before any sort of intersteller mission is possible, but humans are always finding ways to use more and more energy.

    I’m thinking of a relatively modest probe on a flyby at say, .1c. Sending humans there to set up camp is a whole other story and may be many more centuries down the road.

    Beamed propulsion looks promising, as it moves the propulsion problem onto a nice large place on the “ground” as opposed to the probe itself. I imagine it can be combined with other propulsion methods as well. The other near-future propulsion method I was thinking about that was likely being discussed in the article, was fusion propulsion. Specifically, using Helium-3.

    We’ll only ever end up embarking on such a mission if we have infrastructure in space already to assemble an interstellar probe. Hopefully space tourism will take off and increase the amount of stuff that goes on up there, maybe we’ll even start mining for He-3 to use on Earth and from then on, figure out ways to use it for propulsion.

    We may just work our way up to an interstellar mission in a few centuries or less. But if our presence in space is the same as it is today, I somehow doubt that.

  69. dollhopf says:

    “Unfortunately, the ion drive option would take a whopping 81,000 years to get to Proxima Centauri, our nearest star”

    speed of Voyager 1 = 3.6 Astronomical Units/year
    63,024 AU’s = 1 lightyear
    distance to Alpha Centauri = 4,34 ly’s
    time of travel -> 75.980 years

    Voyager 1 is not accelerated. So why then should an ion drive need “a whopping” 5000 years more?

    “at least 100 times the total energy output of the entire world would be required for the voyage”

    Upps … why that? Voyager 1 never needs that much energy to do the journey.

  70. John says:

    HELLO out there! Anybody home? So many of you are missing something quite important in this discussion…

    It is an UNDENIABLE FACT that there have been over 100,000 sightings of unknown craft in our atmosphere over the last 60 or 70 years. Many astronauts, civilian and military pilots, radar operators, policeman and reputable people have reported UFO’s in great detail. Please don’t tell me EVERY SINGLE ONE is a misidentified natural occurrence!

    If just ONE of these almost countless events is real, then there is little option but to conclude that inter stellar travel is not only possible but the evidence is clearly in front of our noses.

  71. Markus Demetrius says:

    We’ve only been in space 50 years – how close-minded of Ian O’Neill to make pessimistic predictions? Hell, our physicists readily admit that we only have a slight handle on 4% of matter/energy.

    Religion caused the dark ages. We would be 1000 years or so more advanced than we are now, and probably cruising the stars on vacation, if it weren’t for our propensity for feeble-mindedness and superstition. The Earth could be destroyed at any time, look at the violence in the cosmos. Religion is our enemy if we ever hope to escape this planet to ensure our survival as a species. Hell, you can’t even get elected to public office in most democratic countries unless you (at least say you) are religious and believe in ghosts, spirits, and demons…Oh My!

    So far, all we know about physics is from scientific experiments conducted within the gravity well of Sol. Also, it may well be that Sol’s heliosphere is shielding us from forces/energies that we haven’t even dreamed of. Spending our limited, and diminishing, research budgets on baby steps like a moon base or looking for microbes on Mars are the types of “WOW” missions thought up by religious types to hold us back – these missions are actually not very technologically challenging, thus will have few spinoff benefits and will eventually lead to calls of “folly”. We now have a space station, so what? Will soon have a moon base, so what?

    We are a stubborn species. Once we believe something is possible and worth doing, it gets done. Unmanned missions which were designed to conduct experiments, position telescopes covering the spectrum, and return data from far outside our heliosphere would provide a host of problems to solve, true challenges, but not as difficult as reaching across interstellar distances. The solutions to these obstacles (which we would find) would provide new technologies which would revitalize the world economy. There would almost certainly be payoffs just from the “doing” of it, even if we learned nothing new scientifically once the instruments were in place out there.

    However, just possibly, we might find that we’ve been looking at the universe with blinders on.

    As a plus, we’d have push propulsion technology and developed the ability to place instruments far enough away to actually use the gravitational lensing of Sol as (possibly) the largest telescope ever conceived. Possibly, I say. My point is that we need actual challenges if our space program is to eventually pay for itself. We went to the moon forty years ago, and NASA wants to use a lot of “proven Apollo technology” to do it again. Boring…a money pit…been-there-done-that…the “daring vision” of an illiterate president.

    Our goal should be to pop outside our heliospere and take another long look around. Like Kennedy said about going to the moon back in the ’60’s, “do it not because its easy, but because it’s hard”.

    For the interstellar pessimists, there are many generation-ship possibilities. I doubt we’d notice the spinning (simulated gravity) in a large enough asteroid, and slowly boosting many huge asteroids in tandem would eliminate the resource-depletion, “obvious” breakdown (really?) problems described by naysayers.
    Future generations inside such ships will think of the ship as home and probably not even slow the ship upon reaching the target star, just send miners ahead to scavenge for new asteroids/resources and boost them up to speed (may take centuries to rendezvous, who cares?), advance parties/probes to determine if the planet is habitable , then send colonists to the planet as they shoot on by at relativistic speed, and continue on to more stars, slowly gaining speed over the centuries.

    O’Neill describes Proxima Centauri as a target. He hasn’t even the vision to realize that within decades (if not this one) we will have pinpointed Earth-like planets and will simply have to choose those most likely.

    DNA adaptation to weightlessness life inside comets would allow us to slowly expand throughout the galaxy, Oort cloud hitchiking. Such DNA modifications may not be that far off if we can keep the superstitious at bay. Who are they to say that we can’t tinker with the human genome? I for one would love to play “God” if it were to help preserve the species, and no religious moron has the right to impose their medeival “morals” on the rest of us and slow down our progress any more than they already have!

    We’re still new at it, and yet we’ve got many SLOW ideas of leaving this gravity well that are at least possibly feasible. With a little more emphasis on pure science research instead of bombs, we’ll have a lot more ideas sprouting forth, maybe even FASTER ideas, but the religious types do love their bombs. So, even though I’m optimistic that we CAN do it, I think superstition will hold us back far enough that our species won’t make it off this rock before it becomes uninhabitable.

    NICE PLANET, SHAME IF ANYTHING HAPPENED TO IT…

  72. Damian says:

    Thank you all who considered my idea to be a interesting one. (Making a spaceship out of an Asteroid)

    In the absence of (verifiable) proof of advanced technological species capable of Faster then Light travel. And in accordance with our (Emerging) understanding of the laws of nature. (as pertaining to the universe we inhabit)

    Its my thought that the best possible spaceship we could build would be one modeled on nature. In that I mean the planets and moons within our solar system’s gravity well.

    A planet is a space ship. In fact a very good one. Our solar system is an even better one. We have a star as the engine, a series of planets as a steering mechanism, and enough abundant resources and fuel to take it anywhere we like in the universe. (just have to figure out how to steer it 🙂

    I, like anyone else am excited about the idea of FTL travel, but I do have to wonder if such a concept is really possible. Notwithstanding our lack of understanding about the nature of the universe and physics, it strikes me that any attempt at such a technology has to work outside the fundamental laws governing the universe.

    Lets put it this way, if such things were possible, then nature (by accident or design) would have presented an example. I also hope for a astounding breakthrough that (might) at some point in the future make this possible. However the future is not yet written.

    IF, as a species we wanted to travel in space now, it will take a long time. If its going to take a long time then we need spaceships modeled on the best examples nature can provide.

    Thats the planet earth. A Spaceship with a Magnetosphere, and the essentials for biological life. Water and Heat.

    First step, Magnetosphere, also a focus of research for alternative propulsion.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6567709.stm

    The Problem with planets created by nature is that we have no control over the mechanics of the molten core that generates a Magnetosphere. However if we were to build one, the possibilities of using the plasma as both a shield and a form of propulsion are reasonably viable.

    🙂

    Id start with a Small asteroid first, but converting a moon into a spaceship would be the next logical step. Take Europa for instance, already has a molten core and abundant water. (so its believed to date)

    Control the gravity of a body with enough mass, and you have a spaceship.

    Damian

  73. R2K says:

    Fenring says:

    “suffer at the cruel hand of theory of special relativity (time dilation: you get there quickly only to find out that everywhere else hundreds of years have already passed).”

    That is actually a good thing. If we could go that fast (which is even harder than the things we are discussing now), time dilation would be an ideal form of time travel. If you can accelerate at 1 g constantly, you can travel across the universe because time dilation would greatly reduce the time that you see. The fastest particles can travel cross the universe in months local time.

    Also, who ever said the trip would be anything but one way? Going to a star then coming back is far harder than simply going there.

  74. andrew guthrie says:

    If there are technological civilisations alsewhere in the galaxy then it is reasonable to suppose that at least one of them would have been able to develop to a level a few hundred to a couple of thousand years ahead of where we are now. It has taken us the blink of an eye to get from pre-electric power to our current level, and IF interstellar travel is possible at all we would surely discover the secret within those time scales or not at all. Hence the lack of visitors to what must seem to be a quite interesting planet implies to me either that we are alone in our galaxy or that travel is impossible.

    In any case, if these journeys are to take a lifetime or even several generations, what sort of life would it be possible for anybody to have, entirely within the confines of a ship, notwithstanding there would be very little to do when you got there?

  75. Sheets says:

    Uh huh. And 250 years ago people were convinced a steam engine would never go faster than a horse. Now we consider dropping atomic bombs behind spaceships. What a horrible attitude from that conference. All those smart people in the same room, but not an optimist to be found? Ok – let’s give up on that bunch. How about for the next conference don’t invite a single one of those attendees back. After all, there’s nothing left to talk about. Bring in new people.

  76. Astrofreak says:

    Hmmm, looks like no one is close to getting a patent on their warp drive engine! Hard to believe, a story on this website that is actually realistic for once.

  77. Hunnter says:

    I always thought the same R2K, it would be pretty good to travel that way.
    Plus, who knows, by the time you arrive, there could well be some dude waiting there with some wine. 😉

    Also, on the FTL topic and looking into the stars is looking back in time, people wonder if that could cause problems.
    Although, almost all theories of FTL travel would reverse the arrow of time, right?
    So, essentially, as you travel out to a star in the sky, you are going back in time.
    And to balance it all out, you’d arrive at the same point in time as you could see in the sky. (in theory at least)

    Hopefully LHC will provide some more answers.
    (come onnn Graviton! )

  78. Gabriel says:

    “No need for derogatory and unsubstantiated implications”

    The site administration will decide what is or is not needed i believe and you are not a part of it.

  79. Greg says:

    I think this shows a surprising lack of imagination on the part of the scientists at the conference. To a rocket scientist of course it seems impossible to reach alpha centauri using chemical rockets considering the cost of bringing your own fuel. A few simple ideas however could radically alter the equation. Ram scoop engines that burn fuel found along the way is one. Solar sails which could also be remotely powered by lasers at a considerable distance would be another. Power generation could be greatly enhanced to power such lasers if we really wanted to do it. A combination of approaches, especially using ultra light anti-matter fuel could also be employed.

  80. quantum_flux says:

    Just don’t exceed 3 G’s for too long and don’t ever ramp it up past 16 G’s because people tend to get queezy and then faint from tunnel vision…. nah, 85 years with nuclear pulse propulsion isn’t that bad, so don’t be pessimistic. Similarly, antimatter goes even faster. Ultimately though, warping spacetime via light wave manipulation looks to be optimistic….

    The First Time Machine

  81. Aodhhan says:

    Knowing how, and being able to do something are 2 very different things.
    I know, if I can disassociate all the atoms in my body, move them independently a few feet, with a minor wind draft and have them know how to re-assemble back together within 4 minutes… I can pass through a wall and live.
    Impossible?Maybe not. Improbable?.. yes.

    If a caterpillar had a machine gun, a bird wouldn’t try to eat it.

    No matter what source you use (coal, gas, anti-matter, the crystal of bang-bang) the amount of energy required is still the same, and this amount is ENORMOUS!
    You are talking about not only releasing, but controlling all this energy. The energy of every home, business, automobile, plane, gas pump, communication equipment, conventional munitions, water pump, currently generating power plants, solar and wind power.. not to mention each and every little tactical and strategic nuclear weapon, etc etc etc. at once!

    The spacecraft will require a powerplant and source which runs constantly for decades; at best years. Anti-Matter engines would require 60 BILLION TONS of fuel (Hydrogen.. can you imagine 60 billion tons of hydrogen?) at minimum and take 40 years. This is just the power plant alone.
    Every day in space you need breathing air, water and food; of course something to do (you just going to sit in a chair?). Think of the amount of room/weight food and water alone take up, let alone fuel. Need spare parts for everything, probably at least 3-10 for anything which is a moving part… yeah, that doesn’t take up space. Anti-matter engines require huge magnets and an even more elaborate cooling system.
    Oh yeah, you’ll probably need at least 2 or 3 mini nuclear plants for internal power. Can’t count on one making it. More weight and parts.

    So lets say we made it, we are crusing at 0.8 speed of light… man that is fast.. and all those objects, asteroids, ice rocks, even little bitty dust particles out there going 40,000+ mph, zip zapping through the cosmos. Don’t hit one!

    This is just a tiny bit of the engineering to deal with. I can go on.

    Those darn scientists. They have no imagination!

  82. Torbjörn Larsson, OM says:

    Or as some here have done, simply showing that their power requirement criteria is wacky.

    Oh yes, I was so in need of coffee – of course that was supposed to be “as some here has attempted”.

  83. Torbjörn Larsson, OM says:

    Third, the theories of using dimensional warp drives or FTL drives are simply theories that do not relate to the physics of our world as we currently understand it.

    There is every reason to believe every such proposal is a dud. For example, Scott Aaronson in his papers and lectures gives the basis for assembling the following anthropic argument against:

    We observe ourselves to live in a physically interesting world (say, with the ability to have dust and so planets and life). The reason it is interesting is that P ≠ NP (or we and the universe could solve all NP problems simply, so no string landscape et cetera). The reason that P ≠ NP implies we can’t have closed timelike curves, CTC (or time would be equivalent to space as computational resource, and we could solve all NP complete, i.e. finite solution space, problems using finite time over and over). This would explain both why we observe that time has negative signature (i.e. is unidirectional) and why there aren’t any observed CTC.

    @ Benduha, ulgah:

    It’s clear, at least to me, that we are indeed stuck here to this solar system, and anyone who thinks otherwise is in denial.

    You keep saying that. But as your only basis is an argument from incredulity fallacy, it seems to us others that the denial is on your side. The post presents a real argument, isn’t that enough for the time being? Perhaps it is correct, perhaps not – but at least it is testable.

  84. Yael Dragwyla says:

    Damian —
    Great post, *but*.
    “(Making a spaceship out of an Asteroid) In the absence of (verifiable) proof of advanced technological species capable of Faster then Light travel. And in accordance with our (Emerging) understanding of the laws of nature. (as pertaining to the universe we inhabit) Its my thought that the best possible spaceship we could build would be one modeled on nature. In that I mean the planets and moons within our solar system’s gravity well.”

    Depends on what you mean by “modeled on nature.” If *anything* can be done, it’s natural, a rather trivial tautology. On the other hand, lots of our accomplishments, such as, e.g., the internal combustion engine, use phenomena found in nature and put them together in ways found nowhere else but among us. Once upon a time it was believed that if people went faster than 40-50 miles per hour, they’d be killed by it. Now we know better — the problem is *accelaration*, not velocity. Plus, FTL and similar potential phenomena may in fact be possible, but we haven’t yet run across examples of them.

    “A planet is a space ship. In fact a very good one.” A tailored asteroid or small moon could be an even better one — you could tuck millions of people into it and still have plenty of space left over for wildlands, farms, etc. And it has far less inertia to overcome.

    “I, like anyone else am excited about the idea of FTL travel, but I do have to wonder if such a concept is really possible. Notwithstanding our lack of understanding about the nature of the universe and physics, it strikes me that any attempt at such a technology has to work outside the fundamental laws governing the universe.”

    See comment above, at top.

    “Lets put it this way, if such things were possible, then nature (by accident or design) would have presented an example. I also hope for a astounding breakthrough that (might) at some point in the future make this possible. However the future is not yet written.”

    See comment, above, concerning going faster than 40-50 mph. Those who believed we couldn’t go any faster than that had never seen a cheetah in action, apparently. So far, anyway, the rule seems to be: if you can imagine it, it can be accomplished. It may take quite a while to realize it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible. And while we’re at it, consider quantum connectedness, a real phenomenon that “violates” the speed of light. Physicist Michio Kaku is on record as saying that eventually we’ll be using all those “weird” phenomena — quantum connectedness, etc. — to accomplish FTL, etc.

    “IF, as a species we wanted to travel in space now, it will take a long time. If its going to take a long time then we need spaceships modeled on the best examples nature can provide.”

    You’re a fortune-teller? You are using precognition to come up with that? If so, precognition is real — and maybe we can harness it to get where we want to go.

    Never, ever say “never.” 🙂

  85. Yael Dragwyla says:

    One other thing that should be mentioned: Earthly life doesn’t have eternity on our world for its remaining existence. Above all, *we* don’t have an endless future here to play with. If interstellar travel really *is* impossible, Earthly life — including us — is irretrievably messed up (there’s a better, more succinct term for that, but I don’t want to use it in police company), with no place to go and no way to get there — eventually the Sun will expand and fry all life that is still on Earth. In the meantime, catastrophic global warming, perhaps strenuous to turn our planet into something like Venus, is more likely than ever, because our day-star gets hotter all the time, adding to the potential for such a catastrophe — a quarter of a billion years ago, as near as state-of-the-art climate science can make out (see, e.g., Peter Ward’s brilliant UNDER A GREEN SKY: Global Warming, the Mass Extinctions of the Past, and What They Can Tell Us About Our Future (http://www.amazon.com/Under-Green-Sky-Warming-Extinctions/dp/006113791X), for a discussion of the PermoTriassic mass extinction event and its relevance to us now), catastrophic global warming almost exterminated all complex life on Earth, and a hotter Sun can only add to that horrific possibility. So if we can’t find our way to the stars, somehow, some way, you can kiss Earthly life — including Homo sapiens — goodbye.

  86. Hunnter says:

    Aodhhan, the engines don’t always need to be online.
    Once the ship is at speed X, they can be shut off and scanners can check for location every few weeks to make sure it isn’t going off track.
    And not only that, they (whatever agency embarks on this) could use solar energy to constantly send a beam towards the ship, cutting down on a bit of the fuel requirements.

    Also, remember that weight doesn’t mean anything in space.
    There is no way anyone would ever attempt to build a ship on Earth if it contains colonies and whatever. (unless it is assembled over a very long time and put together similar to ISS)
    The only way would be if it never had any life on board outside of DNA samples which could be grown near its destination. (but still, the area will be small, and the nearest star, as far as i know, has no planets capable of life as we know it)
    Plus, this is much safer in terms of psychology, nobody to go insane, and of course, Gs experienced too. (none as well)

  87. Markus Demetrius says:

    Anybody read ‘Learning the World’ by Ken Macleod? It’s about us, in the future, colonizing the galaxy, no ftl drives. Some good science has come out of SF, mainly because of “outside the box” thinking.

  88. Tyler Durden says:

    “Hence the lack of visitors to what must seem to be a quite interesting planet implies to me either that we are alone in our galaxy or that travel is impossible.”

    ——————–

    Not really. Earth may seem an uninhabitable wasteland to intelligent species of a different evolution, and thus no point in visiting it.

    We wouldn’t send a ship to a system with no habitable planets. We’d observe that system with telescopes, but never go there.

    —————–
    “Although, almost all theories of FTL travel would reverse the arrow of time, right?
    So, essentially, as you travel out to a star in the sky, you are going back in time.
    And to balance it all out, you’d arrive at the same point in time as you could see in the sky.”

    ——————-

    Interestingly enough, if you were to travel 40 light years at FTL speeds that got you there in ten hours, you could turn around and with a powerful enough telescope you could look and see the surface of the Earth 40 yrs ago (minus ten hours).

    Imagine the archaeological benefits.

    You couldn’t “time travel” though – if you returned to earth it would just be August 21,2008 launch time + 20 hrs.

  89. Tyler Durden says:

    Basically to clarify you aren’t reversing time’s arrow. Time remains the same locally, always. You’re simply travelling faster than light travels, which means the light that hits your telescope took 40 yrs longer to get to the spot you’re at than your ship did.

    Wormholes on the other hand * could * be used for time travel, if they exist or could be created, and are traversable.

  90. Hunnter says:

    Oh wait, nevermind, i was actually meaning that with wormholes.

    Although, even if they existed, i still don’t think they could be of much use.
    You are still going into a blackhole in the end.
    The “tunnel” could be filled with massive amounts of radiation for one.
    And of course, gravity could potentially still reach into it (can’t really see how it wouldn’t to be honest)

    You’d maybe be able to send electromagnetic waves, if the tunnel was a perfect “cylinder”, just send it through the center.
    Although, even that might not work.

  91. Molecular says:

    Let’s talk about babies here for a moment. When a child is born they only know what they see around them. They see colors, they feel warmth and cold, they know hunger and know when they are full.

    A child, observing the world that surrounds them, begins to understand his or her place through constant observation. Over a period of time, what never made any kind of sense, gradually begins to make sense, and so the child begins maneuver it’s way through a world that was, at first, a total mystery.

    While scientists spend so much time observing the Universe, like the child, they see the black holes, the quasars, the flashes from GRBs, etc., all the mysteries that are contained within, and because they are so young in technological terms, can’t yet grasp that some of what they study, may in fact, be the work of highly advanced civilizations.

    So, as babies of this great planet Earth, we can’t yet even begin to understand the prospects of the adult minds that govern the Universe.

    Something to think about. 🙂

  92. dollhopf says:

    Here is another recipe for lightweight space colonization:

    Buy some high quality human eggs and sperm from a sperm bank. Put them into a mobile cooler. Send them with a standard space vehicle in direction of the star of your choice. At arrival let the trip computer touch down the vehicle on a promising planet or moon in sunlight and with water ice nearby. Then activate the resource collector units.

    Now switch on the medic robot to defrost and stir up the basic human modules. Put it all into the breeding reactor. Meanwhile boot up the nurse robot and the training equipment to teach the “result” how to send SMS about what’s up from time to time.

  93. Damian says:

    hmmmmmmmm(Worm Holes) anyone?

  94. Derek says:

    Of course it’s just speculation right now, but I can think of a way that might put that “highly improbable” claim into question:

    If nanotechnology delivers on its promise over the next 2-3 decades, then we should be able to create a tiny package (perhaps microscopic) that consists of replicators and blueprints for a radio-based communications receiver.

    The tiny package could be sent to a planet outside of our solar system for relatively little cost, and probably take a few decades or so to arrive.

    Once there, the replicators could reproduce using the available soil and air. When they had sufficient numbers, they could switch to become assemblers, which would use the blueprints to assemble the communications receiver.

    Back on Earth, we would use disassemblers to disassemble a group of humans to essentially turn everything they are into digital media (if that’s even necessary, considering robots should exceed human capacity in all areas around that time, and their minds should already be digital).

    We would then beam that information (at the speed of light) to the receiving station on the exoplanet, where the assemblers would reconstruct human (or robot) bodies for the disassembled travelers.

    The assemblers could also have a whole comfortable town already waiting for the travelers’ arrival. Perhaps even terraforming, if necessary.

    Thus…relatively little cost to send a small package too a planet at high speed to assemble a receiving station for “teleported” Terrans, at no risk to human life.

  95. Sagarika says:

    How about the dark matter be used for the purpose….lol

  96. Ken Kachur says:

    A wise old man(104 years young) told me prior to his death he witnessed it all from horses for transportation to witnessing the first man on the moon. With this being said I don’t believe as a very inquisitive race we will be destined to remaining on this planet earth. We will in time reach out to the stars. I was just born 100 years too soon.

  97. Alex says:

    Although an interesting article, I have one problem with it: it only focuses on currently available propulsion systems. What about an Alcubierre drive? Just because we can’t build one now, doesn’t mean that we can’t build one 50 years or 100 years from now. With the current state of propulsion systems I agree with this article because if we could make it to Proxima Centauri, I imagine that we already would. However, with the rate of technology advancing faster and faster, I have no doubt that we will find a way to travel to other stars.

  98. dollhopf says:

    Markus Demetrius Says:

    “Religion caused the dark ages. We would be 1000 years or so more advanced than we are now … probably cruising the stars”

    I don’t think so. Theories of Modernization achieved a different insight in what “Dark Ages” are caused by. There is also evidence that religion supports and contributs to something that we call progress. You just need a little bit of good will and creativity to investigate this by yourself and thus saving me an amount of time to do it for you. Have you ever read the passage in Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” in which the “revolutionary” horde kills the priest with their scythes? “Dark Ages” are a more complex subject than to blame only one factor. I don’t want to play down the bad implications of religion. I just want you to realize also the advantageous aspects.

    “We” (others did that for you – you only need to take care for the persistance of it) established societies that are based on and organized with Rationality. I do believe that personal moral rotting is a basis for the corruption of a society and that corruption leads to decay and that decay is a form of “dark age”. I also belief that one or the other form of personal religiosity is a medicine which heals rotting.

  99. Markus Demetrius says:

    dollhopf – I totally agree with all that you’ve said, just one question – how does any of it disprove the fact that religion has held us
    back thru the ages?

    Archeological digs show that the temple preists, of many cultures, have always had the highest level of local technology, most always used in ways to trick the locals to think that they had “powers”. This has been going on for thousands of years, and the only challenge to the priests has been knowledge, and thus the banning of knowledge. Why was Latin the official language of the Catholic Church for so long? Because most locals had no idea what “God” wanted, but the priests could fake it. Galileo and Copernicus’ persecutions come to mind only because they’re (relatively) recent. Earlier, religion had a lot stronger hold on everyone! Believe or die was the rule for thousands of years, and you delude yourself to think that religion hasn’t held back the technological development of our species by many thousands of years. There is no greater EVIL than religion. Period. You can dress it up with lot’s of feel-good, but that’ll never change its true nature…Evil.

  100. Damian says:

    In my post I mention that we should use nature as a Model for our spaceship designs

    Yael Dragwyla Says:
    August 21st, 2008 at 9:29 pm
    >Depends on what you mean by “modeled on >nature.” If *anything* can be done, it’s natural, a >rather trivial tautology.

    My wording is a intended as an axiom. To define something as natural is somewhat trivial I agree.

    So I would like to define is just a little more.

    I think, we should build spaceships that are an anagram of a planet. This is a design that is obviously working well. (life on earth has survived so far) .

    IF we intend for humans to travel in space, then our spaceships will need to support biological life over long periods. The best (observed) model that we have is our own biosphere. Building Metal boxes as living spaces for humans is the wrong direction. (physiologically and physiologically)

    Perhaps Bubbles of water would work well as a spaceship.? Certainly provide a huge degree of protection against the solar weather. A fusion reactor as a core, Habitable spaces built on top of the core. The water can be rich in Algal nutrients for oxygen and food. Even as sources of chemical fuels to provide propulsion.

    My idea is a bit left of center, and its probably as much pie in the sky as FTL travel. However, even for exploring our own solar system. The idea of creating a (slow moving) Bioshere in space capable of supporting human communities that is modeled on our own planet makes sense. (at least to me)

    As I mentioned previously, the three essentials are heat, water and a Magnetosphere. Without these elements any travel into space is probably better carried out by autonomous or remote means.

    Little Planets? 🙂 I’m not a scientist, just a person with a vivid imagination. But I do think we are going about this the wrong way. Because it costs so much energy to escape our gravity well, we want our spaceships to have as little mass as possible. I think this is wrong. Our spaceships need to have (a large) mass. Enough mass in fact to have their own gravity.

    But then here is the Pie in the Sky part, which is using gravity as a means of propulsion.Shaping the magnetoshere to use as a solar sail is one idea. Being able to shape the eleactrical currents that interact with the solar medium is another.

    >You’re a fortune-teller? You are using >precognition to come up with that? If so, >precognition is real — and maybe we can >harness it to get where we want to go.

    Not quite sure what you mean, I’m certainly no seer, or mystic. Skeptic would be more like it.
    One thing that does fascinate me is the idea that by observing and trying to understand the universe we are changing it. (insert obligatory schrodinger’s box comment)

    However this insight from particle physics is as hypothetical as a unified theory for everything. (in my opinion)

    Understanding gravity is the key if we want to travel in space. (LHC is our great hope) This certainly is an interesting time to be alive.

    BTW, A thank you to Ian O’Neill, i have been visiting and reading this site for a while now. Great work.

    Damian

  101. dollhopf says:

    Mr Demetrius, you are right and wrong in the very same instant. Why, instead of refering to “archeological digs” as facts, don’t you just stay in the present? Look at the nowadays “temple priests” in Iran and you will find it much easier to strengthen your argument. All the key positions in the Irani economy are occupied by the mullahs. Is it okay for you, when I say that the practise of the religious regime in Teheran gives evidence to your opinion?

    On the other hand, why is it a fact “that religion has held us back thru the ages”. I don’t see the “fact”. In the contrary, “facts” would also “prove” that over ages religion trained humans to respect and tolerate the neighbour, his life, his wife, his goods, his opinion, and so make it possible to life in peace together, thus constituting the requirements for trade and wealth.

    The big thing is that the most “godless” regimes on earth concentrated all power and control in their Central Committees, thus exactly proving that “EVIL” is not only a feature of religion but also of atheism.

  102. dollhopf says:

    Dear Mr. Demetrius,

    it looks like my brain has a dislike to distinguish between the “v”‘s and “f”‘s as in “life” and “live” (among others). Thus, sorry for your inconveniences when reading my response.

  103. Markus Demetrius says:

    What purpose does a magnetosphere provide other than a shield from ionized particles coming from a star? What about “neutral” atoms, and molecules floating in space? Dust? The shielding provided by many miles of asteroid rock is not only good cover, but also camouflage…

  104. Markus Demetrius says:

    dollhopf – many good points, thank you.

    I do doubt, however, that we can credit religion as the cause of mutual cooperation, and as far as peace goes I’d wager that religion has caused many more wars than it’s prevented.

    Communist and totalitarian regimes outlaw religion because its inherent authority is a threat to their need for absolute power, not out of ideological reasons. Their atheism results from domination rather than logic and rational thought…

    IT’S ALL FUN AND GAMES UNTIL SOMEBODY LOSES AN EYE

  105. dollhopf says:

    Markus Demetrius wrote:

    “IT’S ALL FUN AND GAMES UNTIL SOMEBODY LOSES AN EYE”

    Agree, and the raison d’être of reason is to prevent the “funny gamers” from taking off the gloves.

    But nevertheless I know that we are far off topics, just one more hint. You claimed:

    “Why was Latin the official language of the Catholic Church for so long? Because most locals had no idea what “God” wanted, but the priests could fake it.”

    But the clue is, that despite the Catholic Church insisted on the dominance of the Latin language, it never excluded somebody from learning it. Quite the contrary! The educational system of the Middle Age, which wasn’t, by the way, a Dark Age, trained the students in the use of Latin. Latin was the lingua franca of our past, as English is the universal language of the present.

    Latin was the scientific language of Copernicus (“De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium”), of Kepler(“Harmonice Mundi.”), and of Newton (“Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica”). It is true that Galileo Galilei was an exception, who used a local language, but THE WORLD only got knowledge of his work, after it was translated into Latin by Matthias Bernegger.

    Latin was the key to our cultural heritage, the key to absorb the keen ancient Greek and Latin thinkers, Euklid and Aristoteles, Cicero and all the hundreds of others.

    Don’t punish the Catholic Church for torturing mankind with Latin. This “treatment” opened the way to the Renaissance, the resurrection of our cultural background since Thales of Milet, just because one and the other stubborn priest made rough jokes with it. Not guilty, Your Highness!

  106. Markus Demetrius says:

    dollhopf – My bad. I admit it when I’m wrong. You are correct about the Latin, it was a bad example and I really shouldn’t type when in an altered state.

    YOU GET THE TRICORDER, I’LL GRAB THE WALLET

  107. dollhopf says:

    Markus Demetrius Says: “You are correct about the Latin, it was a bad example”

    Never mind, Mr. Demetrius, because I understand your distaste for religion. The Taliban, for example, give much reason to defeat religion.

  108. Markus Demetrius says:

    Getting back on-topic, I can understand chemical rocket scientists saying that their particular field will never get us to the stars, however I doubt most of them are so short-sighted as to suggest that the future will bring no significent advances in other types of propulsion, perhaps types we have yet to imagine. I believe that the skepticism evinced in this article results from the narrow-mindedness of the author, Ian O’Neill. His treatise reads like an article written by a Creationist or someone who believes that we’ve already learned all there is to learn. Shame on you, O’Neill.

    HUNG LIKE EINSTEIN, SMART AS A HORSE

  109. dollhopf says:

    Mr. Demetrius wrote:

    “I believe that the skepticism evinced in this article results from the narrow-mindedness of the author, Ian O’Neill.”

    To be honest, this sentence is hardly to sympathise with.

    After we both agreed, that at least the use of the Latin language in the Catholic Church is not the reason that we are not “cruising the stars on vacation” nowadays, you concentrate your assignment of blame on the author of the article, whom you attest intellectual inadequacy therefor. What’s all that in aid of?

  110. Markus Demetrius says:

    dollhopf – Chip on your shoulder?

    You are connecting dots that are apples and oranges. Perhaps you misread me – I’m not assigning blame for our lack of progress on Mr. O’Neill, that’s just plain silly.

    I see that most above reader comments are blaming the pessimistic TONE of the article on the rocket scientists and I think they are wrong to do so. It was the author who decided what his theme was, what questions to ask, and how to put responses together. O/Neill includes estimated projected travel times using only propulsion engines CURRENTLY in use, but the very first sentence in the article declares “It is highly improbable that humans will EVER explore beyond the solar system”. He obviously either has an agenda or is, as I said, narrowminded. In my personal view it’s both. I doubt narrow-mindedness looks good on the resume of a rocket scientist/engineer, thus my conclusion.

    You ask what’s all that in aid of? Just to point out that all the venting I see here is probably not aimed properly.

    INDISTINGUISHABLE FROM MAGIC

  111. Tyler Durden says:

    “I doubt narrow-mindedness looks good on the resume of a rocket scientist/engineer, thus my conclusion.”

    Quite the contrary. Most aerospace companies * want * engineers that can only think in terms of current technology and will only fiddle with what already exists instead of dreaming of what could be.

    Dreams cost money. New designs fail. Spectacularly. The longer you can stretch the lifespan of a rocket model, the better.

    I think if they do in fact psychologically profile engineer job applicants they would disqualify dreamers and idea men and accept people who can only think in bits-and-bytes.

  112. Torbjörn Larsson, OM says:

    @ Yael Dragwyia;

    consider quantum connectedness, a real phenomenon that “violates” the speed of light.

    Except that it explicitly doesn’t, and can’t, due to Lorenz invariance. Something I suspect you know since you put the claim inside a parenthesis.

  113. Torbjörn Larsson, OM says:

    @ dollhopf:

    I do believe that personal moral rotting is a basis for the corruption of a society and that corruption leads to decay and that decay is a form of “dark age”. I also belief that one or the other form of personal religiosity is a medicine which heals rotting.

    What is a “personal moral”? Moral is the behaviour that large groups of populations follows. What can influence it varies, as different behaviors are sensitive to different parameters. Most often we use legal actions to make the most influence, and that is a secular activity.

  114. Markus Demetrius says:

    A question to all:

    I’m relatively new at “forums and comments”. If I make quite a few significant points in defense of a central theme and then someone disputes only one of those points/ideas but says nothing more, should I assume that the main gist of my comment was accepted as plausible, or that the person just ran out of ammunition?

    I’ve written in half a dozen or so forums, and only one person who obviously disagreed with my views has offered point-by-point rebuttal.

    No, I’m not picking a fight, but I do admit to feeling at times like an educated atheist arguing religion with your average half-educated christian.

    YOUR NAME HERE

  115. dollhopf says:

    Torbjörn Larsson,

    honestly, I find it somewhat weird that you have to ask what “personal moral” means.

  116. Torbjörn Larsson, OM says:

    dollhopf,

    I have proposed a description of morals from which “personal morals” can easily be derived. But as this description is problematic for your earlier claim (as in: I reject your description), my description and yours differ, which is why I asked for yours – in case you were interested in a continuing discussion.

  117. dollhopf says:

    “my description and yours differ, which is why I asked for yours”

    Question: Because you know my description, otherwise you would not know that it does differ from yours, why then do you ask for?

  118. Torbjörn Larsson, OM says:

    @ dollhopf:

    All I know is that you claim that personal moral “rotting” is a basis for the corruption of a society, which is the point where my description differs. This is how I know that your definition of morals, whatever it is, is different from mine (which I have stated for the purpose of a discussion).

    But if you decline to discuss what a moral is, for whatever reason, fine – it is generally pointless to claim that specific concepts are correct or fallacious if they can’t be tested. What I can do, and have done, is to show for a casual reader why (your concept of) “personal moral” is not an important basis for causing societal problems, and why then personal (or organized) religion isn’t helpful. That is enough for me.

    [Ironically one can factually show the reverse, that religion is an important basis for causing societal problems, but it seems such a discussion is now rendered moot.]

  119. dollhopf says:

    There is no need to be so impatient, Torbjörn. You waste my time as well 😉

    Every common lexicon contains a sufficiently just definition of the concept of moral. Mutual understanding would be no problem, if you were not in need of an own “description” of moral, which is from the beginning as purpose-built as it is inadequate. I wonder that you did not also ask for a “description” of the term “corruption of a society”.

    Stop intentionally generating a lack of understanding. Then try again.

  120. Markus Demetrius says:

    dollhopf – Past societies’s demises can be attributed to moral collapse? How special. Not to be attributed to actual measurable factors like drought, war, disease, economic factors? I suppose America’s demise will be from the same cause, rather than the Christian fundamentalists voting by values, instead of issues. Climate change is our grandchildren’s problem, not ours, right? May I assume by your past writing that you’re a person of faith? You superstitious cowards make me sick. As long as Bush says “terrorist” a dozen times in his speeches your lot shits your pants and cedes your constitutional rights, same as Hitler’s followers did, so you’ll be “safe”.

    Don’t EVER try to proselytise your sick morals to anyone in front of me, I’ll eat you alive and your pretentious eleven dollar words also. CHICKENHAWK COWARDS like you belong as human shields on the front line, to make the enemy pause before shooting at our heroic troops. They may be there for no good reason, but they’re heroic nonetheless.

    Hope I didn’t offend, you seem like a nice guy. Really sweet, in a Heisenberg kind of way.

    PRE-EMPTIVE COUNTERSTRIKE

  121. dollhopf says:

    Mr. Demetrius!

    I just came by to say “hello”. I’m sorry to hear that you are sick by “superstitious cowards”.

    BTW: You wrote above that you “really shouldn’t type when in an altered state”. It could be that your “altered state” is the cause of your sickness.

    Get well soon! Dollhopf

  122. Nick Sandy says:

    It makes me laugh to hear that interstellar travell is impossible. It already has been done and by better minds than our own. Its like those people who say there is no life anywhere else, of course there is. Where conditions are favorable there is life, look at our own world. Life is a fundamental as the universe there are worlds in different phases of evolution everywhere, unfortunately none seem to be close to us

  123. Malcolm says:

    http://home.comcast.net/~mbmcneill7/ offers a solution to interstellar travel.

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  126. End says:

    Nice blog, guess I have some travel to do then 🙂

  127. Natasha Ford says:

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