10 April 2011

Traveling through space

They better send an entire fleet or else they'll get pretty crazy.

Imagine the following situation. There's this chap on earth, an astronaut, and soon he'll be off on a big journey through space. Apparently the human race has invented a way to travel at speeds that almost reach up to the speed of light. The journey that this man will make is about 300 lightyears away. (thats the distance that light can travel in 300 julian years (which is about 300 years, give or take 75 days)).

But apparently there is a star at that place with a lovely green planet that might be interesting to look at, or to build a portal that makes traveling between the two planets faster and easier, whatever reason is good for you. But first he will have to travel to that location, and since his spacecraft won't go faster then the speed of light it will take more then 300 years. For easy calculations I'll use the number of 50 years. So it'll take him 350 years to get there. (yay for science and making human popsicles (artificial hibernation)

After the astronaut has been launched of this third rock from the sun he's off for a long trip. Of course to make sure that he doesn't feel to lonely they'll make sure he gets a nice welcoming message when he arrives at that star. But, since radiowaves travel at the same speed as the speed of light they can't just send the message right away. They'll have to wait 50 years to make sure that it arrives at the same time as the astronaut.

Knowing human behavior I'm sure they'll record a message on the day he left earth, and fifty years later they'll probably record a second message as well. So they'll probably send two messages into space towards their astronaut, who is at that time still in hibernation at a spaceship somewhere between the two stars. One message with a mother and a baby in her arms and the second message a grandmother with a fifty year old sibling who probably has kids of its own.

For the people on earth that event is probably the last they'll hear about it for the next 650 years, cause if he ever sends a message back it'll still have to travel 350 years back to earth. That's like sending a message into space in 1361 and receiving a reply today, (or 2011 to 2661). Think about that when internet is being slow again.

But the craziest thing about it is probably from the perspective of the astronaut. Cause for him those 350 years will pass in what appears to be a short daydream snooze. Sure it might be a snooze that gives him a bad headache and muscles that ache like hell, but it'll still have passed like a snap of the fingers.

So he waved goodbye from the hatch of his spacecraft, went into his hibernation capsule, a bit later it closed down and soon he'd feel sleepy. In what seemed like a few seconds he wakes up again and he might feel like something has gone wrong and the mission is aborted, but when he sees the flashing light of his radio transmitter he realises its 350 years later and everybody he waved goodbye to a few seconds ago is actually long gone.

But then he see's the two messages, the "old" old one and the "new" old one. He'll probably send a reply but he knows that whoever he sends the message to will receive it when he himself has also hit the dirt. I bet that being in such a situation must be crazy as hell, knowing that everything around you was orchestrated 350 years ago. That the guy who was your boss is now dead and that you actually have to work for your own survival without any backup from earth.

Whatever he can acomplish will have no specific meaning for earth in the near future. Everything that he does will have to be done to make sure that in 350 years or more contact can be established between the two planets, or if the astronaut is lucky they'll have invented a faster way of traveling or transmitting data. If he zooms in on our solar system he'll only see the history of 300 years ago, which would be 50 years in the future for himself in one way or the other.

Chances are that he'll never have the benefits of any work he does at that far away star, unless he freezes himself again, waiting to be unfrozen when he gets a reply. Then again, I suddenly realise that his family from 350 years ago might as well be frozen on earth and awoken at regular intervals over the centuries to keep communication logical for both parties. (now that would make one hell of a sci-fi love story, I can see the headlines already "Time, space and everlasting love"

Posting the following sketches up here seems completly out of place now that I've finished writing this blog update. ow well.

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