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Thread: Will children born in 2012 likely see the first starship?

  1. #31
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    Other times, a good idea is thrown out because of political issues, or worse, perosnal pettieness on the part of someone somehow threatened by the idea.
    Progress isn't the simple road we often like to think it. The race isn't always to the swiftest, but to those who can get the backing, the promotion, the exposure to tell the world 'Hey, this is a good idea, let's use it!'.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Beardsley View Post
    I doubt they'll even see a man or woman on Mars. So they won't see a starship, unless you count Pioneer 9 & 10 and Voyager 1 & 2.
    I'm quite a bit more optimistic about Mars. I think I still have a chance of seeing people on Mars, and I'd be pretty surprised if people born today didn't see it. I doubt it would be NASA doing it, however.

    And I'm surprised nobody else mentioned the Pioneers (it was 10 and 11, by the way), and the Voyagers before this. I would call those starships.

    There's also New Horizons, which should get out there after it runs by Pluto.

    But, if we're talking about people on a starship, I doubt it very much. My key question would be: What would be the point of people on a starship? Even if they have advanced propulsion and can keep a habitat functioning indefinitely, what are they going for? It's very unlikely we're going to find Earth-twins, like what are seen in Star Trek. If we eventually do, they'll likely be extremely rare and essentially irrelevant. If we do eventually inhabit other solar systems it would be the same way we would inhabit this one, after getting off Earth: By building space habitats. And, for the energy and resources required, it's much easier to build habitats in this solar system than what would be needed to go to other systems. If we do eventually go on to other solar systems, it will be after we already have a large interplanetary civilization.

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    I think that a "starship" will require some new physics. As is often portrayed in science fiction, some way must be discovered to control gravity or space-time itself. Perhaps one day, but one day can be any time, 10, 100 or a million years from now. Scientific discoveries like this cannot be predicted, they are discovered when they are discovered.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Wally View Post
    I think that a "starship" will require some new physics. As is often portrayed in science fiction, some way must be discovered to control gravity or space-time itself. Perhaps one day, but one day can be any time, 10, 100 or a million years from now. Scientific discoveries like this cannot be predicted, they are discovered when they are discovered.
    Why, when existing physics already allows it? It just takes a really, really large amount of energy. But, IIRC, less so than what would be needed to warp spacetime.

    ADDED:
    However, if certain quantum inequalities conjectured by Ford and Roman hold,[9] then the energy requirements for some warp drives may be absurdly gigantic, e.g. the energy equivalent of -1064 kg might be required[10] to transport a small spaceship across the Milky Way galaxy. This is orders of magnitude greater than the estimated mass of the universe.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcubie...e#Difficulties
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    Quote Originally Posted by Van Rijn View Post
    And I'm surprised nobody else mentioned the Pioneers (it was 10 and 11, by the way)
    D'oh!

    Yes, you're quite right. My only excuse is I wrote it in the early hours of the morning whilst suffering from insomnia.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NEOWatcher View Post
    Edit: Let me add another difference;
    Air flight had destinations that were fully developed (or at least habitable), spaceflight needs the destinations developed before it becomes a desired (popular) destination.
    So... you're agreeing with me?
    Et tu BAUT? Quantum mutatus ab illo.

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    Aliens who find the Pioneer 10 and 11 plaques are going to get some very interesting ideas how we reproduce; considering the man is shown with a penis, but the woman lacks a vulva.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Beagle 2's Parachute Cord View Post
    Perhaps this is a bit of an economics sidetrack, but I find it hard to get my head around the "X is too expensive" argument. Money is a totally artificial construct. We have as much of it as we care to create. And the planet is a closed system - spending money on building spaceships doesn't mean we have less money - after all, that money is paying engineers, construction workers and so on, right the way back to miners who are extracting the raw materials. Those people spend their wages on other goods and the money stays in the economy.

    Of course, you have to look at it as what we as a planet can afford, not what (say) the United States can afford, if it has to pay X billion dollars in debt to China, which has... and so on and so on.

    I suppose you could argue "can we afford to devote such a large number of skilled people to one task", but that's a different argument. And it's not as if even well-educated people aren't short of employment.
    +1
    A lot of people think of the economy and the role of spaceflight as a zero-sum game. It's only zero-sum for very specific resources, but those resources are produced in such vast quantities that for the most part spaceflight use is a drop in the bucket. A lot of the cost is in labor, because current spaceships are lovingly hand-crafted by skilled artisans as a cottage industry instead of stamped out of sheet-metal en masse in an economy-of-scale. Of course, even at low prices the costs add up for a large scale, so the production of resources off-world would quickly become useful for affordability.
    Et tu BAUT? Quantum mutatus ab illo.

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    One reason Soyuz is relatively cheap is because it's pretty much of the closest we have to a truly mass produced spacecraft.
    The basic design for the rocket is literally as old as artificial satellites. Older in fact, and the capsule itself is an elegant design, in an engineering sense that is.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ravens_cry View Post
    Aliens who find the Pioneer 10 and 11 plaques are going to get some very interesting ideas how we reproduce; considering the man is shown with a penis, but the woman lacks a vulva.
    I don't even think they'd necessarily understand that the two beings portrayed are the same species. They might think there are two species who co-inhabit the earth, one having a tail in the front.
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I don't even think they'd necessarily understand that the two beings portrayed are the same species. They might think there are two species who co-inhabit the earth, one having a tail in the front.
    Sometimes I wonder if they wouldn't be right.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ara Pacis View Post
    So... you're agreeing with me?
    I'm not sure. It's just another reason I don't like the air vs space flight analogy.
    I know I don't always get your point, so I'm not sure what the agreement would be.

  13. #43
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    A few born in 2012 will still be alive in 2112, so we might fly a prototype generation star ship by then. My guess is we will have to build many progressively better generation space ships over the next 1000 years before we reach the first light year from Earth, with live humans. Neil

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    What incentive is there to build and launch a generation starship? (And can you use the word "prototype" for something that a) has to work first time and b) doesn't give any useful information in the short term unless it fails early?)

    Generation starships exist in science fiction as a solution to the insurmountable problem of crossing the light years. I don't think there's any reason to suppose that they will ever exist in real life. Granted, they don't violate any existing physics in the way that a hyperspace drive would, but they are colossally impractical and inhumane, and nobody involved in their creation is going to benefit from them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NEOWatcher View Post
    I never liked equating spaceflight to airflight. The situations are completely different.

    Airflight never took the resources of governments to develop it. Spaceflight always did.
    Airflight was inspired by the animal kingdom. It gave a lot of clues and inspiration of how it's done. Spaceflight only had the inspiration.

    Wright brothers to the first jet airliner took about 50 years. 60 years later we are not much past that point. Even the airline industry has been stalled for some time now. I see the same situation with spaceflight. We seem to have hit a physics/technological barrier that is on another plateau of effort. Basicall; in spaceflight, we did our SST with BEO space travel. Maintaining or exceeding that level is difficult.
    Not quite right. Much -- if not most -- of the technological development of aviation was government-funded, including most of the aerodynamic and engine technology, both by direct military contract, by non-military government contract, and by subsidy. All major airlines were subsidized until the start of the deregulation movement in the last quarter of the 20th Century; many still receive subsidies to maintain non-profitable services to low-traffic destinations. All SST development was entirely government funded; the only one to see revenue service was the Concorde which may (British Airways) or did not (Air France) ever make a profit. The government-funded US SST -- the Boeing 2707 -- never even got to mock-up stage, and the government-funded Soviet SST did not enter anything resembling revenue service.

    Most important, though, is not the subsidies: it's the simple fact that the trade routes existed: people and goods traveled across the Atlantic about 400 years before the first trans-Atlantic flight, and there was a profitable trans-Pacific trade at least 200 years before the first flight across the Pacific. There is no corresponding commercial reason for space flight, at least beyond geosynchronous orbit. When the first passenger paid his ticket for a flight across the Atlantic, he had been preceded by millions who had paid for tickets to cross the Atlantic aboard ships.
    Last edited by swampyankee; 2012-Aug-25 at 01:44 PM. Reason: spelling
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  16. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Beardsley View Post
    I don't think there's any reason to suppose that they will ever exist in real life. Granted, they don't violate any existing physics in the way that a hyperspace drive would, but they are colossally impractical and inhumane, and nobody involved in their creation is going to benefit from them.
    Impractical at present, yes. A full-Solar System economy could have orders of magnitude more resources and energy available.

    Inhumane? Not to someone who grew up in a space habitat. To them, the situation would be practically unchanged.

    Benefit is an opinion word. It is defined by those who desire the object of benefit. To people who want to live around a distant star for whatever reason, and have the plausible means to make it happen, a starship, however difficult to attain, is worth whatever they are able and willing to expend for it. Benefit for one's children is often seen as entirely worthwhile by many people (assuming no radical life extension, in which case there could be benefit for ones self).

    None of this will happen anytime within the next few centuries, probably not for many more. But eventually, if humanity lasts long enough, it will happen.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Impractical at present, yes. A full-Solar System economy could have orders of magnitude more resources and energy available.
    Maybe, but there's no mysterious historical force that says, "Wait long enough and somebody else is bound to travel beyond low Earth orbit."

    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Inhumane? Not to someone who grew up in a space habitat. To them, the situation would be practically unchanged.
    Unchanged except that they will no longer have access to the full-Solar System economy.

    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Benefit is an opinion word. It is defined by those who desire the object of benefit. To people who want to live around a distant star for whatever reason, and have the plausible means to make it happen, a starship, however difficult to attain, is worth whatever they are able and willing to expend for it. Benefit for one's children is often seen as entirely worthwhile by many people (assuming no radical life extension, in which case there could be benefit for ones self).
    You desire to live around a distant star... so you embark on a project that will not result in you living around a distant star, and neither will your children get to live around a distant star, but they will have the hardships imposed on them because of your indulgent wish.

    Doing your best for your children is not the same as living through your children.

    In any case, neilzero's scenario saw a succession of generation ships which don't even travel a light year before they fail. How is that not inhumane?

    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    None of this will happen anytime within the next few centuries, probably not for many more. But eventually, if humanity lasts long enough, it will happen.
    Again, "wait long enough and it will happen." No, I really don't think it works like that.

    The concept of the generation starship needs to be consigned to the rubbish bin of bad SF ideas as a matter of some urgency.

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    Would it not perhaps be a bit more feasible for us to send DNA information on ships that are programmed to seed them on planets that match certain criteria after some probing is done? If the goal is the survival of the species, this would seem much easier to accomplish rather than sending live beings to another system. I don't pretend to know what kind of tech would be involved in this endeavor but I'd wager a bet that it could be done much sooner than a manned mission to the same system.

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    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    Most important, though, is not the subsidies: it's the simple fact that the trade routes existed: people and goods traveled across the Atlantic about 400 years before the first trans-Atlantic flight, and there was a profitable trans-Pacific trade at least 200 years before the first flight across the Pacific. There is no corresponding commercial reason for space flight, at least beyond geosynchronous orbit. When the first passenger paid his ticket for a flight across the Atlantic, he had been preceded by millions who had paid for tickets to cross the Atlantic aboard ships.
    At the moment there are no compelling commercial ventures in the sense of actually present BEO or that show a profit to market investment. One might try to claim that solar observatories at SEL1 are useful for sustaining commerce on Earth, but it's government funded and in a way it's still in Earth orbit. If what's-there-name gets to actually mining asteroids, we may see commerce.

    The problem with the analogy is that in space, there's only on method of transport, where on earth crossing oceans was done by boat before it was done by airplane. Unless we're talking about a similar qualitative analogy of boats and aircraft to Hohmann orbits v. more direct trajectories, or constant-acceleration vehicles. The point is we need somewhere to go. My point is that creating somewhere to go is often a function of creating a way to get there. Build an Interstate Highway System and others will build the gas stations, restaurant and tourist traps along the side so people can stop on their trip to the National Park or the New City.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Impractical at present, yes. A full-Solar System economy could have orders of magnitude more resources and energy available.

    Inhumane? Not to someone who grew up in a space habitat. To them, the situation would be practically unchanged.
    Except that space habitats tend to use solar power and I'm not convinced they can be self-sufficient in food. I know you can scale it up, but the rocket equation makes that difficult.

    My personal thought is that a world ship won't be a generation ship. It will be a deep freeze for most everyone except for a crew that rotates through it. Unless we can do non-freezing suspended animation and connect brains via VR, in which case the ship may be run by tele-presense in their dreams, but I find that physically less likely.
    Et tu BAUT? Quantum mutatus ab illo.

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    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    Not quite right. Much -- if not most -- of the technological development of aviation was government-funded, including most of the aerodynamic and engine technology...
    Perhaps my use of the word development was misleading, but I don't know what other word to use.
    I'm talking about the very early development (pre-WW1) airflight that got humans aloft, as apposed to the early development of spaceflight that got Sputnik up in the air.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Beardsley View Post
    Maybe, but there's no mysterious historical force that says, "Wait long enough and somebody else is bound to travel beyond low Earth orbit."

    Again, "wait long enough and it will happen." No, I really don't think it works like that.
    Nothing mysterious about it. It's human nature-- we are explorers. Humans have spread to every continent on Earth, even to deserts and mountains and other hostile environments, not because it was easy or economically sensible, but because that's what we do. We've had some historically recent temporary setbacks because of politics, economics, and other "mysterious historical forces", but generally for all of human existence the rule has been if we can go to a place, someone has.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Nothing mysterious about it. It's human nature-- we are explorers. Humans have spread to every continent on Earth, even to deserts and mountains and other hostile environments, not because it was easy or economically sensible, but because that's what we do. We've had some historically recent temporary setbacks because of politics, economics, and other "mysterious historical forces", but generally for all of human existence the rule has been if we can go to a place, someone has.
    If more people shared this attitude, we'd probably have colonized the Moon or Mars by now. Stay positive! Of course something will become impossible to achieve if you never attempt to do it in the first place.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Nothing mysterious about it. It's human nature-- we are explorers. Humans have spread to every continent on Earth, even to deserts and mountains and other hostile environments, not because it was easy or economically sensible, but because that's what we do. We've had some historically recent temporary setbacks because of politics, economics, and other "mysterious historical forces", but generally for all of human existence the rule has been if we can go to a place, someone has.
    Exploration in the past has used existing technology or else incremental developments of it. Curiosity has motivated explorers to see what's beyond that mountain, ocean or horizon because he wants to see what's there; he's not going to send his children off, knowing full well that by the time his great-something grandchildren arrive at the destination (assuming they survive the journey), he'll be long dead and they won't report back.

    Space travel just isn't like anything we've ever done prior to 1957.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CosmicUnderstanding View Post
    If more people shared this attitude, we'd probably have colonized the Moon or Mars by now. Stay positive! Of course something will become impossible to achieve if you never attempt to do it in the first place.
    Saying, "If more people shared this attitude, we'd probably have colonized the Moon or Mars by now," is as futile as saying, "If travel to the planets were as easy as sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, we'd probably have colonized the Moon or Mars by now." It's the reality we have to work with. Space travel is incredibly difficult, and people aren't interested enough.

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    I think they will see some advanced extra-solar probe like TAU or something like that outpace the Voyagers perhaps. I think that's about as good as it gets.

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    Quote Originally Posted by noncryptic View Post
    For perspective as to how many resources we'd have to throw at it:

    According to NASA to get a spaceship the size of a spaceshuttle to the nearest star, using current technology and allowing for 900 years travel time, would require more fuel then there is matter in the observable universe.
    http://www.nasa.gov/centers/glenn/te...rp/scales.html
    That figure is for a chemical rocket, which is self-evidently not the way to go.


    So for a functional starship we'd need propulsion technology that's billions of times more efficient than what we have, and though i won't say it's impossible i will say it'll probably take more than a century to develop.
    That same page you linked to says that with a drive only 100 times as efficient we could get to the stars with a ship with 'only' a thousand supertankers worth of fuel and propellant. Unfortunately the only drive that fits the bill is an antimatter drive; and the rate of antimatter production s very, very small, so that even 150 years is unlikely to be enough time to collect the fuel for such a ship.

    Also on that page is Robert Forward's plan to create a flimsy laser-propelled unmanned probe that could fly past Alpha Centauri; we might just be able to create such a craft, but only if we have the political will to create ten gigawatt lasers without using them as weapons of mass destruction.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Beardsley View Post
    Exploration in the past has used existing technology or else incremental developments of it. Curiosity has motivated explorers to see what's beyond that mountain, ocean or horizon because he wants to see what's there; he's not going to send his children off, knowing full well that by the time his great-something grandchildren arrive at the destination (assuming they survive the journey), he'll be long dead and they won't report back.

    Space travel just isn't like anything we've ever done prior to 1957
    .
    (Emphasis added). I don't agree with that: Rocket technology goes back centuries, as does the physics behind the ballistics. There had been many improvements of relevant technologies in the 20th century. Getting into orbit was an important achievement, but was an extension of what had gone before.

    However, space travel in the solar system is not the same as star travel. It doesn't take that much energy to get into orbit - the main cost is the hardware that is currently thrown away. There are also a number of other destinations in the solar system that can be reached without huge expenditures of energy or very long travel times. Given improvements in technology, an interplanetary economy is plausible.

    For interstellar travel, though, you either need to use a huge amount of energy or accept extremely long travel times (tens of thousands of years for the closest stars). Barring new physics, that's an unbreakable rule. And once you send hardware to another system, there's no point in bringing it back. It would be inherently expensive (or very slow). New technology won't change that. I'd say there are some fairly fundamental differences between interplanetary space travel and interstellar space travel.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Van Rijn View Post
    (Emphasis added). I don't agree with that: Rocket technology goes back centuries, as does the physics behind the ballistics.
    Rockets are used in space travel, but they are not in and of themselves space travel.

    Quote Originally Posted by Van Rijn View Post
    There had been many improvements of relevant technologies in the 20th century. Getting into orbit was an important achievement, but was an extension of what had gone before.
    But it wasn't an incremental evolution in the sense of log -> raft -> wooden ship -> iron clad.

    Quote Originally Posted by Van Rijn View Post
    However, space travel in the solar system is not the same as star travel. It doesn't take that much energy to get into orbit - the main cost is the hardware that is currently thrown away. There are also a number of other destinations in the solar system that can be reached without huge expenditures of energy or very long travel times. Given improvements in technology, an interplanetary economy is plausible.
    Given the will... but I see no signs of it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Van Rijn View Post
    For interstellar travel, though, you either need to use a huge amount of energy or accept extremely long travel times (tens of thousands of years for the closest stars). Barring new physics, that's an unbreakable rule. And once you send hardware to another system, there's no point in bringing it back. It would be inherently expensive (or very slow). New technology won't change that. I'd say there are some fairly fundamental differences between interplanetary space travel and interstellar space travel.
    Agreed. Unless physicists stumble on some form of hyperspace, we're staying in the solar system.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NEOWatcher View Post
    Perhaps my use of the word development was misleading, but I don't know what other word to use.
    I'm talking about the very early development (pre-WW1) airflight that got humans aloft, as apposed to the early development of spaceflight that got Sputnik up in the air.
    By that measure, Goddard didn't get much government funding for his early rocket work. I suspect that, without the impetus of ww2, we'd be working on sounding rockets, and jet aircraft would still be novel.
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