baudrunner's space: Get me out of here!
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Friday, January 18, 2008

Get me out of here!

Today I read that a new planet has been discovered which may posses all of the attributes necessary for the evolution of life. Ominously, that headline appeared in the same group as a headline about the discovery by geologists with the Rio Tinto mining company of the mineral Kryptonite in Siberia.

The facts, and the speculation, can be found in this news story. They state that the planet around the red dwarf sun Gliese 581 is about 20.5 light years away, about one and a half times the size of Earth, and five times as massive. They have given it the name 581C.

I read a book titled 'Entering Space', by Robert Zubrin. Zubrin is a former senior engineer at Lockheed Martin, the author of NASA's Humans-to-Mars mission plan, and the founder of The Mars Society. He has been recommended in the past for the chief job at NASA, which move I for one wholly support, but he likes Indian Hills, Colorado too much to leave. He once recommended that I present a paper on my "Oil in Mars" proposition at a Mars Society conference back in '05 somewhere in Colorado. Not being one of the idle rich who can easily afford such extravagances, I gracefully declined. Besides, my green nature abhors flying for any but the most critical reasons.

But, back to his book. He outlines quite clearly why it would be a virtual impossibility to engage in a project of the kind that would have us venturing to another world 20 light years away. Actually, to be fair, he takes a less definitive stand on that point and rather prefers to offer the facts for our own subjective reasoning. I just happen to think that interstellar travel should not be attempted using our current level of technological expertise, especially in light of the fact that we are still but stepping out into the very near space of our own solar system. He does however show by the numbers why the physics of it renders the task quite an impractical exercise. Among the reasons are the limited efficiency of conventionally fueled rockets in terms of thrust ratios and of course vis a vis the amount of fuel required to take along on such a journey plus the amount of extra fuel required to compensate for that load. Nuclear fission rockets are a remote possibility and to that end Mr. Zubrin has actually designed the nuclear salt water rocket to get around the Test Ban Treaty which prohibits detonation of nuclear bombs in space but nobody really wants to spend a century travelling in space just to get to the nearest star four light years away at its maximum efficiency. Fusion rockets offer the best hope and will get us to about one-hundredth short of one-tenth of light speed so it would take us only forty years or so to get to Alpha Centauri. Solar sails cannot be considered since at best they would get us to that same star in five hundred years. What Mr. Zubrin doesn't suggest, no doubt because of his practical and more formal background, is that we require new technologies as yet undiscovered to carry out this complex undertaking.

By the same token, there is some compelling evidence to believe that we have been visited in the past by people who originated from another world. There are numerous reports that span the globe of the discovery of stone tombs harboring the remains of giant people up to twelve feet tall. That actually correlates with what we might find on that newly discovered world around the sun Gliese 581, which with a mass five times that of earth would evolve people of those large dimensions. I've noted in the past that while I believe that life in the Universe is the rule rather than the exception, we probably would not find it too close to home, and to my mind twenty to thirty light years away sounds about right. But that is not etched in stone. I will say that if there is even a remote possibility that Gliese 581C has an outside chance for being a habitable planet then life will definitely be found there. Mark my words. That leaves me to wonder just how those giants might have come here.

acutal patent application

Some form of gravity drive is foreseeable. Google "gravity drive" in the custom search in the sidebar to come up with some promising research projects on the subject. Those large triangular craft sightings seem more plausible after reading the results of those experiments.

More far fetched is a form of teleportation drive, in effect trading places with points in space, or what I like to refer to as the "co-incidental juxtapositioning of spatial co-ordinates within the fixed framework of space/time". In a cycling system we wouldn't need to teleport very far at all, in the order of nanometers per jump. Very rapid cycling could take us well beyond the rate of atomic interaction, and we wouldn't upset the fabric of space/time at all, a consideration with high mass gravity drive propulsion.

For the time being however and for some time to come we will be restricted to the exploration of our own solar system. That is, unless those giants return some day to sell us their technology. I mean, who knows how they acquired it. But our own near future in space travel isn't at all a bleak one. There is much to do and there are many places to go before we get too bored with being stuck here.

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