Saturday, November 18, 2017

5 Reasons Science Fiction Hates Actual Science

5 Reasons Science Fiction Hates Actual Science

9 comments:

  1. This guy, whose only apparent expertise is that he wrote a couple of books that propound the same stuff he writes in this article, wants us to believe that as we invent propulsion systems that could theoretically move us from star system to star system, galaxy to galaxy at warp speed or something similar, that we will NOT invent a method for using hydrogen, which is the basic building block of our entire universe, as a fuel. The method would be something like what is used in Star Trek - a 'ram scoop', if you will, that actually feeds the engines the fuel they need directly from the vastness of space itself.

    That method eliminates the problem of having to carry more fuel and thus more weight than you can support with your engine and ship. At least it eliminates the problem of propulsion up to Warp speed or whatever it may be called.

    The next problem, where 'faster than light' travel is involved, regardless of what you name it, will undoubtedly be solved by inventing a machine or engine such as Star Trek's Warp engine. The device will use some form of energy creation/destruction to literally warp or bend space so that, even though you are not actually travelling faster than light, you are still bringing your destination closer to you so that it looks like you are.

    Yes, Star Trek has stretched the believability of Warp speed several times. If Warp One equates in travel time to approximately 2.5 times the speed of light (one billion, six hundred seventy four million miles per hour) and they are 'accelerating' to Warp nine between Earth and the Sun?

    Wow.

    But then that falls under the theory of "Suspension of Disbelief", which is essential if Science Fiction is to work.

    Remember, Jules Verne was one of the first writers to suggest a man going to the moon and in the woodcut illustrations found in his earlier books, his capsule looked remarkably like an Apollo capsule.

    And science fiction is usually the fuel for science to do stuff. I read a year or so ago in Popular Mechanics where a lab in Germany, I think, actually invented a metal that can be seen through and yet has the molecular strength of iron.

    Transparent Aluminum, anybody?

    But, I maintain that if man is to invent a 'faster than light' engine of some sort, we will also invent the method to fuel that engine. And yes, it will probably cause us to rewrite our physics laws.

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    1. Well, if intergalactic travel is possible, none of the older civilizations that must exist in the vast universe have found a reason to visit us! I guess we must be too insignificant to those speedy sojourners.

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  2. Entirely possible, Scoop! As it said once in a Shoe comic, one Sunday. The 'Perfesser' is asking Wiz, the local computer guy, if there are intelligent civilizations out there in the vastness, why haven't they contacted us? And Wiz replies, "Well... they're intelligent!"

    If you think about it, it's a workable theory because, maybe we're not making enough of the right kind of space noise to be noticed.

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  3. You clearly know more about Sci-Fi than actual science.

    There's a pretty straightforward reason to believe that no practical warp drive will ever exist, and that is that no one has attempted to colonize Earth. It's statistically unlikely that we're the first intelligent life to appear in the Milky Way, and that an intelligent species that evolved like us would tend to want to expand if it were practical to do so. Since they manifestly haven't come here, one needs an explanation for that absence, the "Fermi Paradox" and the leading hypotheses are that interstellar travel is economically impractical, that civilizations always destroy themselves before developing it, or Earth is somehow incredibly special.

    The Bussard Ramjet concept hasn't ever gone anywhere for a variety of reasons, including that the density of free Hydrogen in space is significantly lower than Bussard thought, but also because most Hydrogen is Protium, the vanilla isotope with one proton and no neutrons, and thus the fusion reaction most likely to occur in the ramjet is P + P -> D, resulting in Deuterium, and isotope with one proton and one neutron. Unfortunately, this reaction is endothermic, because a neutron is slightly heavier than a proton, and you need quite a lot of energy to get it to happen. The sun manages to stay lit because the Deuterium + Proton -> He3 reaction is exothermic, as is the next step in the chain where He3 fuses to make He4.

    (Actually, this isn't unfortunate at all, because the sun uses up its supply of Deuterium and Helium-3 almost instantly, but it takes a couple hundred million years to make a dent in its supply of Protium. Physicists have a word for an exothermic reaction that rapidly uses up all available reagent. That word is "bomb".)

    The practical upshot is that the Bussard Ramjet has to expend scads of energy gathering and compressing the interstellar medium and igniting the mostly Hydrogen, to yield an extremely small thrusting force. And that resultant force is so small that the drag force you get from the gigantic scoop slamming into the hydrogen atoms it uses for fuel overcomes it.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bussard_ramjet

    This kind of foolish layman's belief that technology will conquer all limitations eventually is a byproduct of the rapid advances of the last few centuries, and particularly the telecommunications revolution of my lifetime. There are a variety of areas of technology where there has been no meaningful progress for several decades, like engines and plumbing. And there's certainly been no meaningful addenda to the Laws of Physics in about half a century.

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    1. I tend to accept and agree with most of what you are saying, and you sound like an intelligent, well-read person, but I take exception to your implied conclusion: that simply because we CANNOT do it now, we will NEVER be able to do it. That's what they said about space travel... and the space station.... and the space shuttle... at the time each of those things was conceived, the accepted knowledge was that it could never become reality because we did not have the knowledge or the technology to do it.

      And yet, we overcame those limitations and did it anyway.

      There is a saying within the science/science fiction train of thought that applies to mankind's desire to do whatever it is we can do - "Whatever Man can conceive, Man can achieve"

      Never say never.

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    2. Then perhaps I could interest you in investing in my Kickstarter to invent a perpetual motion machine, or organize a Marxist-Leninist command economy.

      Some things we can conceive of are wastes of our time.

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    3. There is always a community of nay-sayers and you appear to be a member, John. That's fine. You can laugh all you want, but remember, when the Wright Brothers were proposing their first areo-plane, the Nay-sayers laughed and said if God had intended Man to fly, He would have given us wings.

      Well, our imagination is our wings. JFK knew that, when he challenged us in 1960, to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade... and we did.

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  4. Dude, scrape the crud off of your imagination. The way we think of FTL travel is the same way we used to think of faster than sound travel. Go back a little further and powered flight was pure scifi.

    I don't believe we cab achieve *anything* we can dream. The Heisenberg principle limits our ability to interrogate our world. Until we figure out how to beat it. While scifi may hate science (I'm not totally sold on this), science fucking loves scifi. Before we can even try to build it, someone has to dream it.

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    1. Couldn't have said it better myself.

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