March 13, 2010 | David F. Coppedge

Man Will Never Fly (to the Stars)

It’s risky to say “never” in science.  The Man Will Never Fly Society had a short life.  However, an article on makes it seem a safe bet that, Star Trek notwithstanding, warp-speed flights to the stars are out of the question for humans.  “Warp speed will kill you,” the article announced; why?  Because interstellar hydrogen atoms would become lethal weapons, delivering a deadly radiation blast to ship and crew.  The ship’s electronics would fry and the crew would be killed instantly.  The last thing Kirk might have told Scotty was, “Jump to warp speed.”
    Don’t think that “Shields up” would have helped.  If the Enterprise didn’t have shields a kilometer thick (making warp speed all the more impractical), they would not have done any good.  William Edelstein (Johns Hopkins U) explained these problems to a meeting of the American Physical Society last month.  The demise of the Trekkie dream is not the only ramification, he said.  The physical barriers to near-light speed also suggest that aliens would have been physically unable to drop in for a visit – if they are made of atoms.  “Getting between stars is a huge problem unless we think of something really, really different,” Edelstein said.  “I’m not saying that we know everything and that it’s impossible. I’m saying it’s kind of impossible based on what we know right now.”  Trekkies might still take hope in lessons from history where yesterday’s impossibilities, like flying, became today’s everyday experience.

It is a safe bet that star travel is not going to happen in your lifetime.  And if the UFO people are wrong, aliens have not figured out a solution, either (or they do not exist, or have quarantined us).  This might be the answer to the Fermi Paradox – where are they?  They can’t get here.  Reality has a way of spoiling a good fantasy.
    Accept your limitations.  You’re stuck here, physically (not a bad place though, no?).  In your mind’s eye, you can travel to the outer limits at the speed of thought.  Star Trek is real – in the movie theaters.  Those movies did not just happen.  They were made by the combined efforts of dozens of creative minds with feet on the earth.  Star Trek demonstrates that anything creative requires intelligent design.  It reminds us that our aspirations outpace our physical bodies.  It can be a stepping stone to the realization that we had better quit fantasizing and get busy fulfilling those aspirations by reading and following the Operations Manual of the ultimate intelligent designer, who planted those aspirations within us.  Joining his enterprise is the only hope of star travel some day.

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Categories: Astronomy, Human Body, Physics

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