When can mankind reach the nearest stars?


Sooo true! Don't know of any books discussing it though. An example would be the stargate from the movie and tv series.
How far out can we imagine with what we know? Riding a light beam? Goku's "Instant Transmission" technique, lol....I got nothing else. Nothing travels faster than the speed of light supposedly so short of interdimensional leapfrogging I don't know what else there is.

I'd add that we are still wanting physical travel, the fax scenario/example isn't really comparible. We, so far, have not developed anything better except a better horse for physical travel. We can explore remotely but it still uses physical travel,a fax can't very well explore unreachable areas....just sayin.
It just occurred to me we DO have an example of what I mean. It's Q in Star Trek. Presumably the Q use some kind of means to appear wherever they want. I wouldn't even call it 'travel' per se.

And the fax idea wasn't an example so much as an analogy. The concept of moving information via horse is apples-to-orange different from the concept of moving information by fax. No matter though. They're both not Q :D


Yeah I mentioned a character named Goku from an animation called DragonballZ and his instant transmission technique....it's the same as Q's basically.
I don't know how that's helpful though...we don't know anything about it other than it's a convenient bit of writing. It's a god like power thats totally mysterious. Could be interdimensional I guess....
Which brings us to Clarke's idea about sufficiently advanced technology being like magic to us, or "godlike". TVs would seem magical to someone from a thousand years ago, yet now we can buy one for a couple hundred bucks at the corner grocery store. I guess I'm starting to sound like a broken record :) just that notion really fascinates me.


Mouthy Cow

I was expecting that.

It's easy to stipulate that a stunning step-change/leap-forward in scientific theory is just around the corner. To counter your Aurthur C. Clarke (who was a fabulist and eternal optimist) I dare offer the counter-argument put forward -- first encountered by me in the novel Stand on Zanzibar, by the excellent Brit SF writer, John Brunner -- who decried (very accurately considering his prescient 1960's perspective) the advances in science and technology of 21st century man.

He was right then, and he remains right today.

The only technology we have invented since 1945 is the hydrogen bomb.

Cell phones, computers, the internet -- hell! All electronics-based technology -- rely on the transistor developed from early patents filed in 1925.

Space flight? Developed from Nazi research and development that culminated in the V2.

Antibiotics and vaccinations? Nothing new ... just more of the same.

Fuel cells? 1839

Genetics? Aha! 1953, Watson and Crick, right? Yeah, sure they won kudos for the working out the structure, but DNA was already well known ... all they did was help unravel its structure and unlock the key to how it does what it what it does.

There may be technologies grown from genuine new scientific advances which have been introduced since 1945, but if there are any, I can't think of them. Conversely the previous 75 years had seen unprecedented advances: powered flight, relativity, internal combustion, radio and electronics, quantum theory, to name a few examples.

The best we've been able to do since then is come up with the Big Bang (which is no longer looking as definitively exclusive of alternatives -- steady state static vs infinite (and let's not forget the "phlogiston" of dark matter and dark energy summoned up to shore up the rapidly collapsing big bang "illusion". ([eta] I just remembered carbon nanotubes, buckyballs, and graphene ... but these have yet to yield any substantive socio-economic impact-- which is the benchmark of a technological advance.)

For certain we do not know all there is to know; but it is decidedly more certain that the pace at which we gain new insights and knowledge which was previously unknown to us has slowed from "hare" speed to "geological" non-speed. :sleep:
Mirelly - so am I hearing you say everything's been invented, and pretty much from here on out it'll just be refinements on existing technologies?


Mouthy Cow
Ah, Ken, it's true; I am that curmudgeon.

Seriously though ... I have real trouble trying to think of any dramatically useful innovation from the last seventy five years that wasn't a derivative of a scientific breakthrough from the preceding seventy five. It would be true to say -- viewed from a strictly Western standpoint -- that the last six centuries can be split into four separate, but often overlapping, ages of human development, namely: The Renaissance; The Age of Exploration and Colonisation; The Industrial Revolution; The Technological Revolution.

I would contend that the technological revolution ran, haltingly at first from around 1880-1900 to around 1950.

Whatever epithet this "modern age" eventually acquires through historical perspective I believe it is fair to say it's already half over, given that all preceding periods generally lasted between one and two centuries. The best suggestion for naming the modern age that occurs to me is: The Space Age.

In that regard we started with a bang. 25 years from a sub-orbital V2 to Armstrong and Aldrin. Thanks to the colossal mis-management of NASA our development of space exploration hit the buffers when poor old Jack Swigert threw the switch on the faulty, but outrageously expensive, LOX stirrer. Then came Challenger, Columbia, missions to Mars marred by an idiot-inspired administration that allowed different teams to use different units of measure, a billion dollar telescope with myopia .... Frankly I have more hope that China will establish a permanent moon-base before anyone else ... and the first foot one Mars will undoubtedly be a Chinese one.

Meanwhile I continue to follow the science and technology news and goggle over the latest announcement of stunning breakthroughs and discoveries. But mostly there is just disappointment.

For example room temperature semi-conductors are just as much a fiction as they were twenty seven years ago when it was announced that a material had been found that did not need liquid hydogen (-253C) to function ... nah ... it was 20 or 30 degrees warmer ... liquid nitrogen territory. Since then the newest copper oxide compounds have pushed the temperature up to -140C ... still more than 60 degrees colder than dry ice.

Antibiotics are another disappointment. No new antibiotic type has been developed for 15 years -- and bear in mind that if one is announced today, it will take 5-8 years to gain FDA and European safety licensing. Meanwhile, MRSA, C. difficule, E. coli, M. tuberculosis, to name but a few of the most deadly, are rapidly evolving immunity to every last one of the drugs that still do work. I've seen some stunning research which could yield amazing results -- two or three entirely different approaches -- but I've yet to see evidence that anyone is offering the multi-billion bucks investment needed to produce actual treatments from the theory.

Sadly, this modern age has an additional scourge to beat us with: climate change! Will that ultimately force us back on the road to the stars? It might, if it doesn't destroy us first. Perhaps it might lead to some clever clogs to create an artificial self-replicating photosynthetic unit which uses CO2 from the air, sunlight, and seawater to produce oxygen, carbohydrates, electricity, fresh water, fertilisers, and various salts for industry. Cover the Sahara, the Gobi, and Nevada with the stuff and watch CO2 levels plummet.

Ah ... dreams are good, ain't they?:rolleyes:


Actually there's a lot of work being done in sustainable agriculture to cut down on fertilizers which are having profound impacts on degraded desert environments. Carbon sequestration is a key ingredient.

So, weather or not one believes in the theory of man made global warming, believes in cyclical climate change or thinks it's all BS, we could all benefit from a healthier environment and less desert.