The more we learn about exoplanets and the physics of interstellar travel, the more daunting the prospect of traveling to other stars appears. But in a new essay for Reuters, House of Suns author Alastair Reynolds lays out exactly what we’ll have to do to get to other solar systems.
In a nutshell, we need to let go of our illusions about faster-than-light travel, while also accepting the long timescale needed for developing near-light engines. And we need to learn more about real-life exoplanets and teach our kids about them, while not letting the somewhat disappointing reality of non-Earthlike worlds deter us.
The whole essay is worth reading — here’s how it begins:
It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but it’s starting to look as if Einstein might just have been right about that speed of light thing. From apparently superluminal radio sources in deep space, to the neutrinos that were supposed to be arriving ahead of schedule at the Grand Sasso experiment in Italy, every apparent exception to Einstein’s ultimate speed law has turned out to be a phantom. Even in the quantum realm, where entangled particles seem to communicate with each other instantaneously across any distance, no useful information is shared at anything other than the speed of light.
This is a particular blow if you happen to enjoy the galaxy-spanning fantasies of Star Trek, Star Wars and the like. Dreams of warp drives and hyperspace are just that — dreams.
But that doesn’t mean that interstellar travel is itself a fantasy.
Check out the rest over at Reuters.
Top image: Hubble Space Telescope/NASA.
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