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Studying the Isolation of Man in the Universe Essay

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Updated: Sep 16th, 2022

One of the 20th century’s major scientific breakthroughs is commonly recognized the Theory of Relativity by Albert Einstein. This theory’s main postulate is that the speed of light (300.000 km per second) is the highest attainable speed for both: elementary particles endowed with mass, and the ‘massless’ ones. In its turn, this postulate presupposes the following:

  1. The observable size of an object that moves through the universe with the speed comparable to the speed of light, relates to the speed’s subtleties in a counter-geometrical progression. That is, the faster is the object’s sub-light speed, the smaller it will appear to an outside observer. In its turn, this suggests that it is practically impossible for physical objects to be propelled with the actual speed of light, as this would result in their de facto disappearance.
  2. The mass of a physical object that moves through the universe with the sub-light speed increases in a positive geometric progression, in regards to the object’s actual ‘fastness’. In theory, the mass of a physical object that moves with the speed of light would be projected into infinity. What it means is that propelling this object to the speed of light would require an infinite amount of energy, which is impossible.
  3. The flow of time, which affects processes that take place within an object that has attained the sub-light speed, slows down considerably. The so-called ‘twin paradox’ is especially illustrative, in this respect (Bernardin 77).

The implication of the Theory of Relativity for the very concept of a deep-space travel is quite apparent – even hypothetically speaking, it will prove impossible to create a spaceship that would be able to travel with the speed of light. What it means, is that, as a best-case scenario, we can only talk about the creation of spaceships that would be able to fly through the universe with the speed substantially lower than that of the speed of light. Given the fact that the closest star to Earth (Proxima Centauri) is estimated to be at the distance of four light-years from our planet, it means that even for the spaceship that could move only three times slower than light, it would still take twelve years to reach this star. Thus, even if such a hypothetical spaceship could be built, launching it into the space would still make very little sense, due to the following:

The principle of ‘colonization justification’

Because the exploration of deep space would prove probably the humanity’s most resource-consuming undertaking, it could never be thought of in terms of a ‘thing in itself’. That is, in order for this exploration to be deemed objectively justified, it must serve the purpose of increasing the extent of humanity’s ‘existential fitness’, such as providing the representatives of Homo Sapiens species with an access to the natural resources, unavailable on Earth. In other words, there can be only one reason for sending people into deep space – expecting that, upon having discovered a habitable world, they will be able to set up a colony there. Nevertheless, in order for the existence of this colony to prove advantageous to the humanity’s overall well-being, the colony’s members could never cease being endowed with the sense of belongingness to their brethren on Earth. This, however, would prove rather challengeable, as people’s very willingness to embark upon an interstellar space-travel presupposes their emotional comfortableness with the prospect of leaving our planet for good. There is even more to it – as practice indicates, in order for just about any colonization-related activity to be considered justifiable, the realization of its potential benefits should not take longer than the lifespan of one generation. This is because, the organized community of people (in our case, a deep-space colony) can only function effectively, for as long as the distance between this community’s members, on the one hand, and the larger ‘community of humanity’, on the other, is lesser than S in the formula S=TxV. In this formula, T stands for the person’s average lifespan and V stands for the speed of transportation (Hans 20). Once this formula is being used to calculate the justified range for deep-space exploration, we will inevitably conclude that the exploration-range cannot exceed one light-year. Because, as it was mentioned earlier, the closest star to Earth is located at the distance of four light-years, this deems the very idea of deep-space exploration discursively unwarranted.

The ‘twin paradox’

As it was already pointed out, according to the Theory of Relativity, the passage of time, within the time-space continuum around the physical objects that attained speeds comparable with the speed of light, slows down rather drastically. Hence, the above mentioned paradox – if, for example, one of the two twins undertook a 5 year-long space voyage in the spaceship traveling with the sub-light speed, upon having returned to Earth, he would realize that his twin has been dead for a long time. This, of course, accentuates another challenge of the sub-light speed space traveling– the fact that, due to the ‘twin paradox’, the humanity is likely to forget about the space-expeditions it has launched in the past. In its turn, this undermines the legitimacy of the very concept of a deep-space exploration, as such that has been dialectically predetermined.

The fact that the space between stars cannot be referred to in terms of a ‘pure vacuum’

Even though that the Theory of Relativity does presuppose that it is possible for material objects to travel through space with sub-light speeds, this particular provision does not increase the actual chances for the sub-light-travelling spaceship to be actually built. This is because, contrary to what it is being commonly assumed, an interstellar space is not the ‘vacuum’ – it is filled with the atoms of hydrogen and with the atoms of more complex chemical elements, created during the explosions of supernovas. The implication of this fact to the very idea of space-traveling with the speed comparable to the speed of light is quite apparent – it will only take the concerned sub-light-travelling spaceship to be hit by the single atom of a physical matter, to be shattered in sub-atomic particles.

Thus, the objective laws of nature deem the idea of an interstellar space travel conceptually erroneous. This, of course, does suggest that, physically speaking, we are in fact isolated from the rest of the universe. At the same time, however, this does not imply that there are no ways for us to establish a connection with a particular extraterrestrial civilization and to maintain it active.

The foremost theoretical premise behind this suggestion is the well-established fact that the continual existence of the universe, as we know it, is predetermined by the sameness of the so-called ‘universal constants’, throughout the universe’s entirety. For example, the universal gravitational constant equals 6.672 (Michelini 64). Had this constant been slightly higher, the universe would have collapsed back into the singularity a long time ago. In its turn, this suggests that the fundamental principles of how non-organic matter self-organizes itself into complex structures are also the same, throughout the universe. Once, we realize that the earlier assumption does constitute an objective truth-value; we will have no option but to recognize that the functional principle of how non-organic matter assumes the subtleties of an organic one (hence, originating the process of a biological evolution), is also universally applicable (Des Marais and Walter 412). This, of course, means that there is nothing truly unique about the Earth-based organic life. Moreover, this also implies that, after having been originated on distant planets, the organic life would develop according to the Darwinian laws of evolution, which would eventually result in the emergence of species, the representatives of which will be capable to operate with utterly abstract categories. What has been said earlier presupposes that there are a few discursive aspects to it, relevant to this paper’s subject matter: a) extraterrestrial civilization must be necessarily expansionist; b) extraterrestrial civilization must be technology-driven; c) just as it is being the case with humans, intellectually advanced extraterrestrials must be endowed with the sense of a cognitive curiosity.

In its turn, this allows us to outline the discursive implications of the fact that the fundamental laws of physics make the concept of an interstellar space travel practically impossible:

It effectively reduces the possibility for both: humans to be conquered by more technologically advanced extraterrestrials, on the one hand, and for less technologically advanced extraterrestrials to be conquered by humans, on the other. After all, the mentioned principles of evolution predetermine a never-ending struggle between the representatives of competing species for the same environmental niche. In other words, had humans encountered extraterrestrials, it would automatically result in the outbreak of a war between them, as the very fact of such an encounter would mean that the both parties compete for the same ‘environmental niche’ within an interstellar space.

Even though that, according to the Theory of Relativity, nothing could travel faster than the speed of light, it still makes a perfectly good sense to try establishing the contact with extraterrestrial civilizations. As of today, this is being done by the mean of analyzing radio signals, originated around different stars, and sending ‘intelligent’ radio signals towards the stars, suspected of having Earth-like planets revolving around them (Tarter 512). It is understood, of course, that even if the existence of a technologically advanced extraterrestrial civilization were confirmed, the time lags between sending messages to this civilization and receiving messages from it, would account for hundreds if not thousands of years. Still, as of today, the earlier mentioned method of seeking the proof that we are not alone in the universe, remains the only available available tool for us to indulge in communication with extraterrestrials. The additional factor that adds to the legitimacy of the above-mentioned communication-establishing method is that fact that, as it was pointed out, the universally applicable laws of evolution establish dialectical prerequisites for technologically advanced extraterrestrials to be cognitively curious. This is why there are good reasons to expect them to begin ‘searching the sky’, as soon as they master the technology of a radio-communication.

Thus, this paper’s ultimate conclusion can be formulated as follows: despite the fact that it is indeed highly unlikely for humans to be able to ever embark upon the exploration of an interstellar space, this does not mean that they will never be able to establish a connection with extraterrestrials.

Works Cited

Bernardin, Andrew. “Einstein, Batman, and the Surfer: A Skeptical View of Time Travel.” Skeptic 10.1 (2003): 76-82. Print.

Des Marais, Donna and Mark Walter. “Astrobiology: Exploring the Origins, Evolution, and Distribution of Life in the Universe.” Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 30 (1999): 397-420. Print.

Hans, Mark. “New Enterprises in Space.” Bulletin of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 28.4 (1975): 14-26. Print.

Michelini, Maurizio. “The Missing Measurements of the Gravitational Constant.” Progress in Physics 3 (2009): 64-68. Print.

Tarter, Jill. “The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI).” Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics 39 (2001): 511- 548. Print.

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