Thursday, 28 January 2010

Brave New World

A popular trope in science fiction is the colonising spaceship sent out to explore some promising star. The distances involved are such that the journey could take centuries, and, once there, the settlers will essentially be out of contact with Earth. There are two main ideas for getting live and viable humans across interstellar distances and timespans. The first is to have on board a fully functioning ecosystem, in which a breeding populations of humans would live. The eventual colonisers, then, would be the great grandchildren of the initial crew. The other is to cryogenically freeze the crew, then autothaw them on arrival.

Think of it, in 30 years time, you see an ad in the paper (or in whatever ads are in in 30 years time). Head to the Stars! it will say, sleep for 200 years and wake up surrounded by beautiful green alien women, wanting you to demonstrate this human concept of 'love'. Sounds great, right? Where do I sign, you're thinking. I would urge caution before committing your mark to the contract.

Imagine if the technology had existed in 1910 to send people to the stars in 200 years; they would be halfway through their journey by now. I think it is fairly safe to say that if that technology had existed, we would have ships today that would be, on a very conservative estimate, twice as fast. A crew setting forth today, then, would arrive at the same time. So, bold 1910 explorer, how do you feel with your revolver and telegram, when your brass spaceship door rolls open to reveal the other ship parked just across the way disgorging its crew with their iPods, tastefully aged jeans, relaxed attitudes towards sexuality and, most strikingly, hand-held automatic weaponry. Indeed, oh voyager, how do you feel now?


Post a Comment