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I want to present a different view of the universe. I’m not saying I’m right or any other view is wrong. It’s just another way of looking at things.

The goal of these discussions is to put humans, or human surrogates, in remote parts of the universe inaccessible by current technology and, more to the point, inaccessible by laws of physics and biology, which place speed and time caps on all activities, and very limited ones on metabolizing organisms. Our current methods take too long by factors in the billions, and require far more fuel than can be carried on any ship. It will take a radical reconceptualization of multiple components to improve the prognosis for long-distance stellar travel.

The so-called Theory of Everything, a hypothetical all-encompassing framework of equations for nature, doesn’t account for consciousness or does so only if consciousness is an epiphenomenon assumed to arise from other sub-equations. The only role that consciousness can play in advanced propulsion is as a witness or stage manager. It cannot introduce nonlocal jumps.

The general premise is that all this rigmarole—the universe of gravity, stars, cities—arose in the middle of nowhere for no apparent reason, and there could as likely have been nothing at all or a very different sort of universe—and may well have been both of these for countless epochs. This may be the only universe to come along in which we could even have such a discussion.

For better or worse, we won’t have the lovely spectacle of an Atlas 5 blast-off into cloud-spackled heavens, carrying New Horizons on a ten-year voyage to Pluto on into the Kuiper belt. We won’t revisit Viking, Explorer, Thor, or Titan launches, none of which could get a human (or a fly) to any other habitable body in the universe, though each followed a clear, logical progression from Galileo and Newton to the space program as we know it.

In the foreseeable future no currently operating spacecraft of NASA, Russia, China, Richard Branson, Elon Musk, or Jeff Bezos, is going to deliver humans or a humanoid object even near Alpha Centauri in the next solar system. I consider solar-wind-blown sails impractical thought experiments and/or conflations of current variables with hypothetical systems—gaming solutions rather than likely missions. Even the relatively feasible colonization of Mars is outside our current political-economic and ecological range. The lack of breathable air, food, or shelter from solar radiation and the immediate environment is not just an incidental set of problems to be solved by on-site tinkering or a science-fiction trilogy. It is a module-by-module, droplet-by-droplet undertaking. It would make more sense to get the plastic out of the Pacific Ocean than pump oxygen from the Martian north pole into a dome—a somewhat comparable venture. Don’t get me wrong. It may happen, but Mars still doesn’t get us very far.

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Category: Science