Saturday, January 12, 2008

Spaced out

I would like to travel to another world. By world, I mean another planet. I don't care whether it has any life on it or not, just the novelty of being somewhere completely different will do. I nearly said somewhere completely alien, but I didn't. Everyone uses the word alien when talking about other worlds or life forms in space, but I don't because I like to be different. Maybe being different is just another form of being alien. However, I suppose being alien actually has a smattering of meaning about it which relates to being "other worldly". That’s not the case with me though; I'm different because I don't use the word alien. There you are - I haven't used it so don't even try and pretend I have.

Anyway, I would like to travel to other planets because it is the stuff of dreams, science fiction, and near-future non-fiction. The space industry, though fledgling is really gearing itself up now to kick ass into space in a much bigger way than before, and before we know where we are people having commercial leisure trips into space will be commonplace. Even so, it will still be a long time before we start taking holidays on Mars without a Quantum leap in propulsion technology because it just takes too damn long to get there at the moment. To a space tourist, a three day journey time to the moon is bad enough, but several months holed up in a space ship to get to Mars is something else. Now here's a thought - what if we can start producing anti-matter and unleashing its 100% efficient power to propel us through space? That should speed things up all right. Or better still, being able to exploit zero point energy from space itself??

Now you might think I'm talking crazy here and that none of this is ever going to happen. I'm not so sure. I remember when I was a young teenager (I guess all teenagers are young), when I think back to the technology we relied upon in those days, it seems almost stone age compared to what we take for granted today. Forget computers - look at television (I guess you DO look at television - or watch it anyway). Back in the 60's they were low res 405 lines black and white with three channels if you were lucky. Then it went 625 lines colour. I used to watch it just because it was colour. It didn't matter that I wasn't interested in what was on or the programme was complete crap, it was in colour damn it and that meant you had to watch it and feel very smug and superior in the face of those who still made do with black and white. I guess it's like the difference between dial-up and broad band today. Anyway, I think you catch my drift. Then the screens started to get wider, then the sound went to stereo and satellite and cable came along with squillions of new channels and millions of adverts to watch. Then digital and interactive TV arrived. Then the screens got flat. Then the cathode ray tube (CRT) did a disappearing act and the TVs turned into panels, and all of a sudden 625 lines weren't enough and we were all exalted to convert to High Def (HD) TV. Then, I read in the paper (so it must be true) last week that Philips is launching a 3-D TV onto the market this very month!!! 3-D TV is the next big thing. Get a big enough screen, and you can pretend you are on the Holodeck. As you can see, TV today bares little resemblance to the TV of my youth, apart from perhaps Blue Peter and Coronation Street. Everything else has change almost out of all recognition. Even the news readers have to stand up and walk around in front of panoramic projections while the poor weather reporter has to freeze his balls off or freeze her tits off in the Blue Peter garden!

I am only using TV as an analogy for how much and how quickly things advance before you even realise it. If you look at the world of computing, that has totally grown out of all recognition to the ZX-80 which Sir Clive Sinclair proudly unleashed into our homes in 1980. Now we think nothing of playing around with computers in our houses with far greater computing power than building sized main frames costing many millions of pounds and not very long ago. Now, if you add up all that additional computing power, the political determination of certain governments not to allow certain other governments to steal a march on them in space, as well as the commercial pressure for the new emerging space tourism companies to out-do each other, the massive advances being made in sub-atomic particle physics and the potential for new and undreamed of new sources of power, it all adds up to the dawning of a new age in space exploration, exploitation, or just plain going into space for the fun of it.

To finish on a deeper and more serious note, if mankind is to ultimately survive for any substantial amount of time in terms of the life of the universe, it is essential that we inhabit space and find new worlds and other star systems to live in. We will probably even build our own artificial worlds as well. Why - because the Sun is doomed and us with it if we don't act. We don't have to hurry particularly at the moment as we have another (so we think) billion years or so before we start noticing any real changes in the sun which - it is predicted - will eventually use up all its hydrogen fuel and swell into a giant star, filling most of the view of our sky. The Earth will lose all its atmosphere, the seas will boil away and our planet will be left a charred cinder orbiting a dying star. Now THAT'S what I call global warming!

No comments: