Sunday, December 30, 2007

Crossing The Heliopause

In 2004, the Voyager 1 spacecraft passed through termination shock, the area where the solar winds slow from supersonic speeds to subsonic speeds. Scientists at NASA say this slow down of solar wind produced by our life-giving sun is an indication of a scientific anomaly known as the heliopause. The heliopause itself is the point at which our sun's influence on the universe around it ends and interstellar space begins.

Shannon and I once theorized about what exactly lies beyond the heliopause, not in terms of stars and galaxies, but more in the sense of the laws of physics themselves. In the near future, Voyager 1 may very well make the first extra-solar radio transmission back to Earth. How much do we really know about how the universe works, though? There is much we don't yet know or understand about everyday things we take for granted, such as electricity, electro-magnetism, et cetera.

Just as a quick example, we all know that electricity (more specifically, electrical current) is the motion of negatively-charged electrons around an electrical circuit, but do we really know what drives electrons to behave in this way? What ever this driving force turns out to be, what if it's a phenomenon that can only exist as a result of certain attributes of fields produced by our sun? Many scientists agree that the sun is the engine driving our solar system, and if--or rather, when it eventually dies, the rest of the solar system will also come to a grinding halt. Planetary orbits will eventually slow and stop, as will their axial rotation, and even the cores of the most massive planetary bodies will shut down.

So then, if the physical well-being of our very solar system is so heavily dependent on the nuclear engine at its center, who is to say what will happen when even the most insignificant of man-made machines eventually travels beyond the reach of our sun's powerful influence?

I'll start with electricity, since I have touched on the subject already. It should be obvious that if the existence of electricity depends on a driving force as powerful as our sun, then when any electrically powered machine breaks free of its influence it would shut down. We're not talking power sources here, we're talking about that force that causes electrons to move from one end of a circuit to another. What if, without the sun's power electrons simply cannot move from one point to another?

If our theory is correct, Voyager 1 and 2, as well as Pioneer 10, 11, and any other spacecraft making the voyage beyond our solar system are all doomed to failure. In a few years, when Voyager 1 finally exits the heliopause, we may very well receive a truncated message from the craft as its systems all shut down. NASA scientists will likely be rather perplexed, and may eventually write it off as a system failure. Did we miscalculate something? they might wonder. When the rest of those space probes go out of commission at approximately the same distance from the sun (during or after leaving the heliopause), scientists will be hard-pressed to explain why several unmanned probes have all gone dead under the same circumstances.

Back to the subject at hand, what other ill-fates could this theory propose? Well, take into account the fact that our own organic brains and nervous systems operate on the fundamentals of electricity and you open up a whole new can of worms. Apply this theory to that can of worms and you get a whole lot of dead worms. If electricity cannot exist outside of the heliopause, neither can life in such a scenario. That is unless life can function without electricity. As far as we know, it can't.

So where do we stand now? Organic life, let alone machines, can't survive escaping the sun's influence. So when humans eventually try to make the trip beyond the heliopause, would they suffer the same fate as our unmanned probes, never to be heard from again? Suspend disbelief a moment longer and take a look at other impacts this would have. Obviously, interstellar travel is out of the question. Nothing gets out, but that would also mean nothing is getting in either. I won't go into great detail about this aspect, but it would mean that if there is any extra-terrestrial life capable of visiting Earth, it would have to come from within our solar system. Wouldn't it?

This brings me to my final and probably most important point. Where do we go from here? We could certainly colonize other planets and their moons here in our own solar system, but then we only paint ourselves into a corner. Eventually the sun will burn up most of its hydrogen fuel and expand to nearly ten times its current size as a red giant, swallowing up most of the inner planets before finally shedding its outer layers and shrinking to a white dwarf. If any trace of human life survives long enough to get that far, life will assuredly be much more than just difficult. No, it's my belief that if this theory is correct our only option would be to travel outside of our system through other means. I'm of course talking about other dimensions, worm-hole travel, and other theories such as these.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Infinite

I often think about the universe. Scientists have a lot of ideas about what they think the universe is, how it came to be, and even some theories about how it's supposed to end. However in the end, they're nothing but theories. None of it can be proved definitively. The reason the mainstream theories about the universe and the world around us are so globally acceptable is because they are safe. They don't trample anyone's beliefs. They are open-ended enough to leave room for the possibility of the existence or non-existence of God in whatever form that may be.

What if the universe is infinitely more complex than that? I certainly think it is.

There's a theory just on the fringe of mainstream science that says if the universe were infinite, that even if intelligent life was unique to Earth, eventually in an infinite universe all possibilities also become infinite. Meaning there would be an infinite number of Earths spanning the infinite reaches of space--alternate realities if you will. Extend that theory just a bit to allow for the possibility of other intelligent life, no matter how rare the case is, and in an infinite universe that seemingly rare case of other (extra-terrestrial) intelligent life becomes just as infinite as our own existence in our universe. That's not to say that each and every planet capable of supporting life in any form would necessarily be so. What ever the odds are--be it 1 in billions that life in any form exists elsewhere in our universe, or any other outrageously low chances--they all become infinite. The only difference would be the average distance or time-span in between each occurrence.

For the sake of argument let's imagine that the only life in the universe is terrestrial life. We could say that in every instance of Earth, things are exactly the same, but that would be a very boring universe. For all we know that could be all there is to it. I would rather imagine this is not the case, rather that each version of Earth, even the solar system and our own Milky Way, are each slightly varied. So again, even if each variation is a negligible amount, through infinity there would eventually exist places that are so utterly alien to us that it would be hard for any of us to label many of these worlds another Earth. Essentially we humans become the aliens. Or one could go so far as to say that on some of these other Earths humans died out and something else took their place as the dominant intelligent life, or that humans had never come to be at all.

If instantaneous space travel ever becomes possible for us (think worm-holes or other means of travel that would bend the fabric of space) we could end up discovering one or many of these other Earths. The thing that could really cook your noodle later is, what if the majority of the ones we then discover are so vastly different from our own tiny piece of the universe that we never realize we're in contact with our galactic cousins, humans from another distant part of the universe, from one of these other alternate Earths? Even if we stumbled upon another version of Earth that was only marginally different from our own, such that it was easily recognizable, it would only prove to us that my theory is partially correct. That is, the universe is infinite and because of that fact we are able to find other versions of our world with humans nearly identical to us living there, these alternate realities as I call them. Would it even be possible to prove that the drastically different alternate realities--the ones unrecognizable as other Earths--are really just different version of our own reality, assuming it was true? For that matter how would we ever prove that an alien race is not another version of us?

All possibilities become truth in an infinite universe. Every question could eventually be answered with "yes" and "no," simultaneously.

Is the universe infinite?

the fusi0n effect

I have never really done any blogging before but, as I was just saying to my friend Shannon today, I really have a lot of ideas that I have been telling myself for years that I need to put down on paper. Well, now I figure I'll just post them in a blog instead. It's nearly as good.

So, for now I'm calling my blog "the fusi0n effect." Why? Well, I don't know exactly. Partly because I intend for this blog to be 90% about these ideas and theories that float around in my own head which typically have to deal with physics, reality, the human condition, extra-terrestrial life, and the like. A whole range of topics that I'm really into. Every now and then I might have some posts about more mainstream topics or ideas. At other times I may just be posting about a recent event. Thanks to Shannon for coming up with a blog title for me.

I'm not sure exactly how often I'll be putting up posts--they could be days or weeks apart--but I don't plan on many being very short. Just to reiterate my previous point, I'm creating this blog because I really just want to get some of my ideas down "on paper," so mainly I'm just here doing this for myself. I know of only one person who will read my posts for certain right from the beginning, but if other people start getting into it as well, then cool. If not, I probably won't even notice.