May 07, 2010

Time Travel and What Not ...

Stephen Hawking continues to stretch the frontiers of the human imagination even as his body continues to be confined to a wheelchair!

What an inspiring story his life has been ...

Although there have been legitimate debates about the true value and fundamental nature of his contributions to astrophysics, I believe his having accomplished all that he has is in itself an extraordinary story of the triumph of the human spirit.

The world of physics is awash with geniuses of all sorts ... from Feynman to Dirac to so many others ... and yet, Hawking remains a uniquely inspirational figure.

And now through a TV series, he is talking to the general TV viewing audience about difficult concepts of astrophysics. Again, a laudable enterprise.

It feels odd at times to think that we are part of the same humanity: one part of which is struggling to get access to the basic necessities of life such as food, water, clothing, housing while there are these scientists who build these remarkable stuff and dream up even more fantastic equipment.

I don't know whether mankind will one day master the technology necessary to travel to the center of the galaxy in the span of one human lifetime. Of course, as one travels closer to the speed of light, time itself slows down so that one person may in his or her lifetime visit the center and come back ... but then a lot of time would have passed here on Earth ... I don't remember the implications of Special Relativity too clearly. I am confused.

I hope mankind will first take care of some of the age-old problems such as infectious diseases and poverty, etc. Overpopulation is an endemic problem plaguing our species of course.

It's a basic biological need that humans have to procreate. I don't know when they will learn to outgrow that necessity.

Mankind is still devoting an enormous amount of effort to warfare — nationalism is an infantile thing and I wonder when we will outgrow that immature phase of being.

Once we stop wasting precious mental energy on some of these pointless endeavors, we will begin to devote all our energy on important activities and mankind will make real progress.

Let's go to Mars! Such a technically feasible project and yet so far in the future ...

Let's go invent new propulsion techniques to power new generation rockets that will be able to reach nearby stars in a few years, such as 5 years to Proxima Centauri.

Then, we can start to dream bigger ... of travelling 100 light years and 1,000 light years and 10,000 light years!

Oh what glories await us!!! What glories await humanity!!! If only we stop being petty animals devoted to territorial battles.

Onward to Andromeda!!! 2 million light years! Wow!

Simple laws of Physics imply that light will take 2 million years to travel there ... but perhaps with enough ingenuity, we can create appropriately placed wormholes so that we can travel from galaxy to galaxy almost instantaneously ...

I mean, it would be somewhat interesting if travelling through such wormholes becomes somewhat unpredictable — such as, say, if you are planning to travel in the direction of the Andromeda galaxy but in reality end up travelling in the exact opposite direction ...

How will you know then that you are about 4 million light years away from your intended destination? Perhaps, there are some constants in the universe that can serve as cosmic Pole stars that remain constant in some way ... and in that case, when you come out of that wormhole, you can check your 'orientation' and where you have reached vis-à-vis where you intended to reach ...

Fantastic, fascinating future!!! If only we stop fighting wars and procreating ... alas. Not in my lifetime. Perhaps, I will be reborn on this planet a thousand years hence and witness some of these magic as reality. But, I don't think that's likely.

Once our life is over, I think it's over forever. Nothing survives. Not our soul. Nothing. Alas ...

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