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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Science Fiction

I have been reading science fiction for a long time. The limited knowledge of physics that I have always seemed to take the credibility/punch out of the most consummate plots. I guess that is why it is Science Fiction and not just science. Nonetheless, I thought that in the past decade that I havent stayed in touch with the development in physics beyond the third law (There is no end to being pushed around) and relativity (in grading and performance appraisal, that is), it may be that some of the old science fiction may have ceased to be fiction. After a long time of struggling with five dimention mathematics and string theories, I had to give up (Surprise, surprise). But, it did enable me to look at science fiction from a very comical angle.

Consider an example of a starship located about ten light years away from Planet Earth (It will still be next-door neighbour to Earth at a cosmic scale) and communicating with Earth over a three-dimensional telephone line (wireless, of course). Now, since I know, thanks to Einstein, that nothing can travel faster than light, let us see how the communication flows:

Earth: "Hi there" ; October, 2047, Solar Calendar, Galactic Era

This signal, assuming it travels at the speed of light, will take about ten years to get to the Starship.

Starship Captain: "Hi yourself" ; October 2057, Solar Calendar, Galactic Era

Earth in-charge, if he chooses to continue this rather quiet conversation, will get the reply in 2067, Solar Calendar, Galactic Era. Imagine if he did'nt really keep a detailed log of all the multiple conversations he has been having and in this particular case, cannot recall what they were talking about.

Earth: "Sorry, how can I help you?" October 2067, Solar Calendar, Galactic Era

Starship Captain: "Huh?" October 2077, Solar Calendar, Galactic Era

Earth: "Oh yes, you are relieved of duty with immediate effect and can come back home. A very well deserved vacation. Congratulations." October 2087, Solar Calendar, Galactic Era

Starship Captain: "There is some disturbance in the line. Can you repeat that?" October 2097, Solar Calendar, Galactic Era.

The captain, in this story, finally gets the message two decade hence and promptly dies of heart attack as the excitement of the news was too much for that old age. The above is just one example. Now, imagine coordinating troops for a space-war against aliens, romancing with your lover, wishing your son on his birthday or playing long-distance scramble/chess with your grand-dad etc. etc.

The only way, this could be faster, is a) modes of travelling faster than light are possible or b) the world is full of almost immortal bored individuals devoid of any life (Notice the similarity with zombies). Since (a) is virtually impossible (or so I think), it is most likely going to be (b).

I am glad that I wont be around to check that out.

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