Author Topic: Star Trek fans, prepare to be disappointed: Speed kills.  (Read 4475 times)

Offline White Wolf

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Star Trek fans, prepare to be disappointed: Speed kills.
« on: July 15, 2010, 04:34:54 PM »
Update: An earlier version of this story referred to the Borg using cloaking technology, which several readers pointed out is not supported by televisual evidence. Of course, we were speculating on the technology existing in the alternate universe created by J. J. Abrams. However, to avoid confusion we have amended the decloaking reference to cite the Romulans.

Star Trek fans, prepare to be disappointed. Kirk, Spock and the rest of the crew would die within a second of the USS Enterprise approaching the speed of light.

The problem lies with Einstein's special theory of relativity. It transforms the thin wisp of hydrogen gas that permeates interstellar space into an intense radiation beam that would kill humans within seconds and destroy the spacecraft's electronic instruments.

Interstellar space is an empty place. For every cubic centimetre, there are fewer than two hydrogen atoms, on average, compared with 30 billion billion atoms of air here on Earth. But according to William Edelstein of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, that sparse interstellar gas should worry the crew of a spaceship travelling close to the speed of light even more than Romulans decloaking off the starboard bow.

Special relativity describes how space and time are distorted for observers travelling at different speeds. For the crew of a spacecraft ramping up to light speed, interstellar space would appear highly compressed, thereby increasing the number of hydrogen atoms hitting the craft.

Death ray

Worse is that the atoms' kinetic energy also increases. For a crew to make the 50,000-light-year journey to the centre of the Milky Way within 10 years, they would have to travel at 99.999998 per cent the speed of light. At these speeds, hydrogen atoms would seem to reach a staggering 7 teraelectron volts the same energy that protons will eventually reach in the Large Hadron Collider when it runs at full throttle. "For the crew, it would be like standing in front of the LHC beam," says Edelstein.

The spacecraft's hull would provide little protection. Edelstein calculates that a 10-centimetre-thick layer of aluminium would absorb less than 1 per cent of the energy. Because hydrogen atoms have a proton for a nucleus, this leaves the crew exposed to dangerous ionising radiation that breaks chemical bonds and damages DNA. "Hydrogen atoms are unavoidable space mines," says Edelstein.

The fatal dose of radiation for a human is 6 sieverts. Edelstein's calculations show that the crew would receive a radiation dose of more than 10,000 sieverts within a second. Intense radiation would also weaken the structure of the spacecraft and damage its electronic instruments.

Edelstein speculates this might be one reason why extraterrestrial civilisations haven't paid us a visit. Even if ET has mastered building a rocket that can travel at the speed of light, he may be lying dead inside a weakened craft whose navigation systems have short-circuited
Ok? And?

Not to sound rude or anything, it seems to me that real Scientists are forgetting that Star Trek is just a show and the much of its Tech and sciences is still unproven let lone developed. Also Alien Governments don't think along the same lines as we humans, so they have technological and Medical breakthroughs that we humans have yet to see. So yes, speeds kill at high speeds(I mean Warp), but we have yet develop a means to counter act this.

« Last Edit: July 15, 2010, 04:39:11 PM by White Wolf »
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A mind without a purpose will walk in dark places. - Gideon Ravenor, Inquisitor of the Imperium of Mankind.

Offline Data007

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Re: Star Trek fans, prepare to be disappointed: Speed kills.
« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2010, 09:21:00 PM »
Articles like these conveniently forget the biggest piece of rarely mentioned Trek-tech, the navigation deflector, which is said to defend against such threats. It's such forgetfulness that shows some scientist writers grab for the Trek reference to get readers.
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Offline The Unbound

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Re: Star Trek fans, prepare to be disappointed: Speed kills.
« Reply #2 on: July 16, 2010, 05:47:38 AM »
Wow. If I were a member of the general, scientifically illeterate population, I would be feeling quite illuminated at this point. If I were a sci-fi writer, I would say "He's right. However, in the future, we will have solved that problem."
Steady on.

Offline slash78

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Re: Star Trek fans, prepare to be disappointed: Speed kills.
« Reply #3 on: July 16, 2010, 11:08:38 AM »
Is it just me, or should this be in the Tech forum?

Offline Stoo

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Re: Star Trek fans, prepare to be disappointed: Speed kills.
« Reply #4 on: July 16, 2010, 12:00:52 PM »
Moved, although it could go in GaL too. The author's just making the star trek references as an easy way to get reader attention (and not dwelling on how, really, a society that can build teleporters and warp drives might be able to account for radiation). It's quite an informative piece about a risk that any prospective interstellar ship might face.

Offline Aemielius

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Re: Star Trek fans, prepare to be disappointed: Speed kills.
« Reply #5 on: August 14, 2010, 10:47:19 AM »
Just love it when 'real' scientists get all worked up to prove Science fiction wrong.    Maybe that is why the word, 'fiction' is included.
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