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Showing posts from June, 2014

Interstellar Fortresses and Starship Combat

Shields, forcefields, and screens of various kinds adorn much of science fiction that deals with interstellar travel. There's a literary reason why this is so. As per the linked  New Scientist Article , while there are on average only 2 hydrogen atoms per cubic centimeter in the vacuum of space (Earth's atmosphere at sea level is 15 billion billion times as dense), a ship going near-light speed would slam into so many hydrogen atoms that the effect would be like standing directly in front of the business end of the Large Hadron Collider. At a high percentage of the speed of light, a human being would receive a lethal dose of radiation in far less than a second. The way stories have dealt with this phenomenon for the most part is to imagine some future design using a force, unknown to today's physics that conveniently blocks all that pesky radiation. In a future post I'll talk about what I think the best candidate for such a design would be, but for now let's say t

A Step Toward Replicators

Star Trek series past the original have famously featured "replicators," machines that through technology linked to transporters could create any substance out of pure energy. In my Troubles with Transporters  bit on this blog I complained that if transporter technology really were able to work, it would have logical implications that are ignored in Star Trek, like being able to copy people at will. Not to mention there being serious issues with the realism of any transporter technology in the first place due to the Heisenburg Uncertainty Principle--it is impossible under the current understanding of physics to know where all the particles of your body or an object to be assembled really are, which would make it impossible to reassemble them with total accuracy... But another approach to "replicators" is soon to enter service. A  3d printer is to fly in space  on the International Space Station, as referenced in the linked article (by the way, I was steered to th

Breeds of Hypothetical Domesticated Humans

In an earlier post I entitled  An Unexpected Artificial Intelligence Revolution-  I speculated on the possibility of advanced artificial intelligences keeping human beings around essentially as house pets. Well, if we're going to speculate along those lines, what if the same artificial intelligences deliberately bred human beings to produce specific traits that especially distinguish them, much like human beings have bred the first wolf-like dogs into creatures as small as teacup chihuahuas to as large as Saint Bernards, in the act of breeding adding spots or stripes or rings, hair of different length and colors, breeding completely different face and body shapes and wildly differing behaviors. Presume for the sake of this idea that the same thing could be done with human beings--an argument could be made that humans already self-select for certain traits, which is perhaps why "natural" human diversity is quite large. Thinking we've already bred ourselves into a w