Humanity will never reach the stars.
Why? Well, yeah, why? Humanity will very soon be able to exist fully in virtual reality. Once we have perfect simulation of reality, then our imaginations of what might be in the Universe will greatly exceed what is actually there. Our stories will be much more alluring and billions of times cheaper to explore and investigate. As soon as we can “think” we’re exploring the solar system, the galaxy, and the universe, while being immersed inside VR tanks, or suits or neural implants, then why would humanity spend the time and money _actually_ exploring those spaces?
The scientific community would, one suppose, continue to pursue exploration and discovery, building bots that traveled as fast as they might to other star systems. But the billions of commoners who were more than happy to just sit back and imagine they were on another planet, eating exotic foods, speaking and interacting with bizarre aliens — why would they ever want to risk actually traveling to such locations?
They wouldn’t. And the funding for such actual excursions will dwindle as VR sims become more and more real. The economic reason for exploration of other star systems will fail to compare to the economic reason for delivering an even better virtual world here. And face it, the human imagination is nearly inexhaustible. It’s unlikely that the universe can beat us in the extraordinary portrayal of diversity of life and systems. (Unlikely, not impossible.)
If humanity lives through the next fifty years (no CMEs that destroy civilization, no plagues, no nukes, no asteroids or super volcanoes) then by the time we could actually GO to Mars, we won’t have to, or want to — at least not to experience it. We’ll be able to do that right in our Almost-There-Capsules.
This is one of the solutions to the Fermi Paradox. And, really, humans are almost there.
6 thoughts on “Never to the stars”
Since its discovery was announced in August of 2016, Proxima b has been an endless source of wonder and the target of many scientific studies. In addition to being the closest extra-solar planet to our Solar System, this terrestrial planet also orbits within Proxima Centauri’s circumstellar habitable zone (aka. “Goldilocks Zone”). As a result, scientists have naturally sought to determine if this planet could actually be home to extra-terrestial life.
Many of these studies have been focused on whether or not Proxima b could retain an atmosphere and liquid water on its surface in light of the fact that it orbits an M-type (red dwarf) star. Unfortunately, many of these studies have revealed that this is not likely due to flare activity. According to a new study by an international team of scientists, Proxima Centauri released a superflare that was so powerful, it would have been lethal to any life as we know it.
The study, titled “The First Naked-Eye Superflare Detected from Proxima Centauri”, recently appeared online. The team was led by Howard Ward, a Ph.D. candidate in physics and astronomy at the UNC Chapel Hill, with additional members from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, the University of Washington, the University of Colorado, the University of Barcelona and the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University.
As they indicate in their study, solar flare activity would be one of the greatest potential threats to planetary habitability in a system like Proxima Centauri. As they explain:
“[W]hile ozone in an Earth-like planet’s atmosphere can shield the planet from the intense UV flux associated with a single superflare, the atmospheric ozone recovery time after a superflare is on the order of years. A sufficiently high flare rate can therefore permanently prevent the formation of a protective ozone layer, leading to UV radiation levels on the surface which are beyond what some of the hardiest-known organisms can survive.”
In addition stellar flares, quiescent X-ray emissions and UV flux from a red dwarf star can would be capable of stripping planetary atmospheres over the course of several billion years. And while multiple studies have been conducted that have explored low- and moderate-energy flare events on Proxima, only one high-energy event has even been observed.
Essentially, this and other studies have concluded that any planets orbiting Proxima Centauri would not be habitable for very long, and likely became lifeless balls of rock a long time ago. But beyond our closest neighboring star system, this study also has implications for other M-type star systems. As they explain, red dwarf stars are the most common in our galaxy – roughly 75 percent of the population – and two-thirds of these stars experience active flare activity.
As such, measuring the impact that superflares have on these worlds will be a necessary component to determining whether or not exoplanets found by future missions are habitable.
Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2018-04-proxima-centauri-flare-powerful-visible.html
Phosphorus is an essential element for life — but that there was enough of it for life to start on Earth might just have been a matter of luck, new findings suggest.
According to new observations of the Crab Nebula — the leftovers from an exploding star first seen by Chinese astronomers in 1054 — presented on April 5 at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science in Liverpool, England, the abundance and distribution of phosphorus in the Milky Way galaxy may be more random than scientists previously thought. As such, some places in the galaxy may not have enough phosphorus to support life, even if they are home to otherwise hospitable exoplanets, the researchers said.
Most of the universe’s phosphorus was created during the last gasps of dying massive stars or during a supernova — when such a star exhausts its fuel and explodes. Phosphorus is difficult to observe, and only in 2013 did astronomers make the first measurements of the element in a stellar explosion, in the wispy remains of a supernova called Cassiopeia A. Surprisingly, they found up to 100 times more phosphorus than what’s observed in the rest of the Milky Way.
But that might have been an outlier. Recently, astronomers Jane Greaves and Phil Cigan of Cardiff University in the U.K. pointed the William Herschel Telescope in the Canary Islands toward the Crab Nebula, located about 6,500 light-years away. Preliminary data, analyzed just two weeks ago, shows an amount of phosphorus more similar to the values found in the interstellar gas and dust of the Milky Way — a pittance compared with the abundance in Cassiopeia A. (The findings have not yet been submitted to a peer-reviewed journal.)
“It’s not a guaranteed thing to have phosphorus abundant everywhere, ripe for the picking,” Cigan told Live Science. “It seems to look like luck plays a bigger role in this.”
Some of that luck may come down to size. The star that created Cassiopeia A is roughly twice as massive as the one that made the Crab Nebula. A more massive star could have generated different reactions that produce more phosphorus, the researchers said.
If the production of phosphorus varies widely across the galaxy, so might the likelihood of life on other planets. Even if a planet had every other condition required for habitability, it might still be bereft of life because it formed where there was a dearth of phosphorus, the researchers said.
But the observations are still preliminary; the astronomers were only able to measure parts of the nebula before clouds and a snowstorm spoiled the rest of their observing run. Still, Cigan said, the data they do have show significantly less phosphorus in the Crab Nebula than in Cassiopeia A.
The researchers have applied to use the Herschel Telescope to study the rest of the nebula. Future analysis will also include comparisons with computer models, Cigan said.
Ultimately, astronomers will need to measure phosphorus in other supernova remnants across the cosmos, Cigan said. “We really want to look at how it’s spreading out from supernova remnants and falling back into the interstellar medium — that’s the key.”
Originally published on Live Science.
Red dwarfs are the most common type of stars in the Milky Way and it is believed that about 75% of our galaxy is composed of such celestial bodies. In addition, many exoplanets have been detected around red dwarfs and astronomers considered that red dwarfs are the best candidates for hosting exoplanet which could be home for extraterrestrial life forms.
The fact that these stars are stable, relatively cool (around 3,800 degrees Celsius), and that they live billions of years, makes it seem like they would be the perfect places to look for habitable exoplanets.
However, according to new research presented at the beginning of April at the European Space Science and Astronomy Week in Liverpool, red dwarfs could be much more inhospitable to life than previously thought.
To assess the risks to which an exoplanet located near a red dwarf is exposed to, a team of astronomers led by Eike Guenther, from the Thueringer Observatory in Germany, monitored a series of red dwarfs to observe their flares.
Red dwarfs are not the best stars to hold exoplanets which can bare extraterrestrial life forms
The astronomers managed to detect a great solar flare in the red dwarf AD Leo, which has a giant planet orbiting at a distance of approximately 300,000 kilometers.
In addition, AD Leo could have other planets of similar sizes to the Earth, orbiting farther away, in the habitable zone of the solar system.
The initial results showed that the giant planet was not affected by the powerful solar flare and that, contrary to what happens in similar solar events, such explosion was not accompanied by a CME (coronal mass ejection).
This is potentially good news for life on planets located farther from a red dwarf since it is believed that CMEs could destroy the atmosphere of smaller planets. In general, the team of astronomers believes that CMEs are generally less common in smaller stars.
On the other hand, X-ray radiation emitted by the solar flare of red dwarfs is dangerous. According to Guenther’s team, it would be able to traverse the atmosphere and reach the surface of an exoplanet like Earth. In such a scenario, it is likely that only the marine life could evolve.
While the scientific community is making great efforts to find an exoplanet like Earth that can host extraterrestrial life forms, if the data from Guenther’s research is correct, then the existence of a “second Earth” in the orbit of a red dwarf is very improbable.
That’s an off-beat movie (Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jude Law) that explores the immersive worlds of full VR gaming.
When is the game over and real life continues? If VR becomes so much more appealing that our mundane life, as this movie shows, will we ever want to emerge from its siren’s call?
“The need to connect is just a fundamental human need. The technology of VR allows you to feel present in a way that I don’t think we have ever seen before. It’s such a primal, visceral reaction you get. Which is why if you look at just a 2-D version of what we’re doing it’s like, “Um, what is that?” But if you’re in it, you’re like, “Oh, I get it.” Combined with people you already know, it’s like this crazy magic sauce of “I want to hang out with you; holy crap, you’re really there; now I can do that; now I can actually be with you.””
“Let’s say the future for most people is a universal basic income, wonderful psychedelic drugs, and virtual reality video games. People don’t starve. They aren’t miserable. But they also stop striving. The Walt Disney virtues—challenge yourself! go on an adventure!—are sacrificed to live permanently inside of Disney-style entertainment. Is that utopia or dystopia?”