Scotty, you promised me an estimate on the dilithium crystals
June 10, 2024 12:33 PM   Subscribe

If a superluminal—meaning faster than the speed of light—warp drive like Alcubierre’s worked, it would revolutionize humanity’s endeavors across the universe, allowing us, perhaps, to reach Alpha Centauri, our closest star system, in days or weeks even though it’s four light years away. from A Groundbreaking Scientific Discovery Just Gave Humanity the Keys to Interstellar Travel [Popular Mechanics]

The Alcubierre Warp Drive, previously
posted by chavenet (77 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Is there a version of this that doesn't need a PopMech subscription?
posted by mephron at 12:36 PM on June 10 [4 favorites]


that "if" is doing a lot of work
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:39 PM on June 10 [37 favorites]


Welp, looks like Bozeman housing prices aren't getting any better anytime soon.
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:42 PM on June 10 [6 favorites]




Yeah, Popular Mechanics has an item that keeps lurking in my Apple News feed claiming that scientists have determined that consciousness pervades the entire universe.

So maybe we should just ask it if there's anything at Alpha Centauri worth the trip?
posted by Naberius at 12:43 PM on June 10 [8 favorites]


Has Popular Mechanics done a Newsweek?
posted by saturday_morning at 12:45 PM on June 10 [8 favorites]


Wow, I can't wait to never hear about this again.
posted by AlSweigart at 1:03 PM on June 10 [25 favorites]


Since Scotty always quadrupled his estimates, should be expect this to be built in 1/4 the time?
posted by RonButNotStupid at 1:08 PM on June 10 [4 favorites]


Having skimmed the article, my takeaway is, yes this works on paper and does not break the laws of physics, we just need to find a way to apply the mass of two Jupiters in a localized area in front of the craft we need to propel. So unless I'm misreading, and no doubt someone will let me know if I am, it seems like exchanging one theoretically impossible thing for a technically possible but practically impossible thing. But progress!
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 1:11 PM on June 10 [19 favorites]


Having not read the article, I'm going to say BS.

"In relativity, any method to travel faster than light can in principle be used to travel back in time (a time machine)."

Does the article address time travel and/or the chronology protection conjecture?
posted by justkevin at 1:17 PM on June 10 [5 favorites]


However, the Alcubierre drive has a glaring problem: the force behind its operation, called “negative energy,” involves exotic particles—hypothetical matter that, as far as we know, doesn’t exist in our universe.
Needs more spherical cowbell.
posted by pracowity at 1:18 PM on June 10 [21 favorites]


Pour one out for Popular Mechanics — one of many publications which would have been better off retired & archived at some point in the last decade or so, rather than ending like this, their last remaining brand value being extracted for a few more clickbait ad dollars.
posted by johnabbe at 1:25 PM on June 10 [12 favorites]


The problem with Popular Mechanics is that being popular is not the same as being smart.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 1:26 PM on June 10 [11 favorites]


Maybe Vogons use them to efficiently clear the way for hyperspace express lanes.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 1:29 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


So maybe we should just ask it if there's anything at Alpha Centauri worth the trip?


LEAVE CROWLEY ALONE DAMMIT HE'S SUFFERED ENOUGH
posted by The Ardship of Cambry at 1:40 PM on June 10 [4 favorites]


Based on what I've read, rather than calling the Alcubierre drive "possible", I think it's more accurate to call it "not known to be impossible", which isn't exactly the same thing. Likewise, we haven't shown we can build them; we've just not come up with a solid argument that we can't.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 1:43 PM on June 10 [12 favorites]


the model still needs to plug in a mass equivalent to about two Jupiters …to achieve sub-light speed.

I see they’re taking a practical approach.
posted by Revvy at 1:43 PM on June 10 [5 favorites]


we just need to find a way to apply the mass of two Jupiters in a localized area in front of the craft we need to propel

Simple matter of engineering.

Get cracking. Those underpants aren't going to gather themselves.
posted by flabdablet at 1:48 PM on June 10 [6 favorites]


I'll be happy if it gets to Mars quick enough that we tell Elon and his billionaire buddies to piss off and don't come back.

Then we stop sending them re-supply.
posted by JustSayNoDawg at 2:06 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


we just need to find a way to apply the mass of two Jupiters in a localized area in front of the craft we need to propel

That sounds easy, but I just checked and we only have one Jupiter and someone is using it.
posted by Vox Clamato at 2:13 PM on June 10 [30 favorites]


Based on what I've read, rather than calling the Alcubierre drive "possible", I think it's more accurate to call it "not known to be impossible",

That’s exactly it. The (very complex) math doesn’t forbid it, which is neat, but you’ve got to have particles that have negative mass. That makes life exceedingly weird! Folks have worked out those weird complications in general relativity (including whether it would be *inertial* or *gravitational* mass, which are the same for everything we’ve been able to measure, but don’t have to be.

Just because the math says “enh, okay, I guess” doesn’t mean it’ll be a real thing in our universe. Global entropy goes in one direction, even though the math says it can go in either. Negative mass may be like that. Sure, the math works, but as with entropy, the reality of it may not. And without negative mass, the Alcubierre drive doesn’t get you past the speed of light.
posted by sgranade at 2:15 PM on June 10 [8 favorites]


The interesting thing about this one is that it doesn't need negative mass. It also doesn't go FTL.

A sub-lightspeed warp drive would still be effectively reactionless, I think? Which would be extremely useful.
posted by BungaDunga at 2:21 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


I recently ran across a paper which attempts to simulate a "containment failure" for such a system, in the context of detecting gravitational wave signatures. I guess it's good as any other effort in the search for life, if we assume all lifeforms are occasionally fuckups.
posted by credulous at 2:27 PM on June 10 [7 favorites]


Sure, the math works, but as with entropy, the reality of it may not

I look at it the same way I look at atoms we synthesize in a lab. Not typically found in nature — or even probably not able to be found in nature, given the conditions required for the right random elements to come together (or, maybe so, but very, very rare). But these elements are things we have definitely been clever enough to engineer and create in our observable corner of the universe, without having to harness and collide neutron stars. I wouldn't necessary rule out this or a similar drive, if the math allows it, and if — more importantly — we or our offspring survive long enough to engineer a solution.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 2:29 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


If wishes were fishes we'd all ride horses.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:20 PM on June 10 [4 favorites]


that consciousness pervades the entire universe.

There are a surprisingly large number of respectable quantum physicists who believe that waveform collapse requires a conscious observer.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:23 PM on June 10 [7 favorites]


Halo drives remains more realistic/interesting.

After all, Gaia-BH1 and Gaia-BH3 are "only" 1560 and 2000 light-years away, respectively. Just 26 or 35 million years of travel at Voyager 1 speeds. After which, you've a nearly unlimited ride metro card.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:34 PM on June 10 [4 favorites]


I wouldn't necessary rule out this or a similar drive, if the math allows it, and if — more importantly — we or our offspring survive long enough to engineer a solution.

That’s fair, and I’ll caveat my response with the recognition that I’ve been discussing reactionless drives and the like for a while, which lends me a certain weariness that may not be warranted. But my gut reaction is that “the math allows it“ is great for fun SF-nal extrapolation but less great for pinning realistic hopes on.

I chose entropy as a touchstone very specifically. If someone came to us saying “I can reverse entropy! Watch me re-assemble a shattered vase!” then most of us would (I hope!) be skeptical and want definitive proof. Reactionless drives, where you get thrust for nothing and thus can have growth in energy without bounds, fall in the same category for me. The patent office may accept applications for perpetual motion machines; I don’t have to, absent strong proof. At this point, General Relativity falls in the same category for me, even if the math behind it is more knotty and we haven’t evolved a gut understanding of it the way we have with entropy.

In short, “this doesn’t require exotic negative-mass materials! But it gives us a reactionless drive!” is not a selling point for me.
posted by sgranade at 3:55 PM on June 10 [8 favorites]


FYI, a month or two we discussed the related (ha) reactionless drive concept over on Ask Mefi.

Whenever (likely) nonsense like this pops up in the news, if I bother at all, I head over to the NASAspaceflight forum to see what they are saying about it over there, specifically the section about woowoo physics and space travel. Here's the NSF thread on Albucierre drive, cued up to a post about that latest paper. Sabine Hossenfelder did a video about it.

(posted without reading prior comments; will be back later)
posted by intermod at 3:56 PM on June 10 [4 favorites]


The last human is going to die on the same planet we evolved on. The colonial mentality has people desperately trying will another frontier to exploit into existence instead of acknowledging we actually need to take care of our home and our fellow creatures. The literally impossible is more conceivable than the end of capitalism.
posted by The Manwich Horror at 4:09 PM on June 10 [15 favorites]


The colonial mentality

It's not just a mentality. Virtually every human alive is descended from malcontents who decided "screw this" and settled over the next hill. Expansion was a very successful evolutionary strategy for many many generations.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:18 PM on June 10 [11 favorites]


This isn't the first time Martire has presented the idea of a positive mass warp drive. Here is a response to the last time, arguing these solutions still violate the weak energy condition (which Alcubierre evoked the negative mass to avoid in the first place.)
posted by The Manwich Horror at 4:42 PM on June 10 [5 favorites]


If some hypothetical negative mass matter can enable FTL travel, and FTL travel violates causality, I'm going to make a wild speculation that negative mass matter therefore cannot exist. Like, if someone proposes a machine that grossly violates the 2nd law of thermodynamics, are scientists' first thoughts going to be: "Gosh, that's amazing they outsmarted thermodynamics"? or will they assume that the machine is impossible. But sure, I guess it's cool that if we can just scrounge up 4 yotta-tons of matter to dangle in front of a spacecraft we can possibly get to some fraction of sub-light speed and explore the closest 100 stars (within 20ly). I wonder how well it steers.
posted by WaylandSmith at 4:46 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


Jesus fucking christ I'd settle for workable large-scale fusion power at this point
posted by pullayup at 5:44 PM on June 10 [6 favorites]


I'd settle for workable large-scale fusion power at this point

We have workable large-scale fusion power, and have been successfully exploiting it (for a broad definition of "we") for at least three and a half billion years at this point.

But noooo, people want small-scale fusion power that can fit inside a building instead. Wankers.
posted by heatherlogan at 6:42 PM on June 10 [27 favorites]


It's always surprising to me how almost pathologically negative and hostile MetaFilter is to any potential advances in space travel like this.

The much more sensible reaction is as expressed by They sucked his brains out!, that these are some interesting results showing at least a theoretical possibility that, while technically unfeasible today, may one day lead to something.

Like, if someone proposes a machine that grossly violates the 2nd law of thermodynamics, are scientists' first thoughts going to be: "Gosh, that's amazing they outsmarted thermodynamics"? or will they assume that the machine is impossible

There's also the third option, that our understanding of physics isn't complete and we are bumping up against the cusp of a new paradigm. This has happened several times before in our history, it would be arrogant to believe it can never happen again. And this doesn't even appear to require even that!

Like there are other possibilities besides "wide-eyed True Believer" and "I don't care what the math or potential evidence points to it's always bullshit no matter what".
posted by star gentle uterus at 7:16 PM on June 10 [9 favorites]


It's always surprising to me how almost pathologically negative and hostile MetaFilter is to any potential advances in space travel like this.

It is a lot like the whole Evangelical rapture idea. It's an imaginary future where the consequences of our choices don't ever come calling. I find that distasteful, and I think a lot of other people do as well.


Like there are other possibilities besides "wide-eyed True Believer" and "I don't care what the math or potential evidence points to it's always bullshit no matter what".


These sorts of vastly overblown press releases for papers that never actually show what the headline claims and are very often deeply flawed are very common. Especially in fields where it is easy to attract public excitement like neurology, quantum mechanics, and space travel. 99 times out of 100, assuming bullshit is the right call. It makes sense to keep an open mind and look at the actual results, but pop science journalism is basically never trustworthy,
posted by The Manwich Horror at 7:25 PM on June 10 [14 favorites]


In the (probably literal) one in a million chance that one of these schemes eventually works out, I will be very pleased for people to point out that I was really cynical and pessimistic about it but in the end I was wrong.

In the meantime I will continue to demand real experiments and real results before wasting anyone’s time with this sort of thing.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:48 PM on June 10 [8 favorites]


It is a lot like the whole Evangelical rapture idea.

I didn't realize the Rapture was at least theoretically possible under our current understanding of physics. Guess I owe the Evangelicals an apology.

It's an imaginary future where the consequences of our choices don't ever come calling. I find that distasteful, and I think a lot of other people do as well.

Remember that binary thinking I was talking about? The choices aren't limited to "abandon Earth under the leadership of the billionaires" or "abandon all investigation of potential space travel". Your distaste stems from this artificial conception.

I'm not even saying this particular idea will even ever lead to something, I'm again expressing surprise at how vitriolic the reaction here is to even raising the possibility of potential advancement in this area is.
posted by star gentle uterus at 7:56 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


I think there is a tension between the amount of sloppiness and imagination and disregard for dogma required to strike out into new *possibly* science, and the day to day need for competence, repeatability and care needed to do existing science.

Plus, even after humans destroyed the holocene and doomed its species including ourselves, it can be a bit irksome to see tech-optimist future-wizards bask in the glory of unobtained sci-fi fantasies.
They sooth and distract themselves from the hell we made by imagining that paradise can be invented yet still.

Don't look up - indeed.
posted by No Climate - No Food, No Food - No Future. at 7:59 PM on June 10 [6 favorites]


That sounds quite cynical and bitter, not really reason guiding the reaction at that point.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 8:17 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


I mean, theoretical physicists doing impractical theory usually doesn't hurt anyone, fission devices notwithstanding. Even if they announce it on PR Newswire.

I did chuckle a bit that the think tank they work at is called "Applied Physics". Like, how much less applied could this physics be? ... none ... none less applied
posted by credulous at 9:00 PM on June 10 [5 favorites]


Insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting to get different results.

Noting a pattern1 and basing your responses on it is eminently reasonable.

1For example, all of these magical theories and devices quickly disappear, and are never heard about again
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:02 PM on June 10 [6 favorites]


There is literally no out-smarting of thermodynamics. All doubters are encouraged to spend some time studying it. Like, for realsies.

There are lots of things in the world of science we don’t know, yet or maybe ever: thermodynamics is not one of those things.
posted by hototogisu at 9:26 PM on June 10 [6 favorites]


There is literally no out-smarting of thermodynamics.

Absolute certainty is the realm of faith, not science. Well that is not entirely true, if you stay within the abstract constructions of mathematics, you can actually prove things. But science in the real world always involves doubt.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:37 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


Science in the popular press frequently involves a completely unreasonable lack of it.
posted by flabdablet at 10:53 PM on June 10 [9 favorites]


I didn't realize the Rapture was at least theoretically possible under our current understanding of physics. Guess I owe the Evangelicals an apology.

I'd give an Alcubierre drive and the rapture roughly equal odds.

The choices aren't limited to "abandon Earth under the leadership of the billionaires" or "abandon all investigation of potential space travel". Your distaste stems from this artificial conception.

I think it is pretty close to that point. And even if it weren't, the fact that so many people think we have a back up or a way out when we actually don't is a real problem.
posted by The Manwich Horror at 10:58 PM on June 10 [7 favorites]


as is the general shrinkage in notions of what constitutes "we".
posted by flabdablet at 11:03 PM on June 10 [4 favorites]


I'm again expressing surprise at how vitriolic the reaction here is to even raising the possibility of potential advancement in this area is

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
posted by flabdablet at 11:21 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


In any case, the only nation with significant reserves of dilithium is China, and I think we all know what that means.
posted by flabdablet at 11:33 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


Once again repeating that anything that goes faster than light is a time machine. There are perhaps work arounds with wormholes and truly vast distances past the inflationary boundaries of the universe, but any warp drive is a time machine. You can't go back beyond a certain time (so no going back to the dinosaurs), but it does create all sorts of paradoxes going forward. On the plus side, we'd get to see what the universe's preferences are with timelines and paradoxes.

Relativity, causality, FTL travel: pick two.
posted by Hactar at 3:55 AM on June 11 [4 favorites]


At least Sabine Hossenfelder argues nobody adequately proved FTL implies time paradoxes under general relativity (with clickbait exagerated video tittle).

In practice, thermodynamics should be considered certainty, espeically when dealing with the snake oil salesmen who dominate ecnonomics and politics.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:40 AM on June 11 [3 favorites]


If we're messing with spacetime I hope we also end up with Banksian Minds. They could replace billionaires and still appear more human.
posted by neonamber at 5:55 AM on June 11 [3 favorites]


All fiction is constrained by the need to entertain, but if we're accepting sci-fi prediction for superintelligences, then Peter Watts paints an infinitely more realistic picture than Ian Banks, AI pumper/x-riskers, etc.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:35 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]


If principal Skinner were an astrophysicist:

Chalmers: Causality violation? At this time of year, at this time of day, in this part of the galaxy, localized entirely within your spinning black hole!?
Skinner: Yes.
Chalmers: ... May I see it?
Skinner: ... No.
posted by mscibing at 6:49 AM on June 11 [5 favorites]


There are a surprisingly large number of respectable quantum physicists who believe that waveform collapse requires a conscious observer.

And almost all of those fail to understand what observation is, instead thinking that physically fucking with things counts as mere observation.
posted by GoblinHoney at 9:47 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]


Riding my motorcycle, I can travel in about fifteen minutes, a distance that a walking human would require all day. An educated person in the 14th Century would probably not have been able to piece together the concepts that made this possible--even though the technology of the day could have been bent to the making of a motorcycle. In the mid-20th Century, scientists were not sure humans (even in a space capsule) could live in microgravity, so they sent a dog and a chimp up to find out.

Never mind that. As far as I'm concerned, it's Turtles All The Way Down.
posted by mule98J at 9:55 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]


It's pretty surprising that they came up with a way to do it with no negative energy, I thought that was just a necessary part of the sorts of solutions involved. Their github page has a nice animation of it. The paper's here on arxiv.
posted by lucidium at 10:30 AM on June 11 [3 favorites]


1. Is the improbability of this drive, say, infinite?

2. Just read there's a bunch of "scientists" positing "The Cryptoterrestrial Hypothesis: A case for scientific openness to a concealed earthly explanation for Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena". You can come up with anything - "Giant snakes live under the earth and cause earthquakes, if you think about it." "Farting mountain-top giants cause weather events." It's clear, on the one hand, that the point of this is that the Alcubierre drive it is not proven false but on the other the math is complex enough that, c'mon, many how brush strokes make up the Sistine Chapel? Has the Pope ever shat in the woods? How about in the recent past, say last 30 years? It's plausible but damn near unprovable. Alcubierre drive. Not much different for the lay-man: good for click-bait though.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:01 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


There are a surprisingly large number of respectable quantum physicists who believe that waveform collapse requires a conscious observer.

Why is consciousness required? If some particle interacts with another particle, transmitting energy or spin or momentum or other information through that interaction, isn't that functionally observation? Or did the (quantum) world not exist before humans?
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 12:52 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


Why is consciousness required?

Dunno. For years, I thought that it was a pop-science interpretation or something, but last year I found out that there are people who seriously study quantum theory and believe that consciousness is part of it. The topic was discussed in some depth by the scientists who arrived at the Copenhagen interpretation. Eugene Wigner in particular gave the idea some credence.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:51 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


Or did the (quantum) world not exist before humans?

And do waveforms collapse for snakes? Particularly clever squirrels?

Or would it imply a cosmic consciousness that existed before the universe started?

[takes a hit off the bong and passes it clockwise]

Ah, that’s the stuff.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:02 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


do waveforms collapse for snakes? Particularly clever squirrels?

We know for a fact that they don't collapse for cats, which probably accounts for both the multiple lives and cat vs toast perpetual motion effects.
posted by flabdablet at 10:29 PM on June 11 [3 favorites]


The last human is going to die on the same planet we evolved on.
posted by The Manwich Horror


Very firmly in that camp myself.

All things considered, at best we have somewhere between 0.5-1 billion years left to make the most of whatever life offers here, before the death throes of Sol bakes the joint to a barren dead cinder.

Until proven otherwise, we should plan for that. But the evidence so far is overwhelmingly that we won't.
posted by Pouteria at 10:34 PM on June 11 [3 favorites]


Science in the popular press frequently involves a completely unreasonable lack of it.
posted by flabdablet


Not just the popular press. The peer-reviewed scientific press is not always a consistent & robust model of quality control.
posted by Pouteria at 10:41 PM on June 11 [3 favorites]


The last human is going to die on the same planet we evolved on.
posted by The Manwich Horror


Even if we are not staring down the barrel of the great filter right now (this is a valid question that I am not going to get into), this is true in a rather trivial way. Given human behavior and such, I firmly believe that we will be well on our way to evolving to another species before we work out the actual logistics of a generation ship.

Also, looking at Hossenfelder's video, if we let our FTL communication be instantaneous for ease of understanding, her special frame of reference allows for information to be sent to Andromeda via ansible, but not back, or back from Andromeda, but not to it. Which would be true independent of which ansible was sent over.

Also, given the no-communication theorem, I fail to see how any complete version of quantum mechanics (one that works with general relativity) would allow for FTL communication, as that is impossible in current quantum mechanics, impossible in current relativity, but somehow combining two systems in which something is impossible makes it possible.

Both of these are more philosophical arguments than physical ones, but then again, so is her universal direction of time.
posted by Hactar at 5:45 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]


Also, given the no-communication theorem, I fail to see how any complete version of quantum mechanics (one that works with general relativity) would allow for FTL communication, as that is impossible in current quantum mechanics, impossible in current relativity, but somehow combining two systems in which something is impossible makes it possible.

Definitely not an expert in quantum physics here, but I've always found the fact that the minimum calculated speed of the entanglement influence is 144,500 times the speed of light interesting.

To me that seems to say that information can move well past the speed of light. However, there are probably subtleties I don't understand.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:07 AM on June 13


To me, all it says is that the "entanglement influence" is a fiction, and that an entangled pair is best modelled as a single object. If you let go of the idea that such a pair could even in principle be dealt with as independent particles with respect to whatever property you're interested in measuring, it becomes clear that the measurement correlations between its constituents don't require positing any kind of information transfer from one to the other, instantaneous or otherwise.

As an illustrative analogy: Charlie has a pile of red marbles and a pile of blue marbles. He picks one marble from each pile, then wraps each one in opaque foil, then puts the wrapped pair in a box and shakes it up so he has no idea which is the red one and which is the blue. Now he mails one wrapped marble to Alice and the other to Bob.

Nobody knows what either Alice or Bob will find when they unwrap their marbles, but what is known ahead of time that if either of them finds a red marble, the other will find a blue one and vice versa.

Alice unwraps her marble and finds that it is blue. She now knows for sure that when Bob unwraps his, he'll find that it's red. So Alice learns the colour of Bob's marble the instant she measures her own, regardless of how far away Bob's marble is at the time.

Has some piece of information been instantly transmitted from Alice's marble to Bob's as a result of her unwrapping it? Clearly not. And yet, as long as Charlie's marble preparation process is reliable, so will Alice's information about Bob's marbles be.

The properties of quanta are not like the properties of marbles, but they don't have to be for the point of this analogy to hold. The correlation itself is the interesting feature of the setup, and that correlation is not any kind of physical property of either marble independently, only of the pair as a whole. It's only to be expected that it would persist regardless of where the correlated marbles are located with respect to one another.
posted by flabdablet at 11:52 AM on June 13 [8 favorites]


Yes, exactly entanglement influence is seemingly a mathematical property of the system, not some physical property of the parts. It's odd becuase as a system the probabilities work differently than we'd expect classically. As an aside, Bohmian mechanics has similarities with the many-worlds interpretation.

Ain't too worried about "the last human" per se, The Manwich Horror. We'll never expand "exponentially" into spaace becuase stars cannot provide enough energy, but maybe some intelegent life squeeks out from our planet for some distance.

We've interesting work on earth life surviving on Mars, which could turn into engineering eventually. We'd have way more time there since Mars remains in the habitable zone for like 6 billion years, Pouteria.

As for future intelegent life, I'd suggest 100g monkies with whale-like cancer resistance and 200-500g brains, but who do real thinking using hive minds, if only for redundency against space cancer. We'd have more in common emotionally with cattle & pigs than with something like that, like their babies have no more moral standing than a fetus to us, beacause mostly the brain grows after birth. lol

We'll watch our civilization slowly collapse throughout the remainer of our lives, due to exceeding planetary boundaries and exhausting fossil fules, so we should “collapse now, and avoid the rush” ourselves.

Yet, we really do not know what'll happen after our civilization finishes its long downward spiral. We'll maybe hit +10°C but we might adapt somewhat if most of those feedbacks are slow enough. It's even possible we spend our days in highly intelligent hive minds, but then spend our evenings as much less intelligent individuals, when our solar powered hive implants spin down, and so moving into space becomes a way to stay juiced 24-7. lol
posted by jeffburdges at 2:39 PM on June 13 [1 favorite]


despite the (very successful and useful) conclusions of analyzing a system or material via thermodynamics
But the scope is bounded and dependent on how accurately the system you are analyzing conforms to the assumptions of a large collection of classical particles. thermo doesnt explain everything nor is applicable in every situation, indeed relativity, thermo, quantum mechanics are all very successful approaches within certain conditions
2) thermo can "explain" ordinary behavior when that behavior is indeed the result of statistical outcomes of large numbers of particles obeying newtonian physics. since both newtonian physics and a particle only approach to matter are already broken approaches for high speeds or small scales, violating thermo is not a deal breaker, it is indeed common.
3) Any economist, inventor or lay person whose ideas or arguments or entire policy agenda violates thermodynamics is wrong. But if a mathematician or physicist proposes a violation, it should be investigated.
4) we can barely survive on earth in easy mode. mars? doubt it.
posted by No Climate - No Food, No Food - No Future. at 1:10 AM on June 14 [1 favorite]


Alice learns the colour of Bob's marble the instant she measures her own, regardless of how far away Bob's marble is at the time.

Writers more interested in marvelling at paradoxes than helping think them through will often try to convince you of something analogous to the idea that Alice unwrapping her own marble somehow removes the wrapper instantaneously from Bob's, but this is not the case. If Bob wants to know whether his marble is red or blue, his options are (a) unwrap it himself or (b) await the arrival of a lightspeed-at-best signal from Alice.

Other people interested in the same thing can collect measurement results from either Alice or Bob as they choose, but in no case can anybody learn the result of either measurement faster than lightspeed. If they get results from both Alice and Bob, that will let them judge how reliable Charlie's marble preparation skills were.
posted by flabdablet at 2:42 AM on June 14 [2 favorites]


"If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell's equations—then so much the worse for Maxwell's equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation—well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation."

(Sir Arthur Eddington)
posted by adrienneleigh at 3:02 AM on June 15 [2 favorites]


Our assumptions about Natural Laws are that a) they have been the same for the entire history of the universe and b) they apply to the entire universe.

We’ve managed to fit quite a lot of observable data into those assumptions, but I think it’s important to remember that the assumptions came first. They were created by people with minimal data who wanted to believe in an ordered universe. They were a massive overreach at the time.

There is a fairly major hiccup in those assumptions currently, namely that we have been searching for 50 years now for 95% of the predicted mass in the observable universe. However, we hang on tightly to those assumptions, and most scientists are convinced that the mass will turn up at some point.

Anyway, the main point is that the Natural Laws were first laid down by people who didn’t have anywhere near enough observed data to make such propositions, and a few of the laws have been overturned along the way. In my not so humble opinion, blind faith is not warranted.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:15 AM on June 15 [1 favorite]


I like watching PBS Spacetime videos on Youtube and they get pretty deep into quantum theories. They always talk about theories as models. Models that are known to be wrong but are, so far, the most successful models we have to for describing what we observe.

All models are wrong, some models are useful. I vaguely remember one video where they talked specifically about how the concept of "virtual particles" introduced in a previous video pointing out that we know those particles don't actually exist in the way they're represented, it's just the best way we have so far to describe that phenomena.

If that's any representation of how the folks that work in the field approach things, everyone gets excited when there is observed confirmation of something predicted by whatever model and even more excited when something different than predicted happens because they know their model is wrong and they now have a fresh clue that can get them to a more accurate model.

RE: Assumption a. My understanding is that these days that assumption starts at the big bang and the formation of the first hydrogen atom, but it's thought that the universe existed before that in a state with physics that were different in ways we can't know.
posted by VTX at 9:19 AM on June 15


I'm not sure that "before" is even an idea that works properly when applied to objects as far from ordinary human experience as quanta or the universe.
posted by flabdablet at 12:04 PM on June 15 [1 favorite]


Our assumptions about Natural Laws are that a) they have been the same for the entire history of the universe and b) they apply to the entire universe.

I have no problem with that assumption provided that it's taken solely as definitional of the meaning of "natural law". Of course, that position forces me also to have no problem accepting the possibility that no extant model actually fits that definition.

Also very important to bear in mind that natural laws are constrained by observable behaviour of nature, not the other way around.

That said, almost all of what's currently thought of as natural law is in practice very well tested, to the point of being reliable enough that measurement error is almost always the most plausible explanation for anomalies.

But not quite. And that's what makes doing science worthwhile.
posted by flabdablet at 12:48 PM on June 15


Anyway, the main point is that the Natural Laws were first laid down by people who didn’t have anywhere near enough observed data to make such propositions, and a few of the laws have been overturned along the way. In my not so humble opinion, blind faith is not warranted.

Yes, and Eddington's quip takes that into account. Maxwell's Equations are as much part of our basic model of "natural law" as thermodynamics is. Eddington is specifically making a point about degrees of improbability.
posted by adrienneleigh at 1:36 PM on June 15


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