If Warp Drive were Possible...

Discussion in 'General Trek Discussion' started by ZapBrannigan, Apr 14, 2013.

  1. ZapBrannigan

    ZapBrannigan Commodore Commodore

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    There is a thesis held by some in the science community and it goes like this:

    Our galaxy has so many worlds and has existed so long, that everything that can happen has happened, out there somewhere. You name it and some alien civilization has done it-- provided it is physically possible.

    If warp drive were possible, it would have been invented billions of years ago by an alien civilization in our galaxy.

    They would then have built a galactic empire and at some point, long before man evolved, they would have found Earth and colonized it themselves. Their expanding population needs real estate and other resources.

    In that case, their animal control department, or maybe even terraforming efforts, would have prevented our evolution.

    Since we are here, and there is no credible evidence that space aliens ever were, it follows that warp drive is physically impossible.

    Are we all agreed? ;)
     
  2. R. Star

    R. Star Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    So by that logic the atom bomb was impossible before 1945 since we were here and there's no credible evidence there were atom bombs before that? That's a dang circular argument.
     
  3. King Daniel Beyond

    King Daniel Beyond Admiral Admiral

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    The galaxy is so ridiculously big they could have missed us. Or there could be a civilization on a million planets with FTL drive, but 50 galaxies away.
     
  4. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Let see ...

    Their galactic empire rose and fell billions of years ago, whoever they were they're gone now.

    Our atmosphere/pressure/heat was incompatible with their life form, and there are so many planets better suited to them, they never bothered to "terraform" our world.

    They're currently living on Venus.

    We are the remnant of a colony, there was a technological/societal fall tens of thousand of years ago.

    They left a large black monolith in Africa.

    :)
     
  5. ZapBrannigan

    ZapBrannigan Commodore Commodore

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    You don't get it. I'm not saying the thesis is unassailable, but your analogy is just a head scratcher. :vulcan:
     
  6. yousirname

    yousirname Commander Red Shirt

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    This seems like a variant on the "Where is everybody?" argument against the existence of extraterrestrials.

    Aside from possible environmental incompatibility and the possibility that they are simply too far away anyway, there's no guarantee they'd detect us. We've only been broadcasting for a little over a century. So there's a radio shell with a diameter just over 200 light years across surrounding Earth, and at that distance, who knows if it's even distinguishable from background radiation?

    That said, I'm not optimistic about FTL travel being possible. Just this isn't a good argument for that view.
     
  7. R. Star

    R. Star Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    So you pose a circular argument that says because it hasn't happened yet it can't happen... then your rebuttal when questioned on that is "you don't get it?" That's not exactly a solid argument.
     
  8. The Green Mushroom

    The Green Mushroom Commander Red Shirt

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    I think the theory isn't that the galaxy is large enough for anything that could have happened to have happened, it is that the universe is large enough. The galaxy is a pretty darn big place, but it pales in comparison to the entire universe. If someone somewhere in the universe invented a warp drive, it could still take them so long to get here that we would never know about it.

    And even then, the theory only works if there really is only X possible things to happen and the universe is larger than X. I'm inclined to believe that unless the universe is infinitely large, there are things that are possible that haven't happened.
     
  9. ZapBrannigan

    ZapBrannigan Commodore Commodore

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    Regarding our radio signals, the thesis I put up suggests that the aliens would have scouted the galaxy and found Earth long before we were even here.

    Also, it's my understanding that our broadcasts do fade to nothing before they even reach the nearest star, and the whole SETI project is thus all the less likely to hear alien signals.

    King Daniel has a point in that the warp-capable aliens could simply miss the Earth, even over the span of a great galactic empire's existence.
     
  10. Ryva Brall

    Ryva Brall Commander Red Shirt

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    Or maybe they have reached Earth at some point, saw that we were a primitive pre-warp civilization, and decided not to interfere with our development. ;)
     
  11. ZapBrannigan

    ZapBrannigan Commodore Commodore

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    That's an optimistic vision if ever there was one.
     
  12. ZapBrannigan

    ZapBrannigan Commodore Commodore

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    The thing is, humans on Earth can only come up with so much, so fast. But the whole galaxy would include so many civilizations, over such a long span of time, that every possible thing would have already happened somewhere.

    That's the part you didn't seem to get. And again, I'm not saying the OP thesis is set in stone. It's very debateable.
     
  13. Ryva Brall

    Ryva Brall Commander Red Shirt

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    Thank you.

    Personally, I think it's conceivable that the technology could have been developed somewhere in the universe; like The Green Mushroom said, the galaxy is a big place, but it's an infinitesimal speck in comparison to the rest of the universe. (You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is.) In which case, the chances of a warp-capable species finding one tiny planet in one tiny galaxy would be pretty remote.

    By the way, every time I see your username, I can't help reading it in Billy West's voice, with the extra syllable and everything. "Zapp Brannigan-neh."
     
  14. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    The thing is, you don't need warp to conquer the entire galaxy in, say, a million years. Sublight ships with really poor success rate will suffice, if you are motivated enough.

    But by that token, successive waves of colonization would probably constantly take place, erasing previous empires in geometrically intriguing patterns, and resulting in a jigsaw puzzle of cultures at varying levels of development, retardation or renaissance. Lacunae and fallows would also inevitably result, even if fairly locally.

    In this respect, warp drive would be fundamentally different from any other innovation, as the formidable speed of information propagation would "synchronize" the galaxy and pit fairly evenly matched factions against each other. Basically, we seem to be witnessing the very thing around Earth, with Vulcans, Romulans, Klingons, Andorians and now Earthlings vying for dominance.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  15. Third Nacelle

    Third Nacelle Captain Captain

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    And Native Americans prior to 1492 might have thought sailing across the ocean was impossible. I can't agree that because we have no evidence that warp drive has been used already means it's impossible.

    Furthermore, I doubt there are as many "civilizations" in the galaxy as you seem to believe.

    -Of all the planets out there, only a fraction support life (as we understand it)
    -Of those that support life, only an INFINITESIMALLY small fraction would take the evolutionary route toward intelligence
    -And of all intelligent life, I doubt many would feel the need to use tools and develop technology (look how happy dolphins are without warp drive).


    [​IMG]
     
  16. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    ...On a tad grimmer note, it seems awfully unlikely that any intelligent culture could survive prolonged exposure to another one, if the exposure is the result of interstellar expansion. The expanding culture would have two factors more or less dictating that it crush the encountered culture: barring incredible coincidences of timing, it has vastly superior technology (as it sails from star to star and the other one at the time does not), and it has found in itself the motivation to expand.

    In the scenario where interstellar colonization indeed takes place, the inevitable end result would seem to be extermination of all (future) competition - until the original expanders start fighting themselves, as would equally inevitably happen in the STL scenario where ideas take tens of thousands of years to cross the galaxy.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  17. Metryq

    Metryq Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    This statement and the wink at the end of the original post suggest that this is not what Zap himself believes, but the post certainly prompted much discussion. :techman:

    The atom bomb reply is faulty because it violates many of the original premises—the vast spans of time for the statistical likelihood of certain events and the prerequisites to make a given thing (construction of an atom bomb) happen. While a nuclear reactor is not an atom bomb, there is at least one example of a naturally occurring one.
     
  18. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    But that one is highly debatable, as we have zero real idea about the timescales involved in making these particular discoveries. Indeed, we have zero real idea about how long it takes to invent an A-bomb after you invent your first thing (let's pick fire for the starting line marker, since although that's awfully human-centric, it demonstrates that we have no means of telling even how long human cultures would take to invent the A-bomb, apart from our woefully insufficient statistical sample of one case).

    For all we know, ten thousand years of civilization is more than enough for inventing everything that can be invented, or ten billion is way too little. Furthermore, we currently put our full faith on the principle that the universe is pretty much the same everywhere, so the issue of resources or prerequisites (be they physical or law-of-nature sort) shouldn't really arise...

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  19. C.E. Evans

    C.E. Evans Admiral Admiral

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    Earth is currently a protectorate of a vast galactic government--we just don't know it yet. They've been watching us for decades now, intercepting some of our TV and radio transmissions, and after watching Jersey Shore, they're absolutely praying that we never develop a warp drive of our own and stay confined to our star system...
     
  20. Ronald Held

    Ronald Held Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    It could be the Zoo hypothesis or prime directive. Perhaps warp capable civilizations are very rare but robotic exploration of the galaxy could be achieved via sublight propulsion in a time shorter than a billion years.