Friday, August 30, 2013

Immortality: Possibilities and Impact


Ah, if we could only live forever!

Not only is that an ‘incomplete sentence’ (according to MS Word), you’d better not wish that from the proverbial Genie in the bottle or…a Loud (explained later)! If you did you’d be very sorry around about the time you reached 120 years OLD! I mean have you ever seen a person in their late 90s let alone older? No, what you want to wish for is ‘to stop aging’. But, is this even in the realm of possibility?

Perhaps the primary reason we age is that our telomeres deteriorate. Because of this, our cells can only divide about 50 times.

Telomeres eh? What’s a Telomere?:
A chromosome is a long strand of DNA. At the end of a chromosome is a telomere, which acts like a bookend. Telomeres keep chomosomes protected and prevent them from fusing into rings or binding with other DNA. Telomeres play an important role in cell division.

Researchers can use the length of a cell's telomeres to determine the cell's age and how many more times is will replicate. This is important in anti-aging research. When a cell stops replicating, it enters into a period of decline known as "cell senescence," which is the cellular equivalent of aging.

In my sci-fi ‘The Spiral Slayers’ the Loud (an alien species that comes to the human world of Amular and are about 1,000 years ahead in science and technology) bestow three things on the humans:
1.      They restore their DNA to perfect condition, which will restore an older person to their prime age (around 28-32 years old). There is no immediate effect on someone at their prime age or younger.

2.      They replace everyone’s telomere with nanite replacements, which will not deteriorate and will keep all chomosomes functioning properly (that is to say, they stop the aging process).

3.      They infest the humans with other specialized nanite, which ‘super charge’ their immune system.

Well, why didn’t nature do this in the first place? In the story, the Loud tell the human race that all planet or solar system bound species must have this ‘timer’ to control their population. Once a species goes inter-stellar this ‘timer’ can be ‘removed’ and indeed must be removed because bound by the speed of light and the enormous distances between stars, you need a lot of time just to get around.
Now understand, you can still get your ticket clocked by being hit by a train, shot in the head, etc. I think people might do a lot more to avoid accidents…what do you think? What about daredevils?

If everyone where perpetually at their prime age or younger, society would change drastically and I explore this in my book (I was completely surprised when Kirkus Reviews noticed this and called my story “ intense, philosophical sci-fi”). Think about funeral homes, hospitals, insurance, sports, doctors, saving for retirement, etc. Think about marriages, divorces, the death sentence or, life imprisonment.
Unfortunately, if our planet were given this virtual immortality right now, in 20-50 years our species would most likely go extinct.

Think about it! Think population. The next post will be ‘Immortality: The problem with…”.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Inter-Super Cluster Travel Part 2

Carrying on from last time… to travel across the universe through hundreds of super clusters, we can’t do anything about the vast distances involved, we can’t accelerate past the speed of light so we can’t do anything about the time involved except redefine time making billions of years doable and survivable.
We have an almost infinite and renewable energy source (two singularities), we have the renewing biosphere needed for life, our ship is made out of nanite-based materials that won’t decay, we have immortality (we don’t grow old) and we have a hibernation chamber that will preserve us for millions, even billions of years. Finally we have the time compression from our near light speed and proximity to a singularity.

Any yet, eventually we will still be stymied by a universe that is expanding faster than the speed of light.
If we look at current physics for a solution, it strongly suggests that if we look below, that is smaller than, the virtual quarks and gluons popping in and out of existence…look into what is sometimes referred to as ‘the foam’, there we will find wormholes which can transport matter from one point to another faster than light. To use these however, three problems immediately come to mind.

1.      First, there’s the landmark issue that applies to any method of beating the speed of light; violation of casualty[1].

2.      Second, how could we possibly use such a tiny passageway for anything?

3.      Finally, if they exist at all, these wormholes are generated randomly, last only brief and random lengths of time and, lead to random locations.
This time, if we look to current physics, well, we find...suggestions (that’s perhaps too strong a word) of ways we might get around these problems…or, paths that, if extended, could resolve these problems.

To get around violation of causality we can (as my story does) embrace the quantum ‘Other Worlds’ theory. This goes back to the double slit experiment where light traveling through two slits cut into, say cardboard, creates a wave pattern on a cardboard backdrop. I don’t have the room here to go into details but it shows us that sub-atomic particles travel in waves of probability. The ‘Other Worlds’ theory says that this probability wave does not collapse and that all probable futures really exist in alternate dimensions or timelines. This knocks down ‘causality’ because if someone goes back in time and kills their grandmother, they simply create a separate timeline in which they do not exist while they can go on existing in their own timeline.
The second and third problems of how we might use these tiny wormholes are a bit harder and I’m afraid you’ll have to read my sci-fi series to find out how I get around these.


[1] Violation of casualty is where you ‘kill your mother before you are born’ type of thing by traveling back in time which is what you do when you get from one point to another faster than the speed of light.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Inter-Super Cluster Travel Part 1

In 'The Spiral Slayers' I don’t travel merely between planets, stars, galaxies or even galactic clusters—I travel across dozens and even thousands of galactic super clusters. As far as I can tell, this is, not to put too fine a point on it, simply a matter of time. This is truly traveling across the universe and, if you add to this, as my story does, that you cannot accelerate past the speed of light, then you are really having the time of your life and a whole lot more. However, can it really ‘work’?

Traveling across such distances is clearly not impossible, in fact it has been done, if by nothing else than by photons (light). Nevertheless, we must face it, if we cannot travel faster than light and we cannot do anything about the distances involved than the only thing we are left with is time so, what would it take besides lots of time?
It would take:
1.      An enormous and renewable energy source.
      2.      Renewable, nanite based materials that would hold up to deep time (billions of years)
             without decaying.
3.      A sufficient renewable biosphere to supply air, water, food, etc.
4.      Immortal or at least very long lived beings.
5.      Hibernation chambers that could suspend life for millions of years at a time to keep our immortal beings from going insane by the passage of deep time.

So, we have an energy source what will propel our craft up to .99999 the speed of light and power it for millions of years (in my story, this is two black holes). We have a structure that will survive both the distance and time and not decay or wear away. We also have a renewable planetary biosphere to provide the requirements of life for beings who will live long enough and we have a way to keep them sane. Finally, we have another not so little built-in advantage—the compression of time from not only our near light speed but also from our proximity to two singularities.

Are we read to cast off?
Well, that depends on how far (i.e. long) we want to go. There’s at least one element I’ve left out--the universe is expanding and, not only is that expansion already exceeding the speed of light if we look at our observable universe end to end, it is constantly accelerating. Eventually we will be stymied by this.

Is there a way around this short of an FTL drive? I do not really want to tell you how my story gets around it but I can point in the general direction, which I’ll do in my next post.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Traveling across the universe without falling off the edge!


The universe is a strange place. It is a space-time structure, which, because of gravity, may fold back upon itself. We can only see a portion of it called the Observable Universe, which has a radius of about 47 billion miles. And, it is universally agreed that it is much larger than that and most scientists believe that it is in fact infinite!
Hmm…wait a minute…the latest estimates I’m aware of place it’s age at 13.7 billion years old so how could we have a visible diameter of 94 billion? As I said, a strange place. Obviously, although matter cannot accelerate past the speed of light, the universe can expand faster than the speed of light. As for how can we see objects 47 billion light years away--this is because the universe was expanding while that light was traveling toward us (I know…but you’ll need Google to get further explanations on this one).
New discoveries indicate that the universe may not be infinite but finite and in my four part sci-fi series, The Spiral Slayers, it is finite. So could we ever reach the universe’s edge and, if we could, what would it look like and what would be beyond it?

Both in reality (if it is finite) and in the Spiral Slayers’ universe, the answer to these questions are both ‘no’ and ‘maybe’.
The ‘no’ part of this is that space-time, as I have already pointed out, folds back upon itself because of gravity and, we are part of space time and simply can’t remove ourselves from it. Long before we came anywhere close to the universe’s edge, space time would bend both our view and path away from it and we could never reach it.

The maybe part is that perhaps we can see the edge of the universe or at least a portion of it every time we look at a black hole. This edge might be the event horizon or it may be the singularity itself. In my story it’s the latter.
As for what we'd find beyond the universe, we don't know and, in my story and probably in reality as well, anything outside the universe is unknowable. However, if a singularity is the edge then we can see the effects from outside and those indicate that a unistate (AKA a singularity) exists beyond the edge.
Here is a very interesting documentary on this subject—it’s a bit long but really worth watching!
In the next post we’ll talk about probably one of the more controversially elements of my story; traveling between galactic super clusters and across the Observably Universe while observing light’s speed limit.
Rusty Williamson

Sunday, August 4, 2013


I'm going to try to break up my previous posts so that they (as well as future ones) are shorter.