Experiments to do in deep space at 40% of c

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  • #1
AllanR
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Hi there, first post here!

I'm working on a story and at one point there is a ship traveling at 40% of C. The characters are on a long trip, fifteen years or so, I'm wondering in a ship far from any star system going at a % of C, what kind of interesting experiments could one do. The ship has workshops and some laboratory equipment.

Would being far from gravity be a factor?
Would the high momentum?
Or even things like parallax?

What would be of particular interest to a physicist here? The character is a geo-physisist, the trip wasn't about experiments, this is more an interest/diversion for the long trip.

Thanks

Allan
 

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  • #2
PeroK
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Hi there, first post here!

I'm working on a story and at one point there is a ship traveling at 40% of C. The characters are on a long trip, fifteen years or so, I'm wondering in a ship far from any star system going at a % of C, what kind of interesting experiments could one do. The ship has workshops and some laboratory equipment.

Would being far from gravity be a factor?
Would the high momentum?
Or even things like parallax?

What would be of particular interest to a physicist here? The character is a geo-physisist, the trip wasn't about experiments, this is more an interest/diversion for the long trip.

Thanks

Allan
All inertial motion is relative, hence there is nothing special about the motion of the spaceship.

You could, of course, test this out and demonstrate the first postulate of special relativity, which says as much.
 
  • #3
AllanR
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Nothing interesting about interacting with the slower interstellar medium?
 
  • #4
PeroK
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Nothing interesting about interacting with the slower interstellar medium?
I don't know. Possibly.

I've always imagined that for interstellar travel a human crew would want to sleep through it!

That said, some people believe they would be needed to steer the ship and make decisions like the crew of the Enterprise. I don't see that myself, but some people might not trust a computer to do the job reliably for 15 years or so.
 
  • #5
AllanR
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The story doesn't give them the sleep option, they don't have reliable tech for that, so I'm trying to figure how they would fill the time.
 
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PeroK
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The story doesn't give them the sleep option, they don't have reliable tech for that, so I'm trying to figure how they would fill the time.
The way anyone would spend 15 years in lockdown! Go slowly mad would be my bet.
 
  • #7
PeroK
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To make a serious point, this past year has proved how dependent we are mentally on natural things. The people who believe in, say, a potential Martian colony need to take a look at how hard lockdown has been generally. That said, those who believe in living on Mars are probably not the type to consider a mundane issue such as mental health.

The reality of a 15-year space mission is that it's essentially a 15-year prison sentence.
 
  • #8
phinds
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I'm working on a story and at one point there is a ship traveling at 40% of C. The characters are on a long trip, fifteen years or so, I'm wondering in a ship far from any star system going at a % of C, what kind of interesting experiments could one do. The ship has workshops and some laboratory equipment.
As far as what is happening inside the ship, they are not moving so as PeroK said, about all you could do is prove that you don't appear to be moving. A very boring conclusion.

Yeah, looking outside would likely be interesting.
 
  • #9
AllanR
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yea, its the outside of the ship I'm thinking
 
  • #10
AllanR
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he reality of a 15-year space mission is that it's essentially a 15-year prison sentence.

For many in the story that is exactly what it is.
 
  • #11
Ibix
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Yeah, looking outside would likely be interesting.
Would it, though? You'd see some Doppler shift in the stars, but not a huge amount. You'd see aberration and beaming (the stars would seem to cluster in front of you a bit and be brighter in front of you). So as you accelerate you'd see stars move and some fade into view as others fade out. Other than that, there's not a lot to see that you couldn't see on Earth, I think.

You've got a pretty hard vacuum to play with if you want to do some experiments. If you have more than one ship, or at least a remote drone, you could use optical Very Long Baseline Interferometry to do astronomy or look at where you're going (or where you've come from). Or you could study growth and development of organisms in zero g. Again, nothing you couldn't do in Earth orbit, but possibly you can come up with something they need to develop on the trip?

To be honest, I expect you'd play a lot of cards, or just read and talk to people. Plus routine maintenance.
 
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  • #12
Office_Shredder
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What about point a telescope at a star and confirm it red/blue shifts by as much as expected compared to when you were stationary?
 
  • #13
Vanadium 50
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What about point a telescope at a star and confirm it red/blue shifts by as much as expected compared to when you were stationary?

OK, that's one hour. What to do for the next 130,000?
 
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  • #14
Office_Shredder
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OK, that's one hour. What to do for the next 130,000?

Spend the first three years learning the physics needed to understand if you got the expected results. Spend the next eight panicking that you did not. Spend the last four realizing it's because you already entered the event horizon of a black hole.

Or you know, spend six of those years playing the entire nes emulator library on the switch, then three days fixing the joycon's broken joystick, then check your telescope, send back groundbreaking physics experimental results to earth, then go back and hit up the snes emulator for the next nine years.
 
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  • #15
Rive
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Or even things like parallax?
Maybe that one.
And lots of maintenance.

Nothing interesting about interacting with the slower interstellar medium?
Not really. At that speed it's all just radiation. Some instruments sure will log it (and some scientists far away will be really happy to get the daily data) but for the crew it's not that interesting.

Would being far from gravity be a factor?
For a 15 years long travel you need some form of gravity.
 
  • #16
AllanR
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For a 15 years long travel you need some form of gravity.
They have internal spin gravity.
I was thinking about things like detecting early universe gravity waves. Would being far from a star system's gravity help in this?
 
  • #17
Vanadium 50
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Would being far from a star system's gravity help in this?

No.
 
  • #18
Ibix
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I was thinking about things like detecting early universe gravity waves. Would being far from a star system's gravity help in this?
No. Being in space is useful (look up LISA, a spaceborne gravitational wave observatory), but deep space doesn't add anything.

Martial arts might be an interesting passtime. Striking styles (boxing, karate, fencing, etc) just wouldn't work in zero g, but grappling/wrestling/MMA type styles would with a lot of practice and development to not use weight at all. There's many years of training and learning there, if that's your kind of thing.
 
  • #19
AllanR
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No advantage of being out of heliospheres for anything?
 
  • #20
Vanadium 50
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LISA, a spaceborne gravitational wave observatory

There is no advantage to putting LISA in space. There is ad advantage in making it really big, and there's more space than earth, so that's where it goes.
 
  • #21
Ibix
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There is no advantage to putting LISA in space. There is ad advantage in making it really big, and there's more space than earth, so that's where it goes.
I think "being able to make it really big" is an advantage from being in space - or at least, something you can't do on Earth. Also, you get free fall for the sensors and pretty hard vacuum for the lasers more or less free, and I would imagine less vibration.

There's no further advantage to moving to deep space that I can think of, though.
 
  • #22
AllanR
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The LISA is pretty cool, the characters have access to drones and could do things like that. They're already do some large array imaging, I once visited Pierre Auger Observatory and am using some ideas from that type. They're not trying to prove any theories or anything, data collection is good enough.
 
  • #23
Office_Shredder
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They're not trying to prove any theories or anything, data collection is good enough.
That doesn't sound like something a geo physicist looking for a diversion would want to do. Wouldn't you want to go through the step of data analysis and verification (of already known theory)?
 
  • #24
AllanR
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That doesn't sound like something a geo physicist looking for a diversion would want to do. Wouldn't you want to go through the step of data analysis and verification (of already known theory)?
Yea, especially with the long time frame. Just collecting would be boring.
 
  • #25
Drakkith
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Perhaps some experiments that require extremely low tidal forces? Low enough such that they could only be done far away from stars.
 
  • #26
stefan r
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The resolution on an interferometry array increases when you add distance. Targets' separation would resolve as the ship moves.

Over large distances it would be tricky because of light lag. The solar system would have very large numbers of dishes before we launch any interstellar missions. Astronomers in the solar system could send the data stream focused on multiple targets. Someone inside the spaceship could select which target to focus the ship's big dish on. It would be a multiple choice type scenario but based information available years (light distance) ago. It is also possible that a target of opportunity would emerge and so the big dish would aim at that point and assume people in the solar system recognize the same opportunity and focus their dishes too. You would not see the results of that effort for at least twice the light lag time.
 
  • #27
AllanR
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Thanks everyone, I got some good ideas from this thread :)
 

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