How far are we from these milestones/technologies?

In summary, the technologies mentioned in this conversation are possible, but there are many challenges that need to be overcome before they can be realized.
  • #1
BernieM
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I am in the process of writing a book, or at least attempting to, and I would like feedback regarding a couple of aspects of what I am writing about, such as your opinion how long until these technologies exist (or if they ever can or not,) difficulties needing to be overcome, etc., or if you think the technologies already eixst.

Firstly, if I want to create a small particle somewhere in the range of a pepper flake to an aspirin (ideally) that I could blast out into the galaxy, at say .1 light speed, that it would be able to survive a decent into an atmosphere on a planet where it might land, and the payload inside it, a specially designed proto-life molecule, would survive the trip to the surface, that once on a planet could adapt to a degree to the environment if finds itself in and begin the process of terraforming the planet. A seed of life, if you will. I imagine perhaps a small coating of some material like the shuttle tiles and something that would turn to vapor at low temperature to shed energy as it slowed in the atmosphere. Perhaps a shape that made it the least possibly aerodynamic. So what is the likelihood that this could be developed today with currently known technology, or how far are we from having such technology do you believe? It could be larger than an aspirin but smaller is better.

Secondly, how far are we from an understanding what we are, in so much as we would be able to create a bitstream of data to represent you and your memories and say, put it into a robotic, cyborg or cloned body, etc. In other words, you could not transfer the brain or cells to this other body, it would have to be transmittable (think 'transporter beam' technology.)
 
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  • #2
A bit of clarification here. I am not proposing transporter beams.
 
  • #3
We are at least a millennia away these technologies but as a sci fi author you can arbitrarily assume they are plausible some indeterminate centuries in the future. Be aware that what we imagine today inspires our readers to invent tomorrow and that what they invent will only vaguely match your initial idea.

The tricorder of Star Trek is a good example. The things it could do were amazing and great for the story plots. Today’s tricorders are focused only on medical uses in the field. While they look similar they operate in a totally different manner.

Another is the startrek universal translator which exists today as the ili project. It translates one way from speaker to the language needed. Basically you have to learn it’s vocabulary limits and ask simple yes no type questions so you’ll understand the other persons response. It focus is for intl travelers mostly. Basically it’s better than a language book.
 
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  • #4
jedishrfu said:
We are at least a millennia away these technologies but as a sci fi author you can arbitrarily assume they are plausible some indeterminate centuries in the future. Be aware that what we imagine today inspires our readers to invent tomorrow and that what they invent will only vaguely match your initial idea ...

...

IN the case of the encapsulated molecule, say all I wanted to do was to make a little capsule full of extremophile bacteria survive a reentry on another planet and reach the ground without the bacteria being destroyed. Is that so far off? A millenia?
 
  • #5
BernieM said:
Firstly, if I want to create a small particle somewhere in the range of a pepper flake to an aspirin (ideally) that I could blast out into the galaxy, at say .1 light speed, that it would be able to survive a decent into an atmosphere on a planet where it might land, and the payload inside it, a specially designed proto-life molecule, would survive the trip to the surface, that once on a planet could adapt to a degree to the environment if finds itself in and begin the process of terraforming the planet.

Create a very small object capable of delivering a biological payload - currently possible.

Blast it at 10% of the speed of light and have it and its payload survive - Yeeeeah. No. But, you could reasonably accelerate an object up to that speed and have that object eject whole lot of these particles...

Survive the trip to another star - Possibly. The science fiction part is how the payload is constructed - the seed you want to launch - There are all sorts of potential challenges this tiny craft might face. It will suffer potential radiation damage, near absolute cold, and occasional giant temperature swings. But the worst will be time. At 10% of light speed you're looking at give or take 40 years to get to the nearest star. And over 1000 years to get to even a good sized handful of stars.

Survive decent into the atmosphere of a planet it might land on - You have two issues: Density and impact velocity.
1 - Density: The chance that one of these pellets will hit a planet is essentially zero if you throw them out to the galaxy randomly. If you converted the planet Earth into these pellets and uniformly sprayed them everywhere, aside from some going into the sun, and a peppering of them on the moon, you wouldn't hit a thing - the gaps between them would grow so wide so quickly that the chance of hitting even venus or Mars is basically zero. You will hit the sun because these things will eventually slow and fall into the sun. Which, for the most part, any of these pellets that get caught by a star will do. Solution? Maybe send a ship towards a star, then have it break open and release these. Let gravity pull them in, and maybe you'll hit the planets on the way to the sun?

2 - Impact Velocity: If you get to a planet, absent a way to slow down, you are going to impact at about 30,000 kilometers per second. Which will probably turn the pellet into a gas. Solution? Use a solar sail to speed up the pellet / ship and then a solar sail to slow down as it approaches the new star?

So what is the likelihood that this could be developed today with currently known technology, or how far are we from having such technology do you believe? It could be larger than an aspirin but smaller is better.

Zero chance of doing it today. Zero chance of doing it without substantial advances in materials science. You will not be able to rely on technology of today or the near future to do this. But, you could come up with something - that's what the fiction part of SciFi is for. Maybe we came up with a coating that is 99.999% reflective to a huge range of EM radiation? Or a super-lightweight sail material?

Secondly, how far are we from an understanding what we are, in so much as we would be able to create a bitstream of data to represent you and your memories and say, put it into a robotic, cyborg or cloned body, etc. In other words, you could not transfer the brain or cells to this other body, it would have to be transmittable

In order to "write out" who you are and all your memories, we would have to have computer technology we do not have, we would have to understand how the brain reads and writes and stores our memories, understand how our brain processes data, understand what consciousness is, understand the human condition well enough to document it, and importantly, know how to craft a robot or program a cloned human brain with all the knowledge you had. What you are is more than your data - as just one example, you feel your arms the way you do because of where the nerves grew - in another body suddenly your arms might not feel like your own. For another example, you and I may not see color the same way. You may wake up in another body to find green is visually nauseating to you.

But, again this is science fiction - you could envision a biological computer capable of emulating a human and capable of learning from how the human simulation reacts, that could take a snapshot of your memories and thought processes and simulate them, then adapt to reduce discomfort and stress.

I like your ideas. They aren't going to happen the next hundred years. But they sound like good science fiction. :)
 
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  • #6
BernieM said:
IN the case of the encapsulated molecule, say all I wanted to do was to make a little capsule full of extremophile bacteria survive a reentry on another planet and reach the ground without the bacteria being destroyed. Is that so far off? A millenia?

We could make a little capsule and it could survive re-entry, surely in a thousand years. But that's re-entry from orbit. Not re-entry streaking in at 30,000 kilometers per second. You need to slow down from your interstellar trip. You'll want to anyway, so the pellets have a chance to be captured by a planet and don't just streak through any solar system they come across. (30,000 kilometers per second is way, way over the escape velocity of our sun for example).
 
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  • #7
I was wrong about what would happen if you turned the entire Earth into asparin sized pellets and launched them in a sphere.

Distance to Mars at closest approach: @33 million KM
Area of sphere: 13,684,777,599,037,138 square km

Volume of Earth in square centimeters: 233,444,007,111,946,270

So you'd get about 17 of them per square kilometer by the time the sphere of pellets hit Mars. Mars would be peppered with them.

But by the time you hit Pluto, the sphere's surface area is... 706,858,347,057,703,400,000 square km
Or, on average, one per 3,033 square kilometers of surface area. It's entirely possible Pluto wouldn't be hit.

By the time you are a light year out...
surface area is 1,134,114,947,945,915,400,000,000,000 square kilometers
or one pellet in each five billion square kilometers of surface area.

So you can't just randomly throw them. Or, you have to take apart entire solar systems in the process. Given a thousand years? Who knows - maybe we could do that. A lot can happen in a thousand years.
 
  • #8
Interesting responses. Thank you. That's what I am looking for. Seems to me the biggest barrier is getting the 'capsules' to strike a planet somewhere. Without first solving that problem the rest becomes moot it seems.

But shouldn't it be viewed like a nuclear cross section problem? What are the odds of striking something passing through the universe? After all they would not be limited to this galaxy (provided you can get them going fast enough to escape the galaxy.)
 
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  • #9
BernieM said:
But shouldn't it be viewed like a nuclear cross section problem? What are the odds of striking something passing through the universe?

Essentially zero. Space is big.
 
  • #10
The idea that we would hit random planets with those things and destroy the extant ecology for our own purposes without considering if there are living beings there is horrifying. And very human.
 
  • #11
Sphere's surface area is 4 x pi x r-squared.
Multiply the radius by 1000, multiply the surface area by one million.
So at a thousand light years out, you have one pellet for each five quadrillion kilometers.
At a million light years - 2/5 of the way to the next galaxy - the pellets will be at a density of one per five trillion billion (5,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) square kilometers.

When they hit the Andromeda galaxy, or IF they hit the Andromeda galaxy, you'll get only a handful in there. The whole planet Earth converted to these pellets basically missed the galaxy they were already in - the chances a handful will hit something in a different galaxy is even closer to zero than the last estimate of almost zero.

Finally - remember that your pellets have no further means of acceleration - so as they escape the Sun, and then the Galaxy, and then the Local Group, they will slow down. Everything outside the local group of galaxies is accelerating away from us, and that acceleration is growing - I didn't do the math, but even if you can escape the local group, I'm pretty sure you'll never catch up to anything else.
 
  • #12
Noisy Rhysling said:
The idea that we would hit random planets with those things and destroy the extant ecology for our own purposes without considering if there are living beings there is horrifying. And very human.

The OP didn't specifically state it but it's implied that humans are doing this - so in so far as it may be morally devoid, you're right it is human. I wonder how the story would progress - if the seeds would be looked upon as saviors of our species, or weapons of genocide.
 
  • #13
Drakkith said:
Essentially zero. Space is big.

That's if you randomly broadcast the 'pellets' in all directions equally and the distribution of planets in the universe was homogeneous. But since the matter in the universe is clustered up and we know where it lies, we can shoot the pellets in the direction of the higher concentrations of stellar bodies in the universe and tip the odds quite a bit in our favor. For example, if one were to shoot the pellets out into the milky way, one would shoot along the plane of the galaxy where most of its mass is, from our viewpoint. Or at galactic clusters, for example.

And since the pellets have mass, they will be drawn over a long period of travel toward strong gravitational fields. This of course will result in most of them perhaps ending up in a black hole, neutron star or regular stellar body, but they would, I think, have an increase in the odds of striking a planet on the way to the star.

Noisy Rhysling said:
The idea that we would hit random planets with those things and destroy the extant ecology for our own purposes without considering if there are living beings there is horrifying. And very human.

To date I have seen no proof yet that there are ecologies in the Universe other than where we are. As well, if the ecology has undergone evolution there as it has here in the past, then it will be far better adapted to the environment and conditions than our 'generic one-size-fits-all proto-life molecule' would be, and hence our molecule may not even be able to get a foothold if there is an existing ecology. You could even devise it so that it won't grow (self destructs) if there are indicators of life already present in the environment. Custom nanoparticles for that purpose or something.

Panspermia is an accepted possibility as to how life might have come to arise on Earth in the beginning. I don't know if there has been any work to discredit it, but even if it was not applicable in the case of man and life on Earth, it would not invalidate the possibility of it occurring elsewhere in the universe. Who is to say that IF panspermia is an actual thing, that it was not caused, in some cases at least, by other life forms in the universe. Regardless of the source, a planet breaking into bits and speeding out of its solar system carrying microbes on chunks of rocks or little green men shooting out pellets with a life molecule, like seeds to seed other worlds, it could possibly be happening. So why not mankind doing it for his purposes then? Or does everything that happens in this universe have to be done by 'accident' to be OK by science? And btw, when we travel to Mars we have just polluted Mars, haven't we. So do we go there or not? Or do we have to conduct a survey before we go somewhere, to be sure there is no life before we go? If so, you will never travel very far from Earth, because the probes sent to survey other planets, without amazing new technologies, will not be able to give you information in a timely fashion on whether another planet does or does not have life.
 
  • #14
BernieM said:
That's if you randomly broadcast the 'pellets' in all directions equally and the distribution of planets in the universe was homogeneous. But since the matter in the universe is clustered up and we know where it lies, we can shoot the pellets in the direction of the higher concentrations of stellar bodies in the universe and tip the odds quite a bit in our favor. For example, if one were to shoot the pellets out into the milky way, one would shoot along the plane of the galaxy where most of its mass is, from our viewpoint. Or at galactic clusters, for example.

Again, the problem comes down to space being big. If you shot a billion of these pellets at a nearby galaxy cluster, they would spread out over time. Without a means to correct for errors in trajectory, they would pretty quickly be placed so far apart as to make the likelihood of one impacting another object essentially zero. If you fire two of these, and they differ by only one millimeter across a million kilometers - basically if you could throw two darts at a dart board on the moon, and hit two bullseyes, by the time they were one light year out they would be 9,500 kilometers apart. When they're 1000 light years out, they'd be 9.5 million kilometers apart. When they're 2.5 million light years out and entering the Andromedia galaxy, they'd be 23 billion, 750 million light years apart.

Gravity would be an issue, but not a significant one initially - moving at a tenth of light speed, the particles could easily escape any gravity well they didn't happen to pass too deeply through. When they did finally slow enough to be captured by a gravity well, the problem is that it won't be a planet's gravity well - it will be something big like a star. Nothing in interstellar space is captured by Earth's gravity well... it's captured by the sun. Then, having been captured by the sun, the chances of it impacting something on the way down are again essentially zero.

Finally you again have time. To go 2.5 million light years to Andromedia at 0.1 light speed requires 25 million years. Chances are, it will just pass right through, but if it did get captured, there are objects captured by the Sun that have not fallen in towards the planets yet, in the 4.5 billion year history of our solar system.

The only way that your object will impact a planet is by absolute happenstance at unbelievable odds.

Which isn't to say that it couldn't happen. And depending on what you intend to write, it may not matter the odds - it may be enough that it COULD happen. Humanity isn't always logical - nobody will ever listen to the record on either Voyager probe. Nobody will ever see the record. The odds are so far beyond incredible as to be zero. But, we still put a record on each of the probes and instructions on how to play it on the record. I could see a group of humans in the future firm in their belief that they had to try to populate the universe.

To date I have seen no proof yet that there are ecologies in the Universe other than where we are. As well, if the ecology has undergone evolution there as it has here in the past, then it will be far better adapted to the environment and conditions than our 'generic one-size-fits-all proto-life molecule' would be, and hence our molecule may not even be able to get a foothold if there is an existing ecology. You could even devise it so that it won't grow (self destructs) if there are indicators of life already present in the environment. Custom nanoparticles for that purpose or something.

You specified in the original post that the seed should be capable of adapting and surviving in the environment. We are responding to that post.

I think you may be taking feedback to your post personally.
 
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  • #15
BernieM said:
That's if you randomly broadcast the 'pellets' in all directions equally and the distribution of planets in the universe was homogeneous. But since the matter in the universe is clustered up and we know where it lies, we can shoot the pellets in the direction of the higher concentrations of stellar bodies in the universe and tip the odds quite a bit in our favor. For example, if one were to shoot the pellets out into the milky way, one would shoot along the plane of the galaxy where most of its mass is, from our viewpoint. Or at galactic clusters, for example.

Okay. In that case the chances increase to about... zero still. The chances of a non-guided object impacting a planet within the next few dozen billion years is almost zero, no matter what direction you launch them. This is especially true if you're launching them with relativistic velocities. At those speeds, the only thing that could prevent them from leaving the galaxy and heading out into intergalactic space would be if they directly impacted an object. Even black holes and neutron stars would be unable to capture these pellets.

To be honest, if the goal is to seed life in other star systems, a non-guided system such as this is not a very good way of going about it. However, you could simply include a small guidance and propulsion system with each pellet to vastly increase the chances of finding a planet. The size of these systems would be up to you since you have control over your story.

Another option is to launch the pellets along calculated paths such that they are very likely to impact a known planet in the future. This requires that the civilization launching them make detailed observations of the positions and paths of thousands of stars and their associated bodies, but this is certainly within the realm of possibility for an advanced civilization.

BernieM said:
And since the pellets have mass, they will be drawn over a long period of travel toward strong gravitational fields. This of course will result in most of them perhaps ending up in a black hole, neutron star or regular stellar body, but they would, I think, have an increase in the odds of striking a planet on the way to the star.

Not true. The gravitational fields of neutron stars and black holes are identical to other objects of their mass until you get within a few hundred thousand miles of them. They would have no more influence on your pellets than regular stars would. Also note that gravity is not like a vacuum cleaner. Massive bodies do not suck up objects like they are commonly portrayed as doing.

BernieM said:
Panspermia is an accepted possibility as to how life might have come to arise on Earth in the beginning. I don't know if there has been any work to discredit it, but even if it was not applicable in the case of man and life on Earth, it would not invalidate the possibility of it occurring elsewhere in the universe.

I don't think anyone is purposely doing work to discredit panspermia. Instead, there's just been no evidence supporting it as being likely. Is it possible? Certainly. Is it likely? Probably not.

BernieM said:
Regardless of the source, a planet breaking into bits and speeding out of its solar system carrying microbes on chunks of rocks or little green men shooting out pellets with a life molecule, like seeds to seed other worlds, it could possibly be happening.

While possible, such an event would be very rare. The timescale required for life to evolve means that star systems should have existed long enough for their planets and other major bodies to assume stable orbits. Once in a stable orbit, it would take a rare event (such as a rogue massive object passing through) to eject a planet.

BernieM said:
So why not mankind doing it for his purposes then? Or does everything that happens in this universe have to be done by 'accident' to be OK by science?

No, it's just that in the context of the origin of life, "accidental" causes are viewed as far more likely than "non-accidental".

BernieM said:
And btw, when we travel to Mars we have just polluted Mars, haven't we. So do we go there or not? Or do we have to conduct a survey before we go somewhere, to be sure there is no life before we go?

Currently we try to do surveys to make sure that wherever we are going shows no signs of life. We recently sent a space probe to burn up in the atmosphere of Saturn instead of risking that it might eventually impact one of Saturn's moons where life might be found.

BernieM said:
If so, you will never travel very far from Earth, because the probes sent to survey other planets, without amazing new technologies, will not be able to give you information in a timely fashion on whether another planet does or does not have life.

Absolutely. If we ever spread out into the galaxy we will likely have to accept the fact that we may end up arriving at a planet which has rudimentary life already present.
 
  • #16
All of that is very true. And, no, I don't take it personally. I have nothing vested in whether it works or doesn't work, can be done or not. I am just trying to explore possibilities further and see where they go. See if there are solutions to mentioned problems. Like slowing down the particles to a lower speed that may make their capture more possible.
 
  • #17
You have to understand that we go by your original post. Aspirin sized biological pellet moving a tenth the speed of light, impacting planets and surviving to grow and develop.

Tell us what is non-negotiable in your story... Can we slow down the pellet? Make it bigger? intelligent? Send a ship that releases them when in another stars gravity well? Add a solar sail? Add a reactionless mini propulsion system? Assume the biological material can survive indefinitely? Make a coating that radiates heat instantly? How about Von neumann machines? Replicate endlessly until they find a world then create your biological material on site?
 
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  • #18
rkolter said:
You have to understand that we go by your original post. Aspirin sized biological pellet moving a tenth the speed of light, impacting planets and surviving to grow and develop.

Tell us what is non-negotiable in your story... Can we slow down the pellet? Make it bigger? intelligent? Send a ship that releases them when in another stars gravity well? Add a solar sail? Add a reactionless mini propulsion system? Assume the biological material can survive indefinitely? Make a coating that radiates heat instantly? How about Von neumann machines? Replicate endlessly until they find a world then create your biological material on site?

All of the above is negotiable. It is not so much about how to make it happen, but if one could determine in some way whether life on a planet (ours included) was a result of panspermia that was not accidental. Maybe like a terraforming project that was abandoned. Or perhaps not abandoned. It's kind of a crazy idea, but it is very intriguing some of the questions it raises, as well as possible space travel technology. Of course it's a whole lot of if's and near impossibilities, but the existence of life here no this planet seems a rather huge improbability also when one considers all the steps that had to occur and in which order they occurred in, to arrive at the human species as we are today.

But basically let's just say that I'm trying to determine just how complex a problem it would be, that without amazing sci-fi technologies, using just technologies that are relatively possible or reasonable to assume will, sometime in the not so far distant future, actually be realistic to assume that might arise here, that we might somehow accomplish the ability to seed life on other planets, say, to make them habitable if they are not currently. To provide an atmosphere that's breathable, or modify the climate in some other way, like perhaps warming it up. Both of those features would be nice if we are actually going to inhabit Mars, for example, in the future, for a period longer than just a few experimental trips.

One of the questions I am trying to answer, and I realize though that there may be no real answer, at least yet, is whether or not evolution will always produce intelligent life. After all, it is always the more adapted species that survives, and intelligence goes a long way to allowing a species to adapt readily in a changing environment, or hostile environment.

So how can I accomplish this. How does one seed other planets? Again, this is assuming no FTL travel, no wormhole technologies, etc., only those technologies, that today seem to be realistic expectations of the future.

I consider the total understanding of DNA to the degree that one might actually create a particular desired life form might be possible in the next few hundred years perhaps. An understanding such that one might actually program a molecule to do particular things once introduced somewhere else.

But could you guarantee in that basic original molecule that it may produce intelligent life, capable of a society and technology that exists today? And why would I want to?

Well, if another species in the universe (should one actually exist) gains at least our level of understanding of life and the universe, it then would be reasonable to assume that they might also be experimenting with similar things that we are. Perhaps they too would want to create AI, computers, clone creatures, advance medical technologies, etc. And if they did that, and were successful, say, in transferring consciousness, then they would also recognize a signal that contained a consciousness.

Now, if I were also to know how to encode a consciousness, what makes you you, broadcast in a signal into space, say on a particular wavelength that allows it to stand out against the background noise in space, and the other species recognized it for what it was, they might be curious and decide to put it into one of their computers, custom body, robot, what have you. And when 'it' comes to life... YOU have just traveled across that distance without ever setting foot in a rocket. And if that is far enough away, though you were already long dead, you have essentially come back to life.

Not only that, but if there were multiple planets with life (that you seeded or not) that did the same thing, there would be multiple copies of you floating around the universe, exploring a new world!

It's a fairly unique space program no?

And it raises a whole lot of questions in a whole lot of areas, none of which I think there is an answer to, because I believe the questions I ask are impossible ultimately to answer definitively, at least at this time.

So basically I am trying to determine what the barriers of technology and science would be, and try to figure out more questions to add to the list that I already have.

I do see one thing however, that if DNA were actually an intelligent program executed by another intelligent race, that drives mankind as a whole, as a species, then it may be no accident at all, but part of that program. The desire we have to know if we are alone, for example. Or a headlong race to get to space and leave Earth. Is there a God? What is our purpose or do we have one? Things like that.

In my view, evolution is the driving force behind war, reproduction, exploration and pretty much every other major aspect of our lives.
So now I think you guys might have enough to add whatever you want, or to shoot holes in anything you like. Everything is fair game. It will add more questions for me. That's where the value is. The questions. Answers are good too.
 
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  • #19
BernieM said:
Of course it's a whole lot of if's and near impossibilities, but the existence of life here no this planet seems a rather huge improbability also when one considers all the steps that had to occur and in which order they occurred in, to arrive at the human species as we are today.

While true, that could be argued about every single organism on the planet. Even the simple bacteria in the soil. The probability of evolution leading to the creation of that particular organism is extremely low, yet it happened. And we really don't know how probable abiogenesis is, so it's difficult to talk about whether it's likely or not.

BernieM said:
One of the questions I am trying to answer, and I realize though that there may be no real answer, at least yet, is whether or not evolution will always produce intelligent life. After all, it is always the more adapted species that survives, and intelligence goes a long way to allowing a species to adapt readily in a changing environment, or hostile environment.

Indeed, there's probably no answer to that.

BernieM said:
So how can I accomplish this. How does one seed other planets? Again, this is assuming no FTL travel, no wormhole technologies, etc., only those technologies, that today seem to be realistic expectations of the future.

If you don't mind it taking millions of years to arrive at its destination, you can simply send out a probe to seed the planet using conventional propulsion technology. The amount of fuel required (and subsequent size of the spacecraft ) depends on how quickly you want to arrive. Voyager 1 and 2 are heading out into interstellar space and required a launch vehicle weighing about 1.4 million pounds, but they also don't carry any fuel by which to slow themselves down. A spacecraft would need to carry all that fuel with it so it can slow down and be captured into an orbit by the planet. Unfortunately the size of the vehicle and the amount of fuel it would need increases extremely quickly as the velocity of the spacecraft rises. Even a velocity of 0.1c would require an absolutely massive spacecraft , 99% of which would just be fuel.

BernieM said:
But could you guarantee in that basic original molecule that it may produce intelligent life, capable of a society and technology that exists today? And why would I want to?

No, no one can guarantee that.

BernieM said:
I do see one thing however, that if DNA were actually an intelligent program executed by another intelligent race

It's not. Oh it may be extraterrestrial in origin, but it's certainly not an "intelligent program". It's not a "program" at all. Blueprints and programs are merely analogies to how DNA functions. And we already know that there's no "pre-programmed" guidance in evolution.

BernieM said:
that drives mankind as a whole, as a species, then it may be no accident at all, but part of that program.

Our DNA is only partially responsible for how we behave. The way the human brain develops is subject to both hard-coded and random events over the course of a lifetime. The random events include things at the cellular level, such as which neurons a forming axon will terminate at, and include things ranging up to the social level, such as the particular events surrounding a peer-pressure induced golf cart "incident" in my teenage years.
 
  • #20
Drakkith, first of all, we do have the ability already to create custom chains of DNA. We also have the ability to create organisms that 'self destruct' or become no longer viable after x amount of time, like say a weaponized virus. So, by program, I do not mean that you will end up with a particular organism, or that humans will happen after 1 billion years of running the program (but could it be possible to know what configurations were most likely to occur .. don't we do this with the Flu figuring out which will emerge this year?) but that a particular pattern of survival would emerge. With DNA there is a pre-programmed guidance. Replication of the DNA molecule. That's it. To replicate the cell/organism needs to survive, so indirectly it's a rule regarding the survival of an organism. You must survive to reproduce to replicate your DNA. Survival in turn becomes the key factors in things like government or law. When large groups are in conflict for limited resources ... or for a single mate. Etc. The DNA knows nothing of this of course, and is not running a program like one runs a computer program.

And as far as how long it takes to get somewhere, say another galaxy. Without technology far more exotic than we have today, getting a man to another galaxy is pretty much an impossible dream. Even if we could make Earth itself the spaceship, and head off at .1C, by the time we arrived, millions of years of evolution may have wiped us out or we have evolved on to become something else entirely different from when we began out trip. It is in those really long distance trips that it becomes the only possible way to travel (barring other technologies of course.) And the passage of 2 billion years is irrelevant once you are dead anyhow. You will be passing only the data of who you are through the universe, not your body. In the hopes that one day there might be a race intelligent enough to build you a new body and bring you back to life, in essence. You are just hedging your bets that there will be someone there one day to do it, if you broadcast life seeds so to speak.

Of course then you will need a very powerful transmitter and have it broadcast that data for a long long time. So it better be self repairing I guess.
 
  • #21
Unless I messed up the calculation, an object with a mass of 1 gram traveling at 10% of the speed of light will hit its new home planet with the energy of a hundred megaton nuclear bomb.
 
  • #22
BernieM said:
So, by program, I do not mean that you will end up with a particular organism, or that humans will happen after 1 billion years of running the program (but could it be possible to know what configurations were most likely to occur .. don't we do this with the Flu figuring out which will emerge this year?) but that a particular pattern of survival would emerge.

No, this isn't possible because environmental conditions (which evolution is responding to via natural selection) fluctuate over time and change with location. And although we do try to predict which flu strain will be dominant each flu season, we aren't always successful and we are only predicting things over a tiny timescale where evolutionary changes are small.

BernieM said:
With DNA there is a pre-programmed guidance. Replication of the DNA molecule. That's it.

I'd hardly call that pre-programmed guidance. As you said, it's a prerequisite for everything else. Guidance usually implies a guidance along a particular path among many choices, not a prerequisite.
 
  • #23
BernieM said:
Secondly, how far are we from an understanding what we are, in so much as we would be able to create a bitstream of data to represent you and your memories and say, put it into a robotic, cyborg or cloned body, etc. In other words, you could not transfer the brain or cells to this other body, it would have to be transmittable (think 'transporter beam' technology.)

If you enjoy things on this topic then read "The Future of the Mind" by Prof. Michio Kaku!
Awesome book. I read it.
 
  • #24
General question - Is this still a question about science fiction, or an argument about the possibility of intelligent life seeding the stars?

I'm happy to argue about if intelligence is an emergent property, or if life could be seeded by intelligent beings, but at this point it doesn't sound like you're trying to bounce a sci-fi idea off the forum. If everything is negotiable, then you don't have a story in mind yet. So, I'll give you my general answers:

I think Panspermia is a fascinating idea for a sci-fi story and have read some really good ones.

We do not have the technology to do this with any hope of success - and the path we as Humans would take would depend on what technologies develop in the future. If we develop a way to put biology into stasis we might not care about the speed with which we release our life to the stars. If we develop a reactionless engine we might invest in fewer pellets that could direct themselves. If we find that biology will always mutate along the way, we might have to go with von neumann machines and build the biology on site. So asking the path we would likely take is moot. You won't be able to forecast how we do it in your story based on our current technology.

Even if the initial act of spreading biology to the stars was intentional, it will still take a lucky sequence of accidents for it to be successful - that the material and pellet survive the journey, that it is snagged by a gravity well, that it lands on a planet in that well, that it survives the landing, that the planet is hospitable enough to allow it to develop.

Once on the planet, how the material would develop would depend upon the situations encountered. You would be starting out evolution in a different set of circumstances and the resulting creatures may not share anything in common with the flora and fauna you are used to. And, as a result, you cannot pre-plan how the life will develop. Consider we still can't grow a banana that's immune to blight. And then ask yourself how long it would take for us to advance to where we could create a seed that could on it's own terraform an entire planet and then direct it's biology such that each evolutionary step it made advanced life on that world until at some point two billion years in the future, a blight-free banana plant developed.

Unrelated -
I remember a 1990's instrumental/music video (I owned it on VHS if that tells you anything) that started with a seed falling to a planet, and the seed growing life, and the life evolving - becoming more and more complex across a billion years until it eventually took a barren planet and turned it into a world filled with living things. Far more time passed and eventually, intelligence and civilization developed. Then, some time after that, an otherwise unassuming plant developed that could launch its seeds to the stars - the irony being that all the preceding evolved life and intelligent beings were just setting the stage for this plant to finally develop - that all other life was just a byproduct of this one plant's reproductive strategy.

Anyway, good luck on your story. If you have specific questions related to issues you are having trouble getting over in your story, I'll be on the lookout for posts about them.
 
  • #25
russ_watters said:
Unless I messed up the calculation, an object with a mass of 1 gram traveling at 10% of the speed of light will hit its new home planet with the energy of a hundred megaton nuclear bomb.

YIKES! Sounds like a good way to eliminate life somewhere, not get it started! Of course, I did say any capsule the size of a pepper flake perhaps to an aspirin in size. However, another person raised the option of a larger, smart delivery system. That's fine too. If one can guarantee reaching an objective, that would be great. However one wouldn't want all of the capsules sent out to reach the same planet or just nearby ones. The idea was to spread them out throughout the galaxy and to galaxies beyond, in time.

I was looking for passive ways of doing this, as it would probably be less expensive (least resources) to do. For example, mirroring the surface of the pellet might allow it to slow as it neared a solar system as the light intensity from its sun increased. Or, a smart system is fine. But it would need to be a long lasting system simple enough in design as not to suffer failure (not sure how that could be accomplished.)

Regarding transmitting the information to replicate a living consciousness. If one looks at a computer today, with no knowledge whatsoever of physics or electronics, etc., the schematics of a computer would be mind boggling to anyone contemplating how to 'represent it' in a data stream and transmit it. But when people have an understanding of electronics and physics, one does not have to transmit an entire how-to book on creating it. One merely has to transmit its specifications, some block diagrams, flow charts, a program to run on it, and the data that may be relevant as well.

SETI looks for signs of intelligent life in the universe. Their assumption is that it might be a signal that is repeating or have some regular characteristics to it that are identifiable. Maybe a binary counting sequence. Or something like that. But what if an alien life form were transmitting say a recording of its 'brainwaves?' Unless you have someone at SETI who understands what a brainwave looks like (hopefully alien ones would look similar! yikes!,) like a neurologist, then it's likely to be dismissed as background noise and random garbage to be ignored.

But perhaps, if we were up to speed on transferring people into new bodies (I saw an author on the News just recently announcing a new book where he talks about printing a new body for people and transferring them into it for immortality, essentially) then perhaps when we figured it out, that there was a signal out there, like that computer schematic and information, we might then be able to put that consciousness into a body at that point and see who it is and what they have to say to us.

I find it intriguing, and will argue with no one that says it is highly unlikely or near impossible. But the odds are non-zero against it. Just as life on Earth being here is highly unlikely, but non-zero. Because we do exist (at least we think we do!)

I had a discussion with a couple guys who were involved in top secret research. Though not a lot was disclosed, I figured out what they were up to and offered an alternative that might work better. They agreed. I did however tell them that there were 'experts' I had discussed this with (before I knew these guys) who thought it was impossible. Their response was 'We work with scientists at MIT and JPL, etc., all the time. There are scientists there that tell us it can't be done and there are those that say they can do it or figure it out. We give our money to the ones that say it can be done.' So just as there are a lot of barriers to any of this so there are solutions to it as well. Seeing both sides is important for me.

My approach will be to speculate on one (remote) possible scenario that's non-zero. And I will list as many proofs, possible interpretations, barriers to, and possible solutions as I can come up with. And try to make it all entertaining and interesting and possibly valuable as well. It's not so much that I am right, or wrong, but that if people think in these directions it may also lead to other things, other discoveries that I had not addressed or had any idea were related at all.

So it's basically this. Species creates capsules, (small smart rockets, etc.,) that seed and start life on other planets, perhaps using a proto-molecule that can be custom tailored to fit the environment it finds itself in once it arrives (nanobots taking air samples that determine what building blocks to put together) that will eventually become intelligent (if they started with the same molecule of life they are made of, it seems possible that it might again produce life, no?) and then recognize a signal sent through the universe and implant that signal in a body on their world at some future date when they are advanced enough to recognize the signal and create custom bodies of some kind (robotic, cyborg, computer system, printed body, etc. as a host) far in the future. Bonus: If there is other life in the universe already they might figure it out too and so you don't then have to rely entirely on your terraforming life seeds. Yep, it's entirely crazy.

Better sci-fi than a bunch of aliens invading with a million storm troopers arriving in huge ships. Or plants from outer space that take over our bodies. Just my opinion though.
 
  • #26
I see no possible way to send a tiny capsule out into space and have it survive a trip to another world. Even the closest star system in your world would take 40 years. 40 years of being blasted with high energy radiation would not be survivable for anything DNA based. Cosmic rays will go through feet of lead like it wasn't even there so a capsule is like not even having a shield at all.

I have an alternative though.

Perhaps your capsule is instead a micromachine? Encoded in firmware (very hardened firmware) you could code instructions for 3D printing a microorganism once there. That would require orders of magnitude less technology.

How long until we could codify instructions for building a simple organism a molecule at a time? A few decades at the most, it's mostly just computing power and simplification to a minimum viable organism.

How long until we have 3D printing technology that can build things atom by atom? A little further, maybe 100 years, 200 at the most though.

Shooting it at 10% the speed of light and properly aiming it? Maybe a few hundred years. A laser beam should be able to accelerate a microcraft to such speeds.

I'm not sure how you'd prevent it from being vaporized the second it grazes an atmosphere at 10% light speed though. Maybe if you could magnetically contain a few anti-atoms and triggered them to go off like a rocket at the right time you could decelerate the thing first? That problem is probably solvable now, we'd just have to iterate to work out the bugs (assuming we could make such tiny thing which we can't.)So I think within 1000 years, humans would quite easily be able to spread it's reach to the nearest stars at least.
 
  • #27
I found this article interesting. It is about DNA surviving reentry into the atmosphere from space, and generally about seeding life from outer space. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/dna-can-survive-reentry-from-space/

newjerseyrunner said:
I see no possible way to send a tiny capsule out into space and have it survive a trip to another world. Even the closest star system in your world would take 40 years. 40 years of being blasted with high energy radiation would not be survivable for anything DNA based. Cosmic rays will go through feet of lead like it wasn't even there so a capsule is like not even having a shield at all.

I have an alternative though.

Perhaps your capsule is instead a micromachine? Encoded in firmware (very hardened firmware) you could code instructions for 3D printing a microorganism once there. That would require orders of magnitude less technology.

How long until we could codify instructions for building a simple organism a molecule at a time? A few decades at the most, it's mostly just computing power and simplification to a minimum viable organism.

How long until we have 3D printing technology that can build things atom by atom? A little further, maybe 100 years, 200 at the most though.

Shooting it at 10% the speed of light and properly aiming it? Maybe a few hundred years. A laser beam should be able to accelerate a microcraft to such speeds.

I'm not sure how you'd prevent it from being vaporized the second it grazes an atmosphere at 10% light speed though. Maybe if you could magnetically contain a few anti-atoms and triggered them to go off like a rocket at the right time you could decelerate the thing first? That problem is probably solvable now, we'd just have to iterate to work out the bugs (assuming we could make such tiny thing which we can't.)So I think within 1000 years, humans would quite easily be able to spread it's reach to the nearest stars at least.

I had mentioned that perhaps a mirrored capsule (or whatever it might end up being,) would slow as it approached a solar system, the amount it slowed of course, would be linked to the mass to surface area ratio and its velocity as it approached the system, as well as factors like how strong the solar radiation, solar wind, etc., were in the solar system that it approached. Perhaps when the light intensity gets to a certain level it unfurls a miniature solar sail to slow down or navigate, as long as we are into using nano tech machines.
 
  • #28
BernieM said:
Perhaps when the light intensity gets to a certain level it unfurls a miniature solar sail to slow down or navigate, as long as we are into using nano tech machines.
I imagine that would work perfectly. We'd probably even give such a craft a nickname like "The Flower" or something.
 
  • #29
I guess that I feel the 'capsule' to carry the payload isn't the most difficult problem. At least I hadn't figured it to be prior to this conversation. But there were things I obviously had not taken into account.
 
  • #30
I use my smartphone as my tricorder and Google Translate as my communicator.
 
  • #31
It's entirely possible to seed a planet, matter of fact NASA should already have looked into that and I'm sure they have. All you need is a class m planet with water and a favorable temperature and a sun. Freeze dried bacteria should work just fine.
 
  • #32
Chris Riccard said:
. All you need is a class m planet

That's fiction.
 
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Likes russ_watters
  • #33
If you were going to seed a planet I would send the organism Prochlorococcus. Could be a tablespoon of critters. I am sure they freeze well.
 

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