Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Will we always be observing ?

  1. Jan 28, 2012 #1
    Will we always be "observing"?

    Hello everyone, I am from India. Have been an astronomy fan since childhood. Have also been reading this forum since quite a while. Looking forward to interact and learn from knowledgeable people here.

    Now coming to the topic, let's say we detect intelligent life in our neighbourhood (10 LYs for example). We can "understand" each others languages. LSB would mean that the 2-way communication is basically useless. It would take 10 years for transmission to reach to the other side. So we can basically say goodbye to communicating with any intelligent life form, and the mere thought of traveling sounds like a joke.

    Therefore will we always be in "observation" mode?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 28, 2012 #2


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Re: Will we always be "observing"?

    A mere 10 years delay would be a godsend. In terms of our planet and race, having a conversation that "fast" would be better than we could possibly hope for.

    It's not like we have to wait to be asked a question before deciding to respond. We know what their questions are going to be. Essentially, we just start educating them from the ground up. Beam them Encyclopedia Britannica. They will do the same. No one has to ask.

    In terms of specific questions we may have, well, 20 years is a blip. How long did it take them to compose the message for the Voyager plaque?

    Also note that we routinely set up delayed benefit missions every time we send a probe to the outer planets. Those missions take years to start returning data. No scientist will balk at starting a mission like this that won't pay off for 20 years.
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2012
  4. Jan 29, 2012 #3
    Re: Will we always be "observing"?

    Please remember that many things that seemed like a joke to people not too long ago are now commonplace. Computers that play chess and beat masters, humans flying in heavier than air machines, and two-way rapid audible conversation from opposite sides of the world all seemed like jokes at one time. But here we are taking those things for granted. So too it might turn out with interstellar space travel and even perhaps in time with the velocity of interstellar communication. Only time will tell.
  5. Jan 29, 2012 #4


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Re: Will we always be "observing"?

    Well, there's a difference between soft hurdles and hard roadblocks.

    Powerful enough engines for aircraft is not in the same class of problem as the speed limit of the universe.
  6. Jan 29, 2012 #5
    Re: Will we always be "observing"?

    I didn't say that all scientific hurdles are the same.
    Neither did I compare the sound barrier with the speed-of-light-barrier.
    Obviously one poses greater challenges than the other.

    I merey said that apparent impossibility now isn't necessarily irrefutable evidence of permanent impossibility.

    Also, I didn't say that interstellar flight would involve breaking the light speed barrier.
    I merely said that interstellar travel might seem impossible now from the poster's viewpoint but might become commonplace in the far future.

    Here is an excerpt from a relevant article:

    Last edited: Jan 29, 2012
  7. Jan 30, 2012 #6
    Re: Will we always be "observing"?

    Yes I get that any scientist would go mad if such a scenario were to happen.

    But I was thinking about having real-time communication which is impossible at such distances. So unless we find a way to send information faster than light, 2-way communication would really suck. And if the Intelligent Civilisation is thousands of LYs away well then...
  8. Jan 30, 2012 #7


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Re: Will we always be "observing"?

    All current evidence points away from this being possible. Even if it were possible there would be some bizzare consequences.

    Regarding interstellar travel aside from the technological hurdles (building and maintaining a stable productive closed-ecosystem, a complete self-sufficient industry, a sufficiently sized noosphere, a social organisation stable for long periods and sufficient propulsion) the biggest worry I have is the inherent danger. Coring an billion tonne asteroid before spinning it and sending it off at a high fraction of C is all fun and games before someone aims it at a planet.
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2012
  9. Jan 30, 2012 #8


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Re: Will we always be "observing"?

    Actually, balk=hesitate. So what I said was: no scientist would hesitate at the chance. i.e. they do it routinely now.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook