Someone needs to stop the Russian billionaire and dramatically-paralyzed scientist from launching their nanobots. Stephen Hawking and Yuri Milner have announced a plan to bother Alpha Centauri and I will break my prohibition on petitions for this. When the aliens are eating your faces and genitalia, you will all regret not having listened to me.
If you don’t want to read the article, or just prefer to have me make it up at you, then here it is:
Well, that’s not it. That’s just a picture of a solar sail, which is the concept here. Stars radiate radiation, and that energy bounces off the mirrored sail, which is very thin and light. This is just a tiny bit of propulsion, but since it’s space and there’s no friction, the sail adds speed continuously and eventually accelerates to subluminal speeds.
(I will freely admit to being disappointed in what a solar sail looks like when designed by actual scientists instead of comic book artists. I was expecting a chariot-type deal with rippling sails and maybe missiles.)
The problem with solar sails is that it takes a while to get up to speed, and there’s not much you can do about that. Increasing the size of the sail would do it, if not for the commensurate gain in mass: even when there’s no rocket involved, the rocket equation still rules space travel.
But what if you removed the “solar” from the sail, and instead blasted the card-table size ship with an earth-based laser beam the size of a suburban shopping mall?
That’ll do it.
It is here where I launch my first objection to this venture: these two are clearly Bond villains building a death ray. “We’re going to Alpha Centauri, yay!” Bullshit: death ray.
And even if they’re not bent on world domination (they are), then they’ve still created a death ray. Don’t make death rays. What if ISIS stole it, and bolted it into the bed of a pickup truck? Then what? You know ISIS would not use a death ray responsibly.
My main fear is one that Professor Hawking has also voiced. (Well, not “voiced.”) We shouldn’t be broadcasting our location, or even our existence. I am sure the galaxy is full of bullshit we want no part of: space is too big to not contain at least a few assholes.
Let’s say we do make contact with Alpha Centurians. Then what? I’ll tell you what: they eat us. Or they convert us to whatever their religion is (Space Episcopalian) and then they eat us. That crippled fucker is going to get us eaten by martians and I warned you.
Can I get you to stop?
I was actually done.
No problem. Wanna see a picture of Phil?
Hey, it’s Phil.
Yeah, that’s from tonight. You can listen to it on Radio Busterdog, if you’d like.
Phil loves his Apple Watch.
He’s got pictures of Baby Levon on it.