Millis: Approaches to Interstellar Flight

by Paul Gilster on February 24, 2010

How do you go about pushing the frontiers of propulsion science? Tau Zero Foundation founder Marc Millis discussed the question in a just published interview with h+ Magazine. One aspect of the question is to recognize where we are today. Millis is on record as saying that it may be two to four centuries before we’re ready to launch an Alpha Centauri mission. Why the delay? The problem is not so much high-tech savvy as it is available energy, and Millis evaluates it by comparing the energy we use for rocketry today vs. the entire Earth’s consumption of energy.

The question is how much energy we produce and how much we consume, and what percentage of that is devoted to spaceflight. You can see and hear Millis discussing his calculations on the matter in a presentation he made at the TEDx Brussels 2009 session, one that is linked to from the interview. Obviously, the time to the Centauri stars decreases if we decide to put ten times more energy into the space program than we have historically done. Will we make such a choice?

While we’re working such issues out, Millis advocates backing off the idea of choosing a single best approach for interstellar flight. We’re a long way from actually flying such a mission, and rather than attempting to choose a single course, we do better by researching the entire range of possibilities:

Relative to the technology, as a culture we’re so used to thinking how we can get “there” the quickest, or what’s the best single approach. When it comes to interstellar flight and learning to live beyond Earth, this thinking sidetracks us because we’re so far from fruition in our understanding of interstellar space options, that there’s no way for us to pick “the” one way. Instead, there are many different options and unknowns. We stand to gain a lot more from the attempt to understand them – chipping away at them rather than not doing anything at all. By researching the spectrum of possibilities, we’re likely to be better off in the near term.

A research plan that looks laterally, the way a mountain climber evaluates the best path up? We haven’t explicitly tried that approach in interstellar studies, but Millis backs it:

I really want to change the paradigm of how we look at interstellar flight. It’s not just a matter of trying to get there quickly or to find “the best approach,” rather it’s finding the smartest things we can do today that set the stage for a more productive future. At the Tau Zero Foundation, we cover simple solar sails to the seemingly impossible faster-than-light. Rather than trying to identify the best approach, we’re trying to identify the next steps that students can work on to chip away at where their own personal interests lie.

Most of the h+ interview is spent on current issues, such as the cancellation of the Constellation program and the most realistic way to get to Mars, but those with a yen for breakthrough ideas will enjoy Millis’ thoughts on faster than light travel and the time paradoxes it might introduce. Does quantum entanglement show instantaneous connections between particles or are there other explanations, and are there faster than light implications in all this? Read the interview for more, and bear in mind that the book Millis edited with Eric Davis, Frontiers of Propulsion Science, gets into such questions with a vengeance. Re quantum entanglement and its implications, even Millis calls that the hardest chapter in the book, a statement with which most scientists would agree.

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Jefferson February 24, 2010 at 10:49

Millis writes: “It’s not just a matter of trying to get there quickly or to find “the best approach,” rather it’s finding the smartest things we can do today that set the stage for a more productive future. ”

IMO a wise approach. To get places “within our lifetime” pushes us to the light-speed wall and speculative physics. There is a great desire to “get it done” within as few funding cycles as possible. The ancient Egyptians operated under such constraints – the great pyramid of Giza (which remained the tallest man-made structure for over 3,000 years) was completed in a scant 20 years, but at what cost? Perhaps it will turn out techniques that enable stealthful patience and efficiency are the key to detailed knowledge in this vast Universe.

Ronald February 24, 2010 at 11:21

I read in an abstract of the publication:

Testing spooky action at a distance (Authors: D. Salart, A. Baas, C. Branciard, N. Gisin, H. Zbinden),

that the Geneva experiments have shown that “if such a privileged reference frame exists (…), then the speed of this spooky influence would have to exceed that of light by at least 4 orders of magnitude”.

That means at least 10,000 times light speed.

So, very (VERY) maybe, there is still some hope, together with Heim’s theory and modern offspring for some kind of breakthrough FTL drive.

I know, this is all extremely premature, probably somewhere comparable to modern micro-electronics relative to Benjamin Franklin’s understanding of electricity, bit it may one day present a pathway. And hope springs eternal.

Intriguing at least.

Ronald February 24, 2010 at 11:22

BTW the description of this phenomenon as ‘spooky action at a distance’ is from Einstein.

kurt9 February 24, 2010 at 13:27

Assuming no breakthroughs in physics, interstellar travel will only come about once we have a thriving solar system wide civilization that produces lots and lots of energy. Advanced bio-sciences are necessary as well. These will be developed for industrial and medical applications as well as for habitation through out the solar system long before we go to the stars. I think Millis is right that we will not be going to the stars for another couple of centuries.

Eniac February 24, 2010 at 13:49

I am not sure I get the importance of the percentage of energy we use for spaceflight. It is not like the energy that drives a rocket comes from a wall-plug. Energy cost plays a negligible role in the cost of spaceflight, from all I have heard.

I think money is the measure that we are looking for here, a percentage of GDP rather than just energy production. The conclusions would probably be the same, though.

andy February 24, 2010 at 18:23

While we’re working such issues out, Millis advocates backing off the idea of choosing a single best approach for interstellar flight. We’re a long way from actually flying such a mission, and rather than attempting to choose a single course, we do better by researching the entire range of possibilities

Where’s T_U_T to decry this paralysis by analysis? ;-)

Kenneth Harmon February 24, 2010 at 18:43

Kenneth,

While I have a very high regard for Marc Millis and everything that he has done I wish that just for once we would think about the problem of Interstellar Flight a little differently. First, we should separate out a potential flight to the Alpha Centauri Stars as something different in scale from full scale Interstellar Flight given how relatively close Alpha Centuari is to Sol/Terra. Still a long way away at 4.3 LY for sure especially given current technology and also the required extensive protection for any Human crewed vehicle, but probably something that could be accomplished in the 21st Century, if and this is a big if, there is anything interesting there to go and explore. In fact, if we thought about a trip to Alpha Centuari as being within the “Interplanetary Zone of Sol/Terra” (~5 LY radius), and start including it in plans for “Interplanetary exploration”, and eventual colonization especially if there is a Brown Dwarf Star on the way there then we might make substatially more progress over the next 50 years.

This is not just an issue of semantics, but of how we conceptulaize the problem. For example, if we found a habitable planet around one of the two main Alpha Centauri Stars I strongly suspect that there would be allot of quick innovation over the following 2-3 decades to figure out a way to get there. It might not be pretty, but the demand function would go up strongly and many of the constraints we view today as nearly impossible to solve would melt away. The physics and engineering challenges would remain very hard of course, but the need would drive innovative solutions since at its core the problem is workable even from today’s perspective. Where the money and political will comes from is subject to debate, but we should have the energy in hand to launch such a mission by 2050-2075 and not break the bank in the process.

This is in contrast to finding a habitable planet around a star that is even just a mere 20 LY’s from Sol/Terra,and then trying to get there. How we would get there, short of several physics miracles, and how would we protect a Human crew is hard to even conceptualize at the current time. Velocities of .1-.2C would not really cut it and beyond those velocities we have no known way of engineering a solution. Perhaps we would get lucky quickly with new physics, but the problem in its essence would require fundamentally new physics.

Bottom line, as the new Icarus Project will hopefully prove there is “Interstellar Flight to Alpha Centuari” and there is real Interstellar flight to every where else in our Interstellar Neighborhood. I suspect that if anything of interest is found around Alpha Centuari over the next decade or so then by the end of the 21st Century a Human crewed vessel of some type will have been launched. However, beyond Alpha Centauri we may have to wait the 200-400 years that Marc Millis talks about to come up with practical and cost effective solutions to a very hard technical problem. A trip to Alpha Centauri can be brute forced engineered if need be, albeit at great cost and risk. A trip to other star systems will require both elegant physics and elegant engineering to include both breakthrough propulsion and Human protection solutions especially given the recent Edelstein calculations among other issues.

My plea here is to start parsing the two types of Interstellar journey’s since by lumping them all together and then viewing a trip to Alpha Centauri as a stepping stone for the rest they all seem impossibly hard from today’s vantage point, and politicians of almost any era quickly loose any interest in unobtanium. Instead, the case for Alpha Centuari should be viewed as a workable engineering problem to be refined over time as nearer term technology evolves and improves the cost-effectiveness and business case for such a trip. Once we have a Human presence near Pluto and in the outer Asteroid Belt of our Sun a trip to Alpha Centauri won’t seem to be that daunting, but just another step on the way to much longer duration trips to the Stars. And if by chance some of the modified Heim theory turns out to be true it might be much sooner then we think.

James February 24, 2010 at 18:57

Assuming no breakthroughs in physics, interstellar travel will only come about once we have a thriving solar system wide civilization that produces lots and lots of energy. Advanced bio-sciences are necessary as well. These will be developed for industrial and medical applications as well as for habitation through out the solar system long before we go to the stars. I think Millis is right that we will not be going to the stars for another couple of centuries.
—————————————————————————————–

Why would that be?

To have a thriving solar system, will mean either using articifical gravity or terraforming. Terraforming somewhere like Mars to a proper degree will take more than a few centuries if you want it done right.

Even in the (hypothetical) scenario that we have terraformed Mars, Venus & Mercury. Have proceeded to implement the useage of numerous fusion reactors on each planet. How exactly will that make us better equipped to travel the stars, or even for that matter get us there? You can have the power of a dozen fusion reactors on a planet, but you can’t transfer that to the ship. You might be able to squeeze one in, maybe even 2 at a push. So in this case, having all this planetary produced energy is no use whatsoever when you want to travel the stars, other than using it to beam power to a craft using a sail. However when you think of the distance to the nearest star, then it really isn’t feasible. Never mind the hassle of trying to return home once your mission had finished.

Thinking outside the box is the only thing that will bring the stars to us!

All it takes is 1 major breakthrough to set us on our way. Even if it only turns out to be large scale anti-matter production & not a method of FTL like we all hope. It would still allow us to travel to our nearest few star systems & very little time will have passed for the crew! It could be done direct from Earth without the need for multiple planet infrastructure.

Rand E. Gerald February 24, 2010 at 22:24

What about a colony ship. A self sustaining ecosystem. Even if it takes several hundred years and many generations of crew members, it could still enable interstellar travel.

kurt9 February 24, 2010 at 22:46

“Why would that be?”

A solar system level civilization would, by definition, offer both the technological and economic base necessary to realize interstellar travel because it would be far more technologically advanced and with a much bigger economy than what we have now.

kurt9 February 24, 2010 at 22:48

“Thinking outside the box is the only thing that will bring the stars to us!”

I certainly agree!

In fact, I have argued in this forum in the past that it make more sense for a small organization to invest in the development of long-shot physics research (MLT, Heim, wormhole, etc.) in the off chance that one of these might work out, because any approach using currently understood physics is going to require a century or more to realize.

T_U_T February 25, 2010 at 3:41

Where’s T_U_T to decry this paralysis by analysis? ;-)

It is quite different to weight all options how to build an interstellar spacecraft when we are far from building one, and to procrastinate sitting on an already built transmitter and meditating away “to transmit or not to transmit” while you could just gather your courage and start broadcasting.

bigdan201 February 25, 2010 at 6:17

I’m not a naysayer by any means. I believe that we will and must colonize space in the long-term future. 200-400 years is a pessimistic estimate, especially for colonizing the solar system. Considering how technology keeps advancing, I can’t envision us putting off the next big step of our civilization for that many generations. There is scientific research, space tourism, and the potential of space mining to keep our interests pulled toward the space sector. And when the infrastructure is in place, people will embrace space colonization for many social reasons.

However, I don’t consider faster-than-light travel to be a possibility. Perhaps there are exceptions like tachyons, but given our knowledge of physics and relativity, it seems certain that we will not travel faster than a beam of light, or even at the same speed – although we might get almost as fast.

The main way to jump across parsecs would be wormholes/folding space/alcubierre bubbles/etc. We would have to use shortcuts in space-time and travel through them at subluminal speeds. That of course is very far off, but the possibility is there!

I agree that solar system colonization will come first. Once we’ve built up that network, we will have far more infrastructure and experience in space travel, which will make interstellar voyages somewhat less daunting.

Alpha Centauri probably will be our first interstellar destination – however, I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it’s an extension to the solar system. There is a big gap between the distance of several light-hours from the sun to neptune and 4 light-years. Also, there are several other stars within the suns neighborhood – if we get up to 10-20% c propulsion for a centauri trip, that would put a number of other stars within reasonable reach.

If we find an earthlike exoplanet, especially around a nearby star, that will create a huge spike of interest in space and create even more motivation for interstellar travel.

While such an exoplanet would be a great attraction, theres no reason we can’t also live in space stations like the stanford torus or bernal sphere… especially when we have a solar-system-wide economy established.

Ronald February 25, 2010 at 7:21

Kenneth: I think you mention some important issues and I agree.

(maybe this should come under the thread “Pushing up against light speed” but since we’re discussing it here now…).

I don’t like to be the party pooper, but I have been thinking along the same lines: a ‘conventional’ (i.e. sub-liminar, nuclear) space propulsion system for interstellar flight is mainly useful provided we discover something really interesting near Alpha Centauri (or closer), but hardly or not if it appears that the nearest earthlike planet is some 20 to 30 ly away.

So by focussing on that we kind of put all our eggs in one basket, at least with regard to interstellar travel. I am not arguing the usefulness of such systems (VASIMR and the like) for use within our own solar system.

So, again, first things first: the discovery and spectro-analysis of nearby planetary systems. And a two- or multi-pronged approach: Mars, nuclear, and more research into ‘breakthrough’ physics.

Ronald February 25, 2010 at 7:23

Silly question of the week:

Is there any possible relationship between, on the one hand, quantum entanglement and, on the other, Heim and its kin?

Ronald February 25, 2010 at 7:27

And my last one for now, rather off-topic (habit of mine), but maybe interesting in a way and actually a bit closer related to the thread about detecting alien civilizations:

http://www.scienceagogo.com/news/alien_invasion.shtml

Is this to be taken seriously? This guy has an extensive aerospace/atsronomy/defense industry/NASA background.

One possible positive side-effect: paranoia like this might also boost the search for and spectro-analysis of exoplanets. Astronomers could piggy-back.

Tobias Holbrook, Terraformer February 25, 2010 at 8:18

How about going at 40% of c, using beamed power and high initial acceleration (3g). That gets us to Alpha Centauri within a decade, for the crew.

If photons can be entagled on a large scale, could the ship carry a large quantity of low energy entangled photns? When their partners back in the solar system are increased in energy, would that increase the energy of the entangled photon?

Jefferson February 25, 2010 at 11:37

Here’s an interesting discussion on “Entanglement Effects in Relativistic Reference Frames “: http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=205330

Jefferson February 25, 2010 at 11:44

Link to a technical paper “Entangled light in moving frames”: http://www.hep.princeton.edu/~mcdonald/examples/QM/gingrich_pra_68_042102_03.pdf

John Hunt February 25, 2010 at 13:58

So many assumptions…where to start?

CENTURIES NEEDED
We need centuries because…a craft of an appreciable mass making the trip in a short period of time would need: 1) a great deal of energy and 2) either a ship of significant mass in space or space-based beam propulsion. Both of which require significant space-based infrastructure. Hence we need centuries.

CRAFT MUST BE MASSIVE
We need a massive craft because…all of the scientific probes we have developed so far have been of significant mass… or …an adult human has a significant amount of mass.

WE NEED MASSIVE ENERGY
Reasons for this stated above.

TRAVEL TIME SHOULD BE WITHIN A CENTURY vs CRAFT SHOULD BE REALLY, REALLY MASSIVE
Travel time should be < 100 years because … scientists today only live to about 80 years or humanity will be able to create a later craft which would arrive earlier. < 100 years mean % of light speed which means massive fusion fuel, beamed energy infrastructure, or exotic physics. Or the craft should be a very huge world ship with many generation poking along for 10,000 years for the fun of it while smaller, faster, later craft go zipping by.

ADULT CREW
Interstellar colonization must be done by adults because that's how they do it in Star Trek and Analog, nothing less than an adult can consent or understand how to colonize.

——

Since all of this is going to take centuries, and a lot can change in centuries, then we really ought not to favor near-term solutions over unknown, exotic concepts. Hence Tau Zero, Frontiers of Propulsion Science, The Long Now…etc.

——

MOTIVATION
The reasons for interstellar travel are:
#1 – science return,
#2 – because it would be great fun,
#3 – to inspire children to pursue scientific careers,
#4 – spin-offs,
#5 – to unite humanity,
#6 – climate change, running out of resources, the sun will eventually swell, etc.

Massive ships or beamed energy infrastructure require $$$$$. Politically, this won't sell. Besides, there's a lot left to do in the solar system. So, honestly, we don't really expect any administration in the foreseeable future to spend that amount of money on an interstellar mission. Arguments for science, spinoffs, "uniting humanity" are just not sufficient to attract the amount of money we need. Again, it's going to take a very long time.

HUMANITY IS GOING TO BE AROUND IN CENTURIES
Here's the big, generally unspoken assumption. To hold this one must presume that either an existential threat from self-replicating technology:
– is, somehow, fundamentally impossible or, if possible,
– that not one of 8 billion people will choose to intentionally or accidentally develop and release it, or
– that exponential self-replication will be slow enough that we'll have time to develop an effective treatment, or
– that such technology won't come until we have developed an off-world, self-sustaining colony on the Moon/Mars.

John Hunt February 25, 2010 at 14:39

But, what if we tweak a couple of assumptions — mass and motivation.

MASS
Nanotechnologists typically guess that we’ll be doing atom-by-atom engineering in the foreseeable future (not centuries). Nothing in physics would prevent the eventual development of a craft weighing far less than a milligram. Then they could be produced in the millions at relatively little cost. Or if it were impossible for such small craft to either broadcast a detectable signal, combine into a larger craft, or decelerate & land on an asteroid and construct an antenna then the craft may need to be somewhat larger. As mass goes down, energy requirements and the amount of space-based infrastructure also go down and so does the timeline. Or, for a manned mission adult humans could be replaced by frozen embryos which would also drastically reduce the need for life support, energy, shielding, the risk of cancer, and the risk of “death”.

MOTIVATION
Far cheaper science, development, and colonization can be done in our solar system. This will be true for many, many decades / centuries. It will be nearly impossible to convince anyone to fund an interstellar mission until it the price tag comes way down.

OR the reason for the interstellar mission is because humanity needs an interstellar colony in order to survive an existential threat that extends through the solar system but not beyond. Self-replicating chemicals, nanotech, and maybe biotech (e.g. artificial life) could, theoretically spread/impact other planets. So possibly could a physics experiment gone bad. These threats are not unreasonable. Indeed, many scientists are advancing each of these fields, making self-replicating technology seem more and more feasible, and they typically predict that we’ll be facing such technology starting about mid-century. This is not irrational alarmism. Legitimate reasons exist to apply the survival motivation to an interstellar mission. And survival justifies whatever funding is needed IF you believe that existential threats are an actual possibility.

So where does this lead us? Again, small mass, near-term, and a survival-based colonization motivation leads (as far as I can tell) to a single mission design. Frozen embryos, relatively long travel time (e.g. 2,000 years), superconducting magnetic protection, deceleration, automated production of habitat and life support, ectogenesis, and childrearing by androids. It would be challenging but each component is already fairly advanced in its developed and could be completed and tested by mid-century with adequate funding.

James February 25, 2010 at 16:22

A solar system level civilization would, by definition, offer both the technological and economic base necessary to realize interstellar travel because it would be far more technologically advanced and with a much bigger economy than what we have now.
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I think it’s actually the other way around! Once we have the advanced propulsion system up & running, the whole entire solar system will instantly open up for us. It allows us to go out further into the solar system & mine for materials. Gets workers/colonists to & from Earth in short-order etc, etc. All at a far cheaper cost per head as well as in a far shorter timescale than if you were to do it the other way round. Which would be using standard propulsion to achieve colonistation of another planets & moons. Then waiting decades or more until you started to see a return on your initial investment.

Putting more emphasis on advanced propulsion methods should be the main priority/target of any space agency imo at this moment in time!

Bounty February 25, 2010 at 19:59

Step 1) get off of Earth.

We need launch loops, tethers, elevators etc. That’s where our energies should be focued. You guys are trying to figure out how to sail to the “new world” and you don’t have a poper dock yet. How are you going to build a ship? We (the USA) don’t even have a decent canoe once we retire the shuttle. We don’t even have the balls to explore the moon, manned or otherwise because of the cost to get off of the Earth.

Once we can get into space for a decent price, we’ll be more likely to send up better telescopes and probes to discover the worlds we want to visit. We could then send a probe that’s 95% (tons of ) fuel off to some distant world etc.

bigdan201 February 26, 2010 at 1:46

To respond to some of what John Hunt posted…

Despite the hurdles, I dont think the first interstellar craft will be centuries away. I could see a scientific probe to alpha centauri or another nearby star far sooner than that, probably within 100 years. This won’t only be for scientific research, but also to see if we can reliably do it – which will be important if an earthlike exoplanet appears on the horizon. In any case, we’ll start by occupying the solar system, and then looking at further targets.

And yes, interstellar travel does take massive energy. But beamed and nuclear propulsion could certainly help – and if we figure out anti-matter catalyzing, we’ll certainly be in business. Crossing lightyears is a great challenge, but not impossible.

As far as motivation, science is already fueling our current efforts. After that will be economics with space tourism/mining and so on. Once space colony infrastructure is built, there will be a great motivation to move off of earth, despite the challenges.

Space colonization will not necessarily unite humanity, but rather divide us. Distance between us, supported by c, is actually a good thing. It is an insurance policy against existential threats such as nuclear war etc. Not only that, but it will make the human race more heterogeneous and counteract globalism. I believe that the global village, despite its many benefits, is a problem in the long run. Contact between everyone and homogenization run counter to survival and may lead to stagnation.

But once the infrastructure is in place, lots of people will want to live off of earth. People centuries ago left civilized europe to go on dangerous ocean voyages lasting months to arrive in the American wilderness which was populated by tribes of varying receptiveness and hostility. Many wanted to start a new life, religious groups such as the Quakers wanted to be free from persecution, and some went for pure wanderlust. Nowadays, it’s difficult to leave and build something new – the whole world is mapped out and much of it is on one “grid” or another. The motivations of the American colonists will still exist and will drive people to leave Earth.

And I agree with Bounty. Once we use launch loops etc to get to orbit economically, that will change the space equation considerably.

george scaglione February 26, 2010 at 15:07

marc i just saw the excellent 15 minute tape which began this subject.it could not help but remind me of what i think is one of the best ideas for powered flight to the stars.from everything i have read in a good many places over the last few years it seems to me that,taping the energy of the zero point field – just might be the best method.here we have a vast source of enegy which is already everywhere,and,which we would not have to carry along for that reason.so,no need for a HUGE fuel tank or anything of the sort . imho a relatively (no pun intended) “easy” way to gain truly vast velocities.i know that others may have seen this idea posted by me before.and i apologize if i am repeating myself.but i surely see this concept as a great one.i wish sir that you would do me the honor of posting your opinion on this idea,along with,i hope everyone else here on this site! with great respect to one and all, most sincerely,your friend george scaglione

Eniac February 27, 2010 at 15:47

Is there any possible relationship between, on the one hand, quantum entanglement and, on the other, Heim and its kin?

No, Heim and his ilk are about new Physics, unproven and a little bit wacky, as I understand. Definitely disputed. Entanglement is just plain old quantum mechanics, tried and true.

If photons can be entagled on a large scale, could the ship carry a large quantity of low energy entangled photns? When their partners back in the solar system are increased in energy, would that increase the energy of the entangled photon?

No. Entanglement does not permit the transmission of information or energy.

I believe all of these so-called paradoxa (spooky action, Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen, Schroedinger’s cat, etc.) cease to be paradoxical with the many-worlds interpretation (universal wavefunction, ultimate ensemble, etc.).

The key is to relinquish the notion of a single, privileged timeline (or “reality”). We are all familiar with the notion of parallel realities when thinking about the future. In fact, our belief in free will requires that there are multiple future realities. Once you realize that “future”, “past”, and “present” are only distinguished by point of view, you get the principle.

James M. Essig March 4, 2010 at 4:30

Hi Folks;

Actually, energy can be teleported using quantum entanglement in the following manner.

At the link below is an excellent article about how a Japanese physicist has proven that energy can be teleported at the speed of light. The teleportation process involves sending atomic kinetic energy along a string of entangled atoms wherein at the starting position, an atom is artificially perturbed wherein at the receiver location to which a signal is sent through classical channels, the atomic vibration is decoded and extracted from the receiver atom via the information encoded in the classical signal. Thus, the information and energy transmission do not travel faster than the speed of light due to the requirement that signals be sent along classical channels which operate at a maximum speed of C. Thus, causality is not violated and no backward signal time travel occurs.

The technique anticipates serial step wise energy transfer wherein more than one classical channel is used in a process by which the energy is step wise transmitted down the line.

The concept anticipates the distribution of a long string or series of entangled ions or electrons wherein the first ion or electron is perturbed with a quantum fluctuation such as a quantum level unit of sound, i.e, a phonon, whereupon the energy of the phonon would be transferred to the final particle without traveling the intervening space.

His model is of the simplest type of energy teleportation that involves teleportation of quantum fluctuations known as phonons or quantum bundles of mechanical acoustic energy.

http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/arxiv/24759/

As for teleporting information, this can occur also however, a classical channel with transmission speeds less than or equal to C is required.

For example, if two photons where entangled such that one photon has the opposite polarity of the other photon or other distinguishing characteristic such that when one photon would be measured to have state A whereas the other photon would then take on a conjugate state B, if indeed the first photon at the transmission source is measured to have a state A, then the second photon would be observed to have a state B. However, due to quantum uncertainty, we can not control the results of the measurement of the first photon and so we cannot predict the outcome of the measurement of the second photon. The outcome of the measurement of a series of entangled photons would appear randome with no possibility of FTL signal transmission.

The cool thing about studying quantum teleporation and entangled states is that the underlying causual mechanisms can be used to probe the nature of the relationship between the following: Time and Space, Mass and Energy, and/or Mattery and Information.

We can study fundamental questions such as what does it mean to travel, why is the speed of light the ultimate limit for signal and energy transmission, and does the underlying physics permit new broader definitions of information transmission and energy propagation that might somehow lead to new ways of interpreting what it means to travel through space time, with the result that perhaps new types of travel, perhaps even travel methods that open up new dimensions for exploration, and new realms of entrance and egress that are not spatial and/or not temporal dimensions as we define such physically, even in terms of higer Kaluza-Klein type hyperspatial dimensions if such exist.

Say we could learn to travel at exactly the speed of light by discovering methods of reducing the inertial mass of a ship to zero or perhaps by cloaking the ship form outside destruction and some how using the zero point energy fields to accelarate the ship such that its velocity would be indistinguishable from C perhaps as a result of some novel uncertaintly principle operating between velocities of C and C – e where e is positive, finite, but vanishingly small.

What would it mean for the crew to travel 10,000 years in time at the speed of light, ship’s reference frame? Would the ship travel infinitely far into the future into perhaps a singularity like state that would be indistinguishable from the birth of our universe in the Big Bang thus allowing the craft to make a complete circle in time and manifest itself in a location trilllions of trillions or perhaps even an ensemble or infinity scrapper of light years distant at the same appearent time that it left relative to the observers back home at the start of the mission.

These and other philosophical and perhaps para-metaphysical issues about the nature of travel and motion, even if the limit of C must be more broadly interpreted can provide physicists, and philosophers alike with ever new realms of speculation, and perhaps lead to bazaar forms of technology that we have not yet dreamed of yet.

But as I like to say, we have to start somewhere, and I still hope to be that nearly 100 year old man in 2060 who rides into orbit in a Virgin Galactic space plane or a reusable SpaceX rocket to crack a bottle of the finest Champaign over the bow of the star ship based on the designs of Project Icarus. I will certainly settle for 0.2 C capable starhip mission launches to the Proxima Centauri System and Barnard’s star by 2050 or 2060. In the case of the later, I hope that the Na’vi people would offer me something good to eat if I could live long enough to be a crew member and arrive on Pandora perhaps by sheer luck or more likely, almost certainly required medical life span enhancement and perhaps artificially induced and nanotech controlled near freezing hibernation.

James M. Essig March 27, 2010 at 14:38

Hi Folks;

Here are some ideas that occured to me last night as I was pondering quantum energy teleportation schemes.

Now assuming that a space craft has a velocity of v with respect to the background and a relativistic particle has a velocity of u with respect to the space craft, the velocity, s, of the relativistic particle with respect to the background is given by:

S = (v + u)/{1 + [vu/(C EXP 2)]}

Say a space craft would be accelerated to a velocity of v = {C – [(10 EXP – 40)C]} and a particle would be accelerated to a velocity of u = {C – [(10 EXP – 40)C]}, S = {{C – [(10 EXP – 40)C]} + {C – [(10 EXP – 40)C]}}/{1 + {{C – [(10 EXP – 40)C]} {C – [(10 EXP – 40)C]}/(C EXP 2)}} = C – {[5 x (10 EXP 81)]C}. This corresponds to a gamma factor of [3.1622 x (10 EXP 40)] with respect to the background.

Now imagine that the particle is quantum mechanically entangled with the space craft that accelerated the particle such that the quantum mechanical information that defined the space craft would then be quantum mechanically teleported to the charged particle after the particle had traveled about, say, about 10 EXP 10 light-years from its mother ship. Thus, we assume that the space craft is effectively teleported 10 EXP 10 light-years ahead of its initial location, even in the case whereby a classical information channel was required to be transmitted to the particle at a speed no greater than C. We can imagine that this process would be or could be repeated over and over again thus effectively enabling the ship to travel at a velocity significantly faster than {C – [(10 EXP – 40)C]}. Thus, the ship could effectively leap frog ahead of initial ship locations in a repeated manner.

We can also imagine the case wherein the particle is quantum mechanically entangled with the space craft that accelerated the particle such that the quantum mechanical information that defined the space craft would then be quantum mechanically teleported to the charged particle after the particle had traveled, say, only about 1,000 kilometers from its mother ship and wherein this process would be repeated over and over again whereby the distance of teleportation from the ship’s pre-teleported location would 1,000 kilometers for each teleportation leg.

Furthermore, we can imagine that the quantum teleportation process could occur for any arbitrarily short distances provided that the considered distance is greater than the limiting distance of the Planck Distance or the Planck Length = Lp = {[h/(2 pi)] G/[C EXP 3]} EXP (1/2).

Now the charged particle might exist in the form of some type of simple fermion, but more likely, a charged complex particle that is durable such as one composed of quarkonium, or perhaps of higginium, would be required so as to be able to embody the complicated teleported data set or should I say information set.

It might be the case that the rest mass of the particle would be about (10 EXP – 50) times that of the ship and perhaps even of a smaller fraction.

In the case that the teleported particle could make a rapid series of jumps over distances ranging from that on the order of the Planck Distance scale to distances on the order of everyday microscopic phenomenon, the ship could in effect buzz along in a series of space time steps thereby traveling at a greater velocity than {C – [(10 EXP 40)C]}.

Now imagine if the teleportation mechanism could utilize a photon, even a relatively low energy photon such as an infrared photon or a single microwave or radio-frequency photon as the quantum teleported space ship information embodiment. The effective velocity of the space craft traveling inertially through space at an initial velocity of {C – [(10 EXP 40)C]} would be much closer to C than in the case of the above charged particle.

It is also conceivable that the space craft could be imprinted on an extremely energetic neutrino, perhaps even on an extremely energetic sterile neutrino so as to avoid the danger of the information imprinted on the carrier particle from being corrupted. Neutrinos have the quality whereby, although they have mass, their rest mass is very, very small, even as small as one millionth or less than that of the rest mass of the electron and thus are potentially great quantum information carriers that travel at essentially the speed of light while having a low interaction risk profile so that they can safely embody the quantum mechanically teleported ship information.

The major caveats are: the ability to embody the entire quantum information state of the space craft in such a small carrier particle; the ability of the ship to quantum mechanically teleport its entire quantum mechanical energy information state into the particle without any additional infrastructure; the ability of the extremely relativistic carrier particle not to be corrupted via interaction with the interstellar or intergalactic medium; and the ability to maintain the fidelity of the transported information.

Even if for some reason nature absolutely abhors faster than light translational travel through space, perhaps due to some consorship of casual issues that could wreck the cosmos, given the entire future of we humans and any ETI to develop ever more far out ideas to close in on C, the ideas I expressed in this post will likely seem no more abstract or far fetch in comparison then the simple construction of a toy house cabin out of Lego blocks.

If we can ever reach the state of travel through space time at C, what will we discover? Perhaps a whole new entire realm with other extended dimensions ruled by strange laws at the local level, and perhaps new methods of travel along with new and broader definitions of what it means to travel.

James M. Essig April 23, 2010 at 2:45

Hi Folks;

Regarding Marc Millis statements:

“Relative to the technology, as a culture we’re so used to thinking how we can get “there” the quickest, or what’s the best single approach. When it comes to interstellar flight and learning to live beyond Earth, this thinking sidetracks us because we’re so far from fruition in our understanding of interstellar space options, that there’s no way for us to pick “the” one way. Instead, there are many different options and unknowns. We stand to gain a lot more from the attempt to understand them – chipping away at them rather than not doing anything at all. By researching the spectrum of possibilities, we’re likely to be better off in the near term.”

There are many, many ways of potentially skinning the cat for deep space manned exploration including the following proposed methods of achieving relativistic velocities, many of which could in theory, achieve virtually arbitrarily high relativistic gamma factors thus enabling travel at “apparent velocities” of arbitrarily large multiples of the speed of light in vacuu ship’s reference frame.

Such relativistic craft can include any and all of the following: 1) Fusion Rockets, 2) Fission Rockets, 3) Fission Fragment Drives, 4) Fusion powered ion, electron, photon, and/or neutrino rockets, 5) Fission powered ion, electron, photon, and/or neutrino rockets, 6) matter antimatter rockets that carry both components of fuel on board from the start of the mission, 7) matter antimatter rockets that carry only their antimatter fuel component(s) along from the start of the mission, 8] matter antimatter reactor powered ion, electron, photon, and/or neutrino rockets, 9) fusion fuel pellet linear runway powered craft, 10) fission fuel pellet linear runway powered craft, 11) fission-fusion fuel pellet linear runway powered craft, 12) nuclear isomer fuel pellet linear runway powered craft, 13) matter antimatter fuel pellet linear runway powered craft, 14) antimatter fuel pellet linear runway powered craft, 15) fusion fuel pellet circulinear runway powered craft, 16) fission fuel pellet circulinear runway powered craft, 17) fission-fusion fuel pellet circulinear runway powered craft, 18) nuclear isomer fuel pellet circulinear runway powered craft, 19) matter antimatter fuel pellet circulinear runway powered craft, 20) antimatter fuel pellet circulinear runway powered craft, 21) nuclear fission powered electro-hydrodynamic-plasma drive craft, 22) nuclear fusion powered electro-hydrodynamic-plasma drive craft, 23) matter antimatter reaction powered electro-hydrodynamic-plasma drive craft, 24) nuclear fission powered magneto-hydrodynamic-plasma drive craft, 25) nuclear fusion powered magneto-hydrodynamic-plasma drive craft, 26) matter antimatter reaction powered electro-hydrodynamic-plasma drive craft, 27) nuclear fission powered electro-magneto-hydrodynamic-plasma drive craft, 28) nuclear fusion powered electro-magneto-hydrodynamic-plasma drive craft, 29) matter-antimatter powered electro-magneto-hydrodynamic-plasma drive craft, 30) fusion powered magnetic field effect drive, 31) fission powered magnetic field effect drive, 32) matter antimatter reaction powered field effect drive, 33) single pass solar dive and fry sail driven craft, 34) single pass stellar dive and fry sail driven craft, 35) single pass quasar dive and fry sail driven craft, 36) multi-pass stellar cycler solar dive and fry sail driven craft, 37) multi-pass stellar cycler dive and fry sail driven craft, 38) multi-pass cycler quasar dive and fry sail driven craft, 38) laser beam driven relativistic sail craft, 40) microwave beam driven relativistic sail craft, 41) radio-frequency beam driven relativistic sail craft, 42) massive neutral particle beam driven sail craft, 43) massive charged particle beam driven sail craft, 44) massive particle beam fission fuel powered craft, 45) massive particle beam fusion fuel powered craft, 46) massive particle beam matter antimatter beam fuel powered craft, 47) antimatter beam fuel powered craft, 48) nuclear bomb pulse driven propulsion of the original Project Orion forms, 49) pure nuclear fusion bomb pulse driven propulsion analogous to the original Project Orion forms, 50) matter antimatter bomb driven propulsion analogous to the original Project Orion forms, 51) one side reflective cosmic microwave background radiation sails, 52) multiple beam bounce propulsion methods using lasers, microwave beams and/or radiofrequency beams, 53) any improved interstellar ramjet craft, 54) fusion rocket or fusion powered electron, ion, photon, or neutrino rockets utilizing single body or serially multiple body powered gravitational assists, 55) fission rocket or fission powered electron, ion, photon, or neutrino rockets utilizing single body or serially multiple body powered gravitational assists, 56) matter antimatter rocket or matter antimatter reaction electron, ion, photon, or neutrino rockets utilizing single body or serially multiple body powered gravitational assists, 57) black hole Hawking Radiation powered gamma ray reflector sails driven craft, 58) negative electromagnetic refractive index meta-material type pull sails, 59) light push sailing craft that are pushed by sails that are backwardly reflective but which are forwardly negative electromagnetic index refractive and others. If the propulsion system is multi-modal, then even if only one stage is used for each mode, the number of combinations and thus the number of possible propulsion systems is at least equal to (2 EXP 59) – 1 = 5.764 x 10 EXP 17 = 576.4 Quadrillion = 576,400 trillion!

In each of these 59 categories, several sub-methods have been proposed and so the number of possible multi-mode/multi-stage propulsion systems is many, many orders of magnitude greater yet. If say, each category permits 10 sub-species on average, which I can reasonably assure you is likely a conservative estimate, then the total number of possible propulsion systems, all else being the same is equal to about (2 EXP 590) – 1 which is approximately equal to 10 EXP 160. This is roughly 10 EXP 70 times the number of atoms, electrons, photons, and neutrinos in the observable universe.

Most of these methods permit very high gamma factors, in many cases, virtually unlimited relativistic gamma factors given the virtually if not actually unlimited future time periods available to sequester ever greater resources of fuel via an ever expanding human space based resource collection infrastructure: all without the need for recourse to as of yet still very speculative exotic space propulsion concepts such as superluminal inertial travel through space, wormhole transport systems, superluminal warp drive and the like notions.

Good Old Fashioned 20th Century Early 21st Century physics is all we need in principle albeit with engineering efforts on steroids. We can populate our visible universe and beyond over the eons to follow. Will we have the courage and the vision to set sail? I believe the answer to this question is “Yes!”, but it will take some doing. We must first start with our solar system and our nearby stellar neighboors and for both purposes especially that latter, Project Icarus will hopefully and very likely yield a means to literally reach for the stars. I am planning on seeing Project Icarus realizing the dream of star flight.

Hector May 29, 2010 at 22:18

If the NAVY’s research into Dr. Bussard’s Waffle Ball concept works as predicted than the power requires for interstellar travel could be met by a relatively small compact high density fusion reactor. The military has no need or desire for a Tokamak, so they’ve gone rogue and focused on their own approach to fusion, which looks far more promising than any Tokamak project.
Mate this with a breakthrough propulsion technology and who knows it might be just a few decades instead of 400 years before we can seriously plan a trip to Proxima Centauri.

tom June 25, 2011 at 5:56

I’m not sure if its ironic or paradox laden, but there seems to be more ideas about doing interstellar flight than doing interstellar flight? Some would argue that all the mega-engineering involved would be better used for terraforming the solar system and using technology to build a sustainable and advancing culture for humanity and its descendants? I can see practical commercial and environmental benefits for developing space. But wondering the galaxy as an advanced member of a highly resourceful and adventurous species is what humans could be at our best. To meet E.T., or ‘the holographic alien teacher’ who apologizes that he is from a race that no longer exists, or the charming ‘protocol’ droid who says its against its programming to ‘impersonate a ‘deity’? Yoda or Dejah Thoris; such fantasies? Or the Kingons, Borg, Berserkers or Daleks… a whip cracks,”eyes down filthy human beast!” Maybe its all just vacuum and ionized gas and prebiotic fountains percolating under hostile stars? You find out by going. Maybe will have a few Robinson Crusoes. Johny Appleseeds… If we risk nothing and meet our fate… then the human race was just a vanity of nature.. insignificant and mostly harmless? I would feel despair if that will be the headstone epitaph of our species.

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