Stargates and time travel

I have a habit of reading multiple books at one time. Well, to be precise, I only read one book at a time, but I'll put one down after reading part of it and start on another.

I have a habit of reading multiple books at one time. Well, to be precise, I only read one book at a time, but I'll put one down after reading part of it and start on another. Shorter books might grab my attention, and I'll read them all the way through before returning to the much larger book that I started.

Along those lines, I recently picked back up Ray Kurzweil's "The Singularity is Near," a book about which I wrote a blog post last August. Kurzweil's book talks about the exponential growth of human technology, and extrapolating from history, posits that it will lead to massive technological leaps that will change what it means to be human and make the advances of the 20th century seem like tool innovations of chimpanzees. It's strange stuff, and I explore the themes a bit more in that blog post.

Anyway, I'm in a section where Kurzweil talks about the speed with which intelligence should propagate itself throughout the galaxy and the universe. He uses some of those theories to posit why he believes the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence is a waste of time. One piece of that argument, however, made my head spin.

Here's the theory. Imagine you could make a wormhole, a theoretical physics concept that consists of two "openings" that connect two points in 3-D space by "tunneling" through higher-dimensional space. It's a bit like connecting two points on a piece of paper by folding it. 2D creatures could travel along the paper from point A to point B, or take advantage of the fact that point A and B are connected due to a fold in the third dimension. Travel through the "tunnel" would cause the 2D traveller to magically appear at point B without having to travel the long way through 2D space.

Never mind how we'd ever build such a wormhole...just imagine it is possible (which, theoretically speaking, is a real possibility). Now, take one of those gateways, stick it on a spaceship that is headed for a neighboring star system at near the speed of light (99.995%, to be exact). Such a ship could be robotic, and depending on the weight of the hardware required to support such a gateway, the total package might be quite light. That, too, is vastly beyond our current technology, but again, ignore that for the moment.

At that speed, relativistic time differences are considerable. To clocks on the ship, a journey to the Vega star system would appear to take about 3 months. To clocks on Earth, however, the journey would appear to take about 25 years.

The mouths of that gateway, however, would be temporally linked. That means people could benefit from the relativistically shortened journey time of the ship and start using that gateway to travel to the Vega system in THREE MONTHS...even though, from an earth clock standpoint, the ship has not actually reached its destination. In essence, we would have built a tunnel through both space AND time, given that passengers through the newly established tunnel would end up approximately 25 years in the future.

In other words, if we ever did manage to create wormholes, and we knew how to move one opening between different points in the universe at velocities close to the speed of light, the time it would take to quickly spread ourselves outwards would grow exponentially fast as we learned to push distribution ship speeds ever closer to the light speed threshold.

Anyway, I thought the concept was interesting. And if you are quietly steaming that John Carroll is wasting your time by posting stuff completely unrelated to computer technology...

...smile, it's Friday.