How long? Admittedly, this is not what I had wanted to write. Semester ending plans for completing one of two books in my hopper had crystallized. Unwritten chapters sensed release like a gang of bees from my fingertips. Then came this op ed that caused me to push away my book for another day.
Here are a few snippets:
N. Y. TIMES
July 24, 2012
Alone in the Void
By ADAM FRANK
SOMETIME this year Voyager 1, a probe sent from Earth 35 years ago, will cross a threshold no human-fashioned object has reached before. Passing through a sun-driven shock wave at the edge of the solar system, it will reach the icy dominions of interstellar space... Still, after three and a half decades of hyper-velocity spaceflight, it will take another 700 centuries for the craft to cross the distance to the nearest star.
Short of a scientific miracle of the kind that has never occurred, [my emphasis] our future history for millenniums will be played out on Earth and in the “near space” environment of the other seven planets, their moons and the asteroids in between... Like it or not, we are probably trapped in our solar system for a long, long time.
Simply say “warp drive” to just about anyone and see if they know what you mean… How many people would be surprised to know that warp drive isn’t even a coherent concept, let alone a near-future technology?
The truth is we propel ourselves into space using much the same physics as the Chinese played with when they discovered what we came to call gunpowder more than 1,400 years ago. Blowing stuff up under us is just about the only way we know how to travel through the void.
… While our children’s children’s great-grandchildren will live with ever more powerful technology, they will also live ever more intimately with ever more billions of others in this, our corner of the cosmos. Looking back and forward, my bets are now on that same human genius, ambition and hope to rise to the occasion...There will be nowhere else to go for a very long time.
Adam Frank, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Rochester, is the author of “About Time: Cosmology and Culture at the Twilight of the Big Bang” and a co-founder of NPR’s “13.7 Cosmos and Culture” blog.
Fond of the New York Times as a liberal voice that seldom escapes that particular box, I contrast what I read with insights that are more empirical. In this case, my personal experience trumps Adam Frank’s perceptions.
By Frank’s reckoning, I have witnessed what Voyager 1 won’t see for another 70,000 years. (…it will take another 700 centuries for the craft to cross the distance to the nearest star.)
Indeed, when I saw a flying saucer while at Smith Mountain Lake not far from Gretna, VA, I witnessed a craft that had flown here, apparently, from another star or planet. Had it been flying more than 70,000 years to arrive on Earth?
I don’t think so. That’s because I saw it come, then go.
Then I saw it come and go again.
Calculating its speed wasn’t difficult. Even a non-astrophysicist like me can figure the time it takes to snap one’s fingers and to note how far an object has traveled in that short span.
Hardly the best measure, I agree, but I did it. The craft was, by my calculation, zipping along faster than the speed of light. Or, as Adam Frank would refer to it, at “warp drive”.
[…How many people would be surprised to know that warp drive isn’t even a coherent concept, let alone a near-future technology?]
But that isn’t all. According to Adam Frank, …Blowing stuff up under us is just about the only way we know how to travel through the void.
My eyes have showed me that there are ways that are much more efficient. We just don’t know what they are. When the craft I saw stopped and perched seventy feet from me at a height of a little less than that, I noticed that, as it came, it didn’t make a sound.
When it zigged, that zagged to leave, there was no noise, no sonic boom, no trail of smoke that issued from its exhaust. Actually, it didn’t have any wings either.
Nor was it a missile. It looked and acted like a flying saucer from the Jetsons.
Although I am open to his astrophysical explanations about what I viewed, I will gladly yield to a more mundane lie detector test to assure Adam Frank that I did see what I saw and that my report is clear and true. In fact, I’ll invite him to chew the fat about the impact my sighting has had on my cosmological perspective.
The word ‘stretched’ comes to mind. To that end, I will send this piece to him if I can find his Rochester address. Of course, I’ll send it by snail mail, fitting in light of his comment that:
There will be nowhere else to go for a very long time.
B. Koplen 7/24/12
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