The Perimeter Public Lecture: The challenges of interstellar travel

Our live-stream of tonight’s Perimeter Public Lecture, bringing high science to the masses

Cameron Smith. (Gabriela Secara/Perimeter Institute)

Cameron Smith. (Gabriela Secara/Perimeter Institute)

The Perimeter Public Lecture is the latest in a decade-long series of lectures in Kitchener-Waterloo, delivered by world-leading physics theorists and experimenters who discuss cutting-edge science without talking down—and now, delivered to you by live-stream and recapped via video.

Last month, we shared a live-stream of Nima Arkani-Ahmed’s talk. The lecture on Dec. 3 featured Dr. Cameron Smith, discussing the biological and cultural challenges associated with interstellar voyages, and the reality that it will take numerous generations to get right—a particularly timely talk, given the popular mechanics of films like Gravity and Interstellar, which imply a remarkable kind of ease. Smith, an anthropologist and explorer, also happens to be a reasonable nominee for ‘most interesting man’: He has crossed a polar icecap on foot, sailed a home-made pre-Columbian raft off the coast of South America and designed and built his own space suit.

A recap of the night is below.


The Perimeter Public Lecture: The challenges of interstellar travel

  1. …they msg-ed Gene instead of Heads of State because would’ve been considered an act of war or another country perfecting mind control. A Slovenian researcher suggests tachyons can interact with subliminal detectors. I disagree with March/14 Smolin that TOEs must accompany testable hypothesis. A German in 1804 suggested light bends and it took over 100 years for Michaelson-Morley. He attacks the Multiverse because of this…the Copenhagen interpretation seems to suggest the need for Christian souls and the Pilot Wave interpretation of the double-slit experiment was mocked by Einstein; it suggests an expanding sphere of decoherence or some garbage and still leaves nearly the same problem. Some version of the multiverse is forced: does Smolin believe souls are necessary here?! I’d suggest speculating about testability that is possible within 50 years is good enough and that another research group can be left to attempt this within a decade or two as the deductive part is hard enough…I’m glad the 1970s community didn’t fund supersymettry as it is grounded upon new age garbage. The aliens do suggest a multiverse as why else would they be trying to prevent AI save for changing/adding at least one worldline. This is what the Slovenian suggests. Vilenkin is correct that inflationary expansion still leaves a finite number of universes as the expanding blob is causally connected to previous and next expanding components despite time not yet being fleshed out until a little after expansion. I’d like testyable multiverse experiment to fortm the basis for the next gen CMB and graviton observatories. They won’t say if there is other life nearby as that would alarm everyone, but then “Why the Hell would we waste so much effort contacting you if another species were about to (woh woh woh)…our atmosphere is vulnerable. This might be an answer rather than a threat, to what a hostile nearby species might do.
    I’ve a vague AI timeline that enables a slower sensor network but they seem more concerned with stating: don’t build AI. Not much pandemic help. If their multiverse and communications predictions are true, that lends substance to AI predictions that would dominate our future economy.
    For example, superconductors would make MRIs cheap enough to make better rulers, and make physics experiments better, but would enable AI…Malletts frame dragging experiment needs better lasers but a time machine might be a dangerous tyranny risk…

    • …Assuming the msgs aren’t a trap or trick, I can rekill the Copenhagen Interpretation, and I think I can kill the Pilot Wave as well, leaving physicists nothing but some flavour of multiverse to work on or to find a new career.
      The Pilot Wave rests on denying the Uncertainty Principle for a particle. It rests on Interference in the double slit experiment being created by the single electron travelling backwards in time to create an interference pattern for itself (behaving as if there is a parallel universe electron). However, where I think it falls flat on its face is that the electron that has already been sent through the double slit, in travelling backwards through time, should again create an interefence pattern…and this process back and forth through the double slit should continue ad nauseam until the intereference pattern on the screen is completely smoothed out…if instead of double slits, you use a billion slits, a time reversing Pilot Wave should send the Interference Pattern through these extra slits. I’m sure an experiment would rule this out; Pilot Wavers don’t realize the backwards in time Pilot Wave should also create backwards in time Intereference.
      With the tachyon msgs, and Chaos Theory, a Copenhagen Block universe is impossible. You get through one iteration of a time loop, and it is practically impossible, even if Aliens are Jupiter, to send/receive exactly the same tachyons at exactly the same point, to/from me/Gene/musicians. This creates a different world-line. Copenhagen must assume a bloack universe that erases and adds one new world-line for every time loop (and there are an infinity of them). And this is an epicycle that still doesn’t explain double-slit intereference. Bohr and Heisenberg AFAIK didn’t touch upon the latter and CI proponents are merely using them as a Bible.
      I’m thinking every potential WMD technology will need a separate risk reward ROI estimate, with various intensities of a (potentially WMD/tyranny) sensor network being part of the scenario. And a bad sensor network with bad gvmt surely makes things worse. So in addition to carbon shifts (or high corporate taxes in petro nations) there is a need for this sort of price shift for longer term risks (such as AI). For the shorter term ones such as nukes leading to WWIII or a nuke winter, I’m still working this out but probably simple economics isn’t enough and a measure of gvmt efficacy (how well the CIA pretends to buy black maarket nukes for example) is required. Much if this process should be classified but good gvmt suggests transparency on some scale, as Bono suggests…
      I read Edward II and learned of a Tyrant, an evil woman leader who just wanted romance, a inept leader, and a good one that in Commonwealth countries and the USA preWWII, would lead for a long time. I couldn’t learn this example of how to make people better voters and leaders under a university grant system. It appears Smolin is really not asking physicists to learn the materials science and what not required to build an experiment; appears he is attacking the granting process.

      • …there is another way the Pilto Wave theory might fail. I’m not sure the exact angle and momenta a photon has when it is diffracted through the other side of a grating…if you run it backwards in time as the Pilot Wave flawed theory insists must occur to product a waveform, it won’t retrace its path. A quadruple slit experiment might see an edge slit revisited going backwards in time, or it might also revisit the other middle slit (or just the other slit for a conventional two slit experiment). In either case going backwards in time the photon would diffract at an obtuse angle and there would be no waveform at all for at least some of the photons. This is clearly not what happens and it is very foolish to assume qunatum theory is some sort of illusion, especially since the maturity of lasers.
        …Regrding interstellar travel, it will be hard to mitigate WMDs such as AI, from far away.
        Again, better superconductors seem high risk high reward. You get VASIMR, better particle physics experiments, better MRIs, better energy transmission, but potentially AI.
        The challenge of interstellar travel is getting and ensuring good gvmt afar.

        • …so to get good gvmt part of the solution looks to be to quantify thoughts. The CIA/State Dept has supscribed to software that profiles how much of a world leader’s writings at speeches are devoted to achieving “excellence” among other traits. This is missing the virtue of utilitarian aims. I can only define part of this, but it encompasses good future WMD sensor networks, good gvtm and enforcement of these networks, and for non post-modern nations, funding for social safety networks instead of prisons…
          I’d like to see the brain projects recently begun, focus on developing safe brain sensors for future WMD sensor network and military enforcement, administrative personnel. In addition to coarse text data mining, an assessment of the brain functions of administrators can be developed. This obviously should screen out dark moods and mental illnesses if not caused by a coup attempt, but should also try to correlate to the education and behaviours of personnel and prospective personnel. I’m learning what nanodiamond, CNT and quantum dot sensors would be useful to effect this; the company IMRIS might be useful here. I’d like a brainb science of thought mature in a reseanably short period of time. I’m not sure the limits of what the sensor network should attempt to enforce. Looking for nukes might be destabilizing. Looking for tyrannies might be pointless where anarchy leads to worse dangers. And these brain projects themselves have the potential to unleash AI precursors. But I think a big chunk of developing a utopia is hijacking just started (dual use) projects for such ends, as much as I want to see the focus being on curing diseases. Then we can export such systems to other star systems maybe.

          • …rationality is easy to quantify but not utilitarian thoughts so much…I asked whether we should do in the future what they are doing.
            The eventual reply was they like the universe the way it is so don’t play with tachyons. Assuming isn’t a trap or trick, and they might elaborately lie just to get us to stay away from tachyons the conversation was:
            1) By First Contact/Conversation, they mitigate our future AI which is dangerous to them and us.
            2) By integrating themselves significantly into our past worldline via FC, they prevent our future AI worldlines (maybe there are a few inevitably) from building a tachyon machine and attacking their past worldline. If their FC changes the future of when/where we create AI, our future AI cannot wipe them out in the past as it would wipe itself out and thus never attack the past aliens in the 1st place!
            3) Maybe they wouldn’t just wipe us out because it is better/safer for us to be local police than for them to use tachyons, but they actual reason is in the event their tachyon machine is ceased in a future alien world coupe, it can’t be misused. My reply to them would be altered if they try to mess with our past worldlines. If they don’t hear my reply, they turn off/destroy the machine and I assume take some countermeasures to prevent the coupe from happening. I suppose FC is using all available machine bandwidth….
            So an AI can’t attack its own worldlines, and FC prevents our future AI from attacking their past worldline. This is why they called me a hero on their world. Said a Wpgger helped win WWII and WWIII, the latter being a joke about this process of mitigating our own future AI from attacking them (possibly in their past using a time machine). Newspapers were expensive in WWI. By WWII radios were initially expensive but nearly free to operate: Intrepid would’ve been proud of me. Apparently China cannot access google scholar and apparently this is why I would’ve only been fodder in WWI. I suspect they are implying the internet is enough now to avert our future AI worldlines; everyone who has been contacted is/was doing a good job. Sports commercials for food products about AI are good as is anything that modifies what would’ve been our AI invention in some/many worldlines (bird told me I’m friendly to them and so is my PM).

          • I asked about space transportation:
            it only takes diamonds and CNTs to make a spaceship to try to runaway. ALso some doping (metals I assume). An oven and carbon asteroid are sufficient I assume. Each asteroid should have its own surveillance network. They mentioned only needing neutrinos for this I think. Basic monitoring is speed of light but enforcement is slower. Depends on good (local?) gvmt. So space travel should be done carefully as is a potential WMD. Of course, they might prefer us to be police rather than them using tachyons or whatever more distant travel methods they have. Faster than C monitoring might be possible (wormholes?). I asked about tamperproof quantumly entangled sensors crossing a barrier and didn’t get an outright no. When the universe runs down it will be hard to make any technology. They have a plan to escape to another universe but don’t want us to ruin it (I assume this would permit human consciousness to maybe survive to tunnel through or whatever as well). Past writers have suspected vacuum energy could maybe be exploited to reassemble neutrons or whatever.

  2. …I got a few details wrong. Namely, my replies are relayed from their future machine back to them. Presumably this is an important detail to mention as them being in our past light-cone would preserve the threat of annihilation/regression by conventional matter weaponry if we are about to or have just made AI. The time exchange was too fatiguing for me to ask much about travel.
    When enforcement becomes useable or necessary or whatever, it is supposed to be an international effort and not just that of any nation. Preumably to avoid geopolitical tensions increase at the very least.

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