One of the big questions about the universe is whether there is intelligent life “out there”. We know that life evolved here on Earth, so it seems possible that similar life could evolve on other worlds. Whether they would survive and evolve what we would consider intelligence is another matter. There have been some estimates made on just how likely this might be, such as through the Drake equation. There is a lot about these estimations that are purely speculative, but we do know that Earth-like planets (at least in terms of size and temperature) are likely very common. We also know the type of chemical elements life on Earth relies upon are common, and that life appeared on Earth relativity early in its history.
Aliens are probably the most common topic of science fiction. They are typically an extension of our hopes and fears. Wise parental figures, evil enemies, noble savages, fierce predators. They are often physically quite similar to us, with a bipedal gait, opposable thumbs,etc. We dream of life on other worlds. Reaching out to the stars and meeting an alien intelligence. But is that likely, or even possible?
The idea of parallel worlds is widely used in science fiction. Most often this alternate world is either populated by our evil doppelgangers, or the alternate universe is just slightly different from ours, such as having zeppelins in a modern city. Then there is the “alternate history” fiction, where their world is identical except for a key moment in history. Lincoln survived, Harold Godwinson won the battle of Hastings, etc.
Even the closest stars are light years away, so communication between them by light could take decades. If you want a galactic empire spanning thousands of light years, it would be useful to have some way to communicate with them within hours if not less. It is out of this need that the ansible is often invoked.
The first appearance of a wormhole in physics comes from Albert Einstein himself. Together with Nathan Rosen he developed a solution to general relativity that could be interpreted as a shortcut between two widely separated locations. They presented this solution in a paper titled “The Particle Problem in the General Theory of Relativity”. Einstein and Rosen weren’t trying to create cosmic shortcuts, but rather were trying to introduce particle physics into general relativity.
In the popular science fiction franchise Star Trek, there are two ways in which a ship can move. Impulse engines, and warp drive. Impulse engines actually exist. Impulse is just a physics term for applying a force over a period of time, so impulse engine is just a fancy term for rockets. In the franchise they are usually assume to be some kind of plasma rocket, but they are still just rockets. In fact, any engine that applies a force over time is technically an impulse engine. So the next time you climb into your car you can “engage impulse engine”.
When someone mentions time machines, you might think of fantastical machines such as Dr. Who’s TARDIS or the DeLorean in Back to the Future, but several physicists have made a serious study of time machines. Most of this work focuses on “what if” scenarios, which are really about testing the limits of a particular theoretical model, rather than actually engineering a device that can travel to the past.
While fantastical stories have been with us as long as we’ve been human, in the early 1800s a new type of story appeared. Often Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein is named as the first example of this genre. Also known as The Modern Prometheus, it gives us the tale of a mad scientist who creates a creature from alchemy and science. By …
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