We agreed that extraterrestrial intelligent life is a statistical certainty. In fact, the universe is so vast that if you travel far enough you will encounter replicas and near-replicas of Earth. Physicists have actually calculated how many possible combinations of particles could exist and found that, in essence, the cosmos has so many monkeys banging away on so many typewriters that somewhere, right now, they’re writing out your life story again at this exact instant. Intelligent life, therefore, is a done deal.
The trouble is the distance. All those other versions of you on all those other Earths are likely to be so far away that the light from their sun will never, ever reach us is this rapidly expanding universe. Not in billions of years, or trillions, or quadrillions, or whatever comes after that. Therefore, even a ship capable of light speed couldn’t reach us, and never mind that it would take an infinite amount of energy to accelerate anything with mass to that speed.
But does that mean the distance can’t be spanned? To me, that claim seems unimaginative and short-sighted. Maybe there are no loopholes in Einstein’s theory… but then again maybe there are. Wormholes are theoretically possible, as is a space-warping engine. Now that we’re beginning to understand the Higgs field, someday we might even be able to “turn off” the mass of our bodies and travel just like light. Yes, we’re only at the beginning of understanding these things, but that’s the point: we’re only at the beginning.
A hundred years ago, humanity couldn’t conceive of a supersonic jet. What will we discover 100 years from now? Or a thousand? It’s well within reason to think that the technology level of an intelligent race could be plus-or-minus a million years or maybe even hundreds of millions of years—that’s still a tiny portion of the billions of years of evolution on this planet.
I think the only thing I managed to prove to those scientists was that I was an ill-educated crack-pot given to baseless speculation. Maybe this just highlights the difference between scientists and science fiction writers: the job of a scientist is often to rule out possibilities, while the sci-fi writer is supposed to extrapolate on the implications (sometimes wildly, I admit). Still, I don’t think it’s good science to assume something is theoretically impossible when it isn’t.
Unlikely? Sure. Impossible? Only if you close your mind to it.
How about you? Do you have any crack-pot ideas that you think aren’t so crack-pot? Leave a comment if you do.
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