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Thread: Relativistic Kill Vehicles and the Fermi Paradox

  1. #16
    Former Staff Senior Contributor Ironduke's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by citanon View Post
    I think by "own goal" Iron Duke probably means accidents might happen with a lot of relativistic travel.

    But, there are ways to mitigate this. Travel in between established outposts, are likely to occur via laser powered lightsail. In that case you'd set the receiving station in a system well outside the core planets.

    Also you can set a speed limit of say .5c.

    Going heavily relativistic only makes sense for shortening the passenger's journey. You can try to do that for going to new worlds, but you'd still need to slow down well outside of solar systems as any dust strike would become increasingly catastrophic. To an incoming relativistic ship the space dust around a star system might look very dense.
    Consider current nuclear war strategy. A ton of ICBMs, and a saturation of MIRVs, enough to overwhelm any practical means of defense. Even if there were space traffic control and various defensive measures, take the saturation concept, and apply it a scenario of relativistic warfare. In this scenario, one would simply accelerate a spaceship to relativistic speeds, and release a payload of thousands or even millions of smaller objects. The objects could even be stealthed to make them invisible to possible future would-be detection methods.
    Last edited by Ironduke; 23 Mar 18, at 07:00.

  2. #17
    Senior Contributor Monash's Avatar
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    I considered that option as a defence against 'High C' strikes as well i.e. using 'sand' as a defence against incoming strikes. I think however the real defence is the likely distance between our civilization and any hostile, technically advanced competitor.

    Best we can tell at the moment there are no advanced civilizations, hostile or not within 200-300 light years of Earth at least. That makes launching an attack problematic at best because the time between detecting humanity and your attack arriving is so long (think 500 years or more).

    Things might be different if a human colony decided to take us out but again what's the point if we can't impose our will on them and they can't impose our will on us. which is the case distances being what they are.

    All bets are off of course if FTL travel turns out to be a possibility. There is also one other bleak option that I will post on later. Have to go out now.
    Last edited by Monash; 25 Mar 18, at 08:31.
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  3. #18
    Senior Contributor Monash's Avatar
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    To continue.. the 'bleak option' involves a solution to the Fermi paradox that has been explored by various SF writers. This solution posits the evolution of a xenophobic, space faring species that decides to seed the galaxy (or at least it's corner of the galaxy) with interstellar hunter/killer space probes.

    These basically 'run silent' along predetermined courses through space listening for emissions by other intelligent species and then zero in on them for a strike before they can become a threat.

    Personally I consider this scenario unlikely simply because of the scale of resources and time periods involved. We would be talking about millions of years and thousands of light years between 'contact's. The resources involved and scale of commitment required makes building the pyramids look like self assembling some IKEA book shelves. Still, there is an eerie silence out there.
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    There are ant colonies that are thousands of years old and never once did they ever saw a human and we are smaller in scale than those ant colonies. Consider this, our TV signals are no longer being broadcast into space. They're being bounced back off satellites; reducing power transmission needs. So, less than 100 years that we were screaming into space. The odds we would be noticed in that time is small to say the least.

    The fact that we have not heard from other civilizations can be explained by our own. As we learned to be more efficent in our signal management, leakage becomes smaller and smaller. We could in fact missed that small window when they were throwing out signals like no tomorrow as they may not yet hear ours.

  5. #20
    Senior Contributor Monash's Avatar
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    In reality l tend to agree with your view. Our best current estimates put the likelihood of other advanced species anywhere near us as remote. In fact I believe most estimates state there are at best only 5 or 6 civilizations in the galaxy at any one time and even that number is considered optimistic by many scientists.
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  6. #21
    Former Staff Senior Contributor Ironduke's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Monash View Post
    In reality l tend to agree with your view. Our best current estimates put the likelihood of other advanced species anywhere near us as remote. In fact I believe most estimates state there are at best only 5 or 6 civilizations in the galaxy at any one time and even that number is considered optimistic by many scientists.
    I would also say it's incredibly optimistic. Out of the billions and more of species that have evolved on Earth in its 4.3 billion years, there's only one that has evolved to our level of intelligence. The galaxy is probably full of life forms that would be both familiar and exotic to us, but high intelligence is not necessarily an advantageous evolutionary trait. One thing to consider (and this is very obvious), is that there could may very well be an intelligent species as close as the Alpha Centauri system, Barnard's Star, or Sirius. But they may have gone extinct a billion years ago, or will only come to exist a billion years from now.

  7. #22
    Former Staff Senior Contributor Ironduke's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Monash View Post
    To continue.. the 'bleak option' involves a solution to the Fermi paradox that has been explored by various SF writers. This solution posits the evolution of a xenophobic, space faring species that decides to seed the galaxy (or at least it's corner of the galaxy) with interstellar hunter/killer space probes.

    These basically 'run silent' along predetermined courses through space listening for emissions by other intelligent species and then zero in on them for a strike before they can become a threat.

    Personally I consider this scenario unlikely simply because of the scale of resources and time periods involved. We would be talking about millions of years and thousands of light years between 'contact's. The resources involved and scale of commitment required makes building the pyramids look like self assembling some IKEA book shelves. Still, there is an eerie silence out there.
    I've been meaning to read the Dark Forest series, hopefully some time in the next year. Not sure if there are hunter-killer probes in that series or not, but the underlying concept of a species with relativistic capability being an existential threat is core to the book's premise.
    Last edited by Ironduke; 27 Mar 18, at 01:05.

  8. #23
    Former Staff Senior Contributor Ironduke's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WABs_OOE View Post
    There are ant colonies that are thousands of years old and never once did they ever saw a human and we are smaller in scale than those ant colonies. Consider this, our TV signals are no longer being broadcast into space. They're being bounced back off satellites; reducing power transmission needs. So, less than 100 years that we were screaming into space. The odds we would be noticed in that time is small to say the least.

    The fact that we have not heard from other civilizations can be explained by our own. As we learned to be more efficent in our signal management, leakage becomes smaller and smaller. We could in fact missed that small window when they were throwing out signals like no tomorrow as they may not yet hear ours.
    Colonel, was wondering if you had any thoughts on relativistic warfare. Unless that's too much of X-wings/TIE fighters/head in the clouds type stuff for you.

    The alien thing is an afterthought/a beside to me, my concerns are more with human use/misuse of this potential technology.
    Last edited by Ironduke; 27 Mar 18, at 02:26.

  9. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ironduke View Post
    Colonel, was wondering if you had any thoughts on relativistic warfare. Unless that's too much of X-wings/TIE fighters/head in the clouds type stuff for you.

    The alien thing is an afterthought/a beside to me, my concerns are more with human use/misuse of this potential technology.
    People have already done the math and it doesn't need anything approaching c.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinetic_bombardment. The main trouble is lifting telephone pole size tungstun into orbit.

    Never mind global thermonuclear warfare. That would only cause civilization to collapse. If you want to talk about Extinction Level Events, sending probes to a big enough asteriod and then letting it's gravity do the work to cause enough of a shift in it's orbit so that it would collide with the earth. That is within the reach of all space faring nations.

  10. #25
    Former Staff Senior Contributor Ironduke's Avatar
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    Very valid point, and a much more immediate type of threat than relativistic kill vehicles. Thank you Colonel.

  11. #26
    Senior Contributor Monash's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ironduke View Post
    I would also say it's incredibly optimistic. Out of the billions and more of species that have evolved on Earth in its 4.3 billion years, there's only one that has evolved to our level of intelligence. The galaxy is probably full of life forms that would be both familiar and exotic to us, but high intelligence is not necessarily an advantageous evolutionary trait. One thing to consider (and this is very obvious), is that there could may very well be an intelligent species as close as the Alpha Centauri system, Barnard's Star, or Sirius. But they may have gone extinct a billion years ago, or will only come to exist a billion years from now.
    I doubt it makes much difference whether the figure is 1, 5 or even 10 (IMO beyond single digits is wildly optimistic). What lay people, myself included tend to overlook is that when you talk about 100,000 light years in distance your are also taking about the same length in time.

    This makes the delay between signal transmission and receipt, even in a situation where the sender was trying to be found so long that contact with another race let alone a meaningful exchange of information becomes highly unlikely. Even over evolutionary time scales.

    As for (merely) ballistic threats to Earth, unless a purely space based political entity develops in the next century or so I can't see a deliberate attack as opposed to an accident occurring. First unless the asteroid in question is of minimal size you risk severe damage to your homeland in addition to that of your enemy. Secondly, apart from a few closely monitored rocks that pass near the Earth/lunar gravity well, most likely choices would take months if not years to de-orbit. When your enemy can launch a missile strike with a response time of 45 minutes or so who can wait that long for retaliatory action?

    De-orbiting an asteroid also allows plenty of time for interception in one form or another. Now accidents on the other hand .....
    Last edited by Monash; 27 Mar 18, at 23:12.
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  12. #27
    Former Staff Senior Contributor Ironduke's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WABs_OOE View Post
    Never mind global thermonuclear warfare. That would only cause civilization to collapse.
    Well, I at least know the location of some our deeper mineshafts. No nuclear reactors though to provide power to a community that could be possibly located there. :-)

  13. #28
    Senior Contributor Monash's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ironduke View Post
    Well, I at least know the location of some our deeper mineshafts. No nuclear reactors though to provide power to a community that could be possibly located there. :-)
    And so it came to pass that Ironduke founded his own clan of Morlocks or 'Ironlocks' as they came to be known.
    Last edited by Monash; 28 Mar 18, at 04:07.
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  14. #29
    Former Staff Senior Contributor Ironduke's Avatar
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    Good one. :-)

    This particular deeper mineshaft is where scientists discovered gravitational waves. I've been to the bottom of that mineshaft. Takes a few minutes to travel down there. Never knew there was a research facility there though until the discovery was announced.
    Last edited by Ironduke; 28 Mar 18, at 17:50.

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    I think the low probability of intelligent technological life explanation may be correct. Take a look at the timeline of life on earth:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/history_...earth#timeline

    If you look at each of the transitions from points from first life to multicellular life to complex animals to primates, and reformulate how long each step took since the previous step as a maximum likelihood estimator:

    IE,

    life evolved 1 billion years after start of earth. Thus we take the probability that life evolves in any 1 million years as 1/1000

    Complex life evolved 1.7 billion years after that, so we take the probability of complex life in any million years given life as 1/1700, etc

    You can calculate the rough probability that intelligent life will exist on an earth like planet during any one particular million year period after its formation.

    Now you take that probability, and put the following conditions onto the 100 billion to 500 billion starts in our galaxy:

    1: not in the galactic core
    2: Sun like
    3: has planets orbiting in the habitable zone
    4: is sufficiently stable to not fry habitable planets with solar flares
    5: does not have other unfavorable astronomical calamities going on in its neighborhood

    Finally, out of all of the above, if intelligent life emerges, is it technological life? What if you had an ocean world with very smart alien dolphins who have no use for technology what so ever? Seems like the chances of intelligent technological life existing at the same time within a million year time span might be quite small.

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