Friday, January 12, 2018

Microstory 755: Seed

Many fictional stories suggest that, at some point in our future, we will develop faster-than-light technology. We will use this to travel to the stars in a matter of a few years, or several months, or even in a matter of weeks, days, minutes, or seconds. They come up with various explanations, perhaps the most popular being the idea of a hyperspace, which is some other dimension where the “rules don’t apply”. Sometimes you fold (read: wrinkle) time. Sometimes you warp space around a vessel. In the end, all these ideas get around the implausibility of FTL by nothing more than waving it away with their hands. To be sure, warp drive is our best bet if it’s possible at all, but I’m still not putting money on it. Because of our speed limitations, traveling to our neighbors would be exceedingly unreasonable. Let’s say you can approach the speed of light, but not surpass it. That sounds pretty damn fast, right? Well, the nearest star to us is aptly named Proxima, and it’s about 4.25 light years away. To make it clear, that means it takes 4.25 years for light to travel from the star, to a pig’s eye on Earth. If we were to move just under that speed, it would still take us, say, 4.3 years to get there. Now, Proxima Centauri b is a fairly promising planet—and we’re rather lucky to have it—but it would still be harsh, if not one hundred percent uninhabitable. Scientists would be able to learn a great deal studying a second solar system, so it wouldn’t be a waste of time to go there from mankind’s perspective, but most individuals would get nothing out of it. Still, let’s say people want to fly by it for vacation; that’s a pretty long vacation for the average human lifetime. Advances in the biosciences will allow us to live much longer, rendering a decade vacation not all that big of a deal anymore. But still. It’s one star system, and the chances of finding life in any form are negligible. But what it we crank that lifetime extension up to eleven? What if we eliminate the nuisance of death entirely? If you do that, taking a hundred thousand plus years out of your life to visit the other side of the galaxy isn’t so much as an inconvenience, but the trip itself would also be uneventful. So why don’t we stay here, and let automated ships take care of that for us?
We’ll build two gigantic turtle shell ships, measured in kilometers, each divided into four quadrants. Each turtle shell will be responsible for one plane of the relatively flat disc of the Milky Way, and each quadrant responsible for, well, a quadrant. They’ll fly off to their destinations, and once there, break further apart into tiers, arcs, voussoirs, rankfiles, and sectors. The smallest vessel would be a shallow hexagonal prism, called a seed plate, which is measured in centimeters, and is composed of nanobots. A plate will break ground on an asteroid, comet, meteor, moon, or planet (in that order of preference) and use the material to build infrastructure. We’ll need it to construct survey probes, a network point, interplanetary vessels, and interstellar ships. The latter is required since one plate is responsible for seven to twenty-eight area star systems. In an astonishingly short time from an immortal’s perspective, the entire galaxy can be conquered by the successors to humans. Using quantum entanglement, anyone will be able to instantaneously send their consciousness to any world, easily subverting the light barrier, which is already proven to be completely scientifically sound. If necessary and ethical, the nanites could also build terraforming technology, potentially seeding life on billions of worlds all at once, further cementing ours as the dominant species in the Milky Way. From there, maybe we even go to other galaxies, which would take millions of years. When time is defeated, the possibilities really do become infinite. That’s Brooke Prieto-Matic’s wild dream, anyway, which is good, because the quantum seeder project she conceived is very real. Ladies and gentlemen...Project Stargate.

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