ON TECHNOLOGICAL PROGRESS: LIMITED OR UNLIMITED? WHICH WAY TO GO?
Published in physic.philica.com
We start from the simple observation that space around us is mostly empty. The emptiness of space is illustrated in a very suggestive example given by Jastrow and Thompson, in their book on astronomy (Astronomy :Fundamentals and Frontiers, J. Wiley, N.Y. 1972.):
"Let the sun be the size of an orange; on that scale the Earth is a grain of sand at the distance of thirty feet; Jupiter, eleven times larger than the Earth, is a cherry pit revolving at distance 200 feet or one city block from the sun"
It should be noted that on the cosmic scale, the density of matter in the solar system is unusually high compared to the average density of the matter in the universe. In our own galaxy, in the above scaled analogy, oranges (stars) are separated by an average distances of 1000 miles. In deep space, beyond our own galaxy, distances are much, much greater, and the emptiness of space shows itself in its full drama.
On the other hand, the Lobachevsky (hyperbolic, non-compact) universe is eternal and infinite. However, in terms of an Euclidean geometry model (Poincare ball) the radius of universe is, as we calculated it, between 18 and 20 billion light years. It would be highly unlikely that from an infinite number of galaxies (and stars) in the universe, only our sun has developed a planetary system capable to support an intelligent life. No doubt that on other islands of matter in the universe there are fertile grounds on which life and intelligence could evolve.
One has to realize that the volume in Lobachevsky space is an exponential function of a radius, not a power function of a radius as it is in Euclidean space. Hyperbolic space is much, much " roomier" than Euclidean space. Thus, even in a ball of a finite radius, an estimation of the number of galaxies based on Euclidean geometry is highly underestimated.
Nevertheless it would be unreasonable to think that with our present approach to deep space communication we can combat these enormous distances which we encounter in the universe. Our present approach to interstellar communication is based on local mathematics (and local physics) which has its roots in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and can't reach conceptually (and technically) any further then we witnessed in the past fifty-sixty years.
At this point we will give an example of a general significance. Looking at the first steam locomotive of Stevenson and looking at the Apollo rocket which put man on the moon, one might think that we have two entirely different vehicles. At a closer look however, we will find that basically those two are the same machines. Indeed, the Stevenson vehicle as well as Apollo vehicle work due to the same principle, i.e. Carnot cycle, discovered by the Frenchman Nicolas L. Carnot (1796-1832). Thus, man was lifted to the moon by a “concept” conceived in the nineteenth century.
Unfortunately, the pool of nineteenth century concepts has already dried out, and the ideas of the great masters of the past are no more help in solving future problems on an entirely different scale. The stagnation of fundamental physics is just a reflection of this situation.
Thus direct attempts to build a working communication system based on our present knowledge, (we call it a crowbar solution), seems not to be feasible. To make it worse, in the crowbar approach scheme, we need to add the time factor to the purely engineering technical problems. A civilization which has sent a message may vanish before an answer will arrive. The fiasco of the SETI project is a good illustration of the non-applicability of the concepts and methods based on the crowbar approach to the problem of interstellar communication. Communication via EM waves (as it is implemented today) works perfectly on the Earth scale, it is useful on the solar system scale, but it is entirely useless for intelligence exchange on the galactic scales and beyond.
Therefore, it seems pointless to waste time recording data from our radio telescopes in search of an intelligent message. The withdrawal of funding and the shut down of activities at the Arecibo radio telescope is just a clear confirmation of our reasoning
The second observation is that the time scales of entire human history and in particular the epoch of our technological development are just negligible in comparison to the life span of cosmic objects. Let us compare (arbitrarily) a time of one billion years, in which the Earth had an environment capable of supporting intelligent life (e.g. Earth is more than five billion years old) to the period of one year. Then, humans have come to the scene in the last fifty minutes, the entire progress of western civilization took about the last thirty seconds and most of technology as we see it today came in the last ten seconds. This simple analogy shows that despite our achievements in science and technology there is a vast ocean of unknown ahead of us and we have still much to learn.
We believe we are not alone in the universe. If that assumption is correct then in the universe there are civilizations at various stages of intellectual development and some of them are millions years ahead of us. Those highly developed civilizations are exchanging intelligence between themselves at their technological level far more advanced than anything we can even imagine now and in the years to come. It is obvious that in the same way as tribal men in the Amazon rain forest are unaware of a wealth of information carried by electromagnetic waves over their heads , we are unaware of information exchange on the higher technological level flowing around us.
Thus it is reasonable to pose a question . Can we build at least some kind of receiver to intercept interstellar messages? Can we find other intelligent creatures in the universe? Will we be able to communicate with them and to learn ?
In my opinion, there are strong reasons to believe that the construction of such a receiver is possible. The first step in that direction is to break with nineteenth century concepts of locality. Construction of a non local receiver is an enormously difficult task but at some point we are in better situation that an Amazon tribal man who would try to build e.g. RF receiver.
Having listening device and intercepting intelligence from advanced civilizations , we will gain an enormous knowledge . We will make a quantum leap for millions and millions of years ahead of our present knowledge. This knowledge will enable us (beyond other things) to build the appropriate transmitter and to enter into an information exchange over the entire universe. Man will make an unlimited progress in any direction.
This short paper has no references, since with respect to the problem of interstellar communication the past experience based on a crowbar solution is entirely useless. There are no experts on the future. Regrettably, all experts are only on the past.
Information about this Article
Published on Saturday 21st July, 2007 at 23:40:37.
Peer review added 23rd July, 2007 at 21:23:32
It is probably worth noting that the SETI involves not only unknown variables, but a stacking sequence of unknown variables. This point, however, has already been made by Frank Drake, etc. The author’s claim that both steam engines and rocketry are versions of the Carnot cycle seems to confuse theoretical and applied physics. Both fly-fishing and pachinko could be described as applications of Newtonian gravity, but they appear quite different to the observer. Moreover, rocketry has existed, in theory and practice, for more like two thousand years than two hundred years.
Peer review added 26th July, 2007 at 02:40:28
I agree with the author’s general notion that it is possible that there exists some as-yet-undiscovered technology that will allow us to do — well, who knows what? Perhaps communicate faster than light? We have no idea what the future will bring. However, the author states that we must “break with nineteenth century concepts of locality” and construct a “non local receiver.” I presume (although it is not stated) that the author refers to quantum nonlocality. I would like to point out that, to the best of our understanding, quantum nonlocality cannot be exploited to transmit information FTL. See, for example, “Experimental test of the no signaling theorem” (Tiziano De Angelis, Francesco De Martini, Eleonora Nagali, Fabio Sciarrino) archived at http://arxiv.org/abs/0705.1898.
added 16th August, 2007 at 04:06:39
RESPONSE TO THE REVIEWER # 66096
added 16th August, 2007 at 04:08:12
RESPONSE TO THE REVIEWER #7116
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