Category: science fiction

Is Anti-Gravity Real? Science Is About To Find Out

“It’s an incredible possibility, one that’s considered wildly unlikely by practically all theoretical physicists. But no matter how wild or tame your theories are, you must absolutely confront them with experimental data; only through measuring the Universe and putting it to the test can you ever accurately determine how the laws of nature work.

Until we measure the gravitational acceleration of antimatter to the precision necessary to determine whether it falls up or down, we must keep ourselves open to the possibility that nature might not behave as we expect. The equivalence principle may not be true for antimatter; it may, in fact, be 100% anti-true. But if that’s the case, a whole new world of possibilities will be unlocked. We could change the currently-known limits of what humans can create in the Universe. And we’ll learn the answer in just a few years through the simplest of all experiments: putting an anti-atom in a gravitational field, and watching which way it falls.”

One of the biggest problems with manipulating gravity is that there’s only one type of gravitational charge: the positive kind. Mass has positive gravity, and it attracts all other masses. Energy also has positive gravity, and attracts and is attracted to all other forms of energy. The curvature of spacetime can only be positive or zero; negative gravitational attraction is impossible in a Universe without negative gravitational mass. But we’ve never measured the gravitational effects on antimatter, and a new experiment just might be the first to get there. 

If antimatter anti-gravitates, our sci-fi dreams like artificial gravity and warp drive will suddenly become possible. Keep your mind open and your dreams alive.

Ask Ethan: Would Traveling Back In Time Destroy The Universe?

“My 8 year old watched the Back to the Future movies for the first time and would like to know if, as Doc Brown suggests, the creation of a temporal paradox could unravel the space-time continuum and destroy the entire universe?”

Whenever someone attempts to travel back in time in any science-fiction setting, they’re always warned against messing with the timeline and making drastic changes. The reason? If you alter the past, you have a chance of changing the present in some dramatic ways, potentially in ways that would even prevent your own existence, or the possibility of events that have already occurred. But that’s normally the entire motivation for traveling back in time, from 12 Monkeys to Terminator to Back to the Future. Yet there might be not just one, but two possible ways out. Traveling back in time and changing the past may or may not be physically possible, but if it is, it might lead to a new present that’s just fine in terms of the Universe’s stability, no matter what it is you do.

What are the problems, and potential solutions, to traveling back in time and altering the past? Find out today!

Could ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Be Right About Parallel Universes? Vaulting Ambition (S1E12) Recap

“But what if information wasn’t destroyed, but simply imprinted on all the quantum particles in our Universe, and imprinted differently in the Universe where that first measurement was +½ versus the one where it was -½? With enough information, perhaps, we could reconstruct the result of that measurement. Perhaps, in addition to that, the entanglement was never broken, and there’s a way to transmit both information and to traverse space, from one Universe into another. Is this spectulative? Of course; it’s fiction. But if you’re willing to accept the possibility of a new rule of nature, all of what happens in Star Trek: Discovery is admissible in exactly that fashion.”

In quantum physics, the ideas of cause-and-effect and action-reaction are replaced with indeterminism. Things don’t happen because there was an inevitable outcome caused by the laws of physics and the initial conditions, but because of all the possible outcomes that could occur, one possibility was selected. But what about all the other possibilities? In the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, they all occur as well, simply in different Universes. What if, then, these Universes were still connected to us? What if one of them, in particular, happened to be linked with ours in a way that we could communicate with and even travel to the mirror Universe? In Star Trek: Discovery, this possibility is exactly what happened. But is there any physics backing the idea up?

Find out what it would take to make this fantasy a real possibility on this review and recap (and scientific analysis) of the latest episode of Star Trek: Discovery!

Star Trek: Discovery’s Greatest Science Moments Rethink What It Means To Be Alive

“While most of the famous aliens encountered by Federation crews have been humanoid — including Klingons, Vulcans, Romulans, Ferengi, and Cardassians — there have been notable exceptions. The vampire cloud of The Original Series, the crystalline entity of The Next Generation, the changelings of Deep Space 9 and many others have challenged our conventional notions of what intelligence or life might look like. Now that we’re in the late 2010s, science has advanced tremendously, and so has our imagination for what might be possible.”

It’s pretty easy to point to the new Star Trek series and criticize the science they’ve gotten wrong, oversimplified, misinterpreted, or simply ignored. That’s something, honestly, you could do for any science fiction series if you tried hard enough. But there are a few things about science that Star Trek gets right, and one in particular that it’s breaking new ground in: how life, and intelligent life in particular, might be vastly different from what we expect. Other depictions of intelligence in alien species have focused on two types almost exclusively: human-like, autonomous, chemical-based beings, and artificially intelligent robot-like beings. But what if there were organic pathways and mechanisms out there that went far beyond what we presently understand, where quantum entanglement across galactic scales dominated or even non-matter-based life forms existed? Sure, it sounds like pure fiction today, but being open to these possibilities is vital.

Until we know the full suite of what’s out there, we have to remember how much remains unknown to us, as Star Trek: Discovery does a wonderful job of reminding us.

Star Trek: Discovery’s Unanswered Scientific Questions After Season 1, Episode 9

“But the parallel Universes part is the hardest part for me to swallow. Newly introduced in this episode, Lorca shows Stamets how all the data gathered from the spore drive shows not only the mycelium network, but doorways to parallel Universes. They build off the many-world interpretation of quantum mechanics to indicate that Universes where anything and everything that can happen does, only in some other parallel Universe. The problem is, these branches occur at an “event” in spacetime, which means they occur at a specific location in space at a specific time; you can’t simply have a “map” of a place where you can access a parallel Universe. Yet that’s how Star Trek: Discovery chooses to portray the science, and it appears that’s where they wind up at the end: in a parallel Universe that’s nowhere known.”

After nine episodes, Star Trek: Discovery reaches its mid-season hiatus with a visually spectacular battle on multiple fronts at Pahvo. Discovery engages the Klingon sarcophagus ship, Stamets faces his own mental decline to power the spore drive, Lorca orders others to uncertain fates, Burnham engages in combat at the scene of her greatest failure, and Tyler battles his own PTSD. It’s a great stage for some very compelling internal and external conflicts to play out. But it’s also all too easy. The Klingons are one-dimensional villains. There’s no ethical dilemma to obeying/disobeying orders here. Burnham exercises terrible judgment, but gets lucky in the end. And the “Gilligan’s starship” ending seems, at first glance, to be a new twist on an old plotline: Lost In Space. Which is really too bad, because that’s one of the classic counterexamples I use to show what Star Trek, as a franchise, is not all about.

There’s a lot of potential in Discovery, but it has some growing to do, on both the science and the fiction fronts, if it wants to go down as one of the greats.

Overwhelming Cloaking Devices And False Peace Highlights Star Trek: Discovery, Season 1 Episode 8

“Can you please make it stop, even for a moment? We were biologically determined for one purpose and one purpose alone: to sense the coming of death. I sense it coming now. We have come to Pahvo for your help. We have come to end this war. I am so afraid. So. Afraid.”

You’re in a time of war, and your enemy has a technological advantage that makes you unable to fight them on equal footing. This has happened so often throughout history: with iron vs. bronze weapons; with the invention and application of gunpowder; with the rise of nuclear capabilities. In space, the augmentation of a cloaking device makes the Klingons virtually invincible, and the Federation is losing this war, badly. What are they to do? What comes next? The ability to see an invisible ship is what’s needed, and this latest episode highlights an attempt to do so, by exploiting an uncontacted alien world. The aliens there are sentient, however, so using this technology would be a violation of both the Prime Directive and First Contact protocols. But what’s the ethical thing to do? Is it better to not interfere and face certain defeat? Or to exploit their technology, violate your principles, and gain the advantage?

Star Trek: Discovery is a show where right-and-wrong isn’t so cut-and-dry. Despite its flaws, it’s an interesting development that makes you think, without providing easy answers. Those, fortunately, will come next episode!

Star Trek Discovery’s ‘Magic To Make The Sanest Man Go Mad’ Is A Masterpiece: Season 1 Episode 7

“Far and away, this is the best episode of Star Trek: Discovery I could have asked for. By abandoning the serial nature of the plot, the show freed itself to take on a story in an unexpected way. The time loop is such a well-worn trope in science fiction that I just glossed over “time crystals” as the explanation and said, “ah, they don’t know how it works but it doesn’t matter, because they’re not even the ones using it.” The effects were interesting, but most interesting was the way that this device led to a great story that brought out interesting facets in the characters.

[…]

The episode was engaging, the characters were interesting and relatable, and they got out of a jam not by using some futuristic tech device, but by outsmarting and outmaneuvering a con man who had taken control of the most powerful ship in the Federation. In some ways, it’s the most hopeful episode of Star Trek the world could have asked for as we near the end of 2017.”

For the first time, we’re given an episode of Star Trek: Discovery that has the elements you expect in Star Trek. There’s an anomaly (a space whale), the real problem (a time loop caused by Harry Mudd’s nefarious actions), and a solution that requires teamwork, collaboration, and problem-solving in a novel fashion. The crew of Discovery, much to my surprise, rises to the occasion and each contributes using their unique strengths to overcome what initially seems to be an insurmountable obstacle. The episode has a very thought-provoking take on justice, on character growth, and on trust, and it pays off in a big way.

For the first time, Star Trek: Discovery lived up to my initial hopes for what the series could be. More like this episode, please, and I hope you loved it too!

Star Trek: Discovery Goes Psychic & Psychedelic in ‘Lethe’: Season 1, Episode 6 Review

“Then Burnham learns the truth about Sarek’s choice. Somehow, she doubles down on “you let me believe I was a failure,” even though no such thing occurred. For all the hundreds of thousands of college kids rejected from their first choice school every year — like most of us were, and like I was, way back in the day — we learn that it wasn’t because we were failures, but rather because the criteria the school was looking for didn’t match up with what we were. Burnham, apparently, has never learned to deal with this type of rejection, or to view it as anything other than her failure. Even after seven years in Starfleet, seeing how this unfolds all around her, she hasn’t learned.”

In an episode filled with Vulcan mindmelds, Klingon treachery, a spectacular nebula, themes of racial purity, and PTSD, you’d think all the ingredients were there for a spectacular episode of Star Trek: Discovery. Instead, describing it as a hot mess would be overly generous; this episode is just a disappointment as far as just about every avenue is concerned. Except for the Captain Lorca / Admiral Cornwell scenes, there’s really nothing to like about where this goes. From a psilocybin-ed out Stamets to an increasingly annoying Lilly, to a jackass version of Sarek to a blame-assigning Burnham who can’t believe that the galaxy isn’t fair, this episode is full of weak points. For a show that’s attempting to be an action/drama, this episode is very short on both the action and the drama. The Cornwell/Lorca scenes can’t save the episode, and the science part of the science fiction never even appears.

After a promising fifth episode, Star Trek: Discovery returns to its worst impulses in Episode 6, ‘Lethe’. Come get the full review and recap.

Why Don’t We Have Artificial Gravity In Space?

“If antimatter has negative gravitational mass, then by setting up a ceiling of antimatter and a floor of normal matter, we could create an artificial gravity field that always pulled you down. By building a gravitationally conducting shell as the hull of our spacecraft, everyone inside would be protected from the forces of ultra-rapid acceleration which would otherwise prove lethal. And most spectacularly, humans in space would no longer suffer the negative physiological effects, from balance disorders to the atrophy of your heart muscle, that currently plague today’s astronauts. But until we discover a particle (or set of particles) with negative gravitational mass, artificial gravity will only be brought about through acceleration, no matter how clever we are.”

Ever wonder, in those science fiction shows, how space travelers always stay “down” on their starship? Irrespective of acceleration, and despite the fact that the astronauts we have in orbit around Earth are weightless, they’re always depicted as having a floor and a ceiling that are well-defined, and always find themselves on the floor. This is physically impossible given the laws of physics as we know them today, but one small discovery could suddenly render artificial gravity possible. We’ve measured the inertial mass of every particle and antiparticle we know of, and everything has positive mass/energy to it. But gravitational mass has only been measured for the particles, never for the antiparticles. There’s currently an experiment underway, the ALPHA experiment at CERN, whose goal is to measure which way antiparticles fall in a gravitational field. If they fall “down,” then they’re not the solution to artificial gravity. But if they fall “up,” this fictional technology could suddenly become real.

We presently don’t have artificial gravity in space because there’s no such thing as a negative gravitational mass. But if we get an experimental surprise, all of that could change overnight!

Star Trek: Discovery’s ‘Choose Your Pain’ Finally Feels Like Star Trek; Season 1 Episode 5

“Meanwhile, other officers rise to the challenge. Stamets uses himself as a guinea pig to test his human-based spore drive idea. Culber makes his position known and advocates strongly for doing the right thing, telling the Commander the futility of attempting to de-hibernate the tardigrade. And Saru, initially so unsure of himself that he had the computer monitor his decisions to stack them up against the computer’s 20/20 hindsight, recognizes the value that others bring, and realizes the greatest thing of all from being in a position of power: the ability to learn from your experience to do better as time goes on. For the first time, we’ve had an episode of Discovery where the entire crew can be proud of themselves.”

Star Trek has always been a way for us to look at the best and worst aspects of humanity, often through our confrontations with alien races. Different aspects of our fears, our personalities, and our sense of ethics play out on the stage of futuristic science fiction. Our frailties are exposed, and the crew is challenged to rise to the occasion, and to demonstrate the best of humanity, often in the worst situations. For the first time in five chances, Star Trek: Discovery at last succeeds in the latest episode, ‘Choose Your Pain.’ The tardigrade responsible for the spore drive starts to degrade, but the crew refuses to let it die, despite it putting the Captain’s life and even their own lives at risk. The Captain is captured by the Klingons, but acts in the best interest of his captured cellmate, Lieutenant Ash Tyler (from the Shenzou!), putting his own life at greater risk. Saru, the first officer, confronts his leadership shortcomings, and is pleased to be humbled and learn a lesson. And perhaps most impressively, Burnham follows orders, even when she knows she’s right and her superiors are wrong.

It’s not a massive payoff, but it’s a very big step in the right direction, and it gives me hope for the next installment of Star Trek: Discovery. Come get the review, and the science, of the latest episode today!