"You just put a thousand people on board and make sure they're all
friendly. Both sexes, and lots of videotapes."
Mark: I have a question then. Do you think then that perhaps the answer to
travel through the universe isn't to go faster than the speed of light, but
rather being able to take long enough that you don't care how slow you're
Seth: Well, I mean, if you can go faster than the speed of light, great. But
that's really haaaard. You know, physics doesn't really allow that. There are
tricks, you can...
Siduri: You can start off faster than the speed of light.
Seth: You must have seen K-PAX. If you believe that...
Siduri: No, it's tachyons, it's from Star Trek!
Seth: Tachyons. But no one's ever found a tachyon, and people have looked.
And also, how do you start off faster than the speed of light?
Seth: It is tough. Mind you, there are ways to cheat the geometry of space and
all that. You just hang a big black hole in front of your spacecraft, have it
warp space in front of you so you can shorten the distances. But, you know,
that's hard. You've got this big black hole, you've got to hang it in front of
the ship, and you've got to take it along with you too. So all that's really
Siduri: We can do that organically too. We can build colony ships.
Seth: Yeah. Now that's the other approach, and [to Mark] I think that's
what you were getting at. To do any of that—the energy involved in creating
the black hole is, again, enormous amounts of energy, so you might as well
just have a giant matter/antimatter spacecraft and do it that way. Because if
you get the thing up to high enough speed, then it doesn't take any time to go
anywhere, because of special relativity. Of course you do have the radiation
problem of everything hitting your craft, which you might not get with the
black hole solution, but I don't know.
Anyhow, I'm not sure that's the way to go. It just seems no matter what you do
there, you're paying all this energy cost. But if you go slowly, you obviate
the danger and the energy cost, and maybe the thing to do is either:
re-engineer ourselves so that everybody lives to be a hundred thousand years
old, in which case you don't mind that the trip takes fifty thousand years; or
two, put everybody to sleep, and have them wake up at the other end. I don't
know how to do that. These cryonics people freeze people, but when they
defrost them, they don't move around very much.
And the third possibility is that you have these colonies, you have big arks.
You just put a thousand people on board and make sure they're all friendly.
Both sexes, and lots of videotapes to entertain them. And you just send them
all out there. Maybe that would work. It probably wouldn't work.
TCS: It's kind of appealing to the family values.
Seth: It would work for the first generation, but after that it's going to be
the values of any mutinous group of people on a ship.
Siduri: Well no, because the kids will have grown up there, they'll be fine.
Seth: They may not be. That's not the experience,
apparently. The experience is that it breaks up into factions, sort of warring clans.
Seth: Pretty soon, nobody remembers why they're on this thing anymore. The
original inspiration is long gone, and probably they've lost all the skill
sets. You start out with all these engineers, and scientists, and who knows
what, but now they've all turned into—they're all designing websites for
one another onboard ship. Who knows. The expertise is gone, and then they're
getting into fights, and you know, the ship arrives and everybody onboard is
dead. They're dead, Jim.
I don't know, but that's what the sociologists have had to say. I think it's a
pretty uncertain enterprise. Just look at what happened to Captain Bly. He
wasn't gone for fifty thousand years either. People get a little feisty on
Mark: So, you mentioned Klingons. Certainly Klingons and Vulcans and things, we
all know what they look like, from the television shows and movies. Have you
got a pet theory on what alien races might look like?
Seth: I do get asked that quite often. And obviously I have no answer—well
of course I have some opinions, but they're not based on very much except the
most elementary things. Clearly, you've heard from me that I'm not convinced
they're going to be biological. So if they're not biological, they could have
just about any shape, really. If you look at the machines we've got, the shape
is determined mostly by packaging considerations, or what's convenient—in
the case of computers you don't want to make them too big because it slows
them down, but other than that you don't really care much what they look like.
So machine intelligence might look like anything.
But biological intelligence—you would expect some sort of good engineering
because they've got to function as an organism. So they're going to have
senses, like eyes, ears, maybe magnetic field detectors. Who knows what. But
the sorts of sensors we have make sense. Eyes are great because they can give
you a lot of information, and any planet that's going to produce biology is
going to have quite a bit of light. Ears are useful when sightlines are short,
for example in a forest: you can't always see everything but you can hear
stuff. Smell is good for some critters: doesn't seem to be so good for us.
Having limbs that you can wield a soldering iron with is important if you're
going to be a technological civilization, so if you don't have any arms or
legs—if you're like a seal—you're not going to build radio transmitters.
So there's all these things you could say, but nonetheless, it isn't to say
that the aliens look like the Greys that you see all the time on TV—they
look like us, they just look like us with less hair. No skin blemishes, and
usually no clothes. But they really do look like us. I don't think the aliens
are gonna really look much like us. There'll be some recognizable things, if
TCS: Wait a minute. Looks like us, no skin blemishes, no clothes. This sounds
Seth: Sounds like babies. Most of these are projections of what we're
expecting to become. If you look at them, they're guys with big heads, small
bodies, right, because in the future you won't have a physically demanding
job: all that sort of stuff. So that's what it is. It's saying "yeah, this
is the way we figure we'll be, so that must be what these advanced aliens are
like." That's all it is. But the real aliens, if they're biological, maybe
they've reengineered themselves. Maybe they have six-cylinder engines inside.
Siduri: I can't wait. I think we'll be cyborgs, because that would be the best.
Seth: You think what? Cyborgs?
Siduri: I think we'll be cyborgs.
Seth: Cyborgs don't seem to have a lot of fun to me. I mean, I've only seen
them in movies, but they don't have any pets. Do they have any hobbies?
Siduri: Your pets would be cyborgs.
Mark: They destroy small civilizations like ours, though.
TCS: And blow up police stations. Yeah, that sounds fun.
Seth: They do have fun wreaking havoc and destruction.
TCS: From the look of their faces, I guess it doesn't look like they're really
Seth: No, I don't get the impression that they're having fun either. They go
around and they take out some primitive civilization like ours just to wreak
havoc and destruction. How much of your day do you spend out in the garden
tearing up the ant farms? I mean you might have done that occasionally.
Siduri: You do it at one point.
Seth: You do it a couple times. Maybe that's all it takes. Maybe that's what
these aliens are. They're just kids.
Mark: If you look at our Earth history—
Seth: That's a good idea. That would be a good story.
Siduri: It's been done. I think—
Seth: Has it?
Siduri: Oh, just that they're just tearing up anthills?
Seth: Just that the aliens, that's right, the ones that are trashing our
planet are just kids.
Siduri: I'm sure it has. I can't think of it offhand.
TCS: I can think of a couple of Star Trek episodes that orbit around that
Siduri: Yeah. No.
TCS: No. [The name is actually Trelane, from "The Squire of Gothos."]
Siduri: There was the one with the kid who had been raised by aliens. And they
had to come take him back. They'd given him superpowers...
TCS: Oh, Charlie X.
Siduri: Yeah, Charlie X, that's right.
Mark: And then there was the one where Spock was...
Mark: ...a teenager going through puberty...
TCS: God help us.