Medium-speed space travel

Most space-travel science fiction I know falls into two groups: Either people have found a way to travel faster than light (Star Trek, Star Wars and many others), or people travel for decades or centuries in sleeper ships (Jon Bing’s novels about the starship Alexandria, for instance).

However, it seems to me (I’m not a physicist, though!) that a fairly likely scenario would be the invention of spaceships travelling at a speed slightly slower than that of light. First of all, it doesn’t contradict the laws of physics as we know them, and secondly, we don’t get all these messy problems with deep-freezing people.

The big advantage would be that travel would be nearly instant for people on the spaceships, because time slows down when you’re moving very rapidly.

However, it would have some interesting consequences. First of all, it would be fairly boring for people back on earth because we wouldn’t hear anything back for a very long time (if we sent a spaceship to a planet 100 lightyears away, it would take more than 200 years before we’d find out whether the mission had been a success). It also means some people could visit all of the known galaxy, but if they ever returned back home, so many years would have passed that it wouldn’t be like coming home at all.

I guess the consequence would be that we’d only bother exploring the nearest star systems. Sure, we might also send colonisation ships to planets much further away, but that would mean cutting off all contact with them in practice, so I think only fanatics would want to do that.

I’m a bit surprised that I’ve never come across science fiction exploring this scenario – does anybody else here know more?

Statistik

Jeg har netop læst en artikel i Jyllands-Posten om, at Helmuth Nyborg fra Psykologi ved Aarhus Universitet er blevet fritstillet. Manden har jo kontroversielle holdninger, men hvad jeg fandt interessant, var, at JP har offentliggjort rapporten fra det sagkyndige udvalg (skrevet i LaTeX). Så vidt jeg kan se, er to af de tre sagkyndige statistikprofessorer, men Helmuth Nyborg er jo psykolog. Nu har jeg aldrig studeret psykologi, men hvis det minder om lingvistik, undrer det mig overhovedet ikke, at der er kludder i statistikken – det er ikke just det fag, der fylder mest i uddannelsen.

Det betyder naturligvis ikke, at deres kritik er uberettiget, men det forekommer mig at være unfair at pudse statistikprofessorer på Nyborg, blot fordi man ikke kan li’ hans resultater. Derimod ville det nok være en god idé at lade sagkyndige tværfaglige udvalg tjekke stikprøver af al forskning fra alle universiteter for at sikre, at standarden er lige høj på alle fag. Men dét vil helt sikkert vække modstand fra mange!