Have you ever imagined how interstellar travel could work? | Ryan Weed | TEDxDanubia

Have you ever imagined how interstellar travel could work? | Ryan Weed | TEDxDanubia

Translator: Reka Lorinczy
Reviewer: TRAN HUONG Before I start talking
about antimatter physics, antimatter rockets,
going to other stars, traveling interstellar, I think it’s important
we ask ourselves a question. That is: Why explore space? We have so many problems here on Earth, we have global warming, hunger, war, why should we spend time, money,
and effort going into space, when we could be spending
that time and effort here on Earth? I could list all
of the technological advances, the medical breakthroughs of over four decades
of human space travel in space, but I think the real question is: Why explore? I think simply the answer is:
It’s in our DNA. We are the descendants of people who were curious
and who explored their environment, and I think we need
to continue doing that. But there’s a problem,
there’s a big problem, and that is that rockets are too slow. In order to demonstrate that, our fastest object
that humans have ever created is the Voyager 1 spacecraft,
and that moves at 15 km/s. That may seem like a fast speed,
but if you want to go to Mars with that, at that speed, it would take
months to get there. If you wanted to go to Pluto – which NASA just did, and they spent a billion dollars
in ten years to get there – it just takes too long. The final example,
really the most important one is: If we want to get to another star, our closest star system Alpha Centauri,
as you see there, is about four light years away,
and that’s 38 million million kilometers. It would take about 30,000 years
at 15 km/s to get there. and, you know,I don’t want
to wait around for that. Luckily, human beings are actually
quite good at developing tools that allow us to explore our environment. In the 1700s, we built very accurate
measurements of time, we built the chronometer
that allows us to travel the seas, and allowed for the Golden Age
of Exploration. In the 1900s, the Wright brothers
developed flight, and really allowed us to master the skies. If you really want to explore
beyond our Solar System, we are going to have
to come up with a new tool. Being an antimatter physicist,
I’m kind of partial to antimatter, but it could be something else, it could be laser propulsion,
laser fusion, or solar cells. Some physicists even think that we can bend space-time
and travel faster than light. But I think antimatter is actually
the nearest term and most realistic. A little bit about antimatter. It was first predicted by Paul Dirac –
up there in the top-right corner. He was actually struggling
with two relatively new concepts, one being special relativity, which describes life
at really high speeds and the speed of light, and quantum mechanics, which describes the Earth
or the world of the very small, atoms and molecules. So he was solving this relativistic
quantum mechanics equation, and he came out with two answers: a positive energy and a negative energy
for these particles. How many times
you’ve been doing your homework, and you come up with a negative answer, and you say: “Chuck that, just look at the positive
energy solutions, because that’s what makes sense.” But Paul Dirac was a genius, and he saw
these negative energy solutions, and he said: “Wait a minute, maybe there’s
a whole new set of particles out there that we haven’t even seen.” Some people thought
he was crazy of course. But it was only three years later that Carl Anderson at CalTech
saw this in his cloud chamber. He saw the track
of a particle going, curving, and it had the same energy
and mass as an electron, but it was curving the wrong way. It should have been curving to the right
if it was an electron. So this is the first experimental
evidence of antimatter or an anti-electron,
which we like to call positrons. So antimatter I like to describe
as mirror matter. If there was an anti-you in a mirror,
it would look exactly like you, except that everything would be flipped. The same is true at the subatomic level. Anti-electrons have
the same mass as electrons, just positive charge rather
than negative charge. That’s why we call them positrons. An interesting characteristic
of antimatter is annihilation. It’s quite unique in that if you have an antimatter particle
and a matter particle, and they get close enough together, they’ll both disappear
and turn into pure energy. Now this is the Universe’s most efficient
means of turning mass into energy, and it’s quite powerful, and that’s what got me interested
in positron physics years ago. What does that mean
in terms of energy density if you had a clump of antimatter? Antimatter has about
90 megajoules per microgram. I know that doesn’t mean much to you, but to put that in more familiar terms, if you had a gram of antimatter,
or an M&M-size piece of antimatter, then you have the same amount of energy
as about 80 kilotons of nuclear weapon, or alternatively about 10 million liters
of liquid natural gas – about a full tanker load. So not only does antimatter
have incredible promises as a fuel for spacecraft, but this has some pretty
significant applications in the future of energy research,
energy production, especially in inertial confinement systems
and pulsed energy delivery. But I’m more interested
in the propulsion side of things, and so is my company. The original concept
of antimatter propulsion, it was actually developed
in the fifties by Eugen Sänger. And what he did was, he said: “What if you had a clump of antimatter,
you took it out in your spacecraft, and then you annihilated it
in the rocket engine nozzle, and you’re able
to direct that energy flow, you’re able to direct those gamma rays
so that you have thrust in one direction.” This was cutting edge at that time, but there were really three problems, one of which was production. You can’t create enough antimatter
to do this, unfortunately. The other is that you
can’t trap the antimatter. Of course, that property of annihilation
which is good for the energy density is really bad for being able to trap it. You need very high strength
magnetic fields, and it just wasn’t feasible,
still isn’t feasible, to trap large amounts of antimatter. The third problem
with the original concept was directing that energy. Gamma rays are much higher
energy than x-rays. Of course, if you go through the TSA
in the airport, they x-ray your bag. X-rays tend to go through everything,
and gamma rays even more so. Reflecting gamma rays is something
that we can’t do right now. So, I started thinking about
these problems in 2011, finishing up my PhD in positron physics. I realized that the real issue,
the limiting factor, was when you went from hot positrons
to cold positrons. Now state of the art in 2011: You had your source of hot positrons,
and what you did, and still do, is to run it through
a solid piece of material. What this does is, it’s very thin, so that most of the positrons
just travel right through, a very small number will actually stop
inside the material. Of course, a large number
of those will hit an electron because our matter
is made of a lot of electrons, and they will lose it. A very small number,
about one out of 1,000, will make it to the surface
and be emitted as a cold positron. So, you have to be able
to create cold positrons in order to work with them. They come out at a million times hotter
than the surface of the Sun, so you have to be able to cool them down. This process was very inefficient, so we started thinking
of new ways to do this. My lab partner and I
discussed this for about a year. We came out with a napkin sketch
of an array moderator. Soon after that we made it
an actual patent, and then asked
for some money from a grant, and we were funded by the Steel Foundation to do the initial proof of concept
on that moderator. This moderator now forms the heart
of all our propulsion concepts, and that little piece up there
is actually very tiny, it is about 3×3 mm, but it’s the source for all
of our antimatter concepts. When you are developing a concept,
you also have to develop a team. So back in 2012, I asked
some friends of mine whom I was working on another
rocket project there in the desert with. I said, “Well, let’s give up
this chemical stuff. Why don’t you guys come help me
build an antimatter rocket?” Who’s going to say no to that? (Laughter) So, we rented a little office, brought in a bunch
of nuclear science equipment. We quickly realized that the landlord
didn’t appreciate that, so we got kicked out of there. In the next year, we moved into
a little more appropriate facility, and then, last year, finally,
we made our way down to a nuclear fallout shelter
with a clean room. This new facility will allow us
to develop some of our concepts and integrate them into a CubeSat,
which is a very small satellite, very easy to launch, very easy
to demonstrate new concepts on. How do we get around those three issues: production, trapping and directing energy? The first two, production and trapping, are got around by having
a very efficient moderator. We use a radioisotope source of positrons
which continuously emits positrons. We run it through
our little tiny moderator, and we can create
a very high-intensity positron beam. The third challenge is directing
the annihilation energy. In order to do that, we transfer the kinetic energy
of the gamma ray into a charged particle via fusion reactions. And now we have a charged particle
that’s high energy rather than a gamma ray. And that’s important because charged particles
like to follow magnetic field lines, as you know from the Aurora Borealis. So, we use magnets like
the one in the bottom right there, to actually direct the energy
and produce thrust. In about two years, we were hoping
to put a demonstrator CubeSat – that little tiny spacecraft – into orbit. Why is this useful? What is it that a really small
spacecraft can do for you? Well, it turns out, that about 4 billion people
on the surface of the Earth don’t have access to Internet. So there’s a lot of companies that want to launch
constellations of small satellites into low Earth orbit. They will create a global network
of broadband Internets, so that anyone can
access that information. I think that would be
an incredible opening door for the Earth. A little bit further down the road, what we want to do,
and what government agencies want to do, and some private companies like SpaceX, they want to send things out to Mars, and our technology
would allow them to do that and cut the transit time significantly. And then, kind of a far-out application
for this, is asteroid mining. I know you’ve probably never heard
of asteroid mining, but it turns out that very small asteroids
in our asteroid belt, metal rich, is worth a lot of money. With chemical rockets,
you can’t just go out there and get it, you need something
like an antimatter system. In terms of extending this technology
into human space travel, that will require, of course,
a lot of work. It turns out that our squishy bodies can only really handle
about 1g acceleration, and even so 1g, 9.8 m/s/s,
is actually pretty high acceleration. NASA took ten years
to get to the Pluto; if we go at 1g, we can get there
in about 3.5 weeks, which isn’t that bad. If we want to go to Alpha Centauri,
the story gets a little different, and we start bringing in
concepts of special relativity. If we want to go out there
at 4.3 light years, at 1g it would take about five years
going at about 85% the speed of light. Once we start getting toward a significant
fraction of the speed of light, we start getting time dilation, which is an interesting phenomenon, but really it’s the thing that allows us
to travel out into the Universe. While five years
has elapsed on the spacecraft, nine years has elapsed on the Earth. It’s getting weird, but still feasible. If we extend this out to Kepler-452b, Kepler-452b is an interesting place
because a lot of people call it Earth 2.0. It’s a little bit bigger than Earth, it’s in the habitable zone of its Sun. A lot of people
want to go there and see – maybe there’s life. I think there is a good chance
that there might be, although it is 1500 light years away. With our 1g spacecraft
we could get there in 12 years on the spacecraft. Unfortunately, 1,500 years
will have passed on Earth. So things are getting a little weirder. If we look at the ultimate
application of this, exploring to the edges of our Universe,
13.5 billion light years away, at 1g we could make it there
in a human lifetime, 30 years. Now, we are going incredibly fast,
towards the speed of light, but the only problem is, that 13.5 billion years would have passed
here on the Earth. What I’m trying to say is that, with the transformative
technology like this, we have to think seriously
about the consequences, and new questions that arise. The first of which is: If we want to really explore beyond
our Solar System into our galaxy, we are going to have to do it ourselves: if we do send a probe or a robot, we will never hear back
from it, essentially. And then the second issue is: If we do want to go out beyond our galaxy, we’re going to essentially
be saying goodbye to this. And you know human beings used
to be a nomadic species, and so one of the questions
I am asking you is: Do we want to become nomads again? Thank you very much. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “Have you ever imagined how interstellar travel could work? | Ryan Weed | TEDxDanubia

  1. There's so many things to consider… Engine reliability is one. And how many "grains of sand" will the ship hit in its travel? At that speed how much damage would create?

  2. Try Transubstantiation! That’s the key to faster than light travel, because there is no mass associated with craft and occupants. If you raise the vibration of an object, it disappears, and vice versa. The craft can be made to disappear, then reappear at the chosen destination. Virtually instantly.

  3. This is jet another TEDx talk that gets 125% of its "facts" wrong. Nobody should be allowed to talk about physics who doesn't actually know it.

  4. This is a no brainier. If you want to explore the universe then become imortal. It is the doable way. Every other idea hits the brick wall of reality.

  5. I thought I understood special relativity – I guess I don't and I wish he expanded on that a little bit. My core presentation will be traveling in time requires his kind of ship to set up a android/ai/R2D2/CP3O/VR/3Dprint factory base camp kind of thing.say on Pluto, and on Earth, we have ARpods that plug us into the andriods. Our android selves and the AI machinery we become will prepare the foundations for civilization. Time travel will have to start on a light beam signal that operates our alter egos to monitor the level of Humanity on the said planet. From there, we can send further and further with a more advanced technology that has been adapted to fit the tru needs of the minds wanting to explore new worlds. Then, if someone wants to try to fly there, they at least have communication with some form of civilization the has organically grown from the AI and mind travelers.

  6. All he is doing is leading the way for anti matter bombs. Itll never be used for space, we wouldnt survive a single blast.

  7. Pretty poor answer to why go to space when we have problems here: Even without his anti-matter source (which itself would make us a post-scarcity civilisation), space is the best future source of energy for the planet. With enough energy we could easily grow food for a huge population and build things much cheaper. Like most things worth having we'll need to work hard to get it…but once we do this we'll have it made.

  8. We send out spacecraft to explore the galaxy knowing they'll never hear from humanity again due to dilation. But they're only a few years into their journey before they discover a human spacecraft out ahead of them. They learn that humans have discovered technology that allows them to overcome time dilation and their mission is aborted.

  9. Your craft will have to have a Particle Accelerator, an Antimatter Reactor and a Thermionic Generator. The most important would be the "gravity field" that would be projected in front of your craft for 25 kilometers that would be sustained. This craft would be able to travel at Tracion speeds.

  10. You can't navigate through the universe. Everything is moving helter skelter in any direction. New stars appear in front of you and disappear behind you. How are you going to navigate back home when your coordinates are gone forever

  11. Can't believe a man this smart got something so fundamental wrong. There mirror versions have goatees too! C'mon man.

  12. You can't reach the edge of the observable universe at the speed of light. You can't even get to a galaxy much farther away than Andromeda. Space will expand away from you faster than you can traverse it.

  13. So a few questions I have about his time/distance numbers:

    1) Is he accounting for deceleration? Or just a constant acceleration? Like would the burn be going the whole way or would they flip at halfway or so to begin deceleration? Would it have to be at the halfway point to accommodate the 1g limit?

    2) If we're deciding to send people – what about a return journey?

    3) Why not just send robots? Wouldn't they have much higher limits on acceptable gravity, what with no squishy bodies and all?

  14. Why does no one ever bring up the fact that it does not matter how fast you travel, you can't travel in a straight line….. eventually you would hit a planet or debris.

  15. In his estimations of the time it takes to get somewhere at 1g, Is he considering the need to break when you arrive to your destination light years away?

  16. People in 2005: speeds close to c are impossible

    2010: ok fine, you can go fast, but you'll die before you get there

    2015: yeah, ok, relativity will make time stretch, but you'll hit an atom and die

    2020: ok, you can deflect that stuff, but you'll die from radiation

    2025: fine, shields work but 5G will kill us anyway


  17. The technology he is talking about has already been surpassed. It has been reported that the German third reich scientists developed anti-gravity driven flying machines shortly after the end of the war. That they refined their technology to the point where they could fly to the moon in 3-4hrs and also fly to Mars. That Admiral Richard E. Byrd encountered and was defeated by these flying machines in Antarctica during Operation Highjump 1946.

  18. so we left earth going to another planet, we got there in lets say 10 years in space, we realise hey here are aliens we can say hello or not but lets send message back to earth, then a broadcast from earth comes" was 200.000 years from when they left planet , and our earth is almost dead meteors and earth is dying losing shild or whatever… good bay peope that we send you long ago we are gone earth is gone we love you<3 " so if is oh shit lets go back another 200.000 years will pass on earth , and is dead planet, or we try fall on new planet but unready for planet conditions forto manny years in space, we just die, well shit. aliens will be like" look son this aliens who fall here they was a little stupid they dont get the concept of time, and they day, what a sad day, we seen them but cant warn them, at least lets make one day from our days , a day to celebrate the power and will of this people . damn this is sad xD

  19. There's no such thing as anti-matter. Anti-matter is a misnomer.
    When matter and anti-matter meet, energy is released resulting in total annihilation.
    That's not what results. When they meet, they should negate each other; they don't.
    They produce energy. Therefore; anti-matter is a misnomer.

  20. I think he explained very clearly what's the real problem: time dilation. so humans will probably colonize the Moon and Mars and will probably mine near asteroids but I don't think long distance exploration will be ever feasible.

  21. we dream to leave earth. but man was never made to leave earth. we can't even live peacefully with our fellow earthlings yet we hope to meet with extraterrestrials whom we always depict as war-freaks in movies.

  22. we marvel with awe at the builders of ancient buildings & cities which we can't duplicate or replicate yet we seek to travel across the universe. dream on!

  23. The real question is why we don’t take care our only existing planet that we know and we don’t have to terraform to live. Why we worry to go to Mars why? Is all about money even on the movies show you what will be the future on earth. Planet earth is doom because of us. And we want to explore the universe to do the same in another planet. Is a matter of time!!!!

  24. 1. Human brain is an attempt of universe to understand itself.
    2. Matter is distortion in(from within) space because of anti-matter which is inside matter pushing it outward.

  25. The problem folks is that "antimatter" in sci-fi is not like real "antimatter". huh you say, well I am just trying to point out that anti-mater is real but like many elusive particles its so insignificant and rare and exists for such short amounts of time it may as well be not there at all. yep antimatter is more concept that physical reality for you and me. positrons exist! I get it, but you are not going to cook an egg with that stuff let alone power a spaceship with it.

  26. To the question at the end: the reason we were a nomadic species is because we didn't have the skills or technology to be a settled species. The moment we developed the means to provide ourselves with food without having to keep migrating along with the herds of prey, the moment we developed agriculture and animal husbandry, we gave up on the nomadic lifestyle. No, we don't want to go back to being nomadic.

    As for the rest, how about using antimatter, or positrons, only as energy source instead of for propulsion? Combine it with warp technology? Not being an expert, I probably don't understand it correctly, but this is how I understand it:
    The time dilation of a moving body is not only based on its speed, but also its mass and density. A spaceship has both mass and density, whereas space itself has neither. If you keep the spaceship stationary within its piece of space and instead move the space, there might be no time dilation at all, even at speeds close to or exceeding light speed. The speed at which the space can be moved is limited only by how stable a warp bubble you can create around the ship and the length of travel time is limited by how long you can maintain the warp bubble. If the spaceship is carrying a power source and emoter to maintain the warp bubble, there would be no time limit. Considering that the creation and maintaining of a warp bubble requires power levels that exponentially grow with the size of the bubble, I doubt a spaceship would be able to create enough positrons or antimatter for the energy requirements to create its own bubble, at most only maintain it but probably not even that.
    Additionally, there is the question of propulsion. I believe, it would require a force to be imposed on the warp bubble from the outside in order to propel it through space. The object on the inside is essentially isolated from space and is unable to affect it in any way. I envision a kind of rail gun set-up, which can also contain the warp bubble creation part of the process. If the spaceship is not able to produce the energy to maintain the warp bubble, the travel distance is limited by the travel time and for longer journeys "repeater stations" would be required at regular intervals to reconstitute the warp bubble.
    Regardless wether or not the ship can autonomously maintain the bubble indefinitely, there needs to be a catchment station at the end of the journey since the ship can't stop the motion from the inside of the bubble. If the bubble collapses while in motion, the object inside will experience an acceleration from zero to warp speed within the few milliseconds that it takes for the bubble to collapse….which I would estimate to potentially be (without actually doing any maths) in the order of several thousand or million Gs. The catchment station would need to bring the warp bubble to a complete stop and then dissolve it.
    The requirement for a warp acceleration gate and a catchment station would require the trajectory to be pre-calculated down to the millionth of a degree, or more precise than that, and require constant updates to compensate for galactic drift. There is no turning round the corner in mid-warp, unless if repeater stations are able to not only reconstitute the bubble but also alter its course and speed.
    Matter-Antimatter reactions would still be essential for warp travel, since there probably is nothing else that would come anywhere close to providing the energy required.

  27. It's 2019 and he said it would be about two years for that small satellite to get into orbit. Anyone have any news on how this project is going?

  28. Is he trolling us ? It takes (93 Gly) 92936344969,19946 YEARS FOR LIGHT ITSELF to even reach the OBSERVABLE universe, how is it possible for us to reach the EDGE of the universe with a spacecraft in a LIFETIME ?

  29. No why not use the money for our health, if they can come her let them say hi, as they will anyway ffs looking for someone we dont want to meet is futile, ps I would like to meet lol

  30. Nope, because if that's ever accomplished the U.S. military will use it to escape from here and label earth as a terrorist prison colony to be wiped out.
    I'm not so sure that's not what they're doing right now.

  31. earth is not a planet, it is a realm. you can't leave it, see operation deep freeze, they tried. nasa is there to sell the universe lie, nothing else. nasa means to greatly deceive in hebrew. this guy talking is a paid liar.

  32. He says that anti-matter cannot be stored at a high quantity at the moment, but why can’t you store many MANY isolated anti-matter devices with only a few particles and use them as something like a fuel cell, setting them off like nukes similar to the Orion project?

  33. Antimatter is not needed to go into space! YouTube this: Patent of TR3B. Oh yes, we have our own little space fleet of TR3B's and TR6 and big battle "ships" (one is named "Hillenkoetter" (try to find this ship on earth!) flying 33.000 miles per whatever, flying zickzack just like UFOs with zero point energy (and no inertia inside for the pilot!! No G-force!) through space. YouTube "McKinnen", he is the guy who hacked the pentagon and found the "Space Command" -our own space fleet. So: zero point energy (TR3B)is patented!!! YouTube it!

  34. I'm not a physicist but I'm thinking that in order to adress the time dilation issue we'd need to figure out a way to travel outside of three dimensions if we want to engage in interstellar travel. A 1G craft seems practical for intersolar travel, or maybe event to the Oort cloud, but impractical for longer distances. Amazing that we have the technology to even come close to near-lightspeed travel. Feels like a Rick and Morty episode – awesome!

  35. The human body is the constraint , it has a genetic clock and mass so to get between two locations in a smaller amount of time you need to convert that mass to energy unfortunately you destroy the visible mass at that conversion hence dark matter so our bodies live in a Newtonian world governed by the quantum world . That's why the earth is unique in the universe , there is no other planet that can support life as we know it

  36. Travel that requires fuel will NEVER be feasible. What exists everywhere? There is a magnetic field that exists everywhere in the universe. Use it. This fuel contains unlimited energy. This guy is trying to sound smart but he is very uneducated.

  37. It seems unfeasible and unbelievable, but we'll surelly be travelling to Alfa Centauri by 2100. Maybe to other dimensions very close to us. Time will tell.

  38. antimatter would not do it alone. you need the release of exotic particles to discovered gravity anomalies that we can exploit for space travel.

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