Monday, January 21, 2013

What would traveling through Hyper-space REALLy Look Like?

If you've been paying any attention to me at all over the past few years then it should come as absolutely no shock to you whatsoever, to learn that I have often tried to work out for myself exactly what one would see if traveling at light speed towards an object. Why? Because that just happens to be the kind of thing I think sounds like a good time. But if you never have before now, think about it for a minute... Did sci-fi get it right with their streaking star fields? Or would the objects in front of you appear to freeze in place, the way physicists have described an object passing over the event horizon of a black whole would look to an outside observer? Would the viewer's apparent horizon stretch and blur into a blinding white light? Would visible objects just disappear altogether, leaving a seemingly empty black field in it's place? Or maybe something else entirely, that I've forgotten to mention? Either way, if those don't all seem like interesting things to ponder to you, well, I just don't know what else to say. I know what I think about it, and it seems as though I'm mostly correct this time around- though not entirely for the right reasons. But as I've said many times before, I'm WAY not qualified to speculate scientifically about anything. But hankfully, I'm not the only one who wonders about these sorts of things. And most of the people who do, are usually actual physicists- or at least in the process of becoming actual physicists. Which is why  four students from the University of Leicester recently put their actual knowledge and education to the question of what it might look like to travel at light speed, and here's what they came up with.


Traveling Through Hyperspace. Image: University of Leicester
" The fourth year physics students – Riley Connors, Katie Dexter, Joshua Argyle, and Cameron Scoular – say that the crew wouldn’t see star lines stretching out past the ship during the jump to hyperspace, but would actually see a central disc of bright light. This is due to the Doppler effect, specifically the Doppler blue shift, that results in the wavelength of electromagnetic radiation, including visible light, shortening as the source of the light moves towards the observer.

As the spaceship makes the jump to hyperspace, the wavelength of the light from the stars would shift out of the visible spectrum into the X-ray range. Meanwhile, Cosmic Background Radiation (CBR), which is thermal radiation that is spread fairly uniformly across the universe and is thought to be left over from the Big Bang, would shift into the visible spectrum, appearing to the crew as a central disc of bright light.

“If the Millennium Falcon existed and really could travel that fast, sunglasses would certainly be advisable,” said Connors. “On top of this, the ship would need something to protect the crew from harmful X-ray radiation.” "

So basically, what you'd see -assuming you could look out a window in the first place, which seems inadvisable given the torrents of amplified thermal radiation pounding against your vessel, but if you could. Odds are you'd see something like the representation above. By which I mean the still black and white one not the gif, that's from Spaceballs; there's probably not a lot of plaid in hyper space

But even if the truth about traveling at light speed isn't as interesting as you might like it to be, aesthetically speaking. It's still a pretty awesome thing to try and imagine; stars streaming at you so quickly that they all soon disappear from view behind a wall of white hot light. Not to mention the astounding distances you'd be traveling while they do it. And more importantly. Knowing, not only what traveling through hyper space might look like, but also what it would mean for the levels of deadly microwave radiation bombarding any ship traveling through it, are just two more examples to add to the already lengthy list of reasons for us all to stop and acknowledge Star Trek's superiority to Star Wars. Since it's now obvious that Luke, Han, and the gang, would clearly have been cooked like potatoes through those 70's party-van style portholes on the Millenium Falcon. While Kirk, Picard and the rest, would have been just fine observing the universe on an advanced view-screen from the comfort and safety of their shielded Starship.

And isn't that what REALLY matters?

I think it is.

Posted by YouTube user: WilliamShatner



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