Humanity may accidentally declare war interstellar alien civilization

Imagine yourself in a world not much different from Earth, which orbits a star, not much different from our Sun. Temperature and atmosphere are perfect for the existence of liquid water on the surface, but a mixture of oceans and continents guarantees that life will be stable conditions for prosperity for billions of years. Evolutionary processes have also increased the complexity and level of differentiation of the organisms in this world. Thanks to the combination of random mutations and natural selection pressure, some types of this world have become intelligent, conscious and reached unprecedented levels of domination over nature.

With the development of technology, this kind of began to think about other civilizations near other stars. And then, from far, faint points of light in the sky occurred the first attack punched a hole into the planet at relativistic speed. It was not a meteor, not an asteroid and not a comet; it was humanity.

Here on Earth, our dreams of interstellar travel are traditionally divided into two categories:

  • We go slowly, with a rocket engine, and our journey takes many lives.
  • We go fast, using the best science to travel with relativistic (near-light) velocities.

Even with an unmanned journey, these two options seem to be the only possible. Or we go as the spacecraft “Voyager” and overcoming even one light year takes us thousands of years, either we develop new technologies capable of accelerating the spacecraft to much higher velocities. The first option seems to be unacceptable; the second seems unrealistic.

We can attack the aliens?

But in 2010 something happened that could change the rules of the game. We have actually carried out a powerful technological leap that allows you to transfer a huge amount of energy the device for a relatively long time to disperse it (in principle) to incredible speeds.

What is this leap? Laser physics. The lasers today are more powerful and more collimated than ever, and this means that if we put a huge amount of these powerful lasers in space, where they don’t have to deal with atmospheric scattering, they will be able to highlight one goal for a long time, passing her the energy and momentum, it is not dispersed to more than 10% of the speed of light.

In 2015, scientists wrote a technical paper on how the advanced laser system could be combined with the concept of solar sails for the spacecraft with “laser sail”. In theory, you could use the current technology and is extremely lightweight vehicles (“star chips”) to reach the nearest stars in a few decades.

The idea is simple: guide this powerful array of lasers in reflecting the purpose, attach a small satellite to sail and up to the highest speed possible. Small means very small. The idea of a solar sail is very old and exists since the times of the telescope “Kepler”. But to use a laser sail really — this is a revolution.

The advantages of this setup in front of the others is just incredible:

  • Most of the energy used in this case comes not from disposable rockets and lasers, which can be recharged.
  • Mass “star chip” is very small, so they can be accelerated to very large speeds close to light.
  • With the advent of miniature electronics and super lightweight materials, we can create suitable for the use of the device and send them light years.
  • The idea is not new, but the emergence of new technologies — which are already available and will be available in the next twenty to thirty years — have made this perspective realistic.

So, what we have. We develop a suitable material that can reflect enough laser light to burn the sails. We are quite tunable lasers and arrayed in a relatively large area, in order to disperse these “star chips” up to the speed of 20% against light: 60 000 km/s. Then we send them to the potentially habitable planet near stars such as alpha Centauri or Tau Ceti.

Perhaps we send an array of star ships in one system, hoping to explore it fully and get as much information as possible. In the end, the main purpose of science is simply to collect data on arrival and hand them back. But there are three huge problems with this plan, and together they can be equivalent to a Declaration of interstellar war.

The first problem is that interstellar space is filled with particles, most of which is moving relatively slowly (several hundred kilometers per second) through the galaxy. When they encounter a spacecraft, they punch a hole in it, turning it into Swiss cheese as soon as possible.

The second problem is that no mechanism of slowing down. When these spacecraft arrive at the destination, they continue to move at a speed at which it flew. There’s no stopping to take the data, or orbit. They just rush at full speed.

The third problem is that to achieve the accuracy required for convergence (but not clashes) with the target planet, is almost impossible. “Cone of uncertainty” for any trajectory will include the planet that we will explore.

What happens when we get to an inhabited planet? What would it look like?

60 000 km/s is thousands of times faster than any space ship ever to enter our atmosphere. It is 1000 times faster than the fastest meteors generated in our Solar system. This star chip will need only a few thousandths of a fraction of a second to pass through the entire atmosphere: from space to the surface.

Speed and energy together can work wonders. If you double the speed, the energy increases four times, the kinetic energy is proportional to the square of the speed. A huge stone weighing 1 000 000 kg falling to the planet at a speed of 60 km/s, will cause some damage, but the stone weight of only 1 kg at a speed of 60,000 km/s will release as much energy in the collision process.

Even if the mass is tiny, it will still cause some damage. The planet, which gets 1-pound spacecraft at speeds of 60,000 km/s, will experience the same catastrophic effects as the planet, which gets 1-ton asteroid at a speed of 60 km/s. On Earth this happens every ten years. Each hit will release about the same energy as the Chelyabinsk meteorite: the most powerful energy collision of the decade.

If you were an alien in this world, which is bombarding the tiny fighters, what conclusion would you come? You would know that they are too massive and too fast, so they can be found in nature; they are created by an intelligent civilization. You would know that you are attacked deliberately; space is too big to accidentally to hit you. It will be worse if you suspect this civilization malicious intentions. No benevolent alien would not have launched something so reckless and careless, if I knew how much damage it can cause. If we are wise enough to send a spacecraft across the galaxy to another star, we must be wise enough to foresee the disastrous consequences of this.

Stephen Hawking was once warned:

“If aliens visit us, the result will be the same as when Columbus landed in America, in indigenous Americans have done very well.”

However, if we calculate the consequences of our interstellar ambitions and technologies, we will become the first in history who fired a single habitable planet on the other. And the fact that the Stephen Hawking was a supporter of Breakthrough Starshot, is a big cosmic puzzle. Careful when it comes to contact with aliens, he also had no problems speaking at the launch of interstellar weapons.

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