October 20, 2015 at 8:05 am
“It is difficult for people to envision the immensity of geologic time, as they tend to reckon time spans in relation to their own lives.” Excerpt from Paul Spudis’ article on Smithsonian site.
My own theory is that it is difficult for people to make any decision that does not immediately benefit them. We all know subconsciously we are going to die so most of our thinking is based on getting what we can before that happens- and not much else matters. I used to be skeptical about such subconscious devices until my own participation in rescue missions came back to haunt me.
We take it for granted this world is the way it should be because it is. When someone says the chances of the Earth getting hit by a large comet or asteroid in our lifetime is “astronomically low” then we accept that as not worth any more attention. It is not “we” that say this, it is “I” that reasons I will be dead so it does not matter. And so biological life may be too stupid to survive.
But as Dr. Spudis has done here, if we had lives that stretched across geological time, an indefinite lifespan, then our reasoning would be much different. This is actually not so hard to imagine when star travel is taken into account. The present most plausible method of traveling to another solar system is the “sleeper ship.” In this scenario our bodies are frozen with a process that does not damage cells and the temperature lowered to close to absolute zero. The Starship is propelled to a few percent of the speed of light, probably with a tremendous beam of energy. After a voyage lasting several centuries or even thousands of years, upon arrival the ship slows down, probably using H-bombs, and the crew is revived. The alien solar system is explored and the Starship begins the return voyage. When the crew arrives they have aged perhaps ten years while centuries or millennia have passed on Earth. It would be a reasonable assumption for the crew that while they were frozen a cure for old age would be found.
The people on a Starship would be far more concerned about the future than we are. In some modest lab on planet Earth somewhere a dog or monkey may wake up tomorrow after being frozen- with no ill effects- and then what I just wrote will matter.