The Rhapsody – From Earth to Alpha Centauri

kernel flags: -v

-v stands for Verbose

I don’t know whom this post was intended for: myself that thinks about cosmology (along with the Shakespearean policeman that could assist keeping me awake) or the Shakespearean policeman himself – or am I writing simply to avoid lunch?

I am now adamant. I wrote this to stay awake in the middle of a stage two physics lecture about preventing a student to spoil the Twins Paradox. I sat in the first row and therefore was highly disadvantaged as a potential sleeper – I heard about Alpha Centauri in an example question, so let’s go on a journey to that place.

Letting alone the time dilation I could experience if I were faster and more sci-fy, a conventional rocket we have today suffices to deliver me there within my lifetime and leave me with quite some time to wander around and explore. I thought that the following things would happen – a false infers true preposition is defined to be true.



An Interstellar Day Dream Begins

Can my mind handle my dreams when I go further in science?

For whatever reason I board the rocket, I would presumably give a speech when I was still near or when I wasn’t launched into space.

I would talk to the other people about general physics, about how the enormous ancient cosmic angular momenta manifested a tiny proportion of themselves in countless variations of dynamic systems, as planets and moons, asteroids and icy debris, as stars that orbit each other and clusters that collide and merge, and as a group of humans that finally strive to spread themselves further to explore the former kinds of systems.

I would describe how the Alpha Centauri system operates – similarly marvellous without Pandora and Avatar – how our nearest stellar neighbour is a triple system with two confirmed planets; how the brightest two stars orbit each other in elegant ellipses so large that their orbital period (79 years) compare to that of humans’.

Accelerate. I start my fall to everything that I come across. I would constantly fall back to the earth to begin with, but my speed saves me.

I am a forth-goer. I would spend an appreciable time in solitude amid the silence of the solar system, visiting Saturn and Jupiter as well as our inner friend Venus to accelerate using their masses.

During this period I would gaze upon the crescents of Titan and Europa, collect chemical resources from Io and Venus’s upper atmosphere and search for my face’s reflection on the surface of Enceladus  (- where I lived in another lifetime (I mean in my Parallel Reality Story)).

I would traverse faster and faster, along and above the plane of our system, like a sentient comet without tails. I and a comet. Apart from our orbits, we are similar in more ways – that both contain life materials, and that both are on the move for undefined purposes. Did I mention that I would also have fun doing chemistry out there? Hey, most of those bizarre chemicals in space are not easily found here on earth.

My speed further saves me. I know my inertia and would have become comfortable with it. I would think that despite the lack of asteroid-induced accidents in human space flights, being killed in a rapid (6x bullet speed) collision wouldn’t be unacceptably painful. And I still rejoice for any more moment in which I am alive.

I’ve experiments to run. There’s research to be done.


Assimilation, Into Nature


Sunshine smiles to me every time I see it, in the darkness of space, overwhelming the pale blue light from the earth, or amid the creamy lightness of the milky way, its members and its surrounding darker darkness.

It is familiar to me in my dreams. If the solar system is a pot, I am a boiling drop of water on its surface, zigzagging (actually my path was perfectly regular but I cannot see that by intuition) my way through wonders separated by indescribable distances.

“No matter how far you move and how fast you do it, the background would hardly move.” I would say this to my friends in an email. I would send one and another messages to my family and finally save them from sending any more excuses “I take a while to check my phone”.

Given I perfectly understand that, I now understand that more than ever.

I would have found that human minds are not only too slow to capture individual microscopic events, but also too impatient to spot the progress of any phenomena that span millennia or take longer exposures with the eyes. I live with it. I would feel small. I would choose to hibernate, such that at least every awakening was new – but that’s about it.

Before and after hibernation maybe, I would talk to myself. Without the two languages I currently can speak, might I cope better with four dimensions?

Notably, this is a question from the reality as well. To imagine or not to imagine, which is more natural?

In that perfect trip, just like races of people would never source discrimination. Isotopic compositions are at most a mark for the origin of a material. They are not reasons for difference and separation. I drink water from Europa. My H2O and H2O from near Jupiter, I gradually feel that they are the same.

Still, I breathe gaseous oxygen, a chemical rather rare in the universe… That itself makes another story, my dear archaeobiologists.


Pale Dots, I


I would think that no matter life exist there or not, no matter earthling lifeforms are alienated by regulating themselves and growing to death or not, I am not alone in the first place. Maybe I discover life on another world in my samples, maybe I find earthling influenza virus under my microscope, I simply should carry them forward. Though maybe at the beginning they may feel like Richard Parker (the tiger, not the boy) on-board, we are the same, we have to and can exist together.. We are our own pale blue dot, joined by worlds so long forcefully separated.

I would start ceasing my emotional connection in sync with the decreasing radio intensity and increasing communication latency. I prefer Neptune over Uranus, but I would just fly by Sedna, the reddish distant dwarf planet. What would I miss in the darkness? Should I light up a box of magnesium somewhere (oxidant included) to see more pale dots floating in this lonely Kuiper belt?

Dormant blocks of rocks calmly arrayed beyond the orbit of Sedna, I would wonder whether these matter have seen any sunshine at all – Oort cloud – did they once get closer to the sun, or did they see sunshine from another sun?

Just rock? I wish I could build a house with them. Anywhere, this place is huge and one (at most two) piece(s) can be simultaneously seen – and I wish I could store them for later. I would leave the solar system by going to places where the solar wind never reached – I would cross it soon. My shelter – more like my body now – will submerge itself into true cosmic radiations and undecipherable communications. I would feel lucky not to be blocked by a steel cage (or an IMAX display?) surrounding the sun that had a signpost saying “ZOO  of MAN” on the other side.

In case that the thing I described just now is more profound / elegant, the next time I wake up, I would try to do some maths.

1+1=2                 (0)

Mathematics still works out there. We are likely not fouled by anyone. Anyone who has the foolish thought of fouling us is still trapped in their own trips from their pale dots, other life-sustaining and life-infested worlds there likely are.


Pale Dots, II

My experience on earth in the first 18 years, after the rest of my life in segregation with it, has been greatly changed by my new vision. I see a world without borders. I cannot seem to comprehend it deeper. I see in my dream; I see in my awake – my good friend said it would be nice if I share my tale. But I failed to do it even after my launch into space. How did I go through the procedure anyway?

I head for Alpha Centuri – an almost forgotten fact – forgotten even before I set foot on the first small step, the solar system. It took Sedna several weeks to completely disappear from my window, a tiny fraction of its 10000-year-orbit; it is not lonely. Before disappearing, it once was a competent visual companion of our sun – another pale white dot by now. Still wanting to get a sunburn? One would now resort to the milky way to do that, along with my plentiful time – Am I even 40 years old now?

I would long for my days in another system. To orbit Proxima and really witness a red star (as if it were sunset all day?) (It also is bright in X-rays and that’s lethal. I am used to that kind of thing by now.), to land on Proxima’s planet and search(file) evidence for making earth science a more general subject (I might have done the same thing to earth’s biological sciences before). Humans will leave the splendidly depressing era where we use our highly systematic and precise scientific tools to analyse one and only data point – ourselves – and try to deduce any trend from it.

It was a planet that already finished orbiting its sun five laps during my exploration (survival?). I was amazed. On amazing people, any world works actually. For example, I expect Mars to deliver the same level of inspiration … It got invisible to the naked eye long before here.

On this planet, there are no natural “nights” if you are currently bathing in sunshine – it’s perpetual. However, I can see the stars again by simply “traversing to” the night side, the side facing away its host that tightly tidal locks it.

If I were born on Feb 29th, my load would be way lighter to begin with. I still have several birthdays to celbrate before I get to the central binary star. They individually look so familiar (Alpha Centauri A even has the same spectral type G2 as the sun, just brighter and older; Alpha Centauri B is both smaller and colder but I can see its planet by now)

I have quite some life to spend and quite a few left to spare. It is a new sense of unification, that planetary origins separate us less and less over the years of flight, that I am unified with an alien planetary system by simply continuing to exist. Near the window, the bacteria live there. They do not enjoy freezing etc that I need, so I keep them there. The photosynthesising ones among them would readily evolve to adapt to the red lights, without noticing that two white suns may be their final benefactor (that, of course, is not eternal either, as all stars die.) In bulks of petri dishes (?!), bokeh of oxygen bubbles are similarly randomly made and distributed. Now that I have to carry on with my journey inside the ship, they make up the only pale dots in my vicinity.


Pale Dots, III

Science is a collaborative enterprise spanning the generations and when it permits us to see the far side of some new horizon, we remember those who prepared the way, seeing for them also.” – Carl Sagan

The story might sound futuristic to you my dear reader. But I am indeed here on my mission, writing a statement that I would repeat all that. On a speck of light, a mote of dust, considering the other ones.

  1. It is my fifth year surrounding majorly Alpha Centauri B. Finding a stable orbit is hard (mathematically impossible) and I do not wish to lose this “solution”. I like sheep.

Maybe therefore I wrote my journey down, word by word. Since my separation with the earth, I never wrote so quickly. Any response to my words, even a grammar correction suggestion, done by the best AI on earth in the 2050s,if I’m lucky , still took eight years and four months to return. And photons that encode these messages experience no time in the slightest, isn’t that strange!

I am old, maybe clinically dying, I do not have much hopes left to hope on myself. At the door of the 22th century, I really and only hope that the entire journey of my life could happen again, I have remembered too much and left too little, so I worked the other way throughout my life.

People after me might do the real serious work, I know, no matter how far or extreme I go in my life, I still am a precedent. People prepared way for me, and I have seen ways and rivers and bridges for them. A life not wasted but not significant at all.

The trip from Earth to A.C.B. Space Station took my entire life from 19 to accomplish one way. It is as far as I could go. I know it will sound insignificant. It is indeed a small step.

Night here sees almost exactly the same constellations, except for the fact that Sirius and Sun do not belong to their classical place on earth, and that Centaurus misses one of its vertex. BTW I don’t like Sirius, as explained somewhere above.

I started to imagine myself in the past, some other people were there maybe. A kid on her mother’s bicycle passing by asking the questions about everything upto and not limited to what I am doing in this spaceship… that scenario came to my mind some time in 2016. That is also another story.


The Rhapsody


The true crazy part of my trip here is me dying thinking the other possibilities along my life. I do not regret leaving earth for this puny work. I am proud that I am still alive under the light of three new suns.

Galactically, I have moved nowhere. My displacement is tiny compared to the sun’s orbital motion’s on its own. The milky way sheds its light through the plastic in my chamber. The backgrounds did not change.

I wanted to fly closer to its centre, though, directly and rapidly (by that I meant unscientifically in today’s understandings). But I cannot. When I was still at the CPhO (physics olympiad?), I wrote that my dream was to die near a black hole, for many cool reasons of course. For one, just to stir disputes in all the religions about where my “soul” will actually end up.

That was truly still my dream.

Maybe some other children have that dream.




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