Generation starships: they're not fast

Ross Shulman sent in this great post by (one of my favorite) current science fiction writers Charles Stross about how you might design a generational starship to handle the vast distances and time involved in space travel.  Excellent read.  (excerpt below)

If you can crank yourself up to 1% of light-speed, alpha centauri is more than four and a half centuries away at cruising speed. To put it in perspective, that’s the same span of time that separates us from the Conquistadores and the Reformation; it’s twice the lifespan of the United States of America.

We humans are really bad at designing institutions that outlast the life expectancy of a single human being. The average democratically elected administration lasts 3-8 years; public corporations last 30 years; the Leninist project lasted 70 years (and went off the rails after a decade). The Catholic Church, the Japanese monarchy, and a few other institutions have lasted more than a millennium, but they’re all almost unrecognizably different. More here…

Below I also include an image to give some perspective to the distances we would have to cover.  It comes from another good piece about escaping earth in a few billion years when the sun dies (via the National Superconducting Cyclotron Lab).

The distances we are talking about

The distances we are talking about

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

More from Long-term Thinking

What is the long now?

The Long Now Foundation is a nonprofit established in 01996 to foster long-term thinking. Our work encourages imagination at the timescale of civilization — the next and last 10,000 years — a timespan we call the long now.

Learn more

Long Now's website is changing...