Steven Hawking wants to send tiny 'nanocraft' space probes to Alpha Centauri

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I don’t even want to hazard a guess as to what the roaming charges would be for that one.


“Because we are human, and our nature is to fly.”

Gosh, he’s a genius.


You’d think such a clever guy would be able to remember the difference between “humans” and “geese.”



Hope they don’t stick with the nanocraft nomenclature, it’s Starwisp damn it!


You think you’re kidding, but it takes a ton of power to send a signal over that distance. Like, orders of magnitude more than anything iPhone-sized can deliver. They would kind of have to fly there and get busy building a great big transmitter.


Inverse square law.


First, I don’t think that’s remotely practical without significant industrial infrastructure already in space, which is something I definitely think we should be working on. Second, as some people have mentioned, it would actually require something pretty sizable to send any information back to us from another star.

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It referenced launching them one by one - maybe they’re supposed to bucket-brigade the packets back to earth?


According to Wolfram Alpha, getting up to 1/5 the speed of light in 2 minutes takes 51,000 g of acceleration.

I’m pretty sure my iPhone’s accelerometer can’t read that high. Maybe we should send an Android.


Meh, if we get to teh point we can fling nanostarcraftwisps that far that fast it’ll still be easier to just have them come back with the info instead of trying to transmit it back.

Which would still be superubercool

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Here’s a 2012 article on the challenges and possibilities of interstellar communication:

While the physics of interstellar communications is well understood, the engineering challenges are tough. We are optimistic, however, because even in the 1970s it was clear to the Daedalus team that a basic system could be built using the technology of the day: We do not need technological “breakthroughs” in this area; development of the system could begin now. Today, this statement still holds good. We could, indeed, begin developing this system right now.

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Presumably they’ll build a laser sail accelerator good for starwisps or low-bandwidth signals. Which means they’re talking about building a von Neumann refinery/factory…into a small spacecraft…which means robust near-Drexlerian nanotechnology…which means they’re either planning a nice publicity pipe dream or they’ve made advances in self-replicating machinery, molecular chemistry and error correction that would make Ralph Merkle cream his khakis.

I smell a private version of the fruitless NASA Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Program.

But hey, maybe they’ll luck out and run into the endpoint of an alien Krasnikov tube!

Not holding breath.


“In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri.”
- Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy


Not again! Last time we tried this the nanos replicated and instead of further exploration, we eventually got a planet of talking hairless apes.


*laser edition

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Each individual spacecraft is dirt-cheap when mass produced (in astronautical terms). It is the developement and ground infrastructure that cost real money. They can keep sending those spacecraft one after the other in given intervals and use them as relays for any one way or two way communication. That would significantly lower energy involved in communication.
Of course it is still a good question how to power all those relays in interstellar space, but this is something they have to figure out anyway.


Science fiction works much better than science reality.


Hey, What is Alpha Centauri? This is totally new term for me. Do you have any idea?