Tuesday, 23 March 2010

"Dear Light-speed, from Science" (No. 15)

Before anyone feels the need to point it out, I'm aware that this one probably contains numerous errors and incorrect applications of the laws of relativity and so forth. If you feel upset by these things, please leave corrections in the comments, or maybe go off and write your own? A bit radical, and a lot harder work than relentless nit-picking I know, but it's always an option.

"Dear Light-speed

Hello. I'm writing this letter, but I've got a sneaking suspicion that it's a pointless effort on my part. Even if you were willing to read it (not guaranteed by any means), how exactly am I going to deliver it to you? I hope I'm not unfairly maligning them, but I sincerely doubt that any of the postal services available have vans or trucks capable of catching up with you (although I have my suspicions about the Royal Mail, given that their delivery times and schedules are so wildly erratic that I can't help but think it's the result of confusion introduced by relativistic time dilation).

Saying that, even if I do somehow manage to get this letter to you, by the time it reaches you it will have achieved close to infinite mass, and that will prove to be some heavy reading!

(Ha ha, see what I did there? A reference to exponentially increasing mass, and I used a joke to 'lighten' the mood! Which is itself a joke with many meanings! 'Lighten' implying that I can use a humorous reference to increasing mass being 'heavy' in order to offset the effects of the increasing mass that I am making jokey references to, and 'lighten' also references 'light' which you are the speed of. Get it?....

COME ON! Even for the anthropomorphic personification of all human knowledge and research and understanding of natural processes, that's bloody clever!)

I suppose I could just write this electronically and transmit it into space via radio waves, so you can read it whenever you like. Admittedly, it might end up confusing any alien race that picks up the transmission, but that might be helpful; they may spend a while trying to determine what it means, rather than deciding that humans are clearly a race of time-wasting idiots and wiping us out as a matter of principle.

And that's where the point of this letter comes in. I know you might be loath to speak to me, seeing as I spend so much of my time trying to work out how to break you, but can you blame me? Seriously mate, is there any chance you could relax the restrictions a bit? I understand the need for universal constants in the formation of a habitable and functioning cosmos, but do you have to be so bloody draconian about it? Speed cameras are bad enough, but a monetary fine and points on a license doesn't really come close to an infinite increase in mass, and near total loss of time seems somewhat harsh even by cosmic standards.

Thing is, I have a lot of things I'd like to get on with, and I can't because you keep putting your infinitely heavy foot down when I try to do something that gets involved with relativity. Fiction and I have been working together and envisioned a lot of potential realities and scenarios where space travel is common (although there are those guys who wear the pointy ears or wrinkled foreheads who seem to be taking it a bit far), but because of you none of it has happened yet. And nobody expects fiction to chip in with solutions, no no no, it's all on muggins here to get us out to the stars. I'm doing my best, but it's bloody hard work. And people insist on being pampered too! They've not even gone to Mars yet, and probably won't unless they're convinced they'll definitely survive the journey. This means I've got to figure out how to cart all their precious mod-cons along with them across the vast reaches of space. Stuff like Oxygen and food, I ask you! Babies, the lot of them.

It's not just space travel, relativistic time effects seriously interfere with my Sat-nav network, it's really hard work adjusting the time difference between a whirring satellite in LEO and a ground based vehicle. I have my hands full just keeping it running perfectly (well, I would if I bothered, but I honestly have better things to do than make sure people who can't be arsed to read a map get to where they're going on time, or at all).

So, I was wondering, any chance on easing the restrictions for a bit? Not everywhere, obviously, I know the Universe would fly apart if your limits were repealed (and fly apart pretty damn fast, probably), but how about just in a few areas. Like satellites and particle accelerators. Purely for curiosity in the latter, I just like to see what happens. That's basically what those things are for in the first place.

Seems a bit harsh though, this universe-wide speed restriction. Obviously, I can't speak for areas 'outside' the universe, such as inside a black hole. But obviously, even if you can go faster than light in a black hole, you need to know how to do that in order to escape in the first place. So you need to know exactly how to get out before you get to go n and figure out how to get out. It's sort of like dating an attractive psycho, really.

But don't you think, fast though it is on the human scale, 300,000 km a second is a bit low for a Universe this size? That means the stars I can see are, on average, thousands of years old. and I'm sick of watching repeats! Part of me even worries that Astrology might have a point after all, it's just that he makes predictions based on info thousands of years old. It would be ironic if there were loads of Neanderthals who regularly 'faced challenges today' (which I imagine they did, quite regularly, given that they are extinct).

And in case you try and shift the blame, I can see that 'light' isn't the one that sets the rules here. Light is willing to slow down to accommodate the medium, I can see that ('I can see the light', geddit? Well? Oh screw you!)

So, what do you say mate? Any chance of looking away for a minute or two while I try to get some things done without your interference? In return, I'll keep tachyons in the realm of 'theoretical' for a little while longer, lest I prove they exist and make you look stupid.

Love and kisses

Science (BA hons)

email: Humourology (at) live.co.uk
twitter: @garwboy


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