Absolutely mental


Ricky Gervais and Sam Harris have teamed up on a podcast called “Absolutely Mental”. It sounds like the title matches the content.

The most delusional thing about this is not the idea that aliens have been anally probing people for decades, but that government officials would call on Sam Harris to help them out in breaking the news to the public. Yeah, right, and the head of the CIA is going to ring me up next to arrange lessons in tact.

But if you want to read some real delusional stuff, check out the Reddit thread on this podcast by the the True Believers in UAPs (“Unidentified Aerial Phenomena” — they changed the name because “UFO” carries the stigma of silliness. Were you fooled?)

That tone you hear in Sam Harris’s voice…? That’s called objective acceptance.
His words perfectly illustrate the gigantic implications this reality will have on a public that might not be properly prepared to process these forthcoming facts.

When Sam starts talking about the Tic-Tac he just flat out calls it an “alien spacecraft” without any hesitation or pause. Obviously he doesn’t know what it is, but it just illustrates the incredible shift in perception of UFOs that has come around that he (and others in media of course) can say “alien spacecraft” in serious conversation without batting an eye.

Sam Harris is measured, calculated, & matter of fact on everything he says publically. I find the probability of him putting himself in an “uncomfortable position” very low. If he is talking ET…we might want to listen.

Oh god. That’s always been Harris’s schtick, stating the outrageous with a totally flat demeanor. It means nothing, but it sure hooks the gullible.

You really shouldn’t believe this stuff until you see Trey Gowdy talking about UAPs on FoxNews. There’s the gold standard of integrity. Scientific American? Pfft. What do they know?

Comments

  1. ORigel says

    Didn’t Harris write an essay in which he argued it’s always wrong to lie? He should follow his own advice.

  2. stroppy says

    My theory, at some point brains were broken, gave up, and made the move to performance art as some kind of therapy. Circus clown wannabes crying into the abyss.

  3. remyporter says

    @stroppy – most of us just take an improv class, and the worst thing we do is tell our friends that they should come see our show because we made a house team.

    Which, by the way, I’ve got a video show dropping this weekend, you should check it out!

  4. raven says

    It is fortunate that AFAWK, UFO aliens don’t exist.
    Imagine if they really did talk to Sam Harris.

    “I flew a starship 1,000 light years for this?”
    They would be so disappointed.

    My latest theory is that the answer to the Fermi Paradox is, we won’t have UFO alien visitors until there is something worth seeing in our solar system.

  5. stroppy says

    Nothing against performance art, professional or amateur. But as you suggest, these particular characters toxify everything they touch in the most harmful ways.

    Where is the video show?!

  6. says

    This entire discussion — I don’t mean here specifically but in the zeitgeist — has taken a very strange turn in my view. Do I believe in UFOs or UAPs? Of course — there are unidentified flying objects or unexplained aerial phenomena, whatever you want to call them. Some of the objects which have been presented publicly have indeed been explained, or have plausible explanations that don’t require anything extraordinary. Others however remain puzzling, and it is obviously appropriate for the military to invest in trying to figure them out. To claim just as a matter of common sense that it’s very unlikely there is anything interesting going on seems foolish given that we can’t account for 95% of the mass/energy content of the universe. What we don’t know is vastly more than what we do know or think we know and the entire scientific project rests on making observations that we don’t match our predictions and trying to explain them. Jumping to conclusions is bad, but so is just dismissing them. What’s wrong with wanting to find out what’s going on? If the explanation turns out to be boring so be it, but I’d rather know that than just assume it.

  7. Doc Bill says

    I think that Christopher Hitchins was the brains behind the Horsemen. Without him they have devolved into a silly, insipid collection of curmudgeons shouting at clouds.

    Do you know why the “aliens” in Star Trek were humanoid? Low budget. What we have here from Harris is the equivalent of Star Trek but in “critical” thinking: low budget. It’s sad to see.

  8. says

    I don’t know that low budget is the only explanation. Most of the stories are really allegories about human society, and the various alien species represent either extracted and exaggerated human characteristics, or historical analogies. Their essential humanness is the point.

  9. ORigel says

    @7 Dennett, who never really was a player in the athest movement, was the best of the Horsemen. He hardly puts his foot in his mouth at all.

  10. Matt G says

    IF technologically advanced alien civilizations exist, AND could get to Earth, why the hell would they? We’ve been sending EM signals into space for about 100 years, a tiny fraction of the age of the Earth. We are at the center of a sphere with a radius of 100 light years – outside that sphere you’d know next-to-nothing about us. These people watch too much sci-fi.

  11. imback says

    @cervantes: It’s the conclusion jumping I dismiss, not the unexplained phenomena.

  12. PaulBC says

    Matt G@10

    We’ve been sending EM signals into space for about 100 years, a tiny fraction of the age of the Earth.

    I agree that in the unlikely event they’re here, they’re probably not here in response to our radio communication. It doesn’t rule out a very slow sub-lightspeed survey of the galaxy that has been ongoing for hundreds of thousands of years, e.g. with probes that could detect pre-radio intelligence. Those could be built at the necessary scale with sufficient automation. The fact that we don’t observe them is one variant of the Fermi paradox.

    These people watch too much sci-fi.

    Me too. I don’t believe it, but I enjoy thinking about it. The idea of biological aliens in starships is absurd though.

  13. garnetstar says

    I can’t tell from the transcript whether Harris thinks this request is real, but personally, I find the probability of him being fooled by some hoax that appeals to his self-importance very high.

    @7, @8, the reasons you cite for aliens in film very often being humanoid are true. But, there is a more fundamental reason as well, that will never change.

    Anyone can make a truly alien-looking thing out of plastic or with CGI. But, if you want that thing to act, to engage convincingly with the humans in the drama, you have to hire an actor. And, actors are all distressingly humanoid in shape. They also need to use their faces, voices, body language, etc., and the humans in the drama need those clues to act well with them. So, those sort of dramas will always have humanoid-looking aliens. (Other dramas, in which the human characters never interact with the aliens except fight them, are of course free to use giant insects or shapeless clouds or what-have-you.)

    It was said, perhaps apocryphally, that, when Game of Thrones was first being filmed, the producers tried to follow the books and so gave the Targaryens silver wigs and violet contact lenses. But, that the other actors found that look to be so alien that they couldn’t use their acting skills, which are how to interact with humans, very well in scenes with characters who were so dressed.

    I find that a little improbable, as actors in other dramas have managed with outlandishly-dressed characters (my guess is that the Targaryen look just didn’t film well!) But, anyway, it sort of illustrates producers’ fundamental dilemma with alien characters.

  14. says

    If, for a moment, we assume that we are indeed being visited by advanced aliens from faraway stars, we have to ask a question: Do they want us to know they’re here?

    If they do, why aren’t they just announcing themselves? Why bother with this roundabout bullshit? Is generations of paranoia really preferable to just coming out and saying hi?
    And if they don’t, why are we seeing anything at all? Don’t they have hyper-stealth and invisibility drives? Why are they being caught by trailer trash with iPhones?

    I think the notion that UFOs are a manifestation of collective psychism is a more reasonable explanation… and I don’t even believe that one.

  15. spinynorman8 says

    But…in this quote Harris is not actually stating that he was contacted by ex-gov’t officials for his help in contacting ET….he says “someone assured me…that I was going to be on a call”.

    It is thus a far more pedestrian bit of stupidity…a simple brag supporting his inflated sense of self-importance.

  16. answersingenitals says

    Every time I read a discussion about UFOs and alien contacts it reminds me of a picture I saw a few years ago. It was a picture taken by a drone of members of an ‘uncontacted tribe’ in the Amazon (the forest, not the store). There were about half a dozen tribes people looking up at the camera/drone. One young boy was wearing a Mickey Mouse tee shirt and one of the men was holding a steel bladed machete. Uncontacted, my ass. I don’t know what relevance this has to the current discussion, but it seems to be in the same vein.

  17. says

    @#10, Matt G:

    If they exist and could get here and knew we were here, it still would be a mystery why they would bother to come here in the first place. We’re automatically their intellectual inferiors, so they wouldn’t want to talk to us, and there is literally no resource they could want which could not be more easily gathered without landing on a life-bearing planet. (Yes, this includes organic compounds. If we had the technology and resources to do significant Space Stuff, it would be easier to set up a solar-powered space station which would synthesize them in controlled conditions than to raid a planet. And as for less exotic stuff, like metals, mining asteroids is just vastly more efficient than entering a planetary gravity well.) Even if you assume that xenobiology would be so different from our own that they would be unable to catch a cold à la War of the Worlds, a world with random life growing on it would be tremendously risky to visit — who knows what sort of alien decomposers might manage to get into your ship, make their way into the ventilation system, and discover that your computer wiring is the best food source they’ve ever seen? Lots of risk, very little reward.

  18. John Morales says

    OP:

    Ricky Gervais and Sam Harris have teamed up

    Ricky Gervais is a comedian — that’s what he does.
    He takes the piss out of people and stuff.

    So there’s good reason to believe that this will be comedic.

    On the more general topic: all my life I’ve seen these UFO claims.
    A bit like ones about the imminent end of the world, or the imminent demise of evolutionary theory. Inevitably, they come to nothing.

    [can’t resist]

    Vicar (definite article):

    We’re automatically their intellectual inferiors, so they wouldn’t want to talk to us

    Ahem. I talk to you.

    Lots of risk, very little reward.

    Yeah, but as a professed intellectually-inferior being compared to them, to your inferior intellect whatever reasoning they use would appear mysterious.

  19. Rob Grigjanis says

    LykeX @14:

    Do they want us to know they’re here?

    Maybe they don’t really care much either way. Maybe they like generating paranoia. Maybe it’s an experiment. Maybe they’re observing, but don’t care to engage with a species which refers to others of its kind as ‘trash’.

    The Vicar @19:

    We’re automatically their intellectual inferiors

    Superior technology automatically means intellectual superiority? Are you sure you want to go there?

  20. consciousness razor says

    John Morales, #20:

    I talk to you.

    But it’s a different question whether you want to do so. More importantly: would you want to, if you were with your friends/colleagues in outer space? That one is a bit more difficult.

    Yeah, but as a professed intellectually-inferior being compared to them, to your inferior intellect whatever reasoning they use would appear mysterious.

    I’m told that God works in mysterious ways, too. That is of course how apologists for [redacted Christian denomination] managed to solve the problem of evil.

  21. says

    So most of the reports apparently come from the US Navy suggesting they were over the oceans. No surprises since Earth is mostly ocean. However the conspiracy theorists trying to read something into this would do well to first read John Wyndham’s delightful novel, The Kraken Wakes.

  22. says

    @John Morales:

    We’re automatically their intellectual inferiors, so they wouldn’t want to talk to us

    Ahem. I talk to you.

    This would be more relevant if you ever gave any evidence of having any intelligence. Or, for that matter, being able to pass a Turing Test.

  23. consciousness razor says

    Superior technology automatically means intellectual superiority?

    For a lot of people, smartphones seem to have led to a loss of intellectual capacity, not to mention all sort of other things we may have lost, because so much of our society is becoming so heavily dependent on them.

    Of course, that’s just one example. I’m pretty sure I can look around at all sorts of technology and still fail to see any smarter people.

    And this is hardly new…. Even going all the way back to Socrates, in Plato’s Phaedrus, the argument was that writing (a form of technology) isn’t all it’s cracked up to be either.

  24. larpar says

    The aliens don’t care about us humans. They’re here to check on the humpback whales.

  25. John Morales says

    consciousness razor @26,

    For a lot of people, smartphones seem to have led to a loss of intellectual capacity, not to mention all sort of other things we may have lost, because so much of our society is becoming so heavily dependent on them.

    Is that supposed to be a serious claim?

    Maybe take solace: those people may yet experience the feeling of power.

  26. consciousness razor says

    John Morales, #29:

    Is that supposed to be a serious claim?

    If that just means I’m not joking about it, then yes.

    Maybe take solace: those people may yet experience the feeling of power.

    A promissory note at best. (It’s not one that I’ve read. Is it good?)

    Meanwhile, our society is in turmoil, with all sorts of authoritarian institutions running amok with ever greater power over our lives that we’ve freely handed to them in exchange for some entertaining/distracting trinkets. Also, our environment is being rapidly destroyed. And presumably, the worst price for all of this is currently being paid by the wage slaves who have to produce all of the crap that others want to consume.

    I think there’s a substantial risk that we’re just plain doomed.

  27. John Morales says

    CR,

    Is it good? [Asimov story]

    It’s short, it’s pithy, it has a point, good but not his best. It’s a fable.

    Meanwhile, our society [list of woes]

    Point. Add this to my list: the imminent demise of society.

    (Arguably, a sub-genre of “the end is at hand”)

  28. says

    @#28, John Morales

    Vicar (singular), fine.
    But note that you are talking to me. ;)

    I’m showing you contempt, and only because I’m already here. I wouldn’t cross the street to do it, let alone an interstellar void.

    @#21, Rob Grigjanis

    Superior technology automatically means intellectual superiority? Are you sure you want to go there?

    Not generically, but I want you to sit down and consider what sorts of thinking you would need to perform in order to (1) first put a bunch of your species, which evolved on a planet, into space, without killing them, (2) keep them in space for an extended period of time without making them go mad or fatally unhealthy or mutinous or suicidal (even at ten times light speed, the travel time is an absolute minimum of more than five months, and probably much more unless said aliens are specifically from Proxima Centauri), (3) navigate to another planet, not just a star, (4) land on it, and (given the assumptions of the UFO crowd) (5) return some or all of the travelers to your home planet. I posit that any aliens actually capable of doing all of this successfully would be at least our equals using any measure of intellect, because they would have to have a level of self-awareness that (for example) the average UFO believer does not typically project.

  29. John Morales says

    Vicar (unitary):

    I’m showing you contempt, and only because I’m already here. I wouldn’t cross the street to do it, let alone an interstellar void.

    Evidently, you think that showing contempt is a sufficient reason to talk to a mentally-inferior being, once they’re already here.

    So there you go; a reason why they would, and a vitiation of your earlier claim.

    (You squeak nicely!)

  30. consciousness razor says

    John Morales, #32:

    Add this to my list: the imminent demise of society.

    Your list of what? It’s not on your bucket list, surely….

    (Arguably, a sub-genre of “the end is at hand”)

    I’m not really sure what you’re getting at, but it’s been the case that many individuals meet their ends as a result of these types of choices.

  31. John Morales says

    CR:

    Your list of what?

    Perennial claims.
    “A bit like ones about the imminent end of the world, or the imminent demise of evolutionary theory.”

    I’m not really sure what you’re getting at

    Just in the historical record, a great many societies have come and gone.
    Ours is not likely to be the exception.

    Anyway, not much discussion of the OP.

    “Ricky Gervais and Sam Harris have teamed up” — and Ricky may be on the nose, but he’s not a wooist — his activism is pretty much restricted to animal welfare.
    And, again, he’s a comedian.

  32. PaulBC says

    Vicar@33 The putative aliens might be interested in talking to us just out of curiosity. They wouldn’t learn any new technology from us, but studying our behavior could be of scientific interest–maybe some ET’s exobiology PhD dissertation–and since we’re a species with language, one way to learn about our behavior is to ask us.

    even at ten times light speed

    might as well be “ahead warp zillion.” Both are impossible according to our understanding of physics, so if these aliens aren’t limited to sub-lightspeed travel, then I don’t know why how you’d set any other upper bound.

    If for some reason it was important for these aliens to establish a presence in another solar system in their biological forms, sending a probe first that could to construct a base where they could gestate and educate their local representatives would be a lot more feasible than traveling in person (suspended animation isn’t a real technology and going fast enough to get significant benefit from time dilation requires a ridiculous amount of energy).

  33. consciousness razor says

    John Morales, #36:

    Perennial claims.
    “A bit like ones about the imminent end of the world, or the imminent demise of evolutionary theory.”

    Ah, I see. I guess that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not also on your bucket list.

    Just in the historical record, a great many societies have come and gone.
    Ours is not likely to be the exception.

    Okay, but I’m confused about your position.

    You had said this earlier about the items which make it onto that list:

    Inevitably, they come to nothing.

    (Of course, that’s obviously not true of all “perennial claims,” as you just described them above, but you apparently mean some vaguely defined subset of those instead.)

    Now, you’re claiming that this specific item always happens and that we’re not likely to be the exception. (I’ll note that you’re implying it would be the only one.) Shouldn’t that mean it belongs on a different list?

  34. consciousness razor says

    PaulBC, #37:

    If for some reason it was important for these aliens to establish a presence in another solar system in their biological forms, sending a probe first that could to construct a base where they could gestate and educate their local representatives would be a lot more feasible than traveling in person (suspended animation isn’t a real technology and going fast enough to get significant benefit from time dilation requires a ridiculous amount of energy).

    It sounds like you’ve got the wrong idea about time dilation anyway. It’s not as if it would stop the process of “aging” or whatever, as suspended animation is supposed to do. The point is that, for you here on Earth right now, you can already pick some other arbitrary thing that’s moving quickly (relative to you), and you don’t get any tangible “benefit” out of that.

  35. John Morales says

    CR, language-games, eh? I’m game.

    I guess that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not also on your bucket list.

    Bucket lists are for other people.

    Now, you’re claiming that this specific item always happens and that we’re not likely to be the exception.

    Sloppy, isn’t it? Natural language is like that.

    Shouldn’t that mean it belongs on a different list?

    Hm. I suppose so; put it in the list of claims which are perennial and which are unwarranted, instead of the list of claims which are perennial and which are not unwarranted.

    (Frankly, I don’t miss the society that was, before this ours, even if others do)

  36. Rob Grigjanis says

    The Vicar @33:

    …I want you to sit down and consider…

    I don’t have to “sit down and consider” what any teenage scifi enthusiast would have thought about. 100,000 years ago our ancestors were using stone tools, and we are not intellectually superior to those folks. Your list of theoretical accomplishments doesn’t, as you claimed, automatically imply superior intellect.

  37. consciousness razor says

    John Morales, #40:

    CR, language-games, eh? I’m game.

    I thought I was just trying to understand your comments.

    I suppose so; put it in the list of claims which are perennial and which are unwarranted, instead of the list of claims which are perennial and which are not unwarranted.

    Do you have that reversed on accident?

    You were saying it’s always been the case before, and we’re not likely to be the exception. What else do you require for such claims to count as “warranted”? That sounds like it should be enough to me.

    (Frankly, I don’t miss the society that was, before this ours, even if others do)

    Is it supposed to make a difference whether or not you miss them, or can I ignore this?

  38. gijoel says

    I think the most disappointing thing is that Ricky Gervais has teamed up with a pretentious wanker who can’t quite come out and admit he’s a racist.

  39. John Morales says

    CR,

    I thought I was just trying to understand your comments.

    Exactly. That’s the game. :)

    Do you have that reversed on accident?

    I do, I do!

    Is it supposed to make a difference whether or not you miss them, or can I ignore this?

    Make a difference to whom? It does to me, it might not to you.
    No need to suppose.

    Point being, Our Society (which is a specific instance of A Society) might go, but until we social apes are extinct, there will be Some Society.

    To clarify, I do not mourn more for the societies that were than for those who are, or those who will yet be. In whichever we find ourselves, best to make the best (heh) of it; some of us (not me, obviously) even try to expedite the demise of the current in favour of the future.

    Same old, same old:
    [our society is in turmoil, with all sorts of authoritarian institutions running amok with ever greater power over our lives that we’ve freely handed to them in exchange for some entertaining/distracting trinkets] ≡ [bread and circuses]

  40. PaulBC says

    cr@39 Yawn. See e.g. this Wikipedia explanation. And yes, I studied special relativity as part of my regular undergrad courses, though it was long ago. I’m not sure what you think I’m getting wrong.

    For example, a spaceship could travel to a star 32 light-years away, initially accelerating at a constant 1.03g (i.e. 10.1 m/s2) for 1.32 years (ship time), then stopping its engines and coasting for the next 17.3 years (ship time) at a constant speed, then decelerating again for 1.32 ship-years, and coming to a stop at the destination. After a short visit, the astronaut could return to Earth the same way. After the full round-trip, the clocks on board the ship show that 40 years have passed, but according to those on Earth, the ship comes back 76 years after launch.

    So in fact, you could hypothetically make an interstellar trip at close to enough to the speed of light that your aging would be arbitrarily small compared to the length of the trip. It requires too much energy to be practical, aside from any other engineering problems with keep the spaceship shielded and intact at that speed. But in terms of “slowing down aging” it would work.

    Or if Wikipedia isn’t sufficient, is MIT technology review credible?

    Unlike the Twin Paradox, time dilation isn’t a thought experiment or a hypothetical concept––it’s real. The 1971 Hafele-Keating experiments proved as much, when two atomic clocks were flown on planes traveling in opposite directions. The relative motion actually had a measurable impact and created a time difference between the two clocks. This has also been confirmed in other physics experiments (e.g., fast-moving muon particles take longer to decay).

    So in your question, an astronaut returning from a space journey at “relativistic speeds” (where the effects of relativity start to manifest—generally at least one-tenth the speed of light) would, upon return, be younger than same-age friends and family who stayed on Earth. Exactly how much younger depends on exactly how fast the spacecraft had been moving and accelerating, so it’s not something we can readily answer. But if you’re trying to reach an exoplanet 10 to 50 light-years away and still make it home before you yourself die of old age, you’d have to be moving at close to light speed.

    And that is quite enough for me for tonight.

  41. consciousness razor says

    John Morales, #44:

    Point being, Our Society (which is a specific instance of A Society) might go, but until we social apes are extinct, there will be Some Society.

    Sure. I can’t argue with that.

    Anyway, none of this is essential to the main point I was trying to make. It’s very common to regard technology as a hallmark of intelligence, but it’s just as easy to connect such things with our own thoughtlessness, misery, violence, and destruction. If that’s what “intelligence” were supposed be about or what “intelligent” beings do, then that sounds a lot less enticing to me.

  42. consciousness razor says

    PaulBC:

    The relative motion actually had a measurable impact and created a time difference between the two clocks.

    That doesn’t mean the one clock is behaving differently (in the sense that suspended animation suggests), as observed in its own reference frame. It still continues to tick once for every one of its seconds, as such clocks do when they are working normally/correctly.

    Of course, you might notice it acting differently (or it could simply break) if you gave it a big enough of an acceleration, one that this particular machine can’t really handle and maintain normal operation. But that’s not what we’re talking about here, which is merely moving at some speed or another.

  43. KG says

    100,000 years ago our ancestors were using stone tools, and we are not intellectually superior to those folks. Rob Grigjanis@41

    We might be intellectually inferior considered as isolated individuals, not needing to be so smart because we have so many external “cognitive prostheses”. FWIW (not much, admittedly), <A=”https://phys.org/news/2010-03-cro-magnon-skull-brains-shrunk.html”>we do have smaller brains than Upper Paleolithic AMH (“Cro-Magnons”).

  44. wzrd1 says

    We’ve verified the existence of multiple vehicles traveling through our skies. Some, embarrassingly, we’re fighter jet chasing a visual object that gave modest radar returns and later, their extreme velocity found to precisely match known satellites. Whoopsie!
    I’ve witnessed a number of flying objects, many becoming identified (one entertaining object over Shreveport being identified via high zoom with my DSLR camera as a mylar balloon). There was an aircraft that had to make an emergency landing due to a mechanical malfunction. It leaked fluids like the proverbial sieve, it was eventually declassified and the SR-71 has since been retired (try to find retirement data on its cousin, the A-12 (hint, I couldn’t find any on DoD resources)). Others, now barely admitted to stealthy drones.
    I’m quite sure there are alien aircraft and drones flying about as well. Especially since we withdrew from the Open Skies treaty. Russia and China are rightfully curious about our strategic forces dispositions, just as we are. Pity Trump pulled us out, but thermonuclear tensions being high is a good thing, if you’re covered with radblock one trillion (easily spotted, one looks like one is painted using carrot juice and yeah, that’s a joke).
    It is t
    It is interesting how such sightings ramped up right after we withdrew from Open Skies…

    I’ve witnessed two types of flying saucer and heard of a third. One involved a dodgy shelf. The other is well known of under the name Frisbee. The last, thankfully, I’ve not witnessed. That type involved a severe domestic disagreement and I’ll let law enforcement handle that mess.

    There is intelligent life on earth, but I’m leaving tonight. It’s been hiding too effectively…

  45. rblackadar says

    CR @48 I think you may have neglected length contraction. Yes, your clock keeps ticking normally, but you can still get to alpha Centauri much sooner (in proper time) than the four years it takes light to travel there in your original frame, because in your new frame the distance is less than four light years. Recall that no time passes at all for photons, so if you were riding on one (at that were possible) the trip would be instantaneous. Time dilation and length contraction go hand in hand.

    So, PaulBC is right. And by the way, energy use is only one of the problems; another big one is that at relativistic speed you’d be fried by the blue-shifted radiation you are running into.

  46. consciousness razor says

    I think you may have neglected length contraction. Yes, your clock keeps ticking normally, but you can still get to alpha Centauri much sooner (in proper time) than the four years it takes light to travel there in your original frame, because in your new frame the distance is less than four light years.

    The moving object (not the path) is contracted along its direction of motion, compared to the length measured in the object’s rest frame.

    I guess you’re assuming the “ten times light speed” stuff here…. I think the right thing to say about this is that it simply doesn’t happen, because Star Trek is not a documentary. Also, there are some nasty paradoxes to worry about, and those should probably be a bigger concern than cutting down on your travel time.

    Of course it’s true (in realistic cases) that a trip will take less time if you simply move faster, for the boring old reason that velocity = distance/time. With a larger velocity and the same distance traveled, the time (in the denominator) must therefore be smaller. That doesn’t depend on time dilation or length contraction, which are different phenomena.

    No matter what, you’d still spend a lot of time on some interstellar trip, even at relativistic speeds, because space is very big. On the one hand, it might sound exciting at first that there’s so much to explore. On the other hand, if it had been up to those aspiring explorers, they would probably have chosen to have much less of it between here and anywhere else that’s likely to be interesting.

  47. rblackadar says

    Well, it seems you don’t know as much about relativity as you think. If you are really interested about that subject, perhaps a refresher would be in order. This is not really the forum to litigate such matters.

  48. rblackadar says

    More charitably (because I’m usually on your side when you get into arguments here — this being an exception) let me say a bit more. Length contraction is not something that happens to objects, it happens to length. The distance to alpha Centauri is a length. You have to apply the idea to the entire frame — and if you consider the frame in which alpha Centauri is stationary, that frame is moving relative to you, during your trip. (Relativity, heh!)

    “Length contraction” is not the best of terms IMHO; it’s just a statement of part of the Lorentz transformation, where really you need all of it. That said, if you work out the math you will see that I am right.

  49. rblackadar says

    Er, to be painfully accurate, length contraction is a consequence of the Lorentz transformation, not “part of it,” as I incorrectly wrote. Whenever something looks confusing in relativity, e.g. the barn-pole paradox, it’s always best to go straight to the transformation itself, not try to reason things out with length contraction and time dilation. You are too likely to neglect relativity of simultaneity, which is yet another consequence of the LT.

  50. Rob Grigjanis says

    cr @52:

    The moving object (not the path) is contracted along its direction of motion, compared to the length measured in the object’s rest frame.

    The path is contracted in the object’s frame, relative to the ‘stationary’ frame.

    You’ve marked a 10km stretch from your location, in the direction of the motion of an object moving at speed v (in km/sec) such that it will pass close by, at which point you start your stopwatch. In your frame, the object is contracted along its direction of motion. In your frame, the object reaches the 10km mark in 10/v seconds.

    In the object’s frame, you are passing it by at speed v, and you look contracted in the direction of your motion wrt the object. Just as you are contracted in the object’s frame, so is the path. It’s not 10 km for the object, but 10/γ km, where γ is (1 − v²/c²)^(−1/2) (i.e. a shorter distance). And the object’s clock measures a contracted time lapse 10/vγ seconds.

    Also, there are some nasty paradoxes to worry about,

    What nasty paradoxes? No-one’s going FTL here, are they?

  51. Rob Grigjanis says

    Further to #57: Sorry, I somehow skipped over the “I guess you’re assuming the “ten times light speed” stuff here”. No, no-one is assuming that. Just special relativity with massive objects following time-like worldlines. So yeah, no nasty paradoxes.

  52. consciousness razor says

    Thanks. I had not understood that correctly. That’s not how I remember it being discussed in books and so forth (a long time ago, I suppose, so that may just be my memory failing). I never have to use the math myself, so yeah, that can make it easy to get the wrong impression.

  53. rblackadar says

    cr @59, So sorry I was snippy with you back there… I was mentally reliving the not so good interactions I had with cranks in sci.physics.relativity back in my old Usenet days. Not that I ever thought you were a crank… it’s just that old habits die hard, it would seem.

  54. consciousness razor says

    rblackadar:
    No offense taken at all. I was mistaken. My bad.

    It does make sense, actually. It’s just not what I was taught, or maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention.

  55. gijoel says

    @ John Morales I shouldn’t be surprised given that Gervais’ shtick is cringe comedy.

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