Adrian Berry visited Starlab on Friday 19th May, 2000, to give a talk on Space exploration and Stellar Flights. Mr. Berry is a best-selling author, whose books include Galileo and the Dolphins, The Next 500 Years and Eureka! The Book of Scientific Anecdotes. The hugely popular writer Douglas Adams has named Adrian Berry as a major inspiration.
Mr. Berry was in the Press Room at Houston during the moon landing in july 1969, and his wide experience as a Science Correspondent includes 19 years with The Daily Telegraph. Since 1996 he has been devoting most of his time to writing books - one of his volums, The Next Ten Thousand Years sold half a million copies - but he still writes regularly for The Daily Telegraph in London, and for Astronomy Now. Adrian Berry is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, the Royal Geographical Society and the British Interplanetary Society, and a member of the Planetary Society in the USA. There was a frisson during Mr Berry's talk when he talked about the ideas of Dr. Serguei Krasnikov, since Dr. Krasnikov has now joined Starlab. This talk provoked some discussion with Adrian Berry, and opinions have continued to circulate in Starlab about it.

Will There be any Politicians in the Distant Future?

I want to look ahead to a period about 500 years into the future to two alternative futures. They are very different from each other. In the first, it will be
impossible for politicians to exist, and in the second it is inevitable that they will still be controlling our lives.

The two futures I'm going to consider don't have to be 500 years ahead. They could be 5,000 years ahead. But assuming that technology continues
to progress at its present rate, let's say 500 years.

What will people be doing in 500 years? Many things, obviously. What interests me is that by that time we'll be very much closer to the stars than we are today, both intellectually and physically. In fact we'll be travelling to them. I want to suggest today that there may be two ways of travelling to the stars, and that they would each
create profoundly different social systems.

The first is to travel very fast, at close to the speed of light which, as we shall see would create a society without politicians. The second is to travel instantaneously, to disappear in one part of space and reappear, a fraction of a second later, in another. This as we shall see, would create a highly politicised society.

But first let's consider the option of very high speeds.

Travelling fast enough to reach the stars within reasonable voyage times will of course will be very difficult because they are very far away. To get to them before one is
dead of old age, one has to go very very, very fast. Our fastest vessels of today, the space shuttles, that fly at 17,000 mph, would take 170,000 years to reach Alpha
Centauri, the nearest star!

But judging by the past, we have an impressive record in learning how to travel faster.

Until about 1850, the fastest anyone could travel was 30 mph, the speed of a galloping horse. In slightly more than a century this maximum speed has increased by nearly 600- fold, or 60,000 per cent! Now that's an interesting statistic. Project that rate of increase forward another century into the future, and by then we'll be travelling at
10 million mph (15 million kph), about one sixth of the speed of light.

Now even travelling at 10 million mph it would still take nearly 300 years to reach Alpha Centauri, and I don't think that would interest many travellers. So let's be
conservative and say that within 500 years we'll have learned to travel at 92 per cent of the speed of light, 615 million mph (980 kph), which experts I've consulted think is a good compromise between very high speed and the enormous difficulties of accelerating any further. (For the closer you get to the speed of light, the more massive your spaceship gets. On the other hand, you have to travel extremely fast to reach your destination. So 90 or 92 per cent of the speed of light seems a reasonable compromise.
It's approximately a million times faster than a jumbo jet, if you want to know.)

At this speed, people on Earth would measure the time it took the brave space travellers to reach Alpha Centauri at 4.6 years.

But for the space travellers themselves it wouldn't take so long. Because time slows down on board a very fast-moving vehicle, the
journey, to them, would take just under two years! (I'm not going to make any suggestions here about how spaceships can be accelerated to that enormous speed,
whether it requires an antimatter engine, or what. Anyone interested can find some details in my book The Giant Leap, which is now out in paperback.)

Who is going to pay for such journeys, and why? Governments are not going to pay for them, why should they? They would hardly wish thousandsÄor millionsÄof their citizens to go off to planets from which they would never return, and never again pay them taxes. Don't expect to find a manned trip to Alpha Centauri listed in NASA's
budget for the fiscal year 2501 or any other fiscal year!

Instead, I suggest that they will be paid for by private traders, since it will actually be quite easy to make money out of them.

Consider the slowing down of time in a fast-moving ship Äthe faster you travel, the more it slows down. (This fact is a centrepiece of Einstein's special theory of
relativity of 1905.) Now consider a rich trader who wanted to become even richer could take advantage of this. Here on Earth. he will invest a large part of his wealth at compound interest so that it grew exponentially. He would then head an expedition to Alpha Centauri (or some other star where a habitable planet had been discovered)
with several hundred would- be colonists. He would return to Earth alone, on the same fast ship that took him there, and collect his accumulated wealth.

He would have only have aged three or four years, while his money would have been accumulating for 20 or 30 years! He would now be vastly richer than he was before,
and in a position to finance further trips, and so on.

Einstein, it can be seen, not only discovered a new physical universe; he has also given us a new financial universe.

With many such traders pursuing these schemes, many star systems could be opened up for human colonisation, perhaps, eventually, a significant part of our Milky Way galaxy. This would be a galaxy without politicians, for no government stationed on one planet could ever enforce its will on any other planet, the inhabited planets being so many light-years apart. There would only be local politicians. For in this vision of the future it is impossible to travel faster than light. You cannot even reach the speed of
light and remain part of this universe. If a government on Planet A heard that there was a rebellion against its authority on Planet B many light-years away, they would not
get the news until decades or centuries after it had happened, and it would take that long again for them to do something about it, by which time the rebels might long be dead.

But who says we have to remain in this universe? What if it was possible to travel faster than light? Not, I must say at once, through ordinary space, which is ruled out
by the special theory of relativity, but by making instantaneous ``jumps'' through ``hyperspace'', as characters are always doing in science fiction.

This is my alternative future, in which politicians would be everywhere, for it would be possible to built a galactic empire, since no planet in the galaxy would be no
more than a few weeks' travel time from any other.

Is this a fantasy? Nobody knows. The answer is likely to be found in Einstein's 1916 general theory of relativity which is much more subtle and complex than the special theory. The space agency NASA has recently held two seminars to explore the question of whether this extraordinary 55-page document, packed with tensor equations, might support the principle of hyperspace travel.

Ostensibly, the theory only states that matter creates the space and time which surround it, indicating that space has an elastic, or warped character. But this is not all!
The 1916 equations have been compared with a Trojan Horse. Outwardly, there is little more in them than a description of light and space being bent by gravity. But in fact,
as one physicist has remarked, within them lurk all sorts of strange ``goblins and demons'', black holes, time travel and other universes. In particular there are wormholes which are believed to lead directly to other regions in space.

Now wormholes have been, until recently been believed to be incredibly tiny, no more than a billionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of an inch, 33 powers of 10 smaller than a human thumbnail, the smallest size it is possible for anything in the universe to be, rather difficult, in fact, for a spaceship to enter!

But recent calculations by Serguei Krasnikov, a relativity theorist at the Polkovo Observatory in St Petersburg, suggest that this may not always be true. He has shown that wormholes may be large, large enough for a spaceship to penetrate.

So one day passengers in a star-liner may hear the following announcementÄthis is a quotation from Isaac Asimov's novel The Stars Like Dust: ```This is the captain speaking. We are ready for our first jump. We will be temporarily leaving the space-time fabric to enter the little-known realm of Hyperspace, where time and distance have
no meaning. It is like travelling across a narrow isthmus from one ocean to another, rather than circling a continent to accomplish the same distance. There will only be
minor discomfort. Please remain calm.' `

`It was like a bump which joggled the deep inside of a man's bones. In a fraction of a second the star view from the portholes had changed radically. The centre of the great Galaxy was closer now, and the stars appeared to thicken in number. The ship had moved a hundred light-years closer to them.''

In this society, of course, you would have the benefits of being able to travel anywhere you wanted, but also the disadvantages of have to suffer from cosmic Napoleons and interstellar wars, since, if starliner passengers can travel through hyperspace, so can fleets and armies.

I don't know which of these two futures one would prefer to live in. But it will not be a matter of what one prefers. The question will be decided m cosmic Napoleons and interstellar wars, since, if starliner passengers can travel through hyperspace, so can fleets and armies.

I don't know which of these two futures one would prefer to live in. But it will not be a matter of what one prefers. The question will be decided by truths about the universe
that are still hidden from us.