How a spaceship the size of a postage-stamp could find humanity’s new home planet

Sending a tiny spaceship to the nearest habitable planet at 20% of the speed of light? No problem, says theoretical physicist Michio Kaku.

Michio Kaku: We’ve been brainwashed into thinking—by Hollywood—that a starship has to be huge and gigantic, the size of the Enterprise. 

However, the laws of physics make possible sending postage stamp-sized chips to the nearby stars. 

So think of a chip perhaps this big on a parachute, and have thousands of them sent into outer space energized by perhaps 800 megawatts of laser power. By shooting this gigantic bank of laser energy into outer space, by energizing all these mini parachutes you could then begin to accelerate of them to about 20 percent the speed of light. 

This is with doable technology today; it’s just a question of engineering. It’s a question of political will and economics, but there’s no physics, there’s no law of physics preventing you from shooting these chips to 20 percent the speed of light. 

That means Proxima Centauri, part of the Alpha Centauri triple star system, could be within the range of such a device. Now think about that, that means that within 20 years, after 20 years of launch we might be able to have the first starship go to a nearby planet. And it turns out that Proxima Centauri B is an Earth-like planet that circles around the closest star to the planet Earth. What a coincidence. 

It means that we’ve already staked out our first destination for visitation by an interstellar starship and that is Proxima Centauri B, a planet that goes around one of the stars in the triple star system. And so this could be the first of many different kinds of starship designs.

In my book The Future of Humanity, I go through many of the possible design including fusion rockets, ramjet fusion rockets, including antimatter rockets. 

Some of these rockets, of course, or technologies won’t be available till the next 100 years, but remember we’re talking about the future of humanity, and the future of humanity I think could be in outer space.

Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku doesn't just hope that humanity finds its way onto other planets... he's even picked out the ones we should be moving to — Proxima Centauri B, in the Alpha Centauri triple star system. He's even suggested that the next great space exploration could happen on a spaceship the size of a postage stamp, traveling 20% the speed of light, sent by using high-powered lasers. It sounds like a wild theory, but if anyone's wild theories could come true in the next 100 years, it's probably Michio Kaku. His latest book is The Future of Humanity: Terraforming Mars, Interstellar Travel, Immortality, and Our Destiny Beyond Earth.

Skepticism: Why critical thinking makes you smarter

Being skeptical isn't just about being contrarian. It's about asking the right questions of ourselves and others to gain understanding.

Videos
  • It's not always easy to tell the difference between objective truth and what we believe to be true. Separating facts from opinions, according to skeptic Michael Shermer, theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, and others, requires research, self-reflection, and time.
  • Recognizing your own biases and those of others, avoiding echo chambers, actively seeking out opposing voices, and asking smart, testable questions are a few of the ways that skepticism can be a useful tool for learning and growth.
  • As Derren Brown points out, being "skeptical of skepticism" can also lead to interesting revelations and teach us new things about ourselves and our psychology.
Keep reading Show less

New study suggests placebo might be as powerful as psychedelics

New study suggests the placebo effect can be as powerful as microdosing LSD.

Credit: agsandrew / Adobe Stock
Mind & Brain
  • New research from Imperial College London investigated the psychological effects of microdosing LSD in 191 volunteers.
  • While microdosers experienced beneficial mental health effects, the placebo group performed statistically similar to those who took LSD.
  • Researchers believe the expectation of a trip could produce some of the same sensations as actually ingesting psychedelics.
Keep reading Show less

Iron Age discoveries uncovered outside London, including a ‘murder’ victim

A man's skeleton, found facedown with his hands bound, was unearthed near an ancient ceremonial circle during a high speed rail excavation project.

Photo Credit: HS2
Culture & Religion
  • A skeleton representing a man who was tossed face down into a ditch nearly 2,500 years ago with his hands bound in front of his hips was dug up during an excavation outside of London.
  • The discovery was made during a high speed rail project that has been a bonanza for archaeology, as the area is home to more than 60 ancient sites along the planned route.
  • An ornate grave of a high status individual from the Roman period and an ancient ceremonial circle were also discovered during the excavations.
Keep reading Show less

Your genetics influence how resilient you are to the cold

What makes some people more likely to shiver than others?

KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images
Surprising Science

Some people just aren't bothered by the cold, no matter how low the temperature dips. And the reason for this may be in a person's genes.

Keep reading Show less
Quantcast