Feeds

Note to Captain Kirk: Warp speed will kill you

Pesky interstellar hydrogen does for Star Trek

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

A US boffin has effectively put the mockers on Star Trek-style warp speed travel to the stars by warning that interstellar hydrogen gas would become deadly to humans as they approached the speed of light.

Professor William Edelstein of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine explained to New Scientist that while interstellar space has just a couple of hydrogen atoms per cubic centimetre, as the crew of the Enterprise hit the gas pedal, a compression effect would greatly increase the number of atoms hitting the spacecraft.

As the spaceship reached 99.999998 per cent of the speed of light, "hydrogen atoms would seem to reach a staggering 7 teraelectron volts", which for the crew "would be like standing in front of the Large Hadron Collider beam".

This is a very bad thing, because humans in the path of this ray would receive a dose of ionising radiation of 10,000 sieverts, and as Bones McCoy would doubtless confirm, the lethal dose is 6 sieverts.

The result? Death in one second.

The spacecraft's structure would do little to mitigate the effects of the killer hydrogen. Edelstein "calculates that a 10-centimetre-thick layer of aluminium would absorb less than 1 per cent of the energy", and the intense doses of radiation would damage the ship's structure and fry its electronics.

Edelstein grimly concluded: "Hydrogen atoms are unavoidable space mines."

The professor presented his killer calculations to an American Physical Society meeting in Washington DC on Saturday.

Bootnote

Of course, Edelstein's conclusions are based on current scientific knowledge. No doubt future spacecraft designers will deploy advanced radiation-resistant alloys and magnetic shielding to protect Federation staff from instant death.

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
TRIANGULAR orbits will help Rosetta to get up close with Comet 67P
Probe will be just 10km from Space Duck in October
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
ANU boffins demo 'tractor beam' in water
The current state of the art, apparently
China to test recoverable moon orbiter
I'll have some rocks and a moon cheese pizza please, home delivery
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
Why your mum was WRONG about whiffy tattooed people
They're a future source of RENEWABLE ENERGY
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.