As we advance

Recently I have been looking for something of a distraction that would also encourage me to think rather than just playing some form of video game that while requiring thought and reasoning to complete is still somewhat linear and reactive in nature. To that end I have been re-watching Stargate Atlantis. Personally I enjoy science fiction as whilst of course by its nature is fictional and a good story many take elements of real science or current theories and expand on them based on possibilities fueled only by the imagination of the team involved in its creation. Our imagination and daring to dream is in my opinion one of the strong suits of the human race and the drive to improve/build upon what we already know and the pursuit of the currently unknowable and unprovable.

But as we advance our knowledge and understanding of our physical reality it also raises question of morality/ethics as what we as a race become capable of. When working on the Manhattan Project developing nuclear weapons for the United States Dr Julius Robert Oppenheimer quoted from the Bhagavad Gita a scripture contained within the Hindu epic Mahabharata “I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds” such was the sheer destructive power of the atomic bomb. Whilst frighteningly powerful nuclear weapons aside from the long term effects of the fissionable material being spread into the environment and hard radiation the destructive force is still somewhat limited to a relatively small area in the global/solar/galactic scale of things. Whilst we as a species possess a great affinity and aptitude for developing weapons with which to destroy ourselves the overall damage is limited to ourselves and our own world at this point in time, but as we advance technologically there may come a time where we can affect far more.

There were a couple of episodes in Stargate Atlantis that yes whilst fictional did highlight the philosophical and ethical question that I have been currently pondering. Whilst exploring the pegasus galaxy the team discover an ancient weapons research facility powered by an experimental reactor which was designed to extract vacuum energy from within our own level of reality rather than a limited region of space-time as utilized by the Z.P.M power sources. Given the sheer size of our physical reality with all the galaxies and space between them essentially it would provide the ability to pull an almost infinite amount of power limited in theory only by what could be processed by the equipment / capacitors capable of storing the energy. The ancients had abandoned the research presumably due to the ongoing war with the Wraith and losing the facility as was the assumption and Dr Mackay in his arrogance believed that he could get the system operational. As it turns out the research was abandoned as containment of the field could not be maintained, and when this was evident by the death of one of the team but this was not to stop his sheer determination in attempting to solve the problem.

Whilst his understanding of the physics was sound and according to him it shouldn’t have happened his arrogance resulted in the destruction of a solar system. Now I don’t claim to have more than a basic understanding of quantum physics ripping apart the fabric of what we consider reality doesn’t really seem to be the brightest ideas, and whilst if it did prove possible the results to me and common sense do not necessarily have the behave in the way you expect, in forcing the universe to do something it is not basically designed to do you shouldn’t necessarily expect the results to conform to what you expect either as evident by the destruction of the solar system due to the creation of exotic particles that did not conform to our local laws of physics and thus broke containment.

The solar system was uninhabited, and relatively unimportant aside from the weapons research facility so some may say no harm no foul and they learnt something from the experience, you mess with the universe the universe will mess with you back. Whilst the planet was a relatively barren rock thanks to the first round of testing of the weapon by the Ancients and unlikely to really support or develop life I would tend to be in agreement however we have a relatively short lifespan in the grand scheme of the universe and who is to say what could have been possible for that planet in the future? The destruction of the system pretty much guarantees that nothing will come of that world in the future.

Personally my view is if you want to royally mess with the workings of reality do it on a space station in the middle of nowhere so if you mess up nothing else (depending on what happened) would have to be affected except for deep space. In the development of the early nuclear weapons Dr Harry K Daghlian Jr when creating what would become known as the Demon Core accidentally dropped a brick of tungsten carbide into the core allowing it to reach super-critical, subsequently he removed it preventing the core from detonating and destroying the surrounding area but was exposed to a lethal dose of radiation and died less than a month afterwards. If you want to make something worse don’t do it near anything.

A continuation of this was when Mackays’ sister a mathematician and physics major wrote a proof around the creation of a bridge between alternate realities allowed the prospect of continuing this work by shunting the exotic particles created in the extraction of vacuum energy off to a parallel dimension. Now there are several current theories and beliefs of the existence of an infinite number of parallel dimensions/alternate realities based on different choices / events / rules being played out of which I am also a firm believer. It stands to reason that there would be realities in which their local laws of physics/nature are fundamentally different to our own and there may even be entire dimensions in which the creation that took place to create all that exists within our physical reality did not and it would essentially be a void, so in this instance would it be unreasonable to send things we didn’t want (pollution/energy/weird ass exotic particles) through to one of these realities?

The fundamental issue here is in determining what you are actually connecting to, if you connect to a reality which is similar in make up to ours shunting the problem from ours would still present a fundamental disruption to the reality in which you are shifting the problem too. Another issue is if you actually do connect to one that is a void, opposite or such how would you actually determine it before shunting off what you don’t want through the bridge? If the rules are fundamentally different you could end up creating a whole world of hurt and this would make it difficult to actually scout out the opposite end with your own equipment or self (imagine stepping through into a universe which is primarily comprised of anti-matter for example)

This was evident in the episode of Stargate Atlantis in that they were shunting their exotic particles into a reality pretty similar to theirs with minor differences and were wrecking havoc for their counterparts, in attempting to save themselves (which is completely understandable) they were going to reverse the bridge causing the original issue with the containment from the earlier episode of SG:A and understandably shifting the problem back to those who made it in the first place.

Just because your math may state the probability of something occurring, does not necessarily mean it will and if we ever had the capability to affect more than a small portion of our reality just because we could should we? I hope that science is tempered by wisdom and caution. A completely fictional scenario I know but an interesting philosophical question as we further advance our capabilities as a species, as much as we may think we are the masters or have the ability to be the forces of existence are not always something that should be toyed with.

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