Web Search nikon coolpix digital cameras The Miserable Annals of the Earth: Unfightable

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Unfightable

John Rogers ringingly declares:

"...my amusement at how the most important, disruptive moment in most alien invasion movies is tossed over the movie's shoulder. The aliens have come from beyond the stars, they have come for our ...

 ... wait, what? No, they don't want our seawater, they don't want our brains, whatever you -- THEY CAME FROM BEYOND THE STARS?! Assuming that's not a generation ship or some self-replicating/self-perpetuating nanobot swarm, those aliens just BROKE PHYSICS.

Except, of course, in the (mainstream) alien invasion story, they didn't break physics. In every (mainstream) alien invasion story they're here. We can shoot them, and talk to them, and be dissected by them, they're wandering around in our physical universe and so are beholden to the same physics, Newtonian or Quantum, that we are. So that fictional universe has rules, the aliens just ... apparently ... know some better ones than we do?

But faster-then-light travel mucks with such fundamental boundaries of our physical universe that if they can circumvent that, they can damn well circumvent any of the boring rules which would allow us to interact, or perhaps even perceive them. There's an inherent paradox -- if the aliens are interstellar, they are certainly not walking our streets in hacked-together HALO armor gunning down humans. Unless that's, like, a thing they get off on. Which would be double-plus unbad now that I think about it.

For chrissake, in the 21st Century one country is untouchably pounding the hell out of terrorists and unfortunately placed Afghani weddings with remote-piloted drones operated by kids from half a planet away. And we don't even leave our local gravity well except for special occasions.

Those aliens would not be fight-able. They would be unknowable. They would incomprehensible. They would be soul-shatteringly terrifying. They would be terrifying sky gods who rain down destruction on a helpless human populace as if by ... magic."

Well, um... no.  No.  Not so much.

Rogers is making some very large presumptions here.  First, he's presuming that, you know, the way we currently understand the universe is the way the universe actually is.  We, the humans inhabiting Sol III, do not have the technology to make a gigantic thing full of breathable air that can carry a great many living members of our species across hard vacuum at faster than light speeds.  Therefore, we have not yet tried to do it.  Therefore, we do not know that it is impossible.

Which is to say, we do not know that the speed of light is a hard limit for how fast something can go in this universe.  Einsten says it is, and we've built up this entire structure of physics around that presumption, based on equations very few people other than Einstein have ever claimed to fully or really, even partially, understand.  

But those presumptions could be wrong.

People once created a lot of maps based on the idea that the world was flat.   We once built up a very elaborate structure of science on the basis of Aristotle, and then, later, on the basis of Galileo, and now, we've done it again on the basic of Einsten.  

But, until we actually build something and accelerate it up to lightspeed and then try to accelerate it faster than lightspeed and see what actually happens when we do... we won't know.

We once thought it was impossible to break the sound barrier.  Um... wrong.  Not impossible, just kinda difficult. Now we do it all the time.

Now, our scientists have conducted experiments that they are pretty sure confirm Einstein's theories regarding the speed of light being an absolute limit for the velocity of a physical object in this space/time.  But they have done these experiments with subatomic particles that cannot be seen or really directly perceived by any instruments we currently possess.  These experiments are largely virtual and theoretical and require interpretation and complex equations and inferences from things we can actually observe -- and all of this is why we call these things 'theoretical'.  Because we don't KNOW.

So aliens that can build space ships that can go faster than light have not necessarily 'broken physics'.  They've just done something that us humans here on planet Earth haven't done yet.  The European settler/invaders had managed to invent lots of things that the natives to the Americas had not thought up yet, including motherfucking guns.  That did not mean the indigenous American natives could not put up a fight against the European settler/invaders, as the most casual non-student of American history could tell you.

Now, it may have meant that they couldn't win, but I'm not even sure that was true.    I suspect their eventual defeat came more from their absolute inability to grasp just how treacherous, vicious, rapacious, and relentlessly avaricious the invading hordes actually were.  I kinda think they just kept saying to themselves "Okay, but eventually they'll stop.  Eventually, they'll have enough."  And they were wrong about that.  Those were Americans, by God, and if there is a defining characteristic to Americans, it's that we NEVER have enough.  Never, not ever, never.  

Now, Rogers has his own analogy -- he points out that currently, the U.S. is blowing the crap out of Afghanistan with remote control drones and the Afghanis can't do anything about it.  By this he means to demonstrate how 'unfightable', to use his word, aliens that have FTL travel would be to us.

But it's a ridiculous analogy.  The Afghanis do not regard us as 'unfightable'.  They're still fighting.  They're still killing our soldiers.  They still hope to eventually win, and have an awfully good chance of doing so, because no matter how many of them we blow up with our drones, there will still be more of them skulking in the caves somewhere, and we can't make any use of Afghanistan until we get them all... and nobody has managed to do that yet, not in four thousand years.  

So the fact that aliens have FTL travel does not make them 'unfightable'.  In fact, exactly HOW the aliens get to Earth is rarely given much explication in alien invasion movies... what matters is, they're here, and they're blowing up our shit and trying to kill us.  

It seems to me to be just as likely that aliens so far advanced over us as to be 'unfightable' would be so far advanced over us that they wouldn't want anything from us.  They' d have no reason to invade our planet or kill us or enslave us.  If we can't fight them, chances are, we don't have anything they want.  


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