Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Absurdity of a Galactic Empire

One of the things that has always made me laugh and shake my head was the abundance of galactic empires in science fiction. In many science fiction movies, from the Star Wars series, to the new Serenity movie, as well as in books like Asimov’s Foundation series, there are fictional nations that lay claim (or at least claim to lay claim) to all or most of the entire galaxy. With names like “The Galactic Empire”, or “The Universe Alliance”, these organizations manage to control (and even to oppress and enslave) hundreds of planets across interstellar distances. Controlling a single planet is a feat in and of itself (hasn’t been done yet), expecting two or more to bend knee and settle into cultural uniformity is ridiculous. The difficulty of traveling over interstellar distances isn’t even the primary problem, though I’ll discuss that in a section following this one.

To paraphrase Arthur C. Clarke, even if we someday have a technology that allows us to travel between star systems as easily as dialing a telephone, we still have to face the fact that the galaxy has 100 billion star systems. Even though man may one day manage to colonize the entire thing, after millennia of effort and unrelenting expansion, we could never be said to have truly conquered or tamed it any more than the ants have conquered and tamed the Earth. The galaxy is far too large, let alone the universe.

So, it’s far too large to control or ever truly conquer. If we had the capacity to construct a starship for every family on the face of earth and launch them off each to their own star system tomorrow (6.5 billion people/ about 5 people/family) = 130 million colony ships. If we radiate the population of the earth away in such a manner, and “colonize”, if we can call it that, as many systems as we could with just 1 family apiece, we would still only have set foot on less than 1% of the entire galaxy!!

So, as far as galactic empires go, the sheer size of the galaxy renders our human notions of empire and domination absurd.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are wrong about Firefly/Serenity. All of the action in Serenity takes place within a single solar system with "dozens of planets and hundreds of moons".

Wednesday, February 25, 2009 5:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

your assuming every solar system has a habitable planet which even with the prospect of terraforming thats still probly a mere fraction of the systems and if i know one thing it's that human beings can breed pretty fast

Sunday, January 15, 2012 1:22:00 AM  

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