Saturday, August 22, 2015

Star Trek’s Subspace Communication: More Science Fact Than Science Fiction?

Even though researches into it are still few and far between, are there preexisting natural phenomena that allow data transmission at faster-than-light velocities?

By: Ringo Bones 

Some conspiracy theorists well-versed and grounded in science often decry the “mainstream” scientific community’s extreme skepticism when it comes to exploring preexisting natural phenomena that allows the possibility of data transmission or signal transmission at speeds faster-than-light’s 186,000 miles per second speed limit. I mean the last time serious work done on it was probably back in the 1930s with Albert Einstein’s “spooky-action-at-a-distance” / quantum entanglement, the EPR Experiment Paradox some aspects of quantum tunneling that allow faster-than-light data transfer are the only well-known ones – at least ones “tolerated” by the current “mainstream global scientific community”. But can we ever transfer data faster than the electromagnetic spectrum’s rather limited 186,000 miles-per-second / 300,000 kilometers-per-second speed limit? Well, in the Star Trek universe, it’s not just faster-than-light interstellar travel that’s a staple, but also faster-than-light communications / data transmission as well. 

Subspace communication, also called subspace radio or the hyperchannel, was the primary form of electromagnetic communication used by the United Federation of Planets across vast interstellar distances given the relative “slowness” of radio waves at 186,000 miles-per-second. By transmitting radio through subspace, rather than normal space, subspace communication permitted the sending of data and messages across interstellar distances faster than the speed of light. This made it much more practical than conventional radio. In fact, starships from the 23rd Century onwards rarely even monitor radio frequencies than travel at the speed of light as it propagates across interstellar space  as noted in the Star Trek: Voyager episode titled “The 37’s” about the Voyager crew finding Amelia Earhart and some of her 1937 contemporaries abducted by aliens and exiled in a distant Earth-like planet. 

Though it is not often mentioned in Star Trek episodes – from the original Captain Kirk era to the later ones – the exact speed or how many times faster-than-light subspace communications signals can traverse the vastness of interstellar space, in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode titled “When No One Has Gone Before”, Captain Picard and crew were catapulted in a region of space 2,700,000 light-years from Earth and Commander Data noted that from that distance, their subspace distress call would have taken 51 years 10 months to reach the nearest Federation outpost. But is such form of interstellar communication more a flight of science fiction fancy? 

During the early 1970s associate professor Thomas Van Flandern of the US Naval Observatory performed calculations and published it in “Physics Letters A” titled “The Speed of Gravity – What Experiments Say” which demonstrated that the force of gravity propagated at least 20 billion times faster than the speed of light and may propagate across the entire universe almost instantaneously. Quite a contrary to what Prof. Stephen Hawking had published on his A Brief History Of Time in which Hawking declared that the force of gravity propagates at the same speed as that of light – 186,000-miles-per-second. If we ever uncover a preexisting faster-than-light data transmission / information transfer in nature, would it also forever chance the face of astronomy by establishing a new branch of it called “Faster Than Light Astronomy”?

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