Editorial – Nov 2013: Space ISN’T the final frontier – by GF Willmetts (editorial).

November 2, 2013 | By | Reply More

Space ISN’T the final frontier.


Hello everyone

Read the opening line very carefully. It is the antithesis of the famous ‘Star Trek’ saying that is ingrained in our heads. So how can space not be the final frontier? I mean, it is out there after all.

We see space in terms of the air and water about us as another dimension that we need to bridge to visit other worlds. That in itself is true but it is no final frontier because we are never going to be able to claim to have beaten it. How can you beat the infinite? The cosmos is a big place and even if we have unlimited space travel, we are unlikely to visit every planet out there. We are never likely to beat it. If we ever develop time travel, actually an asset if you want to visit a time when the sentients of a planet existed or prove that there are alternative versions of our reality, then we would also see that as ‘the final frontier’ as well, so already there is more than one ‘final’ frontier to conquer. We are always likely to look for another target if we can beat the one we see as final and if there is a ‘final’ frontier then we are going to run out of ambition to achieve anything. Going over this editorial for the nth time, you could also include ‘extended life’ or immortality as another frontier to achieve as well.

Strange new structures in space discovered by NASA.

Strange new structures in space discovered by NASA.

Assuming that I’ve made you stop and think for a second on the subject and got you depressed on the impossible, is there anything really viable as the next frontier if, for no other reason, than to give you hope that I might have a different answer?

This is me we’re talking about and I always tend to have different solutions in my pocket. In this case and just so it ekes out a bit here with the explanation and for you to keep reading, I do.

If you do a comparison between the sea and air on Earth to outer space, there is significant difference. They are finite. You can weigh both of those things on Earth because they have substance and limited volume. Space is space. It goes on forever and doesn’t weigh anything. It’s essentially a nothing. How can you beat a nothing? We have the hot spots we call stars and masses that go around it called planets and moons with odd flying bits of junk called comets and meteors but, for the most part, space is an empty vacuum. It might have the odd hydrogen molecule here and there but, in itself, is likely to be the same here as anywhere else in the universe and can’t sustain anything. It is just a medium that is given for matter to be expanding through and doesn’t even impede its progress, which certainly the likes of sea and air, if they were that huge, would if it had such a Big Bang at the beginning in either medium. It wouldn’t have gone very far as it would absorb the shockwave and certainly a planetary body to cling to. The distance would have been impeded and certainly not have allowed the swirling that led to galaxies, star systems and ultimately us from one of the specs.

That’s more a matter of cosmology than frontier. What you’re really looking for is a frontier that you can accomplish or beat. With the sea, it was more a means to travel on and trade. With air, it was a matter of flight, height and speed. Limited targets that didn’t take long to conquer once we figured out buoyancy and aerodynamics. Apply those choices to space. None of those options apply. Even if we found an inhabitable planet out there, we aren’t ever likely to get there in a single lifetime, let alone trade. It’s still a gray area as to whether we could colonise it. None of the reasons for going apply. We might be assured that there is other life in the universe but we’d never be able to find out whether or not they survived if we ever detect any of their messages simply because the length of time a message would take to get here and back, they could be extinct. A frontier is something that we can at least think we can beat. Even if we had the fastest starship in the cosmos, we would never be able to reach the next potentially life-sustaining star system in a single life-time let alone transverse the universe. There is no winning post for conquering it.

The real next frontier is distance. Unless there is some miraculous way to exceed the speed of light, then it has to be considered the ultimate obstacle. We can measure long distance but never cross it. That has more meaning than saying ‘space’.

Can distance be beaten? It has some of the same obstacles as space but we can look at it with more objectivity. Man first had to rely on his own two feet, until he learnt to ride four-legged animals and then created the wheel and the engine and those car things. You can follow a path of transportation from the cart to the car, boat and aeroplane as a means to transverse distance and at greater distance. The space rocket and even the space shuttle is only the next stage in attaining greater distance and at present, we’ve gone as far and as fast as we can go. We seem to have hit that final frontier without going far, especially as we’ve hit a particular limit, combined with finance, that we cannot exceed at the moment. It has become so daunting that we can’t even reach 10% of the speed of light, let alone prevent calcium deterioration in our bodies in space, that our enthusiasm for space travel has been relegated to…er…Science Fiction TV shows or films. We just aren’t built for such a life. Maybe rebuilding our bodies should be regarded as another frontier, especially with our current developments in cyborg technology.

Einstein spotted that the fastest speed was that of light and we’ve seen nothing that could exceed that velocity and even light takes several centuries to reach us from the nearest star let alone anywhere else. Well, short of bending space, hyperspace and any of the other SF tropes we’re accustomed to but none discovered yet, then we’re unlikely to beat the speed and distance problem. We might slowly move across such a distance but it will be forever be an obstacle we are unlikely to beat. For those tropes to work, we would need an entirely new different approach to physics. Even the likes of String Theory is still a theory with no definitive proof that we could profit from it, assuming it exists. We have reached not a limit, but the limit. Distance has a limit that we haven’t been able to beat.

Distance has real meaning. We can see it as more than a number but as something that is now outside of our grasp to conquer. It gives objectivity and measurement even if it doesn’t sound like a fanciful catchphrase. We can see a start and an end, even if it’s only a relativistic term from point a to point b. However, it does have a material feel to it and something we feel we can accomplish. As such, distance has to be the final frontier and to coin a phrase, we’re screwed because at this present time, it’s something we aren’t going to beat in a hurry but we can always hope.


Thank you, take care, good night and measure how far you can travel in one life-time. It’s not far enough.

Geoff Willmetts

editor: SFCrowsnest.org.uk


Observation: Having watched the opening episode of a new BBC1 drama series, ‘The Escape Artist’, I couldn’t help by wonder that its star, David Tennant, would make an interesting Time Lord.


Observation: This time of year there are a lot of infections around. The day you turn on your central heating, make sure you’re out for a couple hours which should give enough time for the heating to burn the bugs up rather than them fleeing for an organic body.


Observation: Having watched the 1984 ‘The Terminator’ film again recently, can anyone out there rationalise why so many cops were chasing after the newly arrived Kyle Reese? I mean, the most they could have arrested him for at the time was gross indecency and stealing the trousers…sorry…pants off a tramp. Hardly a reason to go in shooting to kill.


A Zen thought: A fly in the ointment is not seeking a cure.


Category: Culture, Science

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About UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’
If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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