Of Scifi and Time-Space: When Fiction Meets Physics


I’ve always enjoyed science fiction–the broad expanses of space, the quiet beauty of galaxies scattered across infinite blackness, the raw imagination, the astrophysics.

Something occurred to me in my recent musings as I tried to reconcile a common theme in Scifi stories with a bit of science fact.

Theme: Humans travel across vast amounts of space, either through a wormhole or while hibernating in a ship on autopilot. The goal is to meet an alien race, as in The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, or to meet their makers/engineers, a la Prometheus.

(Cool, right?)

Science fact: Light from the galaxies and stars we see now took, what, billions, trillions, etc, of light years to get to us.

Therefore, the very Galaxy, solar system, star, planet, moon, whatever the intrepid space explorers are traveling toward doesn’t exist anymore.

Bummer.

Any ideas how to reconcile these bits of seemingly paradoxical information? Maybe there’s an answer I haven’t come across yet. Please share your thoughts!

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One comment on “Of Scifi and Time-Space: When Fiction Meets Physics

  1. I’ve wondered about that paradox, too. It works when the travelers are merely looking for new planets, but when they search for an alien people, chances are all they’d find are ruins. Unless somehow they go back in time… 😉

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