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The reality of sci-fi concepts
If science fiction ruled the world, time travel and teleportation would be commonplace, and humanlike intelligent machines and cyborgs would be walking amongst us. But just how likely are these and other far-out ideas? Here, LiveScience examines the plausibility of 10 popular sci-fi concepts.
Aliens that look like usSlide 2 of 21
Aliens that look like us
From the Klingons in "Star Trek" to the skinny, oval-eyed creatures in classic alien abduction tales, many pop-culture depictions of extraterrestrials have been decidedly humanlike. But what is the likelihood intelligent alien life would resemble humankind?
Scientists have proposed solid arguments for and against E.T. developing a body plan similar to ours. At face value, it seems unlikely organisms on another world that underwent eons of unique evolutionary history should fit comfortably into our clothes.
But perhaps evolutionary circumstances similar to those that led us to develop limbs and fingers to manipulate tools arose on alien planets. Maybe being bipeds with bilateral symmetry is a prerequisite for building socially and technologically advanced societies. In this respect, some researchers say we possess a "pretty optimal design for an intelligent being," said Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute. It could be that there is no other choice but for intelligent beings to look like humans. [Read more about what aliens might look like]Slide 3 of 21
Faster-than-light-speed travelSlide 4 of 21
Nothing, so far as we know, can travel faster than light, according to one of the pillars of modern physics, Einstein's general theory of relativity. Whereas, general relativity says objects cannot travel faster than the speed of light as measured in local surrounding space it doesn't place limits on the speeds at which space itself expands or contracts.
It's this "loophole" some physicists are hanging their faster-than-light hat on. A "warp bubble" around a ship, for instance, could make space-time itself contract in front of the ship and expand behind it. "The warp bubble is a volume of space that might be able to move at speeds faster than light as measured by space surrounding the bubble," said Gerald Cleaver, a professor of physics at Baylor University. "Objects inside the warp bubble would be at rest with regard to the warp bubble but would also be moving faster than the speed of light with regard to the surrounding space outside the bubble." [Read more about Faster-than-Light TravelSlide 5 of 21
Planet-busting superweaponsSlide 6 of 21
In science fiction, planet-busting superweapons are all the rage. Yet even more terrifying is the wherewithal to take out an entire star.
The dastardly deed is theoretically possible, however, and even on time scales not stretching into millions of years. "There's one scheme to me that seems not quite plausible, but it's close," said Mike Zarnstorff, an experimental plasma physicist and deputy director for research at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.
A black hole launched into the sun would "feed and grow exponentially," Zarnstorff told Life's Little Mysteries, and therefore would "self-propel" a star towards its doom. "A black hole could suck in all the mass of the sun," Zarnstorff said. [Read more about Star-Destroying Superweapons]Slide 7 of 21
TeleportationSlide 8 of 21