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Or Starrs of Morning,
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— that is all
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Impearls: Taken stupidest quote

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Earthdate 2002-12-04

Taken stupidest quote

U.S. government black project's captive German scientist, in Steven Spielberg's Taken episode 2:

These are beings of unimaginable power of mind.  The ability to reach inside a man's mind and give him the images that are lurking there, surely that requires more energy than what is needed to guide a ship among the stars.

Anyone who's glanced at a few of the books entertaining the possibility of interstellar travel (covering such topics as the amount of fuel vs. payload needed to get a vessel to the stars) can see what a terrific boner is being pulled here.  In brief, if you have to carry your fuel along with you (as in ordinary rockets), even using nuclear or antimatter powered spaceships, the payload achievable is an extremely tiny fraction of the size of the entire ship, with required fuel occupying almost all of it.  Needless to say, a vast ship full of antimatter (and normal matter) fuel equals a stupendous amount of energy. 

Ramscoops or ground-laser illuminated lightsails offer significant escape from these limitations, because you don't have to carry (most of) the fuel along with you.  Even using these approaches, however, the amount of portable energy that must be carried on an interstellar ship is immense.

Beyond straightforward acceleration-deceleration means of getting to the stars, even if suggested approaches for bypassing the great distances between the stars turn out to be feasible (hypotheticals such as wormholes or “hyperspace”), who says the amount of energy needed to make use of such methods would be small?  If opening up a wormhole requires, say, artificial creation of a black hole massive enough not to crush “passengers” passing through its event horizon (i.e., much-much larger than a stellar-mass black hole), then the physical energy requirements for interstellar travel via wormholes would be truly gigantic!

Coming at it from the other direction, one must consider the question of how much “energy,” if that's the right term, is needed in principle to “reach inside a man's mind and give him the images that are lurking there.”  The “scientist” providing the Taken quote tosses it off as if of course! the energy required would be huge.  How much energy, though, did it take for the Voyager spacecraft to send images into the minds of Earthlings across billions of miles of space from the planet Neptune?  A few watts of power in Voyager's transmitter?

In the scene in Taken to which the above quote refers, the alien stood only a few feet from a human into whose brain he fed “the images that are lurking there.”  How much “energy” would that take?  How much energy under optimum conditions would it take to send a TV signal across a few feet?  Microwatts, at a guess?

Whether any signal transmitted could be received is another matter.  If a reception mechanism is already present in the human brain (which if telepathy exists — a big if — there must be; or if “synchronicity” is the way that telepathy works, that too will do for an explanation), in either case, once again, watts or microwatts (or even less, in the case of synchronicity) should suffice.  If there is no reception mechanism already present in the brain, however (or no synchronicity), then even an infinitude of power might not do.

In the situation where humans do not already come equipped with a “transmission image receptor” mechanism, the easiest way to get such a reception system implanted, in my view, would simply be to waft a “designer virus” across the intervening space (once again, a few feet, given the premise of the story), which infecting the intended individual, would cause a suitable receptor system to be grown, perhaps in his or her brain.  How much “energy” does it take to waft a tiny virus (far smaller than anthrax spores) across a few feet of space?

Once a suitable reception mechanism is present in the intended recipient, images should, once again, be transmittable using minimal energy.  Of course, if a continuing transmission link isn't needed, the viruses themselves could carry all the images or other data desired without any subsequent energy requirements.

However, the words Spielberg later in that same episode of Taken also places in the mouth of that “German scientist,” are if anything even stupider than the above quote!

We lost the war [WWII] because the Russians betrayed our trust.  There was never a question of our attitude.

I don't know about Spielberg.

UPDATE 2002-12-22 01:30 UT:  More fundamental Taken stupidity.

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