I was reading and article in The Economist about lasers that can pulse extremely rapidly. We’re talking really fast, in the femtoseconds range (one billionth of one millionth of a second).
This got me thinking about the nature of time: Is there a theoretical limit to how fast something can happen? I’m not aware of any, but physics probably gives an answer one way or the other.
Still, even if there’s a limit somehow, there’s still quite a gigantic range. From femtoseconds to how long it takes for universes to die.
What if what we consider to be “real time” – how fast we move, talk, think – happens to be a glacial pace compared to other lifeforms? I’m not sure if biological intelligent life could have a subjective impression of time on such a scale because of limits to the speed of chemical reactions and the minimum complexity required for intelligence, but if an advanced civilization had made the transition to a non-biological substrate (such as super-computers), it would be conceivable that for them seconds could subjectively be the equivalent of millennia (or more) to us.
That would make communication unlikely. It would be a bit like trying to have a conversation with a rock. Even if you knew it was intelligent, you’d probably be bored out of your mind and either you would ignore it, or wait for it to speed up. And even if that’s too anthropocentric a way to look a the situation, there’s still the problem of saying something coherent mentioned below.
There’s always the possibility that such a fast intelligence would remembers how slow it once was, in its original bio-chemical form, and plan for future contact with lesser intelligences. Keep listening on the ‘slow lane’, in other words. But even if it did that, could it really communicate with us coherently if between each syllable it had the time to evolve and change a lot (more than Homo Sapiens has had time to evolve so far)? Even if it creates the message in its ‘real-time’ and then slows it down to send it, will the entity that created the message have much in common with the subjectively much older entity that exists by the time the message has been completely sent?
- Virtual Reality Could Explain the Fermi Paradox
- Order in the Universe and Pattern Recognition
- That Alien Message