Could someone travel the universe in his or her own lifetime? (Beginner)

If we were to create LIGHT SPEED, do you think that we would be able to travel the universe?

You wouldn't even need to be able to travel at the speed of light in order to travel the universe in your own lifetime. Relativistic time dilation causes time to move more slowly on a spaceship that's traveling close to the speed of light than it does in the outside universe. So in fact, if you had a spaceship that was able to travel at speeds arbitrarily close to the speed of light (but not quite AS fast as the speed of light, which appears to be impossible), then you'd have no problem reaching distant galaxies and still being alive to tell about it. (Of course, millions of years would have passed in the outside world, so don't expect to come back home and find your friends and family alive. But time inside the spaceship would have passed so slowly that it would feel like very little time had passed for you.)

There are a slew of practical problems with this idea. How do you generate enough energy to reach such speeds? How does your ship avoid getting pulverized by tiny grains in space that would impact your ship with enormous energy? How do you accelerate so fast without squashing any human beings onboard the ship? But if you could somehow come up with solutions for each of these problems, it would work.

Page last updated on June 25, 2015.

About the Author

Christopher Springob

Christopher Springob

Chris studies the large scale structure of the universe using the peculiar velocities of galaxies.  He got his PhD from Cornell in 2005, and is now a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Western Australia.

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