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The light cage limit to interstellar expansion

McInnes, C.R. (2002) The light cage limit to interstellar expansion. JBIS, Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, 55 (7-8). pp. 279-284. ISSN 0007-084X

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Abstract

Fermi's Paradox highlights the fundamental contradiction between the observation that there are vast numbers of Sun-like stars in the galaxy, but that apparently none has produced migrating civilisations capable of interstellar travel. Previous studies have attempted to explain this paradox by demonstrating that long-term interstellar migration over the galactic distance scale is an extremely slow, diffusion-like process. This paper will investigate near-term migration and the limits imposed upon it by rapid economic expansion and growth. It has long been argued that an advanced space-faring civilisation must be gradualists who evolve and migrate within the limits imposed by resources and whose culture avoids conflict and exploitation. However, it is argued here that a relatively young civilisation which develops a set of technologies which enable it to engage in economic interstellar travel is unlikely to constrain its activities in this way and will experience rapid economic expansion and growth. In such a scenario the speed of light imposes a fundamental limit to the distance over which the civilisation can expand, providing a possible mechanism whereby interstellar expansion is self-limiting and possibly self-terminating.