The Interstellar Research Centre was founded in April 2019 by Kelvin F Long. Previously, Kelvin had been involved the creation of several companies associated with interstellar studies, including in 2009 Icarus Interstellar in the United States serving as the Vice President of European Operations, and then in 2012 the Initiative for Interstellar Studies in the United Kingdom, serving as its founding Executive Director and then as President. He also co-founded the US branch called the Institute for Interstellar Studies in 2014. Having spent over a decade on the organisational element of the non-profits, Kelvin decided to re-focus his efforts on dedicated research. He has also been a business entrepreneur and was also the co-founder of the high altitude balloon company Nebula Sciences Ltd, and was the founder of the investment company Terra Altair Ltd and the aerospace consultancy Stellar Engines Ltd.
However, his own interest in ancient history and wider topics such as astrophysics, cosmology, the nature of intelligence and consciousness led to a realisation that a proper evaluation for the future trajectory of human kind also required an improved understanding of our origins and fundamental nature, in addition to the nature of the reality that we exist in. In particular, three observations about physics stood out:
The constancy of the vacuum speed of light at c=299792458 m/s which special relativity theory tells us we cannot exceed. This places clear limits on our ability to explore our interstellar neighbourhood and the galaxy, let alone other galaxies, since special relativity states that anything constructed of mass can only approach this speed asymptotically but never exceed it. This suggests that much of the Universe is forever out of our reach unless some kind of faster than light travel scheme can be derived, for which the research currently does not support as likely. It has been shown in principle, such as by Carl Sagan in the 1960s, that it is possible to reach the centre of our galaxy in only 28 years ship time, but the penalty due to the time dilation factor is that nobody at home on Earth would ever find out what you discovered. Therefore, interstellar travel beyond say 100s Light Years does not seem practically feasible.
The size of the Universe is unnecessarily large for our needs. Of course, to invoke a purpose is to anthropomorphise the issue, or at least is suggestive of an anthropic principle, the principle that theories of the Universe are constrained by the necessity to allow human existence. One could also cite the Cosmological principle in which the spatial distribution of matter in the Universe is homogeneous and isotropic when viewed on a large-scale, and so there should be no observable irregularities in the structure. Given this, and given that we therefore expect the chemistry ‘here’ to be the same as over ‘there’, we should expect that on a plurality of stars and worlds alternative intelligent life-forms should arise to a ubiquitous level. Yet, despite a century of good observations and thinking about the problem there is no empirical evidence to date that human beings are not alone in the great void. This issue also relates to the point (1) in that the limited speed of light means we can never explore this vast universe to its fullest extent. A quip from Arthur C Clarke seems appropriate “Sometimes I think that the purpose of the Universe is for the perpetual astonishment of astronomers”. We therefore appear to exist in a Universe which has a scale that far exceeds our exploratory capacity other than via long-range remote sensing observations. This seems to be an inefficient use of energy and points towards other explanations.
The uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics. This is mathematical inequality that places restrictions on the observations of quantum particles, such as their position and momentum, or their time and energy. It is usually written such as the uncertainty in position multiplied by the uncertainty in momentum are always equal to or greater than a specific number defined by h/4pi, where h is the Planck constant. What this means is that the position and momentum cannot be instantaneously determined to the same level of precision. All of this is more complicated by experiments with passing particles through holes in double-slit experiments in order to understand the wave-particle behaviour and the weirdness that results. We therefore note that there is a limit to our observations of the smallest things that we can observe.
These three observations, are a metaphor for a physical prison on our reality, in that we appear to be able to explore it during our brief existence, but there are clear limits on our ability to explore beyond it. This is captured well in the Bronstein Hypercube of theoretical physics.
All of this leaves open the possibility that our universe may be more complicated that we realise, and this may also include being multi-dimensional as proposed by successor theories to General Relativity such as String Theory and other higher dimensional variants. One possibility that is intriguing is the ideas of the physicist David Bohm who advocated for an Implicate and Explicate order to the nature of reality. The explicate (unfolded) reality is the one that we observe and experience or perceive. The implicate (enfolded) reality is hypothesised as a deeper and more fundamental reality. In particular the strangeness of quantum mechanics may be caused by unobserved forces originating from the implicate order since this is seen as a deeper and more objective reality to the one we perceive, and from where everything that we observe emerges from. The Interstellar Research Centre is therefore exploring these ideas, that our observed reality is a manifestation of a more fundamental objective reality for which we do not directly observe, but we do observe its influence on our existing physics.
Another issue that has been influential is our society’s recording of the historical record. Historians and archeologists do their best to put together a picture of the past, and this is no small task. However, a deep dive into our conventional accepted version of history leads to the discovery of numerous anomalous events which do not fit our conventions of the gradual linear progression (i.e. uniformitarianism or gradualism) of human kind from a hunter-gatherer species prior to the Neolithic revolution, to agricultural farmers and then the constructors of vast civilisations. Instead, we accept the possibility that our history may be filled with stops and starts, for which any record has been erased by the weathering of time. We also find evidence pointing towards contact between ancient cultures when they were separated by an ocean. Early homo sapiens, may have been more innovative that our history books have given them credit for. Therefore, we believe it is necessary to come to an improved understanding for our past and the true journey that our species has been on, since this will teach us lessons about how we can also survive the future. To do this, we must open our minds to the broader possibilities of the past and also what earlier hominids were capable of given similar brains.