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The Humern Empire (no relation) spans the galaxy, using a variety of methods to move from place to place and planet to planet.

One thing all of their modes of transport share is that they are not faster than light, and as such they have large temporal dilation effects associated with them. The most advanced form of transport, the Tube network, only takes five minutes to move a traveler (from the point of view of the traveler) what may be decades of travel at light speed.

One of the issues with this is that multiple generations may be born, live and die in the time it takes someone from the other side of the Empire to visit, which raises the possibility that different sections of the Empire will become incapable of interbreeding, essentially splitting off into different species of Humern.

The Empire is a very effective governing body, comprising many levels of civil servants in order to keep the Empire cohesive: their populace remains loyal to the Empire and rebellion is practically unthinkable. They have access to very advanced technologies, but they cannot breach the speed limit of the universe no matter how hard they try.

Given that it may take hundreds of thousands of years (from the point of view of the galaxy) for a representative of the Empire (or even a message) to get from one side of the Empire to the other, how can they account for and minimise the effects of speciation in their populace?

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – James Oct 9 '17 at 16:39

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Bring along a "genetic guideline" aboard the colony ship, essentially an enormous database of the sequenced genomes of millions/billions of Empire citizens (the more genetically diverse this database is, the better).

Before any reproductive event can be permitted/rendered legal in the Empire, the genetics of the involved gametes (or whatever is the equivalent for your Humerns) must be compared to the genetic guideline. If it is sufficiently similar (the exact percentage of acceptable dissimilarity is also included in the guideline) then the pregnancy or egg-bearing or whatever can go on, if not, then another pair (or idk, trio? dozen? I have no idea how reproduction works for your species) can be evaluated until a suitable match is found.

This isn't some high sci-fi concept, it's essentially just preimplantation genetic diagnosis coupled with a very tame type of Eugenics.

As this guideline will be used on every Empire world, speciation will never occur. Bear in mind however that the species will remain evolutionarily stagnant (which is not necessarily a bad thing) as long as the guideline is in use.

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    $\begingroup$ Very nice solution. Evolutionary stagnation could be mitigated with a (very long winded) update procedure for the genetic guideline, but given that the current evolutionary state of the Humern conquered the galaxy I’m not sure why they would. +1 $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Oct 7 '17 at 17:33
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    $\begingroup$ I feel like there's an X-men movie just bursting from the seams of this idea. Imagine some rogue folks go off and breed all on their own, just to defy the empire. Then it becomes this whole thing about "who are you to tell us who has the right kind of DNA?" $\endgroup$ – Theo Bendixson Oct 8 '17 at 19:04
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    $\begingroup$ Plus there would be lasers shooting out of peoples' eyes. $\endgroup$ – Theo Bendixson Oct 8 '17 at 19:04
  • $\begingroup$ @TheoBendixson Well.. To any X-men screen writers out there, feel free to use this idea for your next movie. Just make sure to include laser eyes. $\endgroup$ – AngelPray Oct 8 '17 at 19:13
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If travel can occur from one side of the empire to the other in mere minutes from the traveller’s perspective and “mere” generations from the perspective of the planets being travelled between, then it should not be too hard to avoid speciation.

From the planets perspective hundreds if not thousands of generations would have to pass before there was even a hint of speciation. From the travellers perspective there would be ample opportunity to visit thousands of star systems in a life time.

One solution would be to pay a group of stud males (or stud females even - but the options might be more limited due to basic sexual mechanics) on each planet to travel between the stars spreading their genetic material as far and wide as they could.

If required this process could be encouraged by government subsidies to become a stud or to bear the children of a stud for the good of the empire. This would ensure continual influx and efflux of genetic material from all corners of the empire across time and space.

Since everywhere in the empire can be reached within a few generations, speciation will not occur. The stud males will sacrifice their friends, family and even the age in which they live, but I feel confident that there would be sufficient volunteers.

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  • $\begingroup$ Government sponsored breeding stock isn’t a bad plan. A sufficiently well planned network of breeders shuttling from place to place (given that edge to edge the Empire is hundreds of thousands of years travel time) could hold maintain genetic diversity while ensuring and member of the Empire can still breed. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Oct 7 '17 at 19:43
  • $\begingroup$ Like brothels at truck stops? Or have fertile ladies available for the space navy pilots at each port of call. $\endgroup$ – KalleMP Oct 8 '17 at 5:53
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    $\begingroup$ @KalleMP Not quite as I would have put it ;o) but I think you've got it! Although these are big truck stops a planet wide. $\endgroup$ – Slarty Oct 8 '17 at 8:59
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    $\begingroup$ @KalleMP Larry Niven's Destiny Road. In this case, the brothels traveled through a deliberately-preserved 'back woods' of genetic and cultural stagnation, to maintain the original genetic purity of the original colonists. $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Oct 8 '17 at 18:27
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Patriotism and genetic engineering.

Every Humern colony, in order to minimise the hazards of inbreeding and manage other medical needs, started with a digital collection of medical textbooks, encyclopedias and databases from Erf, complete genetic records of their own colonial founders, and the ability to edit their children's DNA.

They know full well if they're starting to speciate, and have the ability to stop it. If they're loyal to the Empire, they will. If they're not loyal, well, they can expect a fleet of loyalists to arrive in their sky a century or two later, ready to deliver big bombs and genuine Erf DNA to the traitorous mutant planet.

The occasional patriotic fad for implanting one's children with snippets of DNA from heroic figures of colonial or Erf history also helps to slow genetic drift.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 just for Erf, and also for the suggestion of genetic manipulation $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Oct 8 '17 at 7:20
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The other answers are almost what I wanted to say, so let me give it a twist...

Let's say that every ship sent out includes a large collection of frozen sperm and/or eggs. The crew is incentivized to "breed back" into the mainline every so often by using the frozen genetic material. This influx of DNA has two purposes:

  • We keep on reinforcing mainline genes

  • It's an alarm ... if/when the frozen stuff stops working then the community can panic... ;D Would they have a doctrine for that?

Let me also add that the colonies should do the same thing when they send a ship back to the homeworld, so that far-flung Humern genes can fold back into the homeworld gene pool.

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    $\begingroup$ And if they select ova and sperm from the parents of the best specimens to send forward and back there would be incentive for people to make use of the material. Might even market it with snob value or exoticness to make sure the material is put into use. There was a south american country that promoted the colonists to take on a local native partner to homogenise the population (may have been other sinister reasons too like land ownership) that could be used a a guide to see how fast the material diffuses through the population. I think this would work. $\endgroup$ – KalleMP Oct 9 '17 at 12:50
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A significant fraction of your people travel.

Every year every world is receiving strangers from near and far. It may take evolutionary times to go to the other side of thee galaxy and back, but in that time people are coming back regularly from sorter trips. Someone goes a light year and returns, someone goes two light years and returns, three... 300... 30000...

There is regular re-introduction of the original genes as long as people are traveling. If your grandfather took the same route you perhaps ought to be more worried about identifying your cousins rather about becoming a different species.

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    $\begingroup$ "I'm sorry, but before we start dating I have to ask what your great grandfather's name was." "Bob Smith" "Ah.. Yeah.. That was me.." $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Oct 8 '17 at 7:21
  • $\begingroup$ @Joe Bloggs Certainly adds a different dimension to the term 'incest'. A really interesting take on the problem. $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Oct 8 '17 at 16:28
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The thing with this is that it isn't the colonists you have to worry about, colonists will be operating on whatever the current species template is when they leave. It's the home bodies who never leave their homeworld who will evolve not the colonists because they'll be in transit and not breeding.

That being the case and assuming you can create genetic stagnation at the species source you can maintain a slow to non-existent rate of speciation across the empire, assuming there is a light-speed communications network. This allows colonies to keep abreast of any minor variances in the "standard strain" as and when they start their breeding programs on their new world as any changes can be broadcast and they'll have the information before they arrive.

The technical mechanisms are pretty basic, they consist in genetic screening of potential breeders and very large colonial population bases. With proper genetic matching you can prevent the majority of genetic drift and large base populations avoid bottleneck and founder effects.

I think the biggest problem you will face is the event where a colony group A. takes heavy loses, both of genetic material and of purity of the remaining stock, in transit (for example to a burst of radiation in deep space) and can't maintain the standard strain or B. can't maintain communications with Alpha Humern and thus can't keep up with the minor changes to the standard, what do you do with these well-meaning but unfortunate citizens who don't and can't make the grade?

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  • $\begingroup$ Good point about founder effect. I’ll have to make sure my colonial populations reflect the makeup of the Empire as a whole. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Oct 8 '17 at 10:59
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs You also need population redundancy to ensure that colonies can carry on even when they suffer some form of damage. $\endgroup$ – Ash Oct 8 '17 at 11:03
  • $\begingroup$ Large colonial populations should take care of that, and if the worst comes to the worst the Empire can glass the planet and start over. They might even evacuate the colonists first. :-) $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Oct 8 '17 at 11:10
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs I'm actually in the process of asking a question somewhat related to that. $\endgroup$ – Ash Oct 8 '17 at 11:11
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs And here it is. $\endgroup$ – Ash Oct 8 '17 at 11:31
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Good government is the answer.

People lose track of things that happen outside of their concept of time. So to manage something that takes a great many generations you need a government that works at the same pace.

One of the answers mentioned a government "stud" program (which I liked!), but plans that motivate by having people travel between worlds based on tax incentives may make as much sense, different worlds might need different strategies. A whole team to come up with good plans.

If this is a galactic empire then you could have a governing body that is concerned with Genetic-Progress-and-Drift (the good old ministry of the GPnD) in the empire. But for them to have meaningful lives they have to operate at a different speed. They could either be accelerated (which is probably a costly and dangerous prospect); I mean accelerated to relativistic speed such they they are slowed of course. Travelling a great distance could pose problems (their whole lives would need to be slowed), or they could be installed in a low but escapable orbit around a black hole, either way you could have government administrators who could be around for many thousands of generations.

By organising your government bodies at different temporal strata you can effectively plan and maintain focus on very long reaching strategies including non-divergence of the species. Also keeping up a "tube system" which clearly has to exist for as long as people are travelling along it... could you imagine what would happen if the system needed emergency maintenance? Moving things at relativistic speeds probably requires a really robust system with a great maintenance program, the system should not have a route failure for a thousand years. A route failure of a single Humern body could result in a planetary extinction event! So you might want your highly trained tube builder team for route A perform their maintenance, then have lunch at the Black Hole Dinner; and after lunch (1000 years later have them start all over again). You would have a super skilled and focused maintenance team, and you probably want the same for genetic monitoring too.


Other things, space travel means very advanced technology we are in the infant stages of genetic engineering. In the decades to come we will see amazing things. Our current manipulation is tantamount to throwing chunks of DNA at something hoping something will stick in more less the right place. At the technology level you are talking we will be living well within the ability to customise our children. We are already doing genetic screening for diseases which must already exert a small but definite alteration in the selection criteria (the three primary forces of evolution are selection, recombination, and mutation), as our ability to control life increases we will probably find our moral fibre very different than now. What people would think of being acceptable in media decades ago has changed...

Anyways we will have advanced genetic programming and nano-engineering by this time. If a "tube" route takes a thousand years to travel, it can not be built in less time than it takes to travel! Point being, what started as humanity on a hundred worlds might be akin to cat herding as far as keeping them all "Humern" goes! The water covered planet will think gills are all the rage, and on another world people don't want to look out on the methane clouds so they will come up with solutions. All in all... we humans will give birth to all the aliens on Star Trek and all manor of problems without oversight... perhaps even with it!

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    $\begingroup$ Thought you’d like to know that I subconsciously ingested your answer and developed a whole system of government around temporally stratified officials. :-) $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Apr 27 '18 at 6:04
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs Thank you for the thanks... The idea actually comes from another novel, I searched trying to find it but with no avail. The book was about aliens finding earth taking some apes and trying to evolve them into more intelligent beings, the apes were placed on a space station out in the Oort belt, found by later humans who developed naturally on earth. From studying their technology it was surmised that they had a temporally stratified government. No alien was encountered in the story, nor was that idea explored further, it was more a boy meets girl story. $\endgroup$ – Quaternion Apr 27 '18 at 19:30
  • $\begingroup$ For me science fiction must explore a unique idea (otherwise it is just future-fantasy) I haven't seen anyone else do it seriously and would love to read a book with such a concept. Let me know when you finish! $\endgroup$ – Quaternion Apr 27 '18 at 19:41
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Nothing could be easier. Effectively they have to do, well, nothing. Because, well, basically there won't be a problem for a highly advanced subluminal galactic empire with speciation.

While it is never a pleasant duty to report that a question is based upon misconceptions, this is the case here. There are two underlying misconceptions in suggesting that a highly advanced subluminal galactic empire will be afflicted with problems of speciation.

The first misconception concerns speciation itself, while the second is founded on a failure to realize that the Humern Empire was, like Rome, not founded in a day. In fact, the important thing to realize is the two are linked.

The problem in extremis can be expressed as a person travelling from one edge of the galaxy to the other in apparently no time at all. However, while in transiting a distance of one hundred thousand light years a corresponding interval of one hundred thousand years had gone by. Assuming generation times of 25 years, this means while in transit 4,000 generations will have happened at the person's destination. So shouldn't population drift have taken its toll and made the traveller almost someone who is now a different species from the humerns on the other edge of the galaxy?

Well, no. Speciation by population requires the populations to be isolated from each other. On the surface of it, two populations of humerns living on either edge of the galaxy are extremely isolated populations. But that's it, they're not isolated.

To explain, with a highly effective transportation like the Humern tube network it will be possible for humerns in adjacent systems, say, to, at least, several light decades and possibly up to a light century for people to travel to those nearby systems, form relationships and reproduce. This means there will be a continuous exchange and interchange of genes across any volume of galactic space with a radius of one hundred light years. But this exchange and interchange isn't restricted just to any volume with radius one hundred light years it will continue right across the entire galaxy. This means it will not be possible for there to be completely isolated populations of humerns on other sides of the Humern Empire.

The other factor was the time it takes to found the Humern Empire. Even with tube network the Humerns cannot colonize the galaxy faster than lightspeed. This indicates it will take for the Humerns outwards constructing the transportation methods and systems until finally they reach their pinnacle in subliminal transportation the tube network. Now humerns can move freely around their empire. Admittedly travel too far and you are soon beyond the time and culture where you originated, but if people decide to settle now, pair bond and reproduce they are spreading around their genes. They are also preventing population drift from happening. Speciation will be stopped in its tracks.

A quick guesstime indicates it should take even the highly advanced Humern Empire a minimum of one million years to spread across the galaxy. As their empire expands outwards there will be a continuous flow of Humerns from the heartlands near to their home-planet, out to the frontiers of Empire.

Maintaining cohesion in the Humern Empire only requires modest fractions of their population to move from one system to another. Because even if the officials administering this Empire are worried about cohesion and any possible dangers from speciation they only have to encourage not too large numbers of their people to keep moving.

Also, this a highly advanced galactic empire so it should have highly advanced biological technology. Moving frozen spermatozoa and ova, and even zygotes, should be easy. if each generation introduced genes from populations outside any given world in the empire there would be no possibly that speciation could gain a foothold.

Interbreeding won't be a problem. Even if two people belong to radically different cultures, which can be a major factor in preventing breeding pairs, their immunological differences will mean their children will be healthy and have much better immunological systems. It only takes one kiss for each other to "taste" the other's immune system and know that the genetic fitness of their children will more than enough reason to get down to this breeding business real soon now. This is a powerful driver for exogamy. It is the main reason people will breed outside their own ethnic or cultural group.

So possibly that person who traversed the galaxy edge to edge finds there are more that enough eager potential partners lining up. This is not so much despite the fact they are 4,000 generations late, but because of it. Population drift is thwarted, speciation stopped and exogamy saves the day while the Humern Empire remains safe and cohesive.

In summary, as long as the tube network moves people around efficiently and effectively there will be a constant exchange and interchange of genes both locally and across the entire galaxy. This will prevent the formation of isolated populations. Therefore, no population drift and no speciation.

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  • $\begingroup$ Good points, especiallly about founding time. I’ve got 2 questions though: Does this still work on partially integrated populations (say people never travel from arm to arm but only from arm to core), and does this require equal incentives for travel to any given planet to avoid isolated planets/clusters ‘inbreeding’? $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Oct 10 '17 at 6:08
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs The density of stars and habitable systems in the core will be greater than in the arms. A given gene could be considered to "travel" from one arm to another via the core. Partially integrated means they aren't isolated populations. The main thing is that the population as a whole doesn't become isolated. Incentives to travel would help prevent isolationist pockets from forming. Because this is an Empire it will make it a more integrated & cohesive empire if officials are moved around. This also slows corruption & isolationism. Officials = bureaucrats, military etc. $\endgroup$ – a4android Oct 10 '17 at 9:43
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs Moving officials around was a feature of Imperial China. I had a tutor at university whose family were originally sent as Ambassadors to what is now Malaysia in the Ming Dynasty. They obviously stayed & settled there. The Humern Empire could easily do the same galaxy-wide. $\endgroup$ – a4android Oct 10 '17 at 9:46
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In order for the civilization to hang together over extended periods of time and not split into different subspecies, you will essentially need to freeze the civilization. The ancient Egyptian civilization changed so slowly that a typical Egyptian born in the First Dynasty wold probably not notice anything untoward if they were suddenly transported to the 12th Dynasty.

By keeping the culture static, the sorts of cultural mating cues should also remain the same across time and space. Essentially the things that make a person sexually attractive will be unvarying, so if a shipload of people come to your planet who have different looks, mannerisms shapes etc., they will not find breeding partners.

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If you HAVE instantaneous communications, AND an advanced society, then you perhaps have the solution. The genetic code can be, well, coded and transcribed. Once transcribed, it can be sent to distant places. This transcribed, communicated data can be compared to local genome data, and it can (even today) be used to create actual genetic material that can be introduced into the local population. Designer babies, as it were. This would guarantee a homogeneous genetic mix throughout the empire. One could even send the genetic code for new species of animal, or other organism. It would be Genetically Modified Organisms on, ahem, steroids.

See for instance Quantum Teleportation of Dynamics and Effective Interactions Between Remote Systems. Cornell University, of all places. This is now in mainstream thought, not handwavium deep sci-fi fantasy, the 'Gospel According to Einstein' notwithstanding.

See [this for more recent work on remote quantum computing using entanglement] (https://arxiv.org/find/quant-ph/1/au:+Muschik_C/0/1/0/all/0/1)

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  • $\begingroup$ I’m sorry to have to do this, but the first paragraph of the remote interactions paper states the two systems they test are sharing classical information (ie are still bound by the speed of light). It’s a clever way of sharing information between remote quantum computers, but is not FTL communication. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Oct 8 '17 at 17:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Joe Bloggs An interesting, if not quaint, interpretation of the article.Those who believe in the Gospel According to Einstein will go to great lengths to interpret the data to match their belief system, or should I say their religion? Fact is, Google, Facebook, Apple don't subscribe to this religion. Like they say in the IT field, 'So what if you invented fire. What have you done today?" No one will make a name for themselves by proving Einstein right. Neither, today, by proving Einstein WRONG. They will do it by proving something NEW. Something 80 years old is a passe curiosity. $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Oct 8 '17 at 18:22
  • $\begingroup$ That’s not an interpretation of the article. It’s literally what it says: “We consider two separate systems that cannot interact directly but exchange quantum states and classical information.” $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Oct 8 '17 at 18:57
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There is a theory that it would be much easier (i.e. faster and requiring fewer resources) to colonize exoplanets by genetically modifying the members of its future population to adapt to the local conditions than terraforming the planet itself. Obviously, this could not be done for planets which have such extreme living conditions as no atmosphere, or temperatures over the boiling point of water, or too high atmospheric pressure - or at least it couldn't be done at first, but as technology expands, so do their opportunities to colonize more and more hostile planets. So speciation would be unavoidable not due to this slower-than-light travel restriction but from the set out of every new colony.

Obviously, if they could genetically engineer themselves this way, then travelling between planets and breeding with the "natives" would not be a problem - they could just take the parents' DNAs and engineer a viable offspring to the specifications they want.

In fact, they would probably get to the point where they could even change the foreign parent's DNA until this person could live without the need of protective gear/special dietary requirements/etc. on their new home planet and breed unassisted with their chosen partner(s).

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One possible solution, is that your species have abandoned sexual reproduction entirely in favour of reproducing clonally. They are all derived from a database of genomes that were at some point in the past deemed to be the most satisfactory, and since then new individuals have been gestated in artificial wombs using only these chosen genomes.

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Your biggest bet is instantaneous communications. Entanglement, perhaps, but it depends on how much you want to delve into leading edge quantum theory. The latest trend is that the universe itself has consciousness. Postulated by a number of very esteemed CERN-associated physicists, as well as many others with advanced knowledge. Use this door to propose some sort of universal connection. ESP on steroids, across the universe. The belief that information can not travel faster than light is actually becoming a very passe notion. The manipulations and postulations used to enforce such a notion are becoming so strained as to be incredulous. The only way to PRESERVE this misplaced theory that the speed limit applies to information is with a lot of handwavium. It takes less, if any, handwavium to accept instantaneous information transfer.

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    $\begingroup$ One of the constraints of the question is that they can not communicate faster than light, and last I checked the idea that information can’t travel faster than the speed of light is supported by an awful lot of theoretical work and experimental proof of the underlying theory. Could you please provide links to support your assertion that it is becoming a ‘very passé notion’ please? $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Oct 7 '17 at 19:39
  • $\begingroup$ Links to support this assertion. Last I checked, the hint that neutrinos might break the speed odd light, even if only by a meter per second, was greeted by breath holding, an then a collective sigh when it turned or to be a faulty timer. -1 until there is supporting links. $\endgroup$ – pojo-guy Oct 7 '17 at 22:28
  • $\begingroup$ One of the constraints was that they an not TRAVEL faster than light. Nothing about information. Some of the world's most renowned scientists are questioning whether the cosmos has an inner life similar to our own. Get with the program. Physicists spooked by faster-than-light information transfer Keep up with the physics news $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Oct 7 '17 at 23:34
  • $\begingroup$ The OP just referred to TRAVEL faster than light, not information transfer.Physicists spooked by faster-than-light information transfer and [](nbcnews.com/mach/science/universe-conscious-ncna772956) Get with the program. Stay up to date with the news. Basing one's physics beliefs on information and data that is more than five years old is risky business today. Planck will become much more important than Einstein in the long run. Quantum physics supersedes relativity just as relativity superseded Newtonian physics. $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Oct 7 '17 at 23:45
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    $\begingroup$ @Joe Bloggs Something is clear and obvious. And it is obviously about trolling behavior. $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Oct 8 '17 at 19:48

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