Transportation Scales
[P. J.] [RU] [FR]

Transportation Scales

There is a correspondence between the spatial scale and rate of communication on one hand, and the means of transportation on the other. Generally, technological development would allow achieving greater speeds. Quite often, however, a higher speed is inefficient at common distances, and the older modes of transportation continue to occupy a significant place in the culture. For instance, we use airplanes to skip over the ocean, but we would rather prefer an on-surface vehicle (a car, a bus, a train) to go to a neighboring town, and we will probably just walk from one piece to another within an apartment. There is also dependence on the character of transfer. Thus, merchant marine still dominates over aviation when mass cargo transportation is concerned.

In the same way, space exploration is associated with its own hierarchy of velocity scales. Speeds needed for interplanetary travel are much slower than the typical speeds of an interstellar flight, while those latter will lie on a much lower scale than the prospective velocities of getting from one galaxy to another (which would certainly be higher than the speed of light). And, probably, mastering these new modes of conveyance will leave intact the traditional terrestrial means of transport for quite a while. That is, the feasibility of teleportation (so cherished by science-fiction writers) for short-range travel seems rather doubtful (though, in the far perspective, not impossible).

One could conjecture that there is a lower limit for the characteristic time of communication: for a given range of distances, a material body cannot spend on travel less than some minimal time value. For example, a plane will pass the distance of 100 miles much faster than a car, but if we also consider the time required to get to the airport and back to city, plus the necessary formalities, the total will hardly ever be less than a typical car travel time.

A similar effect (albeit due to a different mechanism) exists in the computer market: the costs always tend to lower with technological development, but the older models gradually disappear from the market, so that the minimal price of a computer would not fall below a few hundred dollars.

[Assorted Notes] [Unism]