William Edelstein, a professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Medicine, has thought of another scenario on why those people on the Starship Enterprise would not have survived traveling through space at close to the speed of light. And it has nothing to do with the contortions of warped spacetime either. It is more basic and more well-known that that.
“I put in the Star Trek thing cause it would be dramatic,” he explains. The point of the paper was to really look at the impact of radiation at high speeds, he said. When you travel at high speeds in space “you are basically plowing through hydrogen,” he explained. “What actually happens as soon as they encounter the ship, the atoms split into protons and electrons and the protons mainly go through you and do damage.”
Edelstein said in an interview with the Star that the problem is when travelling in space at close to light speed hydrogen turns into “intense radiation” that kills humans and destroys electronic instrumentation. Even a ship’s hull of 10 centimetres in thickness would do nothing in terms of preventing damage.
In his presentation he said that a fatal dose of radiation for humans is six sieverts. And with his calculations a crew would receive a dose of more than 10,000 sieverts within a second.
So forget about the stuff that we barely know of. Just simple rudimentary high energy collisions that we already know of, and its radiation effects, which we also know of quite well, can already kill you.
Tough luck, space travelers!