"Far Centaurus"

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An influential story by A. E. van Vogt written from the point of view of a crewman on the first (very much STL) interstellar ship. After hundreds of years (the crew is in cold sleep) they awaken in the Alpha Centauri system to find it a bustling human civilization: While they were plodding through space, humanity developed and FTL drive and settled all the nearby stars.

This problem -- sometimes called the "Incentive Trap" -- is a very real one and is being considered today by people interested in interstellar flight. A "Far Centaurus" is regularly cited.

Amazingly, Van Vogt hit on a second thing which is still remembered: The human technology the voyagers find in the Alpha C system is incomprehensible to them. There's a segment where their host is explaining that the ftl drive is based on the Adeledicnander Force which is controlled by means of "electron psychology". The voyager is baffled and asks how can electrons have psychology and is told, that they can't, of course. "Electron psychology" isn't about the thinking electrons at all, you see... But he doesn't see, and this is a memorable enough example of how scientific progress is built up of layers of concepts that it, also, is occasionally cited.

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