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logo for the symposium transparent b100 Year Starship announces a Call for Papers for the 100YSS 2014 Public Symposium. The Symposium will be held September 18–21 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas, United States.

You’re invited to submit your abstract for one of the eight Technical Tracks or Poster Session and be a part of our transdisciplinary scope to include the broadest swath of ideas and people for our mission. Abstract deadline is 20 June, 2014.

The Pathway to the Stars, Footprints on Earth theme still guides the focus of 100YSS’s Public Symposium. It compels us to continue our journey and maintain our mission. Last year, our participants explored different avenues of fundamental research, technology development, societal systems, and capacities that facilitate ready access to our inner solar system. This year we move that focus forward with more in-depth access to emerging and cutting edge topics – expanding our view of design, creating new pathways in education, discovering psychology, and cutting edge transportation methods. Using a collaborative and Transdisciplinary approach to capability and capacity building, our mission will continue to support our efforts to enhance life here on earth…today. Join us as we log another year in our 100-year mission at the 100YSS 2014 Public Symposium.

Below are the tracks for our 2014 Call For Papers.

Propulsion and Energy

How fast and how far can we travel? Fundamental breakthroughs in propulsion and energy are required for interstellar travel to be feasible. To overcome the formidable time-distance barrier for travel between stars, robust leaps in theory and engineering for energy production, control and storage must occur, as well as the advancement and demonstration of propulsion techniques.

Data, Communications and Information Technology

Sending and receiving information by interstellar travelers or robotic vehicles requires development new methods to traverse the vast emptiness between stars. Additionally, in the absence of routine and timely communication with Earth, a probe or traveler must be self-sufficient in gathering, generating, compiling, storing, analyzing and retrieving data while ensuring these systems are operational over the lifetime of the mission and beyond.

Designing for Interstellar

Design for interstellar probes and crewed vehicles must address the unique characteristics and extreme environment of interstellar space. The equipment, structures, tools, materials, buildings, furniture, cleaning and maintenance processes, clothing—the accouterments of life and work— surround and create an environment. This environment protects, nourishes and facilitates daily activities. For most living things, their environment must fulfill many physical needs and for higher order creatures, physical, mental and emotional requirements need be met as well. Understanding, optimizing and manufacturing design to make these aspects of daily activities sustainable are critical for any hope of successful interstellar flight—with a living crew or robotic probes.

“Uncharted” Space and Destinations

Understanding the interstellar medium and the composition of exosolar systems is vital as we contemplate travel to the stars. In addition, as our gaze is drawn many light years away, focusing on closer objectives as stepping stones to deep space will be essential. Beyond Mars, what missions should be designed to eventuate successful travel to another star? How should potential destinations be evaluated? What do we know and how do we learn more about space between the stars?

Interstellar Education

The journey beyond our solar system will overwhelm current educational practices. Commonly held beliefs and understandings of “learning” must and will be challenged. It is probable that humans have huge untapped capacities. Innovative learning tools and educational structures are needed for syntheses of ever-increasing information. The interstellar education platform will drive new knowledge of the universe and the development of the workforce that can create all that will be needed for interstellar travel. What are these new educational paradigms? What is education’s role—formal and informal—in producing interstellar citizens?

Life Sciences in Space Exploration

As ”Earth-evolved” humans, plants and other life forms travel deeper in space, we must understand much more about the fundamentals of life mechanisms. We must prepare for radical shifts in nutrition, potential therapeutics, growth and development, physiology and ethics. Concurrently, as we search for life beyond the earth we may need to re-evaluate our perspective of what is defined as “life”. Also, how might we use the interstellar environment itself for life science research?

Becoming an Interstellar Civilization

Are humans driven to search beyond our knowledge base? How and in response to what do we create the belief systems that guide us? Interstellar travel is not just about the physical trip, but must include the journey civilizations take together. Who will we be and what will define our societies, morality, ethics, cultures, laws, economies, relationships and identities?

Interstellar Innovations Enhancing Life on Earth

Technology progresses in small increments and by leaps and bounds. Often the biggest steps forward are through the invention and innovation required to meet grand challenges. Interstellar travel represents such a challenge that may spur new economies, combat climate change, address heretofore incurable diseases. This session asks “What are these innovations and how can we deploy these to enhance life here on Earth?”

Poster Sessions

Great ideas arise through unique individual observations, from people of all ages and educational backgrounds. The Poster Sessions are an opportunity to present snapshots of these early concepts and experiments. Poster sessions are a great forum to communicate any commercial opportunities in space or here on earth and seek like-minded collaborators or investors. Presentation in the poster format allows in-depth discussion in a small group setting. Topics are open.


Submissions can be perspectives on the central dogma, experimental results, and review of a specific topic. You must ensure that it fits the track topic to which you are submitting. Individual presentations will only be presented in one track. Individuals do not have to be associated with an institution to submit an abstract. Please note that materials should be non-commercial in content, any commercial presentation that communicates a service, technology or product can be submitted to our poster session.

Submissions will be reviewed based on bona fide field of inquiry/thought/research that derive from validated in patents, literature, mathematics or practice. The data submitted should represent one or more of the following:

  • Actual data or background search generated presents a challenge to current dogma or asks a significant question
  • Data moves the field forward or clarifies some aspect of the field
  • Solves a problem acknowledged in the field
  • Provides a novel, well supported integration and/or review of field and proposes specific concept

Submitted abstracts are well written, 300 word, concise and includes a statement of the following items. If actual data, results and conclusions are not available, please provide a well though out plan for how the information will be generated.

  • Background
  • Problem and hypothesis
  • Experimental design (or literature review)
  • Data
  • Results
  • Conclusions and Discussion

For Social Science submissions, (e.g. Interstellar Education and Becoming an Interstellar Civilization Tracks), the following guidelines apply for the abstract, presentation and paper submissions. The submissions should:

  • Articulate the issue or research question to be discussed,
  • Indicate the methodological or critical framework used, and
  • Indicate the findings or conclusions to be presented and/or the relevance to wider conference themes.

Presentations and papers can present any kind of research or analysis, but it should be written so that the importance of the work can be understood by reviewers working in different disciplines or using different approaches. Cross- or trans-discipline work is especially encouraged.

100YSS Poster Submissions

In order to provide a broader audience the opportunity to present their ideas, there will be on option to present a poster for your submission. All authors are welcome to present in the Poster session. Individuals can submit for poster session only. A Track Chair may also select submissions for a poster presentation. Individuals or companies advertising a service, technology or product can submit for poster only presentations. If you are a commercial entity, the poster session may be the perfect opportunity to present you idea. Each poster must fit into the 100YSS mission and provide a valid line of inquiry. The final submission should be 4ft x 4ft or 122 cm x 122 cm.

2014 Call for Papers Timeline

  • Call for papers opens: 11 April
  • Abstracts due: 20 June
  • Notification of acceptance: 15 July
  • If accepted, Presentations and Posters Due: 10 September

The 100YSS Style Guide for Papers will be provided to presenters on acceptance of abstract.

To submit your abstract, visit:

Please note that you will be asked to create an account to submit your abstract. Registration for the symposium itself is coming soon.

Christian Astronomers

Posted in asteroid/comet impacts, biological, biotech/medical, business, chemistry, climatology, complex systems, counterterrorism, defense, economics, education, engineering, ethics, events, evolution, existential risks, finance, futurism, geopolitics, habitats, homo sapiens, human trajectories, life extension, lifeboat, media & arts, military, nuclear weapons, open source, physics, policy, space, sustainability, transparencyTagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments on Christian Astronomers

“The more anxiety one produces, the more the discussion there would be about how real and how possible actual existential threats are.”

John Hunt recently queried me on what steps I might take to form an organization to advocate for survival colonies and planetary defense. His comment on anxiety is quite succinct. In truth the landing on the moon was the product of fear- of the former Soviet Union’s lead in rocket technology. As we as a nation quelled that anxiety the budget for human space flight dwindled. But the fear of a nuclear winter continued to grow along with the size of our arsenals.

Interestingly, at the height of the cold war, evidence of yet another threat to human existence was uncovered in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico in 1981; Chicxulub. But even before the dinosaur killer was discovered, perhaps the greatest threat of all to humanity was born in 1973 when Herb Boyer and Stanley Cohen created the first genetically modified organism. The money to answer both of these threats by going into space continues to be expended by the military industrial complex.

Mile wide rocks in space and microscopic organisms on earth are both threats to our existence, but the third and undoubtedly greatest threat is our own apathy. Why do we expend the tremendous resources of our race on everything BUT keeping it from going extinct?

The answer to this important question is our own fear of death. As I have written previously, we are as individuals in the predicament of a circus freak on death row. It is a bizarre yet accurate characterization. None of us expect to live forever, but then we do not expect to die tomorrow either. We are in limbo between certain death and temporary life and cannot face the reality of the first while obsessing over the banalities of the second.

Examples of our determination to stay distracted can be found in the babbling of gravity modifiers, CERN doomsday prophets, and various other fruit flavored contributors to this blog. We desperately want to believe in UFO’s, conspiracies and fantastical solutions so we do not have to face the disquiet we experience whenever we pass a funeral home or graveyard. I am happy to pummel these idiots with the harsh language they deserve- especially when they destroy the credibility of sites like this which are trying to accomplish something worthwhile.

So I am thinking there is so much anxiety being monopolized that there is little market left for me capitalize on. Something different is required; as Bill Gates advised young entrepreneurs recently, “Don’t do what I did.” It has all been done and no clever marketing or deceptive advertising is going to build cities on other worlds. Space tourism is not going to save us- if anything it is a dangerous waste of time and money.

What is required is a popular culture renaissance that can focus the energy of several generations in a single direction. The uniqueness of this crossroads in history can be found in considering the nearly unbelievable difference in the level of scientific knowledge today compared to a half century ago. There is nothing more evident to the mature members of the western world than it’s age- our standard of living has brought about fewer children while the less fortunate parts of the world have accelerated their reproductive rates. Disparities in wealth and standards of living are stark evidence of the circus freak scenario. Very few of us are aware that there is a possible escape from this death sentence we are all born under. A standby of science fiction for decades has been the freezing of human beings for space travel. To delay death indefinitely and be resurrected when a cure for a disease or old age is found is a familiar concept. The parallels with Christianity are unmistakable.

We, as in my fellow human beings who were born around 1960, are seeing the culture we grew up in fade away as no other generation ever has. We lived through decades of threatened nuclear holocaust only to see our hoped for space age future dismantled by consumerism and profiteering. Personally, I find the presence of skulls everywhere to be the most poignant and disturbing portent of things to come. The veterans who fought in World War II and were everywhere when I was a boy would never have allowed this emblem of the Nazi SS to become so popular. It was the symbol of ruthless and murderous force as being the only meaningful feature of reality. 60 million human beings were killed in the fight against the evil it represents. And now it is back.

To counter to the present lack of vision I would like to introduce an agent of change in the form of a idealized past age. What better ideal than the movement that conquered fascism originally? Christianity did in fact conquer the Roman Empire- and as it is said we are all children of Rome, then we are also children of the carpenter from Nazareth. A technological analogy that can be discerned when considering the original Christianity and the modern world is the Gladius and the Atom Bomb. The Romans learned the fine points of using their infamous short swords by watching gladiators fight to the death- a funerary tradition they inherited from the Etruscans they assimilated. The training of professional gladiators was applied to the military and made “Drill a bloodless Battle and Battle a bloody Drill.”

The sword made the Roman Empire and Christianity inherited this prize. The Atom Bomb has kept modern civilization from World War for over a half century- but so far there is no great social movement that will inherit this mighty construct before it falls into a new dark age. The Fermi Paradox points to the possibility that this empire could well be the last; there will be no more cycles of civilizations rising and falling if we become extinct. If so then this really may be the end of the world- with no need to throw away reason in favor of the Book of Revelation.

What is most curious is that while the sword had no utility outside of murder, the Atomic Bomb holds the power to transcend this arena of earth and allow humankind to populate the galaxy. If this civilization can survive to travel to new worlds then the last empire will have risen- the last because it can never fall again.

So, to form a society of believers in life, in the future of the human race, the goals must be clear and easily understood;

If the human race is to survive, the individual must have some hope of surviving. The immediate need is a way to delay death and that procedure is practically a reality with advances in cryopreservation.

If the human race is to survive, new worlds must be found and colonized. The immediate need is for survival colonies off-world and atomic spaceships to establish those colonies and defend the earth from impact threats.

If the individual and the race as a whole is to survive, action must be taken. The immediate need is an organization to take money in and distribute it to the corporations and politicians that can direct the massive governmental resources necessary to accomplish a great rescue with cryopreservation and to construct spaceships to establish off world colonies and deflect impact threats.

Figuratively, metaphorically, the Christians conquered the old empire and the Astronomers who harness the power of the sun will inherit this empire. Since the more catchy titles have been taken by religious cults, I suggest the organization that will initiate action be called,

The Society of Christian Astronomers

My first call is for the money to copyright the title of the society and a brand I have in mind.

The Truth about Space Travel is Stranger than Fiction

Posted in asteroid/comet impacts, biological, biotech/medical, business, chemistry, climatology, complex systems, cosmology, counterterrorism, defense, economics, education, engineering, ethics, events, evolution, existential risks, finance, futurism, geopolitics, habitats, homo sapiens, human trajectories, life extension, lifeboat, media & arts, military, neuroscience, nuclear weapons, physics, policy, space, sustainability, transparency, treatiesTagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments on The Truth about Space Travel is Stranger than Fiction

I have been corresponding with John Hunt and have decided that perhaps it is time to start moving toward forming a group that can accomplish something.

The recent death of Neil Armstrong has people thinking about space. The explosion of a meteor over Britain and the curiosity rover on Mars are also in the news. But there is really nothing new under the sun. There is nothing that will hold people’s attention for very long outside of their own immediate comfort and basic needs. Money is the central idea of our civilization and everything else is soon forgotten. But this idea of money as the center of all activity is a death sentence. Human beings die and species eventually become extinct just as worlds and suns also are destroyed or burn out. Each of us is in the position of a circus freak on death row. Bizarre, self centered, doomed; a cosmic joke. Of all the creatures on this planet, we are the freaks the other creatures would come to mock- if they were like us. If they were supposedly intelligent like us. But are we actually the intelligent ones? The argument can be made that we lack a necessary characteristic to be considered truly intelligent life forms.

Truly intelligent creatures would be struggling with three problems if they found themselves in our situation as human beings on Earth in the first decades of this 21st century;

1. Mortality. With technology possible to delay death and eventually reverse the aging process, intelligent beings would be directing the balance of planetary resources towards conquering “natural” death.

2. Threats. With technology not just possible, but available, to defend the earth from extinction level events, the resources not being used to seek an answer to the first problem would necessarily be directed toward this second danger.

3. Progress. With science advancing and accelerating, the future prospects for engineering humans for greater intelligence and eventually building super intelligent machines are clear. Crystal clear. Not addressing these prospects is a clear warning that we are, as individuals, as a species, and as a living planet, headed not toward a bright future, but in the opposite direction toward a dead and final end.

One engineered pathogen will destroy us forever. One impact larger than average will destroy us forever. The reasoning that death is somehow “natural” which drives us to ignore the subject of destruction will destroy us forever. Earth changes are inevitable and taking place now- despite our faith in television and popular culture that everything is fun and games. Man is not the measure of all things. We think tomorrow will come just like yesterday- but it will not.

The Truth about Space Travel is that there are no stargates or warp drives that will take us across the galaxy like commecial airliners or cruise ships take us across oceans. If we do wake up and change our course, space voyages will take centuries and human expansion will be measured in millenia. We will be frozen when we travel to distant stars. And this survivable freezing will mark the beginning of a new age since being able to delay death by freezing will completely transform life. The first such successful procedure will mean the end of the world as we know it- and the beginning of a new civilization.

Though unknown to the public, the atomic bomb and then the hydrogen bomb marked the true beginning of the Space Age. Hydrogen bombs can push cities in space, hollow moons, to some percentage of the speed of light. These cities can travel to other stars, such as Epsilon Eridani with it’s massive asteroid belt. And there more artificial hollow moons can be mass produced to provide new worlds to live in. This is not fiction I am speaking of but something we could do right now- today. We only lack the procedure to freeze and successfully revive a human being. It is, indeed, stranger than fiction.

In Beam Propulsion we have the answer to bending the rocket equation to our will and allowing millions and eventually billions of human beings to migrate into space. Just as Verne and Wells made accurate predictions of the decades to come, we now are seeing the possible obvious future unfolding before our eyes.

But the most possible and probable obvious future at this moment is destruction. The end of days. Unless we do something.
You and I and everyone you know is involved in this. Let’s get started.

This essay was posted last year, removed, and is back with small changes. Enjoy.

I became interested in Beyond Earth Orbit- Human Space Flight by way of a college paper I helped my wife research some years ago. Her project for an ethics class was nuclear weapons. I stumbled upon the book “Project Orion, the true story of the atomic spaceship” by George Dyson and was hooked. I had been a science fiction fan in my youth but like most people I thought space operas were only to be realized in the far future. Project Orion changed my worldview. Since then my made up mind has been unmade several times concerning most of the “common knowledge” floating around about space flight in this 21st century. Much of what is generally believed to be true about our space program is made up of recent hearsay used to hype products that further a business plan. When I read these infomercials endlessly repeated as fact I get pretty upset, mostly because exposing these “facts” as false advertising almost always results in vicious attacks. The private space cult fanatics disgust me and I will not apologize for my hard feelings about these people. They mislead, obfuscate, and insult and dogpile anyone who disagrees with their dogma.

It was a slow step by step process but I came to realize the path to the stars is a narrow one. I found the U.S. space effort, described as being on “the flexible path”, to be going nowhere. There is no Flexible Path. The path to colonizing the solar system is narrow indeed due to the laws of physics and materials science. Science fiction movies have conditioned the public to believe such natural laws can be violated and technology that breaks these laws is possible and immanent. This attitude has led to much waste and many tragedies in the past decades and there is soon to come great disappointment over breakthroughs that are far easier said than done. By way of political contributions and backroom deals, the flexible path scheme came into existence as a way of making money for a small group of investors looking to cash in on public ignorance of technology through influence peddling. It is a convoluted and confusing story and perhaps the best way to make the truth clear is to start at the desired end and work backwards.

If the end goal is new worlds for humankind to inhabit, the earliest practical portrayal of a possible new world was in the 1929 work, “The World, The Flesh, and The Devil”, by socialist John Desmond Bernal. I must say I am no socialist (or capitalist), but I am someone who is often unhappy with people at either end of that spectrum. Space is not about politics- it is about survival. More than just surviving- thriving. Human beings need earth-like conditions to thrive and a artificial hollow moon as described by Bernal can provide those conditions.Though the sphere proposed by Bernal does not address artificial gravity, the hollow sphere concept does, if spun, allow for earth gravity on the inner surface at the equator. Hollow spheres in space can provide habitats for thousands, millions, perhaps even tens of billions of people. Space is big, with quite large quantities of rock floating around and plenty of solar energy waiting to be exploited. And tens of thousands of icy comets. Solar energy and low gravity resources in the asteroid belt mean that building on a much larger scale than we do on earth is practical. While we construct thousand foot supertankers and skyscrapers with some difficulty in earth gravity, the same masses of metal and concrete in space can form a shell many miles in diameter with many times less energy expended.

The most interesting fact of all about Bernal spheres is that building them is not any kind of futuristic science fiction undertaking in terms of materials and engineering. The sphere is the strongest shape and the energy to melt and refine ore and the various rocks and ices are available, and so there are no apparent showstoppers. Fill a Bernal sphere with comet water and air and spin and humankind has created a new world to live in. Enclosed worlds capable of traveling for centuries to other star systems when the time comes. While we have the technology, amazingly, to build such hollow moons right now, we lack only a single medical procedure to allow for star travel- revivable cryopreservation. This one key piece of technology, which also breaks no laws of physics, is all that holds the human race back from colonizing the galaxy. This future is not the hyperspace or warp drive or stargate fantasies the public has in mind. Though slowboats do not lend themselves well to screenplays and formula blockbusters, they are exciting to those who understand what is possible in the near future, in just a matter of decades. But before these new worlds can be manufactured, probably near the end of this century, humankind must first establish an infrastructure in deep space to enable that industry.

To live in space is different than just surviving a visit. Missions based on how much radiation and zero G debilitation a human being can survive are certain to fail. Providing earth radiation levels and gravity is certain to succeed. Radiation is the first killer, and lack of gravity as a debilitator is the second made even worse by the first. To set up an infrastructure that will allow colonies and eventually migration requires spaceships and these radiation and hypogravity hazards cannot be avoided. The only guaranteed shield against the heavy nuclei component of cosmic radiation is mass and distance. The only practical spaceship shielding is 14 or more feet of water. The only way to propel this much mass around the solar system is with nuclear energy. Nuclear activities in earth orbit are not acceptable. Lifting thousands and eventually millions of tons of water into earth orbit are also not plausible. This path of reasoning leads to the moon where nuclear activities are permissible and there is water. The only way to get to the moon is with Heavy Lift Vehicles like the Saturn V and the future SLS. The only way to transport fissionables to the moon safely is with Heavy Lift Vehicles. And this is where the private space agenda rears it’s ugly head. HLV’s and anything needing massive governmental resources, such as nuclear energy, are blasphemy to the private space cult. While their dogma preaches that cheap lift can be had with smaller kerosene rockets with a high launch rate, they go on to enable missions beyond earth orbit by way of fuel depots and transfer in space. For a scientifically ignorant public this all makes sense. But it is the kerosene-hydrogen disconnect that exposes the private space flexible path as a business plan to fool taxpayers into subsidizing a Low Earth Orbit space tourism industry for the ultra-rich.

Liquid hydrogen does not store well and is very difficult to transfer. It is difficult on the ground but in space it has never been done because it is such a nightmare. The entire transfer system and receiving tank have to be pre-cooled with liquid helium and a perfect pre-cool is physically impossible. This generates liquid hydrogen boil-off that must be re-liquified- which generates the exo-thermic form of hydrogen- that generates more boil-off. Compounded by space radiation and zero gravity effects, this is all a real mess that no one wants to talk about. Like radiation shielding, it is a topic avoided by private space advocates to the point of hurling insults. Not only is hydrogen hard to handle on the ground and much harder to deal with in space, an engine burning it requires a turbopump ten times more powerful than one for a kerosene engine. Which is why kerosene is hyped by private space as such a wonderful propellent- because both handling hydrogen and using hydrogen engines is much more expensive and cuts into projected profit margins. So why does the orbital fuel depot and transfer concept specify liquid hydrogen? If kerosene is so much better then why bother with liquid hydrogen in orbital fuel depots? Because there is no substitute for hydrogen Earth Departure Stages when it comes to escaping earth’s gravitational field. Using other propellants multiplies the size of these stages several times. Any human missions Beyond Earth Orbit not using liquid hydrogen Earth Departure Stages look like Battlestar Galactica. Because of the Apollo program and every study done on any BEO missions, private space knows they cannot claim otherwise and get away with it. So private space advocates avoid this subject like the plague. Since it is not practical to store or transfer liquid hydrogen in space a direct launch out of orbit, like the Apollo program, is required. The laws of physics have not changed since the 1960’s. Since the inferior lift vehicles advocated in the flexible path are only capable of boosting a few tons at a time out of orbit, Heavy Lift Vehicles become necessary. Thus, there is no substitute for a HLV with hydrogen upper stages. There is no cheap; space flight is inherently expensive.

The resources necessary to build an infrastructure for BEO-HSF are unavailable to private space. HLV’s sending packaged fissionables to the moon are completely out of reach of “entrepreneurs” claiming the flexible path will open the solar system to colonization. In fact, private space claiming they are the future of space exploration is a lie, a deception being used to acquire taxpayer support for space tourism. Forty years of space stations going in endless circles at very high altitude is a dead end. The space tourism industry wants this truth suppressed and portrays LEO stations as the cutting edge of “exploration.” The justification and source of funding for BEO-HSF is impact defense and survival colonies. The DOD is spending vast treasure on useless cold war toys that guarantee huge profits for the defense industry. Just as the new space movement is all about deception, so the the DOD is guilty of neglecting the most vital mission of the U.S. space program; safeguarding the earth and the human race.

The recent Skeptical Enquirer article linked to this site proclaiming antimatter propulsion as “pseudoscience” was.….wrong.

Antimatter will have to be produced in quantity to be used for propulsion but very small quantities may be all that is required for an interim system using antimatter to ignite fusion reactions.

It may be that some people pushing their own miracle solutions do not like other more practical possibilities.

Unlike any type of gravity manipulation, anti-matter is a fact. Anti-matter catalyzed fusion is a possible method of interstellar propulsion; far more in the realm of possibility than anti-gravity.

It’s been a while since anyone contributed a post on space exploration here on the Lifeboat blogs, so I thought I’d contribute a few thoughts on the subject of potential hazards to interstellar travel in the future — if indeed humanity ever attempts to explore that far in space.

It is only recently that the Voyager probes provided us with some idea of the nature of the boundary of our solar system with what is commonly referred to as the local fluff, The Local Interstellar Cloud, through which we have been travelling for the past 100,000 years or so, and which we will continue to travel through for another 10,000 or 20,000 years yet. The cloud has a temperate of about 6000°C — albeit very tenuous.

We are protected by the effects of the local fluff by the solar wind and the sun’s magnetic field, the front between the two just beyond the termination shock where the solar wind slows to subsonic velocities. Here, in the heliosheath, the solar wind becomes turbulent by its interaction with the interstellar medium, and keeping the interstellar medium at bay from the inners of the solar system, the region currently under study by the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 space probes. It has been hypothesised that there may be a hydrogen wall further out between the bow shock and the heliopause composed of ISM interacting with the edge of the heliosphere, another obstacle to consider with interstellar travel.

The short end of the stick is that what many consider ‘open space’ to traverse once we get beyond the Kuiper belt may in fact be many more mission-threatening obstacles to traverse to reach beyond our solar system. Opinions welcome. I am not an expert on this.

Dear Lifeboat Foundation Family & Friends,

A few months back, my Aunt Charlotte wrote, wondering why I — a relentless searcher focused upon human evolution and long-term human survival strategy, had chosen to pursue a PhD in economics (Banking & Finance). I recently replied that, as it turns out, sound economic theory and global financial stability both play central roles in the quest for long-term human survival. In the fifth and final chapter of my recent Masters thesis, On the Problem of Sustainable Economic Development: A Game-Theoretical Solution, I argued (with considerable passion) that much of the blame for the economic crisis of 2008 (which is, essentially still upon us) may be attributed the adoption of Keynesian economics and the dismissal of the powerful counter-arguments tabled by his great rival, F.A. von Hayek. Despite the fact that they remained friends all the way until the very end, their theories are diametrically opposed at nearly every point. There was, however, at least one central point they agreed upon — indeed, Hayek was fond of quoting one of Keynes’ most famous maxims: “The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else” [1].

And, with this nontrivial problem and and the great Hayek vs. Keynes debate in mind, I’ll offer a preview-by-way-of-prelude with this invitation to turn a few pages of On the Problem of Modern Portfolio Theory: In Search of a Timeless & Universal Investment Perspective:

It is perhaps significant that Keynes hated to be addressed as “professor” (he never had that title). He was not primarily a scholar. He was a great amateur in many fields of knowledge and the arts; he had all the gifts of a great politician and a political pamphleteer; and he knew that “the ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is generally understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else” [1]. And as he had a mind capable of recasting, in the intervals of his other occupations, the body of current economic theory, he more than any of his compeers had come to affect current thought. Whether it was he who was right or wrong, only the future will show. There are some who fear that if Lenin’s statement is correct that the best way to destroy the capitalist system is to debauch the currency, of which Keynes himself has reminded us [1], it will be largely due to Keynes’s influence if this prescription is followed.…

Perhaps the explanation of much that is puzzling about Keynes’s mind lies in the supreme confidence he had acquired in his power to play on public opinion as a supreme master plays on his instrument. He loved to pose in the role of a Cassandra whose warnings were not listened to. But, in fact, his early success in swinging round public opinion about the peace treaties had given him probably even an exaggerated estimate of his powers. I shall never forget one occasion – I believe the last time that I met him – when he startled me by an uncommonly frank expression of this. It was early in 1946, shortly after he had returned from the strenuous and exhausting negotiations in Washington on the British loan. Earlier in the evening he had fascinated the company by a detailed account of the American market for Elizabethan books which in any other man would have given the impression that he had devoted most of his time in the United States to that subject. Later a turn in the conversation made me ask him whether he was not concerned about what some of his disciples were making of his theories. After a not very complimentary remark about the persons concerned, he proceeded to reassure me by explaining that those ideas had been badly needed at the time he had launched them. He continued by indicating that I need not be alarmed; if they should ever become dangerous I could rely upon him again quickly to swing round public opinion – and he indicated by a quick movement of his hand how rapidly that would be done. But three months later he was dead [2].

As always, any and all comments, criticisms, thoughts, and suggestions are welcome!

Bidding you Godspeed,

Matt Funk, FLS, PhD Candidate, University of Malta, Dept. of Banking & Finance

[1]. KE YNES, J. (1920). The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (Palgrave Macmillan, London).

[2]. HAYEK, F. (1952). Review of R.F. Harrod’s ‘The Life of John Maynard Keynes’. J of Mod Hist 24:195–198.

Jacob Haqq-Misra and Seth D. Baum (2009). The Sustainability Solution to the Fermi Paradox. Journal of the British Interplanetary Society 62: 47–51.

Background: The Fermi Paradox
According to a simple but powerful inference introduced by physicist Enrico Fermi in 1950, we should expect to observe numerous extraterrestrial civilizations throughout our galaxy. Given the old age of our galaxy, Fermi postulated that if the evolution of life and subsequent development of intelligence is common, then extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) could have colonized the Milky Way several times over by now. Thus, the paradox is: if ETI should be so widespread, where are they? Many solutions have been proposed to account for our absence of ETI observation. Perhaps the occurrence of life or intelligence is rare in the galaxy. Perhaps ETI inevitably destroy themselves soon after developing advanced technology. Perhaps ETI are keeping Earth as a zoo!

The ‘Sustainability Solution’
The Haqq-Misra & Baum paper presents a definitive statement on a plausible but often overlooked solution to the Fermi paradox, which the authors name the “Sustainability Solution”. The Sustainability Solution states: the absence of ETI observation can be explained by the possibility that exponential or other faster-growth is not a sustainable development pattern for intelligent civilizations. Exponential growth is implicit in Fermi’s claim that ETI could quickly expand through the galaxy, an assumption based on observations of human expansion on Earth. However, as we are now learning all too well, our exponential expansion frequently proves unsustainable as we reach the limits of available resources. Likewise, because all civilizations throughout the universe may have limited resources, it is possible that all civilizations face similar issues of sustainability. In other words, unsustainably growing civilizations may inevitably collapse. This possibility is the essence of the Sustainability Solution.

Implications for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI)
If the Sustainability Solution is true, then we may never observe a galactic-scale ETI civilization, for such an empire would have grown and collapsed too quickly for us to notice. SETI efforts should therefore focus on ETI that grow within the limits of their carrying capacity and thereby avoid collapse. These slower-growth ETI may possess the technological capacity for both radio broadcasts and remote interstellar exploration. Thus, SETI may be more successful if it is expanded to include a search of our Solar System for small, unmanned ETI satellites.

Implications for Human Civilization Management
Does the Sustainability Solution mean that humanity must live sustainably in order to avoid collapse? Not necessarily. Humanity could collapse even if it lives sustainably—for example, if it collides with a large asteroid. Alternatively, humanity may be able to grow rapidly for much longer—for example, until we have colonized the entire Solar System. Finally, the Sustainability Solution is only one of several possible solutions to the Fermi paradox, so it is not necessarily the case that all civilizations must grow sustainably or else face collapse. However, the possibility of the Sustainability Solution makes it more likely that humanity must live more sustainably if it is to avoid collapse.