“In Designed for the Future, author Jared Green asks eighty of today’s most innovative architects, urban planners, landscape architects, journalists, artists, and environmental leaders the same question: what gives you the hope that a sustainable future is possible?”
It is a race against time- will this knowledge save us or destroy us? Genetic modification may eventually reverse aging and bring about a new age but it is more likely the end of the world is coming.
The Fermi Paradox informs us that intelligent life may not be intelligent enough to keep from destroying itself. Nothing will destroy us faster or more certainly than an engineered pathogen (except possibly an asteroid or comet impact). The only answer to this threat is an off world survival colony. Ceres would be perfect.
“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.
Four years ago MARCUS WOHLSEN wrote about genetic engineering as a hobby. We are faced with a growing list of pathogens that with a little modification could bring about the end of civilization. It could happen tomorrow.
If you are afraid of guns in the United States, the only solution is to leave. There are millions of guns, many more than estimated, sitting in closets and packed away from when grandpa died. We face the same situation with the Hanta virus, and several others that are in the environment. There is no getting rid of them and no stopping anyone with not-too-expensive lab equipment from playing god and changing them into the end of the world.
The solution is survival colonies in space. Though it sounds bizarre, these colonies should be “manned” by fertile women and maintain sperm banks. 99 men and one woman is the end of the world, while 99 women and a sperm bank is a new one.
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 originally posted last year and is now back with small changes. Enjoy.
The first decade of the 21st century ended with human space flight nowhere near to fulfilling the predictions made at the beginning of the space age. Not even close. Just as the Vietnam war robbed the space exploration budget, the end of the century found vast public funds, a truly mind boggling amount of treasure, spent on the cold war toys that have yielded guaranteed huge profits for the military industrial complex. Many of these incredibly expensive weapon systems do not work as advertised and very few of them have any application in the present war on terror. 911 did not stop the money flowing to new super fighter planes and missiles designed to shoot down other missiles. The promise of space was in truth sacrificed for the profits of the weapons industry. The expected moon bases and colonies on Mars were never funded and no human being has escaped earth orbit since the last Apollo mission. The underfunded space shuttle completely failed to provide the cheap lift and multi-mission capability that was never really possible to achieve. The showpiece International Space Station is little more than a 100 billion dollar collection of tin cans flying in endless circles.
Over a quarter century wasted and the human race seems in large part to have accepted the end of the space age. Despite a collection of old and new inferior lift vehicles incapable of accelerating a spacecraft to escape velocity, there is endless hype concerning the privatization of space and the bright future these for profit enterprises will bring about. The single point of failure in these schemes is the false miracle of fuel depots in space. These orbital gas stations will supposedly enable all the missions that previously could only be accomplished by a Heavy Lift Vehicles like the Saturn V. Cryo fuel storage and transfer is at this time a myth and has never even been attempted due to the extreme difficulties involved. It is simply a smoke screen to disguise defeat. We are not going anywhere if we stay on this path. The only hope for human space flight is the realization that deep space travel may at any time mean the difference between humankind surviving or disappearing forever. If this truth cannot unlock the vast resources required then we are sealing our collective fate. The Spaceship is the only insurance against extinction. Safeguarding the entire human race is the ultimate military mission, yet is completely ignored by our leaders and the defense industry. The inevitable asteroid or comet impact and the threat of a 100 percent lethal plague are with us right now. We as a species are playing a game of Russian roulette. We truly do not know when, but we know what is coming.
Everyone breathes a sigh of relief when it is explained that disastrous impacts only occur an average of once every several million years. The key fact never discussed is impacts are random. An impact could occur tomorrow, and again the next day, and it would just be a blip on a curved line representing the immensity of geologic time. No one would be left to exclaim, “WOW! What were the odds of that happening?” In the same way the threat of engineered pathogens is ignored, overlooked, or scoffed at in the hopes it will just go away. Just as there is little than can be done to stop seasonal flu, there is very little that could be done to stop such an airborne plague once it begins. Naturally evolved pathogens always leave a certain percentage of survivors but an engineered virus does not follow that rule. We are led to believe there is no defense, but we are being decieved and there is nothing further from the truth.
Spaceships can intercept impact threats and deflect them with nuclear devices. Spaceships can carry the people and equipment to construct permanent self-sustaining colonies in the outer solar system that will survive any plague on earth. The vital importance of building such craft is obvious. But Beyond Earth Orbit Human Space Flight (BEO-HSF) cannot be accomplished with a few expendable rockets. While complex weapons systems are easy money for industry because they do not have to work, Spaceships are hard money because they must work. Human beings must adjust their worldview concerning what is expensive and what is worth the expense. To understand the difficulty in building one, we must first define what a Spaceship actually is.
The entertainment and documentary film industry has conditioned the public to think of any craft that carries human beings beyond the atmosphere as a spaceship. A better definition would be a vehicle designed to carry human beings outside low earth orbit (LEO) while providing artificial gravity and radiation protection equal to earth. In addition, a ship makes crossings and changes course so a true ship of space would necessarily be able to travel to other bodies in the solar system. Travel to the moon does not qualify as a true crossing to another body due to the short distance compared to other destinations. Such a quick trip can be made without the gravity and shielding required for interplanetary flight. Another feature of lunar travel is the ability of chemical propulsion systems to accomplish these missions. Due to gravity and radiation solutions, a Spaceship traveling deep space has no propulsion option except nuclear energy. While travel in the inner solar system may use solar power for life support and other systems, nuclear propulsion is still required. Due to the lack of inner system destinations, nuclear power, as well as nuclear propulsion, must be included in defining the true Spaceship.
At this point in history the technology exists for only one form of nuclear propulsion; nuclear pulse (bomb propulsion). This fact is generally unknown to the public and is given little serious consideration in the popular press. Nuclear explosions pushing a ship through space does stretch the imagination, but no more than the idea of heavier than air flight did in the 19th century, even into the first years of the 20th. The difficulty in nuclear propulsion is not the engineering. Billions of dollars of classified weapons research would reveal exactly how to build such a system. It is not how, it is how to build and operate the system well away from the earth. Nuclear materials are an environmental hazard without equal. For this reason transporting and assembling the fuel and components of any nuclear power and propulsion system is the first obstacle. It is overcome by virtue of the previously mentioned body that can be reached with just chemical propulsion; the moon.
As with the Apollo missions of the last century, the moon can be reached on a direct trajectory with a Heavy Lift Vehicle. Such a vehicle, using human rated components, an escape tower, and specially packaged fissionables able to survive a launch failure or reentry, is the only practical method. While a worst case nuclear accident in earth orbit is unacceptable, the potential risk of contamination in lunar orbit is acceptable. Thus, the first problem in building a Spaceship is solved. Nuclear power components and the fuel for nuclear propulsion can be transported by HLV to the moon for assembly and preflight testing. The heaviest parts of the Spaceship are the massive pusher plate the nuclear pulse reacts against and the crew’ s massive radiation shield. The Earth Departure Stages (EDS) that boost the moon bound payloads out of earth orbit to their destinations, can be converted into the double hull of the Spaceship crew section that holds the liquid shielding, and also the structural members of the tower assembly used to absorb the shock of the pulse bomb detonations. The moon facilitates one of the two high mass necessities and can eventually supply the other.The first massive component, the radiation shield, can be supplied immediately in the form of water derived from lunar ice deposits to fill a double hull crew section. Until they are locally fabricated, the Spaceship pusher plates, or “pushers”, will have to come from earth by HLV in thin sections one at a time and stacked to form each ship’s heavy pusher.
The HLV at launch with a wide thin disc mounted at the nose and with side mounted SRB’s will be vaguely familiar to many science fiction fans. There is some resemblance to the starship Enterprise. How many such discs will have to be launched and later stacked to build an all up pusher remains to be seen. Eventually monolithic pushers can be manufactured from lunar materials. Until that time the pushers will have to come from earth in slices with multiple HLV missions. Considering the mass and energy involved, the schemes proposing human space flight by way of smaller cheaper rockets and “gas stations is space” are laughable. There is no cheap; space flight is inherently expensive.
A shock absorbing tower structure mounting a massively shielded crew section coupled to a nuclear reactor and bomb storage section, a massive pusher, and a tether system to generate artificial gravity complete the Spaceship. Using the hundreds of tons of water making up the radiation shield for growing bio-engineered organisms can sustain a closed loop life support system with an endurance of several years. A bomb propelled ship can attain velocities far above those possible with chemical propulsion and enable expeditions to the moons of the outer planets. The slug of matter that is superheated by the bomb and converted into the plasma that actually pushes the Spaceship can be obtained in situ from those distant moons in the outer system. By carrying a percentage of bombs without the mass of plasma slugs, speed and range is extended. This method of extending range was proposed in the original Project Orion. Spaceships can also transport thorium reactors, with fuel derived from lunar thorium ore, to these distant moons enabling permanent colonies to be established. Over 100 bodies in the outer system are large enough to anchor colonies.
During powered flight, when the reactor is shut down and both sections of the ship are joined, a tower structure would be used to decellerate the composite section during bomb pulses. Projecting far ahead of the pusher at the end of the tower, the composit ship section at the front would stroke backward like a descending elevator toward the plate. This system would lower the acceleration forces on the crew and equipment to the level of an aircraft carrier jet catapult launch. When coasting, the Spaceship would spit in half and reel out the engineering section and crew section opposite each other on long tethers to generate artificial gravity by spinning both sections around the pusher as the axis. The spaceship’s nulcear reactor can then be run without the need for very heavy shielding due to the several thousand feet of separation from the crew section. When the tethers are deployed for cruising, one half of the tower would fold against the pusher and reel out the tether with the crew section, and the other half of the tower would do the same in the opposite direction with the nuclear section of the ship. seperater lengths of tether payed out from the split tower can be adjusted to balance the two spinning masses. During coast the crew would look out through viewports separated by14 feet of water and view a slowly rotating star field.
Science fiction has instilled the idea that Spaceships and large scale space exploration is centuries away. In fact, we are perfectly capable of colonizing the solar system with present technology. With a single advance in medical technology- the ability to freeze human beings and then successfully revive them- we would also be immediately capable of travel to the stars. Such a cryopreservation procedure violates no laws of physics and is already used on a smaller scale with sperm and ovum. With this in mind another existential threat to humanity must be appreciated at –the risk of the writer being considered paranoid or delusional. Physicist Stephen Hawking has warned of a possible threat from alien civilizations. Indeed, if we lack only a single technological advance to be capable of star flight, alien civilizations could have already made this advance and embarked on missions of colonization to other stars. The danger is that our world was selected for alien colonization many centuries ago. Unlike the dramatic combat found in science fiction novels and movies, the most likely invasion would take the form of comets steered toward earth as a method of sterilization. Just as we are capable of diverting impact threats away from earth, this capability also entails arranged impacts. An advance alien force would probably sanitize the earth of most indigenious life and plant invasive micro organisms from their native ecosystem. When the alien colonists arrive centuries in the future and are revived, they would find a world already adapted to their biology and ready for introduction of flora, fauna, and settlers. This conversion process may be common in our galaxy. The millions of planets now confirmed to exist only increase the likelihood.
From discussing building the first Spaceships and off-world base on the moon, to the subject of preparing for alien invasion seems a fantastical and inappropriate leap. It is no more incredible than the other unbelievable features of the universe- from super massive black holes to past ages on our own world that saw the end of the dinosaurs.
In a recent comment John Hunt mentioned the most probable solution to the Fermi Paradox and as more and more planets are discovered this solution becomes ever more troubling.
Whether civilizations are rare due to comet and asteroid impacts- as Ed Lu recently stated was a possibility- or they self-destruct due to technology, the greater danger is found in human complacency and greed. We have the ability right now, perhaps as hundreds or even thousands of other civilizations had, to defend ourselves from the external and internal threats to our survival. Somewhat like salmon swimming upstream, it may not be life itself that is rare- it may be intelligent life that survives for any length of time that is almost non-existent.
The answer is in space. The resources necessary to leave Earth and establish off world colonies are available- but there is no cheap. Space travel is inherently expensive. Yet we spend billions on geopolitical power games threatening other human beings with supersonic fighters and robot missile assassins. The technology to defend civilization as a whole from the plausible threat represented by this “Great Silence” will cost us no more than what we spend on expensive projects like vertical take-off stealth fighters and hyper-velocity naval rail guns. But it is not the easy money of weapons; it is the hard money of vehicles and systems that must work far from Earth that is unattractive to the corporate profit motive.
Atomic spaceships capable of transporting colonists and intercepting impact threats are the prerequisites to safeguarding our species.
Cover the deserts in solar energy plants and use electric trains for our transportation infrastructure; the best future I can imagine. A favorite Einstein quote is “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” Perhaps the number we are counting that counts is the amount of energy it would require for a future population of 10 billion people to live like we do in the west.
I was surprised to find a statement to the effect that only one method of generating this energy is practical; solar energy beamed to Earth from the Moon; from wiki–
“In short, Criswell believes that lunar-solar energy is the only viable option for generating the massive amounts of electrical power that would be needed to raise the standard of living in third-world nations to that of first-world nations.
He once said, from the University of Houston, that “We are already well beyond what the biosphere can provide. We have to go outside to get something else.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Criswell
If that is the only way then that is the only way. We had better start asking ourselves what the cost of denial is going to be.
Filthy Lucre will certainly destroy us all if we cannot even pass a law that makes food companies tell us what they are feeding us.
Just as the tax incentives that expired after the Carter Administration destroyed a whole new industry, and just as bio fuels recently turned into the bio bomb, wind energy is poised to crash.
We just will not stop destroying our future.
A coal fired power plant runs for years with very little maintenance, without being shut down or started up- the boilers make steam and turn the turbines and we cannot see the stars because we might as well burn those city lights all night long. It is impossible to compete with black rock you dig out of the ground and put on a train and turn into dependable cheap electricity.
Bio fuel was a tax scam and wind energy will never be cheap, but if Germany is making solar work then by gosh we should be able to.
The only way we will stop burning is if it is legislated against. That’s it. Enough sunlight hits Nevada to power the whole country; that is a fact. We could cover the Mojave in solar thermal power towers and mirror fields for what we pay the military to keep the middle east oil flowing; that is a fact.
But we would have to change our lifestyle. The big corporations see no profit in this at all. So we watch dancing with the stars and drive our cars and wonder why everything get’s worse every year. It is no secret that they will take us for every cent they can until it is all gone and America becomes another third world slum.