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21st Century Ark?

By premier in MLP
Wed Oct 31, 2001 at 01:26:59 PM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)
Science

This article over at MSNBC of all places, turned out to be a very intersting look at how the recent terrorist events have given a boost to the idea of creating a system in which to sustain human life in space, or possibly on other planets in order to prevent our own extinction.


Although the topic is almost still in it's infancy and rooted in science fiction, discussion and thought on the issue is increasing. Numerous experts weigh in on the matter, including Stephen Hawking and Freedmon Dyson from the Institute for Advanced Study.

Other threats, such as asteroids are also a motivating factor in the research, and are discussed by several NASA researchers.

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21st Century Ark? | 23 comments (19 topical, 4 editorial, 0 hidden)
There is only one way to prevent our extinction. (3.66 / 9) (#1)
by imperium on Wed Oct 31, 2001 at 05:44:49 AM EST

Sort our own planet out. However, anyone that wants to leave and is prepared to fund it privately, may do so. Have fun in the void, and send us a postcard!

p.s. I think you'll find Stephen Hawking quite dull company in the longer term, too..

x.
imperium

Oh Really? (3.66 / 3) (#13)
by hjw on Wed Oct 31, 2001 at 11:35:58 AM EST

Could you provide me with the independent studies that demonstrate that all other options for species survival won't work. Is there a timeframe for when the technologies necessary for these alternates become affordable.

We could all die at any moment. An undetected asteroid, a nearby supernova, self destruction, ecosystem collapse. Not to mention the almost guaranteed death of Sol.

I think the Ark is a fine idea, and one of the more important endeavours man will ever take.

I don't believe we are the only lifeforms in the galaxy, but we might be! I think it's foolish to not be thinking about continuing our species survival elsewhere. I want my descendents to have the same opportunities for the joys of life that I have had. I want want to apply that to every generation of humans that are ever born.

But I do agree that we should learn to manage our own planet properly.



[ Parent ]

I still don't understand... (4.00 / 2) (#18)
by Hizonner on Wed Oct 31, 2001 at 12:19:46 PM EST

... why everybody is so hung up on species survival as a goal. I can see individual survival. I can certainly see wanting to treat individual people morally. I can, to some degree, see wanting to maintain overall species diversity; there's a certain aesthetic value in that. I can see wanting to create descendants, whether genetic or technological, who might surpass ourselves intellectually, morally, or aesthetically... as individuals.

...but what's so great about h. sapiens sapiens, 21st-century version, that I, as an individual, should care if it goes extinct? What counts as keeping it from going extinct, anyway? Do we have to maintain it largely unchanged, or can we allow some genetic drift over the millennia? Can we actively improve it? I assume jumping the track to directed machine evolution is right out, but what about genetic engineering?

Not that I think there's any significant danger of humanity going extinct real soon. Horrible, unacceptable mass deaths, sure, but not extinction.

[ Parent ]

Death of old Sol? (4.50 / 2) (#19)
by Blue Aardvark House on Wed Oct 31, 2001 at 12:52:21 PM EST

Taken from 4Learning.com's website:

The Sun's lifespan is ten billion years.

I think that worry should be tabled for now, since its demise is BILLIONS of years away.

Who knows what we'll be doing then?

Self-destruction and ecosystem destruction are the only immediate threats. Work on those first.

[ Parent ]

Pity ... (3.80 / 5) (#2)
by iwnbap on Wed Oct 31, 2001 at 05:47:51 AM EST

It doesn't really say how to go about getting people into space. Heading into space with a lot of DNA is all very well, but you have to do something with it once you're up there.

What to do in space... (2.00 / 1) (#10)
by KLH on Wed Oct 31, 2001 at 10:06:50 AM EST

Think Dr. Strangelove...
I carnt spell.
[ Parent ]
It will happen one day. Sooner or later. (4.75 / 8) (#3)
by loaf on Wed Oct 31, 2001 at 06:39:56 AM EST

Theoretically, we know we can do it, but we need some good economic or political reason for doing it. Which, I think, is the fallacy - we shouldn't need an economic reason for doing these things, we should be just doing them.

Apparently, there was a T-shirt produced by some NASA employees "Will Build Space Station for food". Money isn't the root of all evil, but it is the root cause of modern "civilised" society taking some huge wrong turns - that we're chasing money rather than progress as our prime goals.

Some have argued that is it really worth exporting the crap we already visit on each other into space? Or more in line with this article, that we can leave the hassles caused by government and international terrorism behind?

That's a step beyond my nascent thoughts. My reasoning goes something along the lines of "we stay on earth, we doom our species to extinction".

I guess it's just a branch of existentialism - that there must be more to it than what we experience on this planet, what is the wiring under the boards? Who or what hooked together this arcade ride we're on? But if there's nothing more to it, then we've got nothing to lose and everything to gain by exploring the physical boundaries rather than just sitting around fiddling.

I hope so. (3.60 / 5) (#7)
by emc2 on Wed Oct 31, 2001 at 08:03:46 AM EST

But the reality is that people need to eat and pay the mortgage and the Internet connection to download some p0rn.

How are we going to finance the stablishment of a permanent colony in Mars? Taxes? Private Industry?

I would find obscene to finance space colonization with taxes while people all around the globe are starving to death. Space research is still backed because traditionaly it is of military interest, not for idealistic reasons (no matter wht JFK made USians believe), otherwise it would get little to none tax money. For comapnies to intervene, there should be a gain to be made, which there is none at the present.

The great exploration adventures of history had mostly economic interests as their main reason, and it will be so with space travel and colonization. We will move to Mars when it becomes economicaly sound to go there. We will leave the Solar system when it is economicaly interesting to do so. In any event, I think that colonization of Mars is still a couple of hundred years away (at least) and a first serious attempt of traveling to other Solar Systems will happen in around 3 or 4 thousend years (once Mars as been fully exploited).



---
The Devil is in the details.
Did you read that EULA today?

[ Parent ]
Sorry, ain't doin' nothin' for no reason a-tall (2.66 / 3) (#15)
by Hizonner on Wed Oct 31, 2001 at 12:05:34 PM EST

Theoretically, we know we can do it, but we need some good economic or political reason for doing it. Which, I think, is the fallacy - we shouldn't need an economic reason for doing these things, we should be just doing them.

There is no "we". You are free, modulo a few admittedly stupid government restrictions, to go build yourself a space colony. Just don't force me to finance you.

Saying "there's an economic reason" is exactly the same as saying "enough people want it (or something they get from it) badly enough to be willing to pay for it". In this case, enough people do not want it badly enough to be willing to pay for it at the present price.

In another 50 years, the price will almost certainly have come way, way down, and the incentives may have gone up some. At that point, such colonies may get built.

Apparently, there was a T-shirt produced by some NASA employees "Will Build Space Station for food".

Ah, the ISS... a useless boondoggle with almost no scientific value, very little value in terms of learning how to engineer anything more, and damned little aesthetic value. Admittedly, what value it could have had was reduced by the need to include the Russians.

Money isn't the root of all evil, but it is the root cause of modern "civilised" society taking some huge wrong turns - that we're chasing money rather than progress as our prime goals.
Oh, give me a break. What do you mean when you say "progress"? Why is moving people into the already well explored region of vacuum immediately surrounding this rock (or onto any of the significantly less appealing nearby rocks) progress?

Is the mere expansion of the human species' range progress? Only in the same sense that a bacterial colony makes "progress". What is to be gained? A sense of adventure? Well, pay for your own adventures, bunky... nobody subsidizes the rest of the entertainment industry.

I'd love to wander around in space myself, but I'm honest enough to call it tourism... and patient enough to wait until it's feasible. Maybe I'll go off planet for my 100th birthday. Similarly, I have my own ideas of what would be "progress", but I'm not going to ask you to spend your time and resources achieving them for me.

That's a step beyond my nascent thoughts. My reasoning goes something along the lines of "we stay on earth, we doom our species to extinction".

Bollocks.

Of course, all species are, in the long run, "doomed to extinction". They evolve into something else, they get replaced by competitors, their ecological niches go away. This is not even necessarily a bad thing; at least you get some variety that way. You might even get something that could reasonably be called "progress".

Anyway, there's always the heat death of the Universe to consider. That may be a bad thing, but we're all stuck with it. It will happen regardless of how many colonies are out there.

However, it seems unlikely that the human species will go extinct in the next 50 or 100 years, before space travel becomes cheap enough and easy enough to be picked up naturally. If it does go extinct, it will be because somebody with a fuckload of resources executed a deliberate, very carefully planned operation designed to make it go extinct. It seems unlikely that such an operation would forget to attack space colonies... and equally unlikely that colonies built with present technology would be any more defensible than the Earth.

I guess it's just a branch of existentialism - that there must be more to it than what we experience on this planet, what is the wiring under the boards? Who or what hooked together this arcade ride we're on? But if there's nothing more to it, then we've got nothing to lose and everything to gain by exploring the physical boundaries rather than just sitting around fiddling.

Go wild, enjoy yourself. A lot of people are going to think you're the one doing the "fiddling".

[ Parent ]

But why shouldn't we be challenging the economic? (5.00 / 2) (#20)
by loaf on Wed Oct 31, 2001 at 01:27:26 PM EST

There is no "we". You are free, modulo a few admittedly stupid government restrictions, to go build yourself a space colony. Just don't force me to finance you.

No force required - just a re-evaluation of your priorities. Economics and the mindless pursuit of "money" is futile. It's personally rewarding but as a species it's just pissing in the wind.

I would posit that anything that furthers the ability of the earthbound to leave the earth is to be encouraged.

All other pursuits are merely continuing our captivity on this planet, all the time using up finite resources and reducing (in tiny decrements, admittedly) the chances of us having the wherewithal to leave.

There is nothing more important than the space programme. That economics intrudes - in particular the necessity of the military - and is the only way to get it done is unfortunate, but twas ever thus in human affairs.

So. How to pay for something that should be above needing to be paid for?

Oh, give me a break. What do you mean when you say "progress"? Why is moving people into the already well explored region of vacuum immediately surrounding this rock (or onto any of the significantly less appealing nearby rocks) progress?

Stepping stones, pure and simple. Every journey starts with a single step and all those clichés.

But all this presupposes that we're only destined to infest this planet. That the fate that awaits us is bounded by our atmosphere. But if there is no hell below us and above us only sky, then the sky is the limit. I don't think of the colonisation of space as the rats fleeing the ship, it's the pioneers of a new frontier, stepping from extra-terrestrial stone to stone. The natural evolution of our expansion on earth.

Yes, current methods make inter-planetary, let alone inter-galactic, travel incredible hard and resource expensive ... but that's why we need research into the problem and new ideas and new processes to do in the future what we cannot yet.

The human species has at its disposal the means to feed, clothe, educate and house every single member of its species without doing even more harm to the earth than we have already. That we don't should be a cause of shame to those in the posession of the power to make a difference.

That should not, though, be an argument to say that we shouldn't also be looking to go on. Where next in human history? Or are we just going to spend the next millennium, like the last inextricably tending towards our own oblivion, all the while doing inconsequential things; waging tribal wars, reading crap novels, making crap soap operas, searching the net for pr0n and playing crap computer games?

[ Parent ]

OK, but why? (3.50 / 2) (#21)
by Hizonner on Wed Oct 31, 2001 at 02:49:07 PM EST

It's personally rewarding but as a species it's just pissing in the wind.

... and exactly what is "good" for a mindless aggregate like a species, and why should I care?

I don't even agree that infinite personal accumulation of tradeable resources (money) is personally rewarding. At some point, you reach a level of diminishing returns. Nonetheless, money is how we decide how to allocate resources, and space at today's prices takes an incredible amount of it.

I would posit that anything that furthers the ability of the earthbound to leave the earth is to be encouraged.

Why? What's so good about leaving Earth? Beyond your personal, aesthetic desire to see it happen, that is.

By the way, although it's not central to my argument, I don't see these very artificial projects as really making it much, if any, easier for anybody but hand-picked astronauts to go to space, now or in the future.

But all this presupposes that we're only destined to infest this planet. That the fate that awaits us is bounded by our atmosphere. But if there is no hell below us and above us only sky, then the sky is the limit. I don't think of the colonisation of space as the rats fleeing the ship, it's the pioneers of a new frontier, stepping from extra-terrestrial stone to stone. The natural evolution of our expansion on earth.

... but why is this infinite expansion good? Not only why do you want to see it, but why do you expect other people to see it as good? Your very choice of the word "infest" makes me think of a reasonless, soulless hive, expanding for no reason other than to expand.

If our purpose in life is what we make it (which I believe it would be even if there were a God), then we get to choose our goals. We don't have to follow some idea of manifest destiny. We can do what we want, and, if you want other people to share your desire to go to space, you have to convince them.

Or are we just going to spend the next millennium, like the last inextricably tending towards our own oblivion, all the while doing inconsequential things; waging tribal wars, reading crap novels, making crap soap operas, searching the net for pr0n and playing crap computer games?

That's a specious argument based on cheap shots. I could write a paragraph asking why we should spend the next millennium like the last however many, mindlessly expanding our range, entering new territory not fundamentally different from the old, ignoring our intellectual, emotional, and spiritual development in favor of mindless expansion and false exploration.

Why should people care about the sort of exploration and expansion you want? Why is it good?

Especially, why should one be in such a hurry to do it, when a short wait will make it infinitely easier? The human race has managed to live on Earth for hundreds of thousands of years so far. Another 50, or 100, or 1000, isn't going to make any difference in any grand destiny. What's your rush?

Space will happen naturally when the technological base is there, and there are all kinds of forces driving the technological base forward. I don't think people could stop the technology from appearing even if they wanted to. Soon enough, those who want to go will be able to do so, without burdening others. Why force it?

[ Parent ]

Titan A.E.? (3.00 / 3) (#6)
by theboz on Wed Oct 31, 2001 at 07:37:59 AM EST

It sounds like most of this is from the plot of the cartoon, Titan A.E. Basically some aliens were killing the humans and later destroyed Earth, so a human scientist made a spaceship that contained all the DNA of every living animal on Earth and when given a large enough energy source, the spaceship did some stuff and turned into a planet like a new Earth.

I guess it's not a bad idea to have backups, but I prefer to keep the original beings on Earth to be fine.

Stuff.

Pretty interesting idea... (2.66 / 3) (#8)
by Blue Aardvark House on Wed Oct 31, 2001 at 09:35:03 AM EST

However, we wouldn't need to store some of our species elsewhere if we took care of the planet we already have.

P.S. - Looking at the title, I got excited for a moment, thinking you were honoring the 21st century Aardvark. ;+)

Great idea! (4.80 / 5) (#9)
by b1t r0t on Wed Oct 31, 2001 at 09:36:45 AM EST

Let's send the B-ark up first, though.

-- Indymedia: the fanfiction.net of journalism.
No, don't do that! (4.00 / 2) (#23)
by fluffy grue on Wed Oct 31, 2001 at 05:17:39 PM EST

I don't want to be wiped out by a telephone-communicated disease!

Oh, wait, I (and pretty much everyone else) use a cellphone anyway. Carry on.
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Ideal terrorist target (4.00 / 2) (#12)
by drquick on Wed Oct 31, 2001 at 11:19:22 AM EST

Wouldn't the Arc be an ideal target for bio-terrorist?

And, as if we are faceing *extinction* because of bio-terrorism. No way! It's just a funny and entertaining sci-fi dream.

An examination (none / 0) (#16)
by finial on Wed Oct 31, 2001 at 12:07:43 PM EST

This was thoroughly examined in the 1951 classic When Worlds Collide

If you can get by the schlocky 50's Sci-Fi stuff, there's some interesting concepts there like, how will people behave at the 11th hour, can someone buy his way on board, how do you choose those who are going and so on.



It won't happen (3.00 / 2) (#17)
by epepke on Wed Oct 31, 2001 at 12:18:59 PM EST

When things are good, people don't care.

When things are bad, people say "Why spend all that money in space when we have problems right here on Earth?"

Of course, all but the most brain-dead, knee-jerk idiots are capable of figuring out that nobody is spending any money in space because there aren't any ATM machines or vendors in space, and any money spent on the space program is spent right here on Earth. Apparently, though, there are a lot of brain-dead, knee-jerk idiots. Now they have postmodernism to give their idiocy more thwacking power, an advantage they didn't have in the 1970's when they managed to shut down the space program anyway.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


iD4: Independence Day (4.33 / 3) (#22)
by pin0cchio on Wed Oct 31, 2001 at 02:58:59 PM EST

creating a system in which to sustain human life in space, or possibly on other planets in order to prevent our own extinction.

This might work... until we actually try to land. Then we run into a danger of their planet's equivalent of Will Smith kicking our asses.


lj65
21st Century Ark? | 23 comments (19 topical, 4 editorial, 0 hidden)
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