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Posts Tagged ‘space colonization

[BLOG] Some Monday links

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  • blogTO notes a Toronto vigil for the Jordanian pilot murdered by ISIS.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly talks about friends and age gaps.
  • Centauri Dreams draws from Poul Anderson</a. to consider the far future.
  • Crooked Timber considers trolling.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper wondering why circumbinary exoplanets are so detectable.
  • The Dragon’s Tales looks at robots: robots which put out fires on American navy ships, robots in China which do deliveries for Alibaba, robots which smuggle drugs.
  • Far Outliers notes Singapore’s pragmatism and its strong military.
  • Language Log notes the language of language diversity.
  • Marginal Revolution wonders about the prospects of the Euro-tied Danish crown.
  • The Planetary Society Blog notes the approach of Ceres.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer considers scenarios for a profitable Nicaragua Canal and notes the oddities of Argentina.
  • Registan looks at Mongolian investment in Tuva, and other adjacent Mongolian-influence Russian regions.
  • Savage Minds looks at Iroquois linguistic J.N.B. Hewitt.
  • Seriously Science notes how immigrant chimpanzees adapt tothe vocalizations of native chimps.
  • Spacing Toronto talks about the need for an activist mayor in Toronto.
  • Torontoist examines the history of important black bookstore Third World Books and Crafts.
  • Towleroad notes many young gay/bi students are looking for sugar daddies, and notes the failure of Slovakia’s anti-gay referendum.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes a new Bosnian Serb law strictly regulating offensive speech online.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the collapse of the Russian world, suggests Russia should not be allowed a role in Donbas, argues that a Ukrainian scenario is unlikely in the Latvian region of Latgale and in the Baltics more broadly, and looks at the growth of fascism in Russia.

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • Anthropology.net notes the importance of anthropological knowledge in understanding the West African Ebola crisis.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at the strange protoplanetary belt of GG Tauri-A.
  • Discover‘s Crux considers requirements for a starfaring civilization.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze points to an apparently young and planet-forming binary star, OGLE-LMC-ECL-11893.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes that China and Russia have blocked the formation of an Antarctic marine reserve, notes the ways in which diverse sciences can be used to understand the pre-Columbian Amazon, and notes a simulation of Titan’s ancient climate.
  • Eastern Approahces looks at the Ukraine-Russia gas deal.
  • Geocurrents examines regional divides in Brazil on the basis of the 2014 presidential election vote.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that PReP can prevent HIV infection even on short notice, and observes that the coming out of Apple CEO Tim Cook has been followed by a Russian parliamentarian’s proposal to ban Apple and the taking down of a monument to Steve Jobs.
  • Language Hat links to a beautiful family tree illustration of Europe’s languages.
  • Language Log notes complex translation issues between Cantonese and Mandarin in Chow Yun Fat’s position on Hong Kong.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money does not like Frank Gehry.
  • Marginal Revolution notes a quixotic movement in the Italian island of Sardinia to be annexed by Switzerland.
  • Peter Watts of No Fucking Icons dislikes the political uses of terrorism by the Canadian government.
  • The Planetary Society Blog notes a design for a drill that could drill deeply into the surfaces of different moons and notes the return of Chinese test moon vehicle Chang’e 5’s probe.
  • Savage Minds notes an interesting comparative study of Seoul and Baltimore.
  • Spacing Toronto looks at the recovery of Toronto’s lost Tomlins Creek.
  • Torontoist discusses the importance of finding a new police chief for Toronto.
  • Towleroad examines reasons
  • Window on Eurasia notes the need to sustain the survivors of the Aral Sea, and observes the new isolation of Kaliningrad.
  • Zero Geography links to a paper examining the spread of telecommunications networks in East Africa now with the spread of modern transport a century earlier.

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • Bad Astronomy shares a picture of the astonishingly crowded center of the Milky Way galaxy.
  • blogTO recommends things to do in the Junction and Liberty Village.
  • Centauri Dreans notes an interesting new binary star discovery, one where a hot Jupiter orbits each star.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze reports on further research done of a close brown dwarf.
  • The Frailest Thing notes an interview with spaceflight proponent Elon Musk painting him as a messianic figure, a Moses or Noah.
  • Marginal Revolution links to a paper suggesting that western Europe experienced growign longevity from an early age.
  • The New APPS Blog notes the intersections of philosophy, religion, and euthanasia.
  • Registan notes the arrival of Islamic banking in the former Soviet Union.
  • Steve Munro notes the return of streetcar service to Queens Quay.
  • Torontoist is skeptical of Olivia Chow’s transit plan, not detailed enough.
  • Towleorad reports on a Russian exchange student in the United States who has claimed asylum and reports on civil unions’ new introduction in Chile.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the weaknesses of the Belarusian economy, observes the linguistic links between Crimean Tatars and various north Caucasian peoples, argues that 1600 Russian soldiers have died, observes Russian belief that China is an ally, and notes that older Muslim communities in Moscow separate themselves from the newer immigrant communities.

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait notes a new study suggesting that the star Betelgeuse will go supernova not imminently, but rather in a hundred thousand years.
  • blogTO profiles midtown Toronto’s Merton Street.
  • Discover‘s Crux examines the most suitable potential locations for offworld colonies (Venus, the Moon, Mars).
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to one paper suggesting that binary star systems might actually be better-suited to Earth-like worlds that solitary star systems like our our and links to another speculating about the patterns of light emitted by Earth-like worlds.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes an archeological study suggesting that chocolate was eaten in the Mississippian civilization of Cahokia, and looks at an ongoing dispute over rocket development between France and Germany in the European Space Agency.
  • Languages of the World’s Asya Pereltsvaig looks at the ongoing disappearance of the Belarusian language.
  • Marginal Revolution notes the exceptional vulnerability of Scotland’s economy to its banking sector.
  • Personal Reflection’s Jim Belshaw reflects on the movement for statehood in the Australian region of New England in the light of the imminent Scottish referendum.
  • Torontoist notes a survey examining the issues of LGBT people in the Ontario police services.
  • Towleroad notes the lesbian couple married in Iowa after seventy years together.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes that the Northern Marianas are the only jurisdiction with a total handgun ban.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the progress of fascism in Russia, considers the consequences of the war for both Ukraine and Russia, and looks at growing concern elsewhere in the former Soviet space about Russia.

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • blogTO shares pictures of Queen Street in the 1980s.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly considers the idea of a digital detox.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper noting strange occultations of TW Hydrae.
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to one paper suggesting plants can grow in simulated (and fertilized) Martian and lunar soil, and speculates Russia will be trying to build a space station of its own or to cooperate with China.
  • Eastern Approaches examines the shaky ceasefire in eastern Ukraine.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that Joan Rivers was an early HIV/AIDS activist of note.
  • Language Hat summarizes a paper suggesting that language death and economic success are correlated.
  • Marginal Revolution considers Scottish separatism, wondering about the sense of either a currency union or a separate currency, and noting the increased possibility of separatism according to betters.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog critiques Mark Adomanis’ critique of Masha Gessen’s article on Russian demographics.
  • Savage Minds notes that, alas, Joan Rivers never majored in anthropology.
  • Torontoist notes that NDP Joe Cressy, defeated in his run for the Canadian parliament, is now running for city council.
  • Towleroad notes the firing of a pregnant lesbian teacher by a Catholic school, and observes the hatred felt by some anti-gay people who would like books celebrating children pleased when their same-sex parents die (among other things).
  • Understanding Society examines the sociology of influence.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy disagrees with Henry Farrell that laissez-faire ideology contributed to the Irish Famine.
  • Window on Eurasia notes Russian hostility towards the Crimean Tatar Meijis, reports on things Ukrainians think Ukraine should do doing the ceasefire and things Russians think Ukrainians should do (federalize and accept the loss of the east), notes high rates of childlessness in Moscow, and suggests that the Russian victory in eastern Ukraine is exceptionally pyrrhic.
  • At the Financial Times‘s The World blog, the point is made that a Scottish vote for independence would have profound implications worldwide.

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • Centauri Dreams hosts a speculative essay by one Adam Crowl imagining how life could endure for eons beyond the death of stars in an aging universe.
  • The Cranky Sociologists’s SocProf studies the interaction between national identity and team sports in an era of globalization and migration.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper analyzing the connection between a star’s metallicity and the likelihood of it hosting giant planets.
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to a paper suggesting that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by itself lengthens the growing season, irrespective of warming.
  • Eastern Approaches looks at the scandal in Poland following the sharing of Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski’s impolitic words about NATO and the American alliance.
  • The Financial Times‘s The World blog wonders what the jeering of a female politician by her male peers means about gender equity in Japan.
  • Language Hat looks at the languages used in soccer.
  • Personal Approaches’ Jim Belshaw deplores the imprisonment of Australian journalist Peter Greste in Egypt.
  • At the Planetary Science Blog, Bill Dunford celebrates the many achievements of the Cassini probe at Saturn.
  • Van Waffle of the Speed River Journal writes about the return of bullfrogs to his local lake this year, in the context of issues for amphibians generally.
  • Torontoist features trans male Alex Abramovich’s writings about the personal and broader importance of pride.

[LINK] “Life in space is impossible”

James Nicoll linked to Dwayne A. Day’s article at The Space Review criticizing recent movies for suggesting that space colonies are pointless and dangerous, or worse, potential homes for only the 1%. As commenters noted, Day’s critique doesn’t take into consideration the fact that, with what we know now, space colonization is pointless and dangerous, and doesn’t note some of the separatist issues lurking behind the space colonization memeplex.

The tag line for the new Christopher Nolan movie Interstellar premiering in November could have been written by a space settlement enthusiast: “Mankind was born on Earth, it was never meant to die here.” Based upon the newly released trailer, however, it appears as if humanity’s salvation is not asteroid mining or Mars settlement, but sending a spaceship to another solar system (because “nothing in our solar system can save us”). Quite possibly the answer is “aliens.”

But at least Interstellar’s message seems to be that there is hope in our stars. For the past several years a theme that has emerged from a number of movies is that space, and spaceflight, is at best a pretty distraction, and not humanity’s future. Human destiny, these movies argue, is on Earth, which we need to stop trashing. These movies indicate that the pro-space movement has essentially failed in its primary message. A few thousand people attending pro-space conferences and claiming that space settlement is the solution is nothing compared to the millions of people around the world who have been exposed to the message that space is at best a distraction. Space is pretty and wondrous, but also dangerous and pointless, and at best, a playhouse for the rich.

[. . .]

One of the biggest and most praised movies of 2013 was Gravity. The film stormed the box office and received rave reviews and numerous Oscars, including one for best director. Although astronauts and spaceflight experts stumbled all over themselves to discuss the technical inaccuracies in the movie while praising it for its visual and excitement, what was lost in all the chattering is that Gravity is one of the most anti-space movies to come along in a long time. It may have done just as much damage to NASA’s image as the frequent reports during the October government shutdown that NASA was the “least essential” agency, based upon the determination that 97% of its employees should stay home.

Gravity makes its message blatantly clear in text at the very beginning: “Life in space is impossible.” But the rest of the film simply reinforces that message. The resounding theme, repeated again and again throughout the film, is that space is a very dangerous place and that people do not belong there. Sandra Bullock’s character, astronaut Ryan Stone, is only in space because she’s fleeing the grief she experienced on Earth, the gravity that killed her daughter in a fall, a fact that her colleague’s ghost tells her when she’s about to give up and die. By the end of the movie, every person who was in space at the beginning of the film, most of whom are never seen, has either abandoned it for the safety of Earth, or died. And low Earth orbit has become so polluted that it is clear nobody is going back. Goodbye Hubble, goodbye space station. Goodbye Mars colony.

The other major film of 2013 that took aim at the pro-space message was Elysium. It lacked the visual grandeur of Gravity but tried to make up for it in heavy-handed symbolism. Its story was more ambitious, but also messily convoluted, and possessing all the subtlety of a sledgehammer: poor, sick masses on Earth, abandoned by the rich who have fled to the sky. This is a relatively straightforward adaptation of the pro-space message touted by groups like the L5 Society and later the National Space Society (NSS), which in the 1970s started proposing space as a means of dealing with resource depletion on Earth. More recently, NSS and others in the pro-space community have embraced space as a tourist destination for rich people, out of the belief that maybe, someday, it will become affordable for the rest of us. The film’s look deliberately borrowed from 1970s-era artwork of space colonies.

The message was so similar to ones that have been around for decades that the National Space Society went so far as to issue a press release separating themselves from the film. Clearly the NSS leadership recognized that their vision had been perverted in the movie. Rather than cities in the sky where people worked in support of providing services to Earth—Gerard K. O’Neill’s original vision for space solar power—the beautiful space station is an escape from the thoroughly unpleasant Earth.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 24, 2014 at 4:00 am

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