A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘space colonization

[ISL] Three notes about islands and the humans who try to save them, destroy them, or just stand by

Advertisements

[NEWS] Seven links, from Tibetan Parkdale and Ontario politics to dangerous Mars and Big Oil’s end

  • The New York Times‘ Michael Wilson tells the sad story of how a woman murdered in Harlem was only identified 47 years later.
  • In NOW Toronto, Gelek Badheytsang writes about the complexities surrounding the visit of the 17th Karmapa to Tibetan-heavy Parkdale.
  • Novak Jankovic writes in MacLean’s that there are real declines in the Toronto real estate market, but not enough to set a trend.
  • The Toronto Star‘s Jackie Hong reports that protecting Bluffer’s Park from the waves of Lake Ontario could also wreck an east-end surfing haunt.
  • The National Post reports on how the Ontario NDP claims, probably correctly, that the Wynne Liberals are stealing their ideas. Good for them, I say.
  • Universe Today’s Matt Williams notes a study reporting that life on Mars’ surface is a much greater risk factor for cancer than previously thought.
  • Seth Miller argues that efficient electric cars will push Big Oil through the trauma of Big Coal in the 2020s.

[LINK] “Why Saturn’s moon Titan is the best spot for an off-world colony”

MacLean’s‘ Mike Doherty has an interview with two authors, Amanda R. Hendrix and Charles Wohlforth, who argue that if humankind is ever to embark in on an expensive program of colonization in space (something much more expensive than fixing our world, they argue), Titan not Mars should be the target.

Q: Why is humanity so fixated on travelling to Mars?

AH: It’s always been fascinating because back in the earliest observations, it looked like there were canals on Mars and some sort of greenery, [as if] there could be aliens. It remains a good option for looking for past life, and more accessible than some of the places in the outer solar system that might have current life. So it’s interesting as a target scientifically, but for long-term human settlement, it’s not the place to go.

CW: We’re a very long way from being able to put humans safely on Mars. The issues with [brain damage from] galactic cosmic rays, or GCRs, are serious, and in the past year, NASA has really come to recognize them: an internal document says you only have 150 days of safe travel unprotected—which won’t get you anywhere near a Mars-and-back mission with current technology. It’s probably time to level with the American people, and setting a farther-out human habitation goal is a better way to start solving those problems, rather than thinking about a short-term trip to Mars that’s probably not going to happen.

[. . .]

Q: Why specifically is Titan the place to go, and can we realistically get people as excited about Titan as we have been about Mars?

AH: Titan is a much more interesting place just visually; in terms of the landscape and the opportunities there, Titan offers so much more. It’s really Earth-like: it’s the only other place in the solar system that has any liquid on the surface. It’s not water, but it’s ethane and methane, and there’s a nice atmosphere. It’s one-and-a-half* the [atmospheric] pressure that we feel here on Earth, so it’s not too much and not too little. The main benefit, of course, is that people will be shielded from a lot of the the GCRs that are so damaging. It takes a long time to get there, and it’s cold, but there are ways around that.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 7, 2016 at 10:30 pm

[BLOG] Some Saturday links

  • blogTO shares ten facts about the Toronto Islands.
  • Centauri Dreams features an article talking about “exoanthropology”, a theoretical branch of that social science aimed at examining human adaptation to offworld environments.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper speculating that white dwarf NLTT19868 shows signs of having eaten a rocky world.
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to one paper identifying different species of bacteria which can grow under simulated Martian environments and notes another looking at the possibility of a subsurface ocean on Titan.
  • Languages of the World looks at patterns of religiosity in Russia.
  • The NYR Daily considers Donald Trump’s long-term strategy.
  • Peter Rukavina reflects on the new music of Jane Siberry and Brian Eno.
  • Torontoist notes some neglected public art by Fort York under the Gardiner.
  • Window on Eurasia notes core/periphery divisions in Moscow’s population.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • The Boston Globe‘s Big Picture reports on Olympics evictions in Brazil, compares school life in Boston and Haiti, and follows an elderly man climbing Mount Washington.
  • blogTO suggests jets will not be coming to the Toronto Island airport and argues the city is unlikely to legalize Uber.
  • The Broadside Blog examines the staggering level of income inequality in the United States.
  • Centauri Dreams considers, in real-life and science fiction, the problems with maintaining artificial economies and notes the complexities of the Pluto system.
  • Crooked Timber notes the problems of organized labour and Labour in the United Kingdom.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes how atmospheric oxygen may not automatically point to the sign of life.
  • The Dragon’s Tales maps volcanic heat flow on Io and wonders if that world has a subsurface magna ocean
  • Far Outliers notes a popular thief in post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan and looks at the politicization of the German military after the 1944 coup.
  • Geocurrents calls for recognizing the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan and Somaliland and looks at the geography of American poverty.
  • Language Log notes Sinified Japanese.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money examines the complexities of race and history in New Mexico.
  • Marginal Revolution notes that India unlike China cannot sustain global growth, approves of Snyder’s Black Earth, and notes poor economic outcomes for graduates of some American universities.
  • Otto Pohl is not optimistic about Ghana’s economic future.
  • The Planetary Society Blog evaluates the latest images from Mars.
  • pollotenchegg evaluates the 1931 Polish census in what is now western Ukraine.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer looks at why Syrian refugees will not be resettled in South America and observes that Mexico has birthright citizenship.
  • Cheri Lucas Rowlands describes the negative relationship for her between blogging and writing.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog examines rising mortality in Ukraine and notes changing ethnic compositions of Tajikistan’s populations.
  • Savage Minds talks about the importance of teaching climate change in anthropology.
  • Transit Toronto notes Toronto now has nine new streetcars.
  • Whatever’s John Scalzi considers the situation of poor people who go to good schools.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the lack of Russian nationalism in the Donbas, observes the scale of the refugee problem in Ukraine, and looks at Russian alienation of Moldova.

[BRIEF NOTE] On the false dream of Project Orion

At The Space Review, in the article “Starfleet was closer than you think” authored by Major Brent Ziarnick and Lt. Col. Peter Garretson, the argument is made that the Project Orion nuclear bomb-powered spacecraft of the 1960s could and should have been made, that our world would now be an enthusiastically spacefaring world.

Today, the United States is in the process of a renaissance of interstellar thought and ambition. In the popular culture, with the discovery nearly every day of potentially Earth-like exoplanets, and popular movies like Interstellar, we are seeing an increasing public interest. And in the technical community, there is new leadership when it comes to actually designing interstellar capable spacecraft, such as DARPA’s 100 Year Starship project, Icarus Interstellar, and the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop.

But we could have been so much farther along. After the publication of George Dyson’s book Project Orion, and a few specials, a lot of people know that in the early 1960s DARPA investigated the possibility of a nuclear-pulse-detonation (that is, powered by the explosion of nuclear bombs) spacecraft.

Most assume the program was cancelled for technical problems, but that is not the case. Few know how seriously the idea was taken by the top leadership of the US Air Force.

Preceding but also concurrently developed with Apollo, this extremely ambitious project had unbelievable payload capability. Where Apollo at 3,500 tons could only put two tons on the Moon, the smaller Orion (about the same total mass, 4,000 tons) could soft-land 1,200 tons (600 times as much) on the Moon, and the larger (only three times as heavy as Apollo, or 10,000 tons) could soft-land 5,700 tons (nearly 3,000 times as much) on the Moon, or take 1,300 tons of astronauts and consumables on a three-year round-trip to Saturn and back!1 The fission powered Orion could even achieve three to five percent the speed of light, though a more advanced design using fusion might achieve eight to ten percent the speed of light.

Most assume the program was cancelled for technical problems, but that is not the case. Few know how seriously the idea was taken by the top leadership of the US Air Force.

Because internal budget discussions and internal memoranda are not generally released and some only recently declassified, almost nobody knows how close Strategic Air Command (SAC) was to building the beginning of an interstellar-capable fleet. Had the personalities of the Air Force’s civilian leadership been different in 1962, humanity might have settled a good part of the inner solar system and might be launching probes to other stars today. We might also have had the tools to deflect large asteroids and comets.

This article was dissected by commenters over at James Nicoll’s Livejournal. Leaving aside the non-trivial technical challenges discussed over there, I would add that not only would fleets of spacecraft propelled by nuclear weapons make Earth orbit unusable for commercial purposes, but simply being able to get to Mars quickly is not enough. Do the life support technologies needed to sustain crews for hundreds of days exist? Is there anything on Mars, or elsewhere, that would actually attract sustained interest even with relatively swift interplanetary travel? I’m skeptical.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 20, 2015 at 10:05 pm

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • 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.