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An interesting article the BBC website.

Just got home and am too sleepy to post what I wanted to. Will have to wait until tomorrow.


Aug. 10th, 2004 12:17 pm (UTC)
Economics dictate otherwise. If we don't make the move while we have the capability, our situation will deteriorate until we don't have the energy to boost ourselves off the surface of this rock. Once forgotten, technology tends to get lost forever.

Besides, as your Gee Gee article pointed out, it is extremely unlikely that we have millions of years.
Aug. 10th, 2004 12:30 pm (UTC)
It will take millions, if not billions, of years until our sun dies.

Global Geophysical events don't require us to be able to evacuate the earth. They require us to be able to divert asteroids or comets, to protect against rising sea levels due to global warming, to learn to predict super volcanic eruptions or major earthquakes. We have the technologies, however nascent they may be, to address these issues, and these issues are far more immediate than our sun's death. And frankly, even if we could evacuate the earth, many of us would choose not to go.

I'm not against space exploration, and you know that very well. I simply recognize that, as long as resources remain limited, there are other more pressing needs than being able to colonize Mars.
Aug. 10th, 2004 06:15 pm (UTC)
The point is not how long it will take but that it is 100% certain to happen. Lesser catastrophes that could happen sooner have a lower probability.

It can be shown mathematically that it is impossible to evacuate the Earth: the birth rate is higher than any possible means of moving people away from the planet. The idea is to move a few people away from the surface of the Earth so that if the Earth is destroyed, some might be saved. Those who decide they want to remain behind will have plenty of company.

Resources are no more limited now than when we decided to visit the moon, but they could well become more limited in the next few decades or centuries. We have the capability now and we might lose it if we wait too long. I know of no other needs more pressing than saving the human race.
Aug. 10th, 2004 06:25 pm (UTC)
You make it sound so dramatic.

The fact that, even though the certainty our sun will die is 100%, this event will just as certainly not happen for millions or billions of years. As our technology progresses, we will be more capable of colonizing other worlds. Just like travelling from Spain to the Bahamas is much easier now than in 1492, travelling to other worlds will be much easier a few hundred or thousand years from now than it is presently.

While the probability of Gee Gees occurring is about 1% per year according to that article, it is almost a certainty that at least one will occur in the next few hundred years. And they could occur at any moment.

It's more prudent to use our resources to learn how to prevent or minimize the effect of catastrophic events that may happen in the foreseeable future than to worry about an event that will happen but not for millions of years. Your time scale is too grand. Why plan for something that won't happen for millions of years when you can attempt to plan for something that could happen today?
Aug. 10th, 2004 09:35 pm (UTC)
Stop harping on the period of time involved. It has nothing to do with the time period. The probability that the Earth will be destroyed is 100%. If we remain here, we will be destroyed with it.

Technology isn't static. If you aren't going forward, then you're falling backward. We've already fallen behind in the development of a decent near-Earth shuttle system because we stopped development, and now our shuttle fleet is almost useless. Technology only improves if you work at it and use it.

Advances in the space program have always spun off products that are useful elsewhere. That's why you have a laptop computer. An ion drive that could speed up a visit to Mars could have other applications or could generate other usefull devices. The amount to be invested is nowhere near what is being wasted in the "defense" budget.

Where, besides Earth, could humans live? Mars is a bit distant but is a good candidate for colonization over the next century. A more immediate prospect is the moon. Eventually, though, we should do our best to inhabit space itself: L4 / L5, the International Space Station, the asteroid belt mining camps, the moons of the gas giants, etc. Some day we might even be at the point of considering a trip to another star.

Provided we can get our butts off the ground.
Aug. 10th, 2004 09:51 pm (UTC)
I am not going to stop harping on the time involved because that is at the crux of the matter. I have never said or implied that we should stop improving technology or stop funding the space program. I have merely stated my opinion that there are more pressing technological needs to be addressed by our intellectual and financial resources. Yes, the certainty the earth will be destroyed is 100%. But the certainty that it won't happen for millions of years is almost as high. Meanwhile, the certainty that a Gee Gee will occur within the next few hundred years is almost 100%, even though the probability of it occuring any given year is only 1%. Rather than trying to get to Mars or the moon, which only involves refinement of current technologies, why not invest more in reversing global warming trends, in predicting earthquakes or detecting super volcanoes, in deflecting asteroids on a collision course with earth, in protecting coastal regions from tsunamis and mega-hurricanes? The earth is not going to be destroyed in the next few hundred years unless we kill ourselves off. In that span, however, there will be catastrophic events that will cost us thousands if not millions of lives, events that might be prevented or minimized if we devote more research to these areas. Mars and the moon aren't going anywhere, and we're not going to forget how to build spaceships. We'll get to Mars and return to the moon, but there's no pressing need for it to happen during either of our lifetimes.
Aug. 10th, 2004 10:57 pm (UTC)
Where we differ is that, as a practicing engineer for much of my life, I know that we lose technologies we don't use. We will forget how to build spaceships if we don't keep building them.

Global warming? We aren't even sure it's happening, but much of what we've learned about it we've learned from space.

Predicting earthquakes also uses space technology to detect deformation of the crust invisible from the surface.

Detecting super volcanoes? I have no idea.

Deflecting asteroids certainly depends on a space program and is a priority project in progress now. We've tagged a few asteroids for destructive testing already, to see what techniques will work, and our ability to detect dangerous objects is constantly improving.

Protecting coastal regions? Early warnings will doubtless come from space. Transmitting the warnings makes use of our system of satellites in geosynchronous orbit.

If you want a really important problem to tackle locally, how about finding an energy replacement for oil. Kerry wants to spend $30 billion over ten years, Bush wants to spend zip. $3 billion a year is chicken feed compared to what we spend on oil or what Bush wants to spend on "defense".

But that needn't exclude replacing the shuttle fleet, establishing a moon base or anything else we need to get back in space.

You were probably aware that a small company in San Diego has sent a reusable vehicle more than 62 miles into space already. It only had one passenger, rather than the three necessary to go for the prize, but it was a preliminary test and uncovered problems that are being corrected. You are probably unaware that radio amateurs have sent a small privately-owned rocket with an instrument package 72 miles up into space.

Neither of these efforts got into orbit. They weren't intended to. Neither of these efforts were well publicised, either, being embarassments to NASA and to the government in general. They were hushed up. But they show promise for our future, when private industry can take over from our bloated bureaucracy.
Aug. 11th, 2004 06:49 am (UTC)
There is one thing you are persistently not getting: I have never said or suggested we shouldn't invest heavily in the space program! In fact, I believe I have specifically stated that we should continue to spend money on our space program. However, I continue to maintain that trying to return to the moon or get to Mars and colonize either one is not a priority. Of course detection of earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, global warming, [insert catastrophe of choice] is likely going to depend on observations made from space. You make it sound as if I am completely ignorant of the benefits of our space program, as if I haven't studied science, don't subscribe to a science journal, don't regularly converse with people who send experiments into space, etc. However, there is plenty of space research to be done right here on or around the earth that is for more pressing than getting to or colonizing Mars.

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