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Samhain

More commonly known as Halloween, the ancient festival of Samhain marks the end of the harvest season, with aspects of a festival of the dead. It became associated with the Catholic All Saints' Day in the ninth century; there's quite a lot of additional cultural baggage associated with it. While it was frequently observed in Ireland and Scotland for many centuries, it began to grow to its current prominence in the USA in the 19th century, as a response to lingering puritan prejudice against other festivals; when people want to party, if you ban one excuse they'll find another. (Which, incidentally, is why Hogmanay — new year's eve — is such a big deal in Scotland, where once the Kirk banned Christmas festivities as ungodly).

But what I find most interesting about it is that it recurs every 365 days (give or take the odd leap year).

We humans are slaves to the calendar. From our origins as plains-dwelling scavengers through the early millennia of agriculture, our diet was dominated by the climate, and the climate in turn depended on the cycle of the seasons almost everywhere. The cycle of seasons is hugely significant if you're a hunter (some prey species disappear at certain times of year; others are subject to behavioural variation (for example, mating seasons). It's important if you're a gatherer of wild fruit and seeds, and it's a matter of life or death if you're a subsistence farmer scratching away at the soil to raise one harvest a year. Hunter-gatherers can, at least in principle, move to follow the food supply; farmers are on the wrong side of a Malthusian one-way door, their population density at least an order of magnitude higher. Running away to find a less over-grazed region isn't an option on the menu. And so we observe the calendar, marking off the significant end-points of the season with an almost superstitious dread. All Hallows Night marks the end of the harvest season and allows us to rub shoulders with the dead; and if it hasn't been a good harvest, we might be joining them before Beltane.

For a thousand generations this has been our lot. But these days we live in a time of plenty — an age when "seasonal vegetables" are optional, bananas cost less than potatoes in western European supermarkets, and intensive farming can deliver two or three harvests in a single year (and more, when greenhouses and hydroponics are used).

And what does it mean to live somewhere utterly divorced from the Earth's seasonal cycle?

I may be sceptical about space colonization, but I'm an optimist about exploration. I'm fairly certain that at some point in the next one to two decades human beings will visit the moon again — this time for an extended duration stay, spending long months and possibly years in conditions as unfriendly as those any 19th century arctic explorer could have imagined. In two or three decades, there'll probably be a base camp on Mars; not a city, not a colony, but nevertheless a habitat of sorts (and one that will probably be occupied for years — the cost of going to Mars is so prohibitive that in this day and age a 48-hour excursion to raise the flag looks positively feckless).

What are their festivals and cycles going to be, those explorers who visit worlds where the sidereal year is something other than 31,558,149.540 seconds?

83 Comments

1:

On a martian base? Same as on the ISS. Those astronauts will have 24-hours day and measure time in 365-day years.

Oh, and it won`t be nearly as unfriendly as any of 19th century arctic expeditions. The astronauts will have plenty of excelent food, relatively comfortable conditions, and will spend their free time surfing the internet.

2:

Anatoly @1 - surfing the internet? Doubt it. Reading Usenet would work, but HTTP over TCP/IP with those round trip delays and current HTML page design? Eurgh.

3:

Anatoly: that's going to be some HTTP GET latency experience for those web-surfing astronauts on Mars ...

And I suspect some accomodation to Mars' 88,775.24409 second Sols will be necessary ... (More here.)

4:

@2&3

I`m stupud, but not THAT stupid. They sure won`t play Warhammer Online.

But nothing should prevent them from reading websites.

5:

Mars:
I would assume that the Earth-Mars conjunction(? not sure if this is the term I'm looking for. The time when they are closest together) would be a festival time. I mean, if you're going to get stuff from Earth, then would be the time, give or take a couple of months. I'd think the Solstices. Obviously, First Landing, and then whatever Earth-centric festivals that are brought. Maybe Jules Verne's birthday.
Moon:
July 20, I would think, no matter which culture settles it. If I were running the joint, I'd throw full Earth parties, too. And "The Man who Sold the Moon" festival on Heinlein's birthday.

6:

I was going to comment that this looks like some interesting fodder for speculative fiction, and how it would be interesting to see how human society developed over, say, a century or two after a meaningful colony was established, but the whole internet-in-space idea has me intrigued.

There's no reason that text and some graphical data couldn't be transmitted from here to Mars, so at least being able to get the latest (offset by the time taken for transmission) news would be feasible. This raises some interesting questions about how to create a solar system (wide) area network (SS(W)AN, anyone?). Such a system could have two parts. I would imagine each colonized planet maintaining its own planetary internet, where most information would be accessible to anyone physically on or in proximity to the planet. This is, of course, a well established technology. The second component would be a series of caching relays, routers floating in space maybe, that are capable of establishing ad-hoc routes to one another and to planetary internets, grabbing and caching certain kinds of information for easier retrieval. I do not think this will in any way reduce the speed of transmission for what should be real time communications, but for information that changes only several times a day, such lag is acceptable and caching should help.

7:

Aaron @ #6:

IF you can build high-speed (and high-latency) links, some clever proxying may make it pleasant to browse. Sort of "oh, a request for this page? let us now go and fetch everythinG not already cached within an N-link radius" and then send these over as archives, somehow, for storage on the other end of the link. You'd probably end up with out-of-sync copies of the whole data network, eventually, but...

I also suspect that interplanetary person-to-person comms would be via email rather than chat and maybe blogs moving more towards a Usenet dissemination model (less, much less, sure about the latter).

It should be doable to experiment with low-bandwidth/high-latency comms today, though (spool data stream onto disk, archive for N hours, unspool out the other wire), you are looking at 3.6 GB per hour's delay per Mbps of link speed (double the link speed or delay for doubled storage), so the storage resources for a symmetric E1, delayed by 1h, is well within the home budget.

8:

IIRC, Vint Cerf and others have done some work on Interplanetary IP - enhancements to support interplanetary-scale delays and low bandwidth. The nearer term goal is to make sure it works well enough to use IP in Earth satellite telemetry, then eventually for space probes.

9:

Reading RSS/Atom feeds, NNTP (usenet), or email via POP3/SMTP: do-able.

Web browsing in real time, email via IMAP4: not so do-able.

(Anatoly: you might want to look into what goes on when you click a link in a web page. Typically on a reasonably rich content site like a newspaper or magazine the result is somewhere between three and six round-trip requests for the initial page, which loads style sheets, javascript, and images, then executes javascript which in turn loads yet more cruft -- leading to multiple round trip requests. This is fine if you're 50 milliseconds round-trip time from the web server, not so fine if the round-trip time is on the order of 30-120 minutes. And we haven't even begun to think about Web 2.0/Ajax stuff that relies on an open socket connection and actual server interaction ... the web was designed for a high speed/low latency local connection; paradoxically, older protocols designed for slow/intermittent connections will work a lot better for interplanetary missions.)

10:

Charlie @9:

Well, of course astronauts on Mars will use special software. Something like this: they send a request for a website, server downloads and packs it on Earth (minus the ads, he-he) and transmitts it whole back to Mars. Or they subscribe and new versions are sent to them every day.

11:

I think I'll go back now and comment on the topic of the article.

In the short term, festivals will probably mirror those on Earth and will consist of whatever festivals are observed by the various explorers. Should the exploration team become a colony, and should the colony grow, the festivals would probably remain the same for a while.

Now, if this grows into a colony, and if at some point it loses communication with Earth for some really long period of time (20 or 30 years might be all that's necessary), those festivals might begin to morph into something more immediately meaningful to the settlers. Over the course of a hundred years or more, many of the festivals may be nearly unrecognizable to people who had been on Earth the whole time, even though they may have had the same origins. So they will celebrate something around the same time each Earth year (they may eventually adopt the local planetary time scale for convenience in absence of Earth communication), but the significance will be influenced by conditions on the planet. How remains to be seen, but I still think it would make for some interesting speculative fiction.

12:

Aaron @11:

But why would they ever lose communication with Earth? Magnetic storms in interstellar space? Messengers killed by space pirates? 8-)

13:

I remember back when people used Juno and similar dialup services to dial in, check email, and sign out. There were some services that would email you the contents of a web page so that it would be delivered when you made your burst of a download request. I'm not suggesting interplanetary communications would be quite like that. RSS, or some future variant, is much more likely. AJAX? No way. Not over interplanetary networks. Save that stuff for the Mars-collocated bloggers.

14:

Anatoly @12: Earth/Mars opposition is going to screw up communication regularly, albeit not very often. (Hint: go play with an orrery some time.)

Then there's the relay sat problem. Remember none of the Apollo missions landed on the far side of the Moon? The Moon is tidally locked to Earth -- Mars isn't. So astronauts on Martian surface excursions will be routinely out of contact with Earth for most of the local night, unless there's a satellite relay system in place. Which will happen before any landing (there's already a basic network between some of the Martian orbiters, relaying data from the landers), but the sheer cost of putting comsats into orbit around another planet suggests that there won't be much redundancy in the system. Mechanical/electronic problems will do the rest -- equipment deteriorates over time and needs repairing or replacing, and when that happens in Mars orbit the astronauts will be out of touch intermittently until it's fixed. (Which could take months or years.)

15:

> What are their festivals and cycles going to be,
> those explorers who visit worlds where the sidereal
> year is something other than 31,558,149.540 seconds?

I think the cultural inertia of being human will outweight the inertia of local calandars for some time. Especially if you have to live in a spaceship or a module buried under martian soil or whatever. When light and heat and air are all artifically generated and regulated, you can pretty much put them on any cycle you want.

military submarines stay underwater for six months at a time, but still operate on a 24 hour day and 365 day calendar, because it's all artificial light and heat anyway.

I don't think we'll see anyone develop a new, non-365 day calendar until humans are breathing the natural atmosphere of another planet and directly susceptible to the natural effects of the orbits and rotations that planet has. i.e. not until people are breathing atmo on another planet.

16:

Charile @14:

Reliable and redundant comm network between Mars and Earth (going around the Sun as well) will be in place long before a permanent colony is created. The cost of such a network will be insignificant comparing to the cost of the Colony. No way astronauts on Mars will be out of touch with Earth, barring some catastrophe.

17:

Charile @14:

In fact, there is a nice, if small, satellite network around Mars right now: Mars Odyssey, Mars Express Orbiter and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

18:

Anatoly: I don't believe a permanent Mars colony will be created, and that's not what I'm discussing here.

19:

Charlie @18:

Then perhaps you should look at the antarctic researchers as an example. What holidays they have?

20:

To comment on the festivals in space topic. There is an interesting development that may be applicable to the evolution of public celebrations here in British Columbia. Here we set off fireworks every Halloween - it's a very popular practice that almost everyone does, and only on Halloween (almost no one bothers on other occasions). I was quite surprised to find that BC is the only part of Canada where fireworks and Halloween are linked. Apparently it dates to the English practice of using fireworks to celebrate Guy Fawkes Day. Since many 19th century colonists were from the English (not Scottish or Irish) middle class, they brought the practice with them and it became well established. The festival itself was dropped pretty quickly since it wasn't terribly politically relevant here, but the fireworks were transferred to Halloween - the closest popular public festival.
I could see something similar happening on Mars (or elsewhere) - in which festival practices would remain, but the festivals themselves might change considerably. Those with broad based appeal and limited connection to particular places or ethnicities would be most likely to survive. After all, there is no reason why Halloween should not be celebrated once a Martian year, while Guy Fawkes Day has a more indelible connection to a single date (and ethnic group)

21:

I suspect that once we get off Earth and settle on various planetary bodies, we will develop a calendar based on the second as that is a defined physical quantity, and the most commonly used time period to delineate the day will be the kilosecond (16.6 minutes). And for those bodies for which we will observe the local dark/light cycle, we will get used to having a fractional number of kiloseconds/per day (For example Earth's day would be 86.40 Ksec long.)

Also the date would be come divorced from the day. It would make a lot more sense if we had just one time zone on Earth. That way, if someone in Japan said he was going to call you at 12:30, you would know exactly when it was. And if the date, changed halfway through your morning, it would be no big deal. It's just another digit that is changing.

Earth of course will be the last place to change to the new system. (And probably the US will be the last place on Earth to change to the new system.)

22:

Which celebrations astronauts on Mars start with will depend on where they're from (you* were thinking that Halloween was a culture-independent holiday?). And which celebrations they end up with will also depend, especially if they are ethnically and culturally mixed. What would a crew composed half of Saudis and half of Tibetan Buuddhists celebrate? Or half Scots and half Tamils? Don't assume the majority of those guys are going to be Christians, or even Westerners (I'll bet money the primary space agency involved won't be NASA).

* That's the generic, plural "you". I doubt very much that Charlie would make that mistake.

23:

Dave @21:

Good think I read Vinge's Deepness novels and learned to think in metric secs. As a quibble, though, it's damned impractical to use on a planet that has a diurnal that doesn't divide into kilosecs (Earth's being 86.4ks). Vinge avoids that in "A Deepness in the Sky" by never giving the actual time, only time elapsed/time remaining. We won't be so lucky. Now if we shifted to a dodecimal metric system for time, that might work. At least then every thing would work out to the 1/3rd of an hour roundly.

24:

Correction to @23:

think=thing. My Dracula costume bled into my typing accent.

25:

I'm with teh cultural conservative crowd on this one. There is ample historical evidence that humans maintained their traditions and holidays as they migrated, even when those migrations were to corners of the globe with very different conditions. Just because the day and year lengths differ, there is no reason believe that local conditions will override earth dates and times.

I do think that Halloween will be celebrated at local dark on the earth date October 31st.

Some rituals might adapt, e.g. when exactly would Jews observe Sabbath? How would Muslims deal with the praying to Mecca?

Mars is teh most interesting, as it's day is 24 hrs plus about 1/2 hour, with a year ~2x earth's. This will lead to more attenpts to adapt the holidays and rituals to local conditions, rather than ignore those conditions as one might in a space station or on the moon.

New holidays to celebrate local events or calendars - e.g. the first landing might only be celebrated once a Martian year, rather than Xmas 2x a year. With modern time keeping, I don't see this as a problem compared to priests marking days manually.

26:

Best wishes for Samhain, first of all.

Interesting question. I guess, cyclical rituals in itself are something human. But the adaption starts with Samhain/Beltaine switched on the southern part of the Earth. And doesn't end with a major festival every 100 dark-light-cycles in some space station.

27:

I've met one of the scientists working on the Phoenix lander a couple of times and he tells me that the mission teams at JPL and the UoA operate on 'Mars time' (ie their shifts move forward 39 minutes per terrestrial day). I imagine that for any putative outpost that might get established being aligned to local day/night will continue to be more important than being in synch with a terrestrial clock; so for Mars at least, I would expect the base 'clock' to stay on local time.

Elsewhere where the local days are more problematic I would imagine that an outpost's crew would just stick to the terrestrial day and work out watch patterns or weekly/monthly rotas to synch with the local orbital periods. Maybe over time these will mutate to a local clock that diverges from the terrestrial standard, but that's the sort of thing that happens when an outpost starts to shade into a colony; which, as our esteemed host says, is an altogether different (and much more unlikely) prospect.

Regards
Luke

28:

I have to imagine that every day (for whatever the local value of "day" is) will begin with a moment of thanks that the airlocks have held, and a ritualized check on the habitat's status.

I also have to imagine that Landing Day will be commemorated, although what cycle they'll use is an open question. Makes sense for the Moon to use the Earth calendar. Mars? Maybe not.

Planetary oppositions also seem like they'd acquire special significance ("this is the time we're on our own"), but that would be a floating holiday.

29:

Seasonal vegetables optional? Perhaps if flavour is optional also.

30:

The Islamic Calender is a lunar calendar with no adjustments so religious festivals migrate through the seasons. I note that the inconvenience is minimised for city-dwellers, such as Muhammad and his early followers.

Lights are put up in Leicester in October to celebrate Duwali, turned off at the end, then turned on again as Christmas lights in December.

What always surprised me is that Americans celebrate July 4 with fireworks. It's so close to Summer Solstice, you'd have to stay up really late. Except i always forgot that most of the US is much further south than the UK, so you get earlier summer sunsets.

(Similarily with November 5 in New Zealand I discovered)

Not quite sure what conclusions to draw from this.

31:

@ 22
Actually, judging from the celebrants around here, Halloween _is_ (now) a culturally independent holiday. That is not to say that it is celebrated everywhere, but my point is that it has become something of a syncretic festival. People of diverse ethnic and geographic origins can (and do) celebrate it without compromising their beliefs. That is why it has remained a popular festival here, when others - such as Guy Fawkes Day - have perished.
Obviously the evolution of public celebrations on other worlds will depend on the colonists and their religious, ethnic and political outlooks, but most likely the public festivals will be those that everyone (or at least everyone in a dominant faction) can unite around.

32:

They'll persist as is for a *long* time. Our existing timekeeping metrics will have a lot of inertia. The annual cycle won't matter much to non-terrestrials, but the diurnal will still be embedded in our biology.

Even postulating a situation where the seat of civilization is off Earth and the annual cycle is changed, holidays would be hard to dislodge. We're still celebrating Easter on a lunar calendar and Australians celebrate Christmas in their summer.

33:

Anatoly @ 19: I know they celebrate Yuri's Night (12 April, isn't it?) in Antarctica.

Wouldn't a Martian colony celebrate local holidays according to the Martian year, eg landing day? That would assert their specifically Martian identity. I suppose it depends whether they've fallen out with Earth yet.

34:

I think people would celebrate their own holidays, with others when they intersect, and then start making new holidays.

The only people in our development who have decorated for Halloween (and have been decorated for at least two weeks), also have Ganeshes on either side of their door all the time. They retain their religion, but take on our holiday. I suspect the same sort of thing will happen on the moon and Mars. The big holidays will eventually be mostly new and everybody will have their own private holidays.

35:

Brett @ 23.

Your are thinking clockwork. Digital devices handle this sort of thing without any problems. If you ingnore my coments about time zones and assume the day-end occurs in the middle of the night then most people would be asleep when the odd time jump occurs. When you think about it, it is no more odd than having you digital clock tick up to 59 then jump to 00.

36:

Interesting post. I believe that some older cultures without leap years continued to hold festivals on the calendar day, rather than the actual day - for instance, Ancient Egyptians with the Sothis (Sirius) cycle. I'm not going to extrapolate that forward and declare space travellers would do the same, however.

This afternoon I (British-American) was in a meeting with a South African-American and two Indian-Americans. The South African wished the Indians a Happy Diwali, and one slapped his head and said, "Is it Diwali? I forgot! I'm taking the boy trick or treating tonight!"

37:

Unless you can get to the point of having multiple generations of folk living off the land, your holidays are going to be inertia driven, clocks tied to ol' earth. That's just security blanket needs. Some enterprising folk might propose a festive time commemorating the first landing, or perhaps the day when the food supply was being built from Martian (or whatever large mass they're pulling from) soil. Whatever it is that they can point to and say "There, we are a community".

38:

Luke @27 mentions special watches some of the JPL people working on Mars projects had made so they could adapt their schedules to Mars time. Here's a link to a picture of the watch and discussion of telling time on Mars.

Given that work done on Earth today about Mars adjusts to Martian time it seems likely that people on Mars would switch to Martian time.

39:

24 hours, plus the Martian Time-slip ( Dick and Robinson )?

An elevator makes REALLY good sense on Mars - Sheffield and Clarke?
There's some names for commemoration - you fix the dating ......

40:

Kelson @ 37

I've never spent more than a few days on a farm, and have lived in cities most of my life. My last connection to the cycles of the soil was what produce was in season; hothouses and global shipping have broken that. And there are hundreds of millions of people like me on Earth.

But all of us are still tied to the seasonal cycle by the weather, and that won't be necessarily be different elsewhere in the Solar System. Mars certainly has weather that varies greatly over the year*, and anyone planning a trip outside will have to take the season into account. I can see the onset of dust storm season being as important to travelers as the monsoon is here on Earth.

Venus won't be an issue, even assuming anyone ever stays on its surface for longer than it takes to get into the Guinness Book of Records, but Mercury will be a real challenge for calendar makers: the seasonal cycle is different from the orbital period, because it's rotation is synched to a non-integral multiple of the orbit.

I haven't had time to think through the problems of the Jovian moons, but I bet there are some: they get much of their incident radiation from Jupiter rather than the sun, and I think all 4 of the Galilean moons are rotationally synchronized.

* high orbital eccentricity, and an approximate coincidence of solstice and perihelion, which is what makes one polar ice cap so much bigger than the other.

41:

I think one of the key determinants of holidays will be the environment people settle in.

If you're talking about artificial environments, there's no need really to change the Earth holidays. You just make a "standard" year, which many or may not have any relation to the properties of where you live. You could be in a hollowed out asteroid settlement on a 1,000 year voyage to Tau Ceti and still celebrate Halloween every October 31st. October and the fact that it has 31 days will be as much a social construct as Halloween.

In other environments it won't matter, such as a Lunar settlement -- same year as Earth.

The only time it would matter is if there is a natural environment that people are living in. Most likely either a terraformed world or one humans have been engineered to live on.

Regarding Charlie's point at #18, Mars is a good thought experiment. If we're talking about temporary explorers & researchers they'll probably keep Earth holidays. IIRC, early explorers of the New World kept the same holidays and traditions even if the seasons and local conditions didn't match back home where the holiday would make more sense.

As for permanent settlement, if it's possible to build an artificial environment then Mars isn't really a very economical place to do it. It would make more sense to colonize asteroids and move them around than to build a bunch of domes on Mars where it costs an arm and leg to get anything off planet.

The only way I see a permanent settlement is if a natural environment can be created. At least partial terraforming. Get Mars in a condition where people or modified people can live outdoors and grow their own food and you'll see local traditions arise. People might find an equivalent spot on the Mars calendar to move in Earth holidays, but they'd probably add their own since the year is so much longer. If you're only having Christmas once a year on Mars, you probably want some big holiday half way through the year as well.

42:

Although Linux weenies have seen this remark on round-trip times too often, I bothered to bisect the source history to find the dates. A comment from the Linux kernel's TCP implementation, version 1.1.73, 1994-12-15:

[...] Note that 120 sec is defined in the protocol as the maximum possible RTT. I guess we'll have to use something other than TCP to talk to the University of Mars.

About a month later, somebody adds in version 1.1.83, 1995-01-18
PAWS [an extension in RFC 1323] allows us longer timeouts and large windows, so once implemented ftp to mars will work nicely. We will have to fix the 120 second clamps though!

I suppose I could pin down authorship beyond "usually credited to Alan Cox".

43:

I think you'd be more likely to get coherent traditions when there are children; I'm sure there's some theory of discourse out there that says that traditions are taught when there appears to be someone to teach. But for the lone "company men" (and women) out there, I think birthdays would come first, then Christmas/Diwali/Martian New Year (would you eat Mars cakes instead of moon cakes, on Martian New Year? Could the red bean paste become emblematic of the red planet?) or the gift-giving/darkness-defying holiday of choice. Something where you could hand out IOU's for workshifts, in lieu of gifts.

If you've got terraformed space, though, and a need for more workers, then I fully anticipate White Day to fall a month after Valentine's Day, just so that there's an increased opportunity for a harvest of another sort.

44:

This evening I discovered from a lawyer friend of mine that law society certification runs from 1st November to 31st October; meaning that yesterday was the deadline for having paid and certified that they'd done 16 hours of Continuing Professional Development training in the previous year. I guess halloween is scary, or at least expensive, for lawyers.

45:

Some obvious days: landfall (almost surely), opposition/perihelion of earth (depending on the sentiment of the people towards the blue marble), end of seasons (depending the location on mars).

As for lunar calendars ...

Phobos and Deimos meet each other every 3.85 sol. But the point where they meet will shift each time.

This meeting point will move around mars (relative to the sun) every 7 cycles but of course that meeting point won't be exactly at the place of the one 7 cycles ago. (Let's name the cycles a,b,c,d,e,f,g to make the next point easier to understand.)

The meeting point itself will repeat every 106 cycles. But since 106=7*5+1 it may be at the same place, but it won't be on the same cycle. So when there is a meeting at one place in cycle a, the next meeting in the same place will be during cycle b ...

Now, the place and the cycle will coincide every 756 cycles or 2916.99205 sol. Long enough to give every martian a geekgasm and a really damn good excuse to party.

Oh yeah, and of course the .99205 part of this last cycle will mean that the time of day of this meeting will slowly shift and only repeat every 125.7 of those 2916.99205 sol cycles. Giving us a nice cycle of 366934.786 sol to measure historical epochs with (a handy 548.8 martian years).

And no, I'm absolutely not going to that same stuff for meetings of Phobos and Deimos that you could actually observe repeatedly on the same place on mars, not to mention that Phobos is slowing down due to its tidal forces on mars ...

46:

I'm pretty darned sure the use of Earth-style time measurement will persist far beyond it's "practical" application. The base 60 system used for seconds/minutes, 360 degrees, etc is not exactly the most intuative and goes back to the Babylonians (Napolean did actually attempt to introduce a "metric" clock).

On that basis I'm pretty sure that colonists will be celebrating Earth festivals (of thier cultural flavour) right up until they are breathing the atmosphere of another planet (as someone earlier said).

Which reminds me I still have some Dwali goodies left - now there's a nice bit of cultural cross-contamination for you! (Me not being Indian/Hindu and all)

47:

Bruce @40 : Yup, you caught me. I'm severely 'country comes to town' US Midwest, please forgive. Our farmer's markets through the growing season have produce that I guarantee beat the hothouse for tastiness, and I can only imagine that on extended stays on other planets that might be welcome. It's hard for me to seperate the ideas of folk not using dirt for some part of their personalized ecology, if only to grind it up fine and add some minerals to the hydroponic/aeroponic misting solution.

Plants (well, weeds) can be mighty hardy suckers in the darndest of places, those little yellow flower beauties that seem to thrive on highway asphalt, for instance. How hard would it be to start growing strains of dandelions in CO2 chambers and get natural selection to work on finding a tenacious fellow to root on Mars? (Probably very, but still...) Let the weeds set up some nitrogen fixation in the Valles Marineris, let them do the hard work for you.

Of course, one would want to make sure there really is nothing there before hand...

48:

Presumably Martian colonists will enjoy the GCR celebration, when they commemorate the anniversary of enough high-energy galactic cosmic rays sleeting through their bodies, courtesy of Mars' near-nonexistent magnetic field, to turn them all into walking tumors. Then there's Bone Day, on which our intrepid Martian explorers will celebrate the rate at which low gravity has atrophied their muscles and greatly accelerated loss of bone calcium, to the point where their osteoporosis is so bad their backs break when they turn over in bed.

Until humans get extensively genetically engineered, they're not going to be able to live on Mars or the moon, much less visit a truly high-radiation destination, like the satellites of Jupiter. Not unless our intrepid space colonists hunker down under 50 feet of lunar or Martian regolith and never venture outside.

For the foreseeable future, robots (alas!) represent the future of space exploration.

49:

Oh well, there was a "small" mistake in the one above. The moons meet each other (= are in conjunction) about 3 times a sol. And the points of conjunction will move around the planet every 3.85 sol etc. The interpretation of the last cycle is probably something even more spurious than the one I gave.

My apologies.

It seems like it may be a good idea to actually do those calculations based on some point along the equator of mars (say Pavonis Mons) and have a proper calendar.

50:

mclaren @48:

Why not live underground? It`s not like there is much to do on the surface, besides the occasional EVA.

And gravity problem is solvable.

51:

Anatoly @50:

Lunar or Martian colonists would have to live deep underground. But once you spend essentially your entire life underground, what's the point of being on another planet?

Solving population problems by exporting colonists to underground cities on other worlds (a la John Varley) is wildly impractical from an economic standpoint. Human societies have much cheaper methods of solving population pressure: line up excess population alongside a slit trench and shoot 'em. Or just export 'em to Siberia. So what's the economic incentive for any society to set up colonies on other worlds?

No, I'm afraid the classic Chesley Bonestell painting visions of brave human explorers in space suits tramping across wondrous vistas on Io or Enceladus or the Martian plains just aren't realistic. Spending your life in an earthlike cavern deep under the surface of Mars is likely to produce a science fiction story like our host's Glasshouse. That's fine -- but it's not the traditional gosh-wow-sense-of-wonder vision of living on Mars or the moon.

Actually, it turns out that by far the most earthlike habitat in our solar system would be in floating geodesic dome cities high in Venus' atmosphere. At around 50,000 feet, the pressure and temperature are remarkably earthlike, and if you used geodesic dome cities, the waste heat would keep the structure aloft, like a colossal hot air balloon...and the atmosphere would protect the inhabitants from GCRs.

52:

mclaren @51:

I didn`t say anything about population control. But if you want a manned research base, why not underground?

Flying to space is an extreme sport anyway...

53:

Anatoly @51:

...If you want a manned research base, why not underground?

1) Because if you're doing research, you want ready access to the surface environment, which an underground base doesn't give you. If the researchers spend their time cooped up in an underground Martian cavern controlling surface robots, why not eliminate the researchers and the underground Martian cavern and just tele-operate the robots from Earth?

2) Because homo sapiens has a rotten record of creating viable closed pocket ecospheres for long-term human habitation. c.f. Biosphere II.

54:

mclaren @51: also note that in the Venusian atmosphere a human-friendly breathing gas mixture of 78% N2 and 18% O2, plus impurities, is a lift gas -- molar weight is around 29 on average, whereas Venus is mostly CO2, molar weight 44. (In fact, a geodesic floating city full of breathable air on Venus generates more lift per unit volume than a Zeppelin full of hydrogen on Earth!)

Of course, you'd better hope your floating city is sulphuric acid-proof and has lifeboats. And you're at the bottom of the second deepest gravity well of any of the rocky inner planets, which might make coming home after a visit a trifle expensive. But hey, we can always throw medical ethics out the window and selectively breed our hardy interplanetary colonists for low body weight (i.e. anorexic midgets) ...

55:

mclaren @53, Biosphere II died because it was private and had lack of commitment. I don't think you should compare it to a serious space program.

Charlie @54, that sounds familiar...

56:

It should be pointed out that if you can build underground colonies on the moon or Mars that are self sustaining, you can do the same on Earth for vastly less money.

You could colonize Antarctica, the Sahara, etc. Or build massive underground farms and factories. You could building underground residential quarters too, but I imagine living on the surface is more enjoyable.

And if you really want to live off Earth for some reason, there are plenty of asteroids that are easier to get on and off of that can be used. You could get thousands of km of surface area in a habitat only a few km across if you construct it as a series of concentric shells.

57:

I think Anatoly @52 is on the right track as to "why humans in space" -- it's the thrill, the unknown, the first to be there.

For space colonization, though, it has to be a government backed extreme endeavor -- something not normally embraced by cautious bureaucrats and politicians (takes a real fear, like fear of losing a battle in the cold war to the Ruskies, to push something as inefficient as people in space).

Of course there's always the redundancy argument -- one planet won't last forever -- best to have a back up. Then one of the holidays may be -- earth goes kabloey day. And our descendants will thank us for being so inefficient as to have gotten out there.

58:

triozyg: the redundancy argument is a load of bollocks.

This planet has had a functioning biosphere for over 3 Gy. We've been around for the past 0.00005 Gy -- and as a mammalian species, our species life expectancy is only 0.001 Gy in any case. Earth is likely to remain habitable, barring human-induced biosphere collapse, for at least 0.25 Gy to come, and possibly longer. We shouldn't need a back up. If we do, we've done something horribly wrong.

59:

Michael Kirkland @32:

I would also predict that inertia will result in retention of holidays, but for the form & reasons to shift over time to more reflect local context. Halloween is celebrated in New Zealand even though the harvest was six months ago; it's not about the harvest anymore but about the trick'n'treating. Christmas is still celebrated in December in the Southern Hemisphere (despite it being Summer here) but instead of feasting on roasted meats and other heavy, stodgy warming foods associated with cold weather, the trend in Australia & New Zealand has been toward lighter fare e.g. barbeques & salads.

For locations utterly divorced from Earth's seasonal cycles, I'd expect the shift to accommodate local conditions to happen more quickly, depending on the strength of ties colonists feel for Mother Earth.

60:

Charlie @58:

But humans are not a mammalian species. Humans are a force of nature currently on par with the volcanoes (greenhouse gases) and with an ever-growing potential for destruction, trying to get into the dinosaur-killing league. Or maybe we are already there, if you count the nuclear weapons.

Oh, and the LHC. Yes, this one is harmless, I know. But eventually we will build one with energies that are beyond anything you can find in the universe. And we will turn it on. Because we can.

So having a back-up plan is good.

61:

@60 In this case, perhaps the better plan is to do offsite testing of the new whizz bang (or is that whizz pluuummmppppff) accelerator.

Given the actual difficulties of creating a backup option, I would suggest that the much easier & cheaper path is to concentrate some of those resources into not completely fucking up the biosphere that we have evolved to fit. In other words, if we can't get our shit together sufficiently as a species to survive on our own planet, I wouldn't rate our chances of doing it on another "hostile" one.

62:

Also note: it's not an effective backup if you're dead.

There's no conceivable method currently on the drawing boards and consistent with known physics that would allow us to shift even 1% of our population off-planet in under a century. (Even that 1% in a century target is ambitious -- six hundred thousand to a million people a year. Assuming you pack them like sardines and send 'em up naked, that's still something like 50,000-100,000 tons into orbit; in contrast, the Apollo Program put maybe 1200 tons into LEO, the ISS masses around 300 tons, and the total Shuttle program has launched maybe 10,000 tons over its 30-year life, if you include the Shuttle's own weight for every launch. I doubt we've put 100,000 tons of mass -- never mind useful payload -- into orbit in the 50 years since Sputnik-1 bleeped its way around the world. Space elevators? Get back to me when they've built one with the passenger throughput of Heathrow or Dallas-Fort Worth.)

The fact is that, barring the discovery of some variety of loophole in the laws of physics, all but a vanishingly tiny percentage of us are individually and personally tied to this planet, for life. And I for one would find scant consolation in knowing that, despite my own death in some planet-spanning catastrophe, some other folks a long way away might survive -- if the catastrophe was one that could have been avoided if we'd focussed our collective will on keeping our own planet intact!

Final note: the hoary, recurring SFnal narrative of escape-and-restart-elsewhere exemplified by "When Worlds Collide" has a somewhat icky subtext -- wouldn't it be nice to leave all those B-team folks who really aren't up to contributing to [our vision of a rational] society behind and starting with a clean sheet and a carefully selected bunch of settlers? The subtext being, of course, negligent genocide with a side order of eugenics and totalitarianism.

63:

On the subject at hand.

I would imagine that the temporal reference point for regular celebrations on a planet like mars is more likely to be the proposed leaving date than the arrival date. Think: Only 2 more months until we can go back home to earth.

As for the bandwidth implications of browsing the web from mars, I would think that first priority on the bandwidth will be data going back to earth, failure of the mission with the death of everybody involved being a strong possibility.

And on NZ holidays: My memory is that Halloween was never really celebrated at all in New Zealand. Any upswing in the celebration of this is probably a side effect of increased consumption of american film and TV.

64:

Charlie @62:

The idea, of course, is to back-up humanity as a species, on your actual taxpayers. 8-)

And the government should definitely encourage such altruistic effors, because when the disaster strikes, it will be the members of government who will get a ticket to the Colony, while everybody else croacks...

And Charlie, bringing Space Shuttle as an example when discussing heavy launch isn`t befitting a serious sci-fi writer. Space Shuttle is the most convulted thing that ever flew to space. It`s like a submarine dirigible on wheels.

When a serious need will arise, there is Project Orion. Unlike space elevator, all technology to build it already exists.

65:

Anatoly: I have yet to hear an argument for backing up humanity -- as a species -- at the expense of anyone that doesn't ultimately boil down to religious faith.

(Agreed 100% on the sanity of the space shuttle as a design. Baroque doesn't begin to describe it: "silly" might just about start ...)

Project Orion will, of course, be built by Pakistan or India. They're the folks with the nuke designers who haven't retired due to old age, after all ...

66:

When I thought of a Mars station in terms of an arctic expedition on earth, two natural holidays popped into my mind: First Sun and Last Sun. The habitat will most probably be in the regions were ice is found close to the surface. That is close to the poles of Mars, assuming the findings of the Phoenix probe are correct. If the astronauts are inside the polar circles, they will have polar nights. This should be worth a party.

67:

On one of the Muslim blogs I read I saw an interesting cultural cross-over - a Halloween pumpkin with the Arabic characters for "Allah" carved into it instead of the traditional eyes and mouth.

68:

George Carty @67:

Poor fellow gonna get lynched by both muslims and christians...

69:

Charlie @65:

Actually, it doesn`t have to be at an expense of anyone. With technologies being improved, in a few decades establishing a small colony on Mars may not be a very big drain on taxes.

You can even put webcameras in there and make it the world`s most expensive reality show.

70:

NickP @63:

Welcome to the Global Village.

71:

How about pre-terraforming Mars to a large extent prior to the arrival of permanent colonists (Buzz Alrdin is right, we should be thinking Jamestown and Botony Bay - no return trips).

Send land rovers whose sole function is to scoop up Martian soil and convert its components into non-degrading, super greenhouse gases like pera-flouro-carbons (sp?). In a few centuries they've trapped enough heat to cause outgassing of frozen water and CO2, creating an atmosphere with enough warmth and presure to allow colonists to walk around in shirt sleeves - while wearing oxygen masks.

72:

pdq: quick, name five human institutions that have survived and remained dedicated to their core program for 1000 or more years!

I will give you: the Roman Catholic Church, a couple of banks, the Japanese monarchy, and possibly an ancient Egyptian dynasty or two (if you count offshoot by-blows as continuity).

We humans are absolutely lousy at pursuing projects with a design life that exceeds our own life expectancy. (And 1000 years is only one order of magnitude beyond human life expectancy.)

Increase our life expectancy by an order of magnitude, of course, and things change ... if you could promise me 500-1000 years, I can imagine undertaking a lot of tasks that right now don't appeal (due to lack of time, or the small problem of me being mouldering in the grave long before I would have a chance to enjoy the fruits of my labour).

Incidentally, you might want to read the Mars trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson. Which covers both your own suggestion and my point about institutional persistance, at some length.

73:

Then how about para-terraforming? Terraform only part of Mars' surface instead of all at once.

So maybe we should just start "small" and terraform just the 4 mile deep Valles Marineris. It's depth would allow it to sustain (with some biological/industrial maintenance and replenishment) a sufficiently thick and breathable atmosphere. At 2500 miles long and 360 miles wide, it's area is 900,000 square miles (about the size of Alaska and Texas combined, more than enough room for any conceivable colonization effort). Cities could be carved into the canyon walls like pueblos. The colonists would think of the rest of Mars in the same way we think of the Tibetan Plateau.

74:

As for longevity, why not go the way with:

Geezers in Spaaaaace!

Most of the cost of manned space exploration results from the assumption that these missions will be round trips with the astronauts being returned safely to Earth. But suppose we explore and colonize Mars and the Moon with old people who won’t be coming back. Not needing fuel, oxygen, food or water for the return trip will cut the cost of space exploration in half. (*) A simpler and cheaper landing vehicle can be used because it won't need to lift off again.

Think of space as the ultimate retirement community. Under Mars’ ½ gravity, they can feel young and strong again. On the moon with its 1/6 gravity, they can feel like kids. With less strain on hearts and bodies, they may actually live a few extra decades (**) as they oversee robotic construction and tunneling equipment, perform scientific studies, and create a brave new world as they terraform Mars and build domed Lunar cities. Normally, NASA would worry about the effects of low or zero G on bone structure, but that is only a problem if you are coming back to Earth.

If I was retired, I’d do it just to get away from the kids.

(* Assuming of course, that their colony’s prepositioned hydroponic units and oxygen extractors work as advertised.)

(** Assuming that the stress of lift off doesn’t trigger a heart attack, the long space voyage itself doesn’t expose them to excessive cosmic radiation that leads to cataracts and cancers, or that UV exposure on worlds without a significant magnetic field doesn’t kill them).

75:

Valles Marineris is indeed a good proposition for terraforming, especially if the objective is to get it to a state where terrestrial plant life can thrive (even if humans still require oxygen masks, as opposed to full pressure suits). There are other technical issues, of course -- keeping your local atmosphere from diffusing away, for example. That's one big greenhouse roof you need to dome over it, even if it's just a thin baloon of cling-film that gets patched whenever it rips too badly.

I still think the Gobi Desert is a better bet: at least the colonists get to walk away if it all goes horribly wrong.

76:

Ok, let's forget about adult colonists. How about:

Embryos in Spaaaaaace!

Given the current American debate over embryonic stem cell research, the question has arisen as to what should be done with all those excess embryos produced by fertility clinics. Should they just be destroyed, as is now common practice? Even if you don't believe that human life should be considered as legally protected from the point of conception, this seems (at least to me) like a waste.

What if we reserved a corner of the space shuttle cargo bay each mission for a small booster engine and payload holding thousands of excess frozen embryos and launch them to the stars like the old Voyager probe? The payload's "passengers" would be shielded against background radiation and could use the deep cold of space itself to stay frozen. Like Voyager, each payload would contain an information disk describing Earth, Sol, humanity, etc. — and DNA instructions for the embryonic "passengers". It would also have a beacon to attract alien civilizations. A sufficiently advanced, space faring civilization (which would be capable of understanding what the payload was and be able to read the instructions) could create an artificial womb and bring the embryos to term.

Even if they don't chance upon an alien civilization, sufficiently advanced AI could be includd in future missions that would search for a suitable planet and deploy the "Womb-o-Matic 4000" for the first wave (generation?) of embryo colonists after thousands or millions of years in cold storage. Android parent surrogates programmed to protect, nurture and teach the children would see the first wave to adulthood - then they can start having kids of their own (either other implanted embryos or the old fashioned way).

Crazy idea? Probably, but at least this would be a cost effective way to send our first explorers to the stars. It would ensure that even if Sol went nova tomorrow, there would be a chance that Humanity would survive somewhere out among the stars. Besides, a group of humans "hatched" and raised by a completely alien civilization might make an interesting SF story (like the movie "Species" but in reverse). However, given the outrageous energy requirements for traveling at a significant percentage of c, or the incredible amount of time for a living crew (sleeper ship or ark) to make it to the stars at a slower pace, this may be the only practical way for mankind to colonize the stars.

77:

in the end it won't be theoretical concerns that get people into space -- it'll be money, when Columbus convinced the Spanish crown to pay for it -- he got his new world -- and other's followed for the money

same thing with space exploration -- when it makes money, it will happen. That's why I like the Merchant Princes Series, there isn't really "speculative economics" and sci fi is one of the few places where you can get it (aside from really bad novels like Ayn Rand).

78:

Day and alter-day struck me as likely.

79:

Geezers in Spaaaaace!

Wasn't there a Stephen Baxter story along those lines?

[Googles] Yes. Barrier, collected in Phase Space. If I remember correctly, the expendable geezers are along to keep the valuable machines running.

80:

Charlie @75, what would the requirements be for a Gobi Base to be considered a successful prototype?

81:

76 is Charlie or Dsquared trolling, right?

82:

triozyg @59:
"why humans in space" -- it's the thrill, the unknown, the first to be there.

Not much thrill living inside an earthlike cavern and never leaving. You might as well be underneath downtown Des Moines, Iowa. Remote views or tele-operated machines might be available inside the cavern, but how would that differ from living underneath Des Moines and viewing the same projections or operating the same remotely controlled machines?

Charlie @54 remarks that an oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere has more lift per unit volume in the Venusian atmosphere than helium does on earth. I think Charlie means at 1 atmosphere of pressure. When you rise high enough in the Venusian atmosphere, the outside gasses will be rarefied enough that the lift effect will equalize and the city stops rising. Note that a helium balloon on earth stops rising when it reaches a height at which the outside atmospheric density is sufficiently low. Just as a back-of-the-envelope guess, I believe a geodesic-dome city would stop rising when the density of the outside Venusian atmosphere reached 29/44 of the density of the Oxy-Nitro atmosphere inside the city, and to rise further would require harnessing the geodesic dome city's waste heat, as Bucky Fuller suggested on earth. This crude estimate is almost certainly inaccurate as it doesn't account for leakage, the proprtion of the mass of the buildings inside the city to the empty space filled with N2 & O2, blah blah woof woof. At 50,000 feet in the Venusian atmosphere the outside density is supposed to be roughly 1 earth earth atmosphere, so presumably the cities would need to float at least at 44/29 times that height. Further details accrue, but they're just details. The basic concept seems sound, provided the corrosion issue can be dealt with.

The same rarefaction of the outside atmosphere will presumably reduce the corrosive effects from sulfuric acid in the Venusian atmosphere, though, agreed, this represents a problem for floating cities in the Venusian atmosphere. They'd have to be made out of something really refractory, perhaps diamond. It is a serious problem. Perhaps nanobots on the outside of the geodesic dome city could constantly repair the corroded diamondoid surface. Of course, this too represents a cheat, since if you have nanobots able to tear apart CO2 molecules from the Venusian atmosphere, extract the carbon, and lay down diamond on the outer surface of the city, well...nanobots with such vast capabilities would be a lot better deployed here on earth, wouldn't they? And they'd change life on our planet unimaginably, to the point where we'd hardly need to colonize other worlds, eh?

Apparently Venus has "hot spots" and significant downdrafts in its atmosphere so that would also represent a problem, albeit solvable, like the corrosion problem.

Charlie's point about getting stuck in a fairly deep gravity well remains a good one. Presumably the Venusian colonists could extract rocket fuel from the Venusian atmosphere, but that's a stretch. Still, Venus does at least lack the ferocious radiation belts you find around Jupiter, while Mars or Mercury offer relatively little in the way of life-sustaining elements, and the moon certainly has little other than Si and O to offer. Saturn is so far away that the energy costs probably aren't worth the trip for humans, and beyond Saturn, well, you've got nothing but frozen slushballs full of light elements, all too cold to support human life without lots of power, which solar energy won't give you very readily because of the distance from the sun. Presumably fusion power would work...but after 50 years, we still haven't managed to actually get fusion power going, have we? After a certain point these "always 20 years away" technological boondoggles tend to turn into degenerating research projects, as Hubert Dreyfus pointed out in What Computers Still Can't Do, 1979, 2nd ed. Personally there's a list of things I no longer believe in: superhuman GOFAI, Drexlerian nanobots, humanoid robots (what power source will you use? And how will they avoid accidentally killing or injuring humans without GOFAI?), commercial supersonic flight, commercial suborbital rocket travel, L5 colonies, torchships running at 1G throughout the solar system, solar power satellites, flying cars, videophones, underwater cities, global weather control, a 3-day work week, universal rapreps able to build anything out of raw matter, world government, the disappearance of physical books & physical libraries in favor of datastores/memexes/dynabooks/ebooks/kindles. and of course human space colonization.

The bottom line seems to be that human colonization of space remains wildly unlikely. Robots remains much cheaper and simpler. I suspect that humans will eventually harness the resources of the solar system, including various asteroids, but we'll do it remotely, via robots.

Quite a few folks in this thread have tried to solve the inherent brutal unsuitability of humans for space travel or extraplanetary colonization by pulling even more amazing rabbits out of their hats, including "advanced AI" and "terraforming." If we get genuine advanced GOFAI it would dwarf into insignificance virtually every other human technological development, including the human colonization of other planets. Genuine functioning advanced AI would be able to do things we can't dream of today, including produce functioning new energy sources, new materials, and most important of all, better and smarter AIs, that would transform the world beyond recognition. Humans colonizing Mars represents a trivial afterthought by comparison with the creation of a functioning advanced AI, so positing a working advanced AI to let us colonize other planets puts the cart altogether before the horse.

Likewise, if we can terraform Mars, we could terraform the Gobi Desert or Antarctica much more easily. As Bruce Sterling remarked, he's not willing to believe in humans colonizing other planets in the solar system until people start writing "Gobi Desert opera" instead of space opera.

To put it bluntly, every solution that has so far been suggested on this thread to allow humans to colonize other planets wind up making such human colonization unnecessary. Because they'd produce much better results if used here on earth.

Personally, I don't believe in nanobots of the kind Drexler described in Engines of Creation nor in working advanced AI. Our best efforts at AI so far are pathetic and laughable, and have not gotten better over the last 50 years. Current chatbots don't outperform Eliza in any meaningful way because computers have no idea how to extract meaning from human cultural conventions. The reason for this is that all computer programs boil down to math (logic represents a branch of mathematics, or, to put it another way, every mathematical function can be built up from a sufficiently complex iteration of AND, OR, XOR and NOT. Those of you who have written 2's complement subtraction routines in assembler, or who have implemented recursive discrete digital filters directly in DSP code, know what I mean) and math can't parse emotions. The entire concept remains laughable. Just contemplate an equation like FEAR^2 = HATE / [square root of (LOVE)] and you quickly see how ridiculous the effort becomes. Emotions and mathematics belong to incommensurable domains. Moreover, applying logic to emotions remains a spectacularly ill-conditioned problem: suppose a girl comes home to find her boyfriend in bed with another girl? Some girls might get turned on and join in, others might become disgusted and leave in a huff, others might burst into tears, while still others might become enraged and stab both of them to death. There is no single answer -- it depends on the individuals and their impossible-to-predict-or-calculate emotions, unlike, say, the solution to a partial differential equation. A given PDE with given boundary conditions will always have the same solution. It makes no sense to say "It depends how that particular PDE is feeling today."

As the classic example puts it, when you tell a computer Judy saw a puppy in the window and wanted it, and ask the computer "Which did Judy want -- the puppy, or the window?" it can't answser. There has been no sign of progress on the frame problem or the problem of meaning or the problem of representing emotions in AI in the last 50 years, and there is no sign of any new approach that would lead to progress in the foreseeable future. This includes projects like CYC and neural nets (which work, sort of, with enough training, but remain fatally brittle, and worst of all, cannot explain the basis for their decisions so as to allow us to usefully modify 'em).

If terraforming were to be possible, it would have to be done by nanomachines run by robust hardened long-lived computer systems. Of course, such systems might turn out to be so robust that they outlived the species that created 'em. Roger Zelazny wrote an excellent story about two such computer systems in a posthuman world, Solcom and Divcom, "For A Breath I Tarry," from 1963.

All rather far afield from Charlie's original question. Shorter answer: humans will continue to celebrate Samhain etc. as usual on earth because we'll never leave. At least, not until we can do mind uploading, and I'm not holding my breath for that one, especially since John Horgan has debunked that idea pretty convincingly (IMHO).

83:

There's already been some work done with regard to calculating the date of Ramadan that will probably be applicable for future Muslim astronauts: the fellow who did Mooncalc has laid a fair deal of the groundwork.

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