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2009 Redux (Part three)

More highlights from the past year of blogging:

The future, Indian style — you know you're living in the 21st century when you read about India setting up a new export industry ... Thorium cycle nuclear reactors.

Jeff Bezos eats kittens — in case you hadn't guessed, I really don't like Here's why.

Why I hate Star Trek — in other news: Santa Claus doesn't exist.

News from the future front — an attempt to triangulate on near future technological trends in policing the UK.

How habitable is the Earth? — a thought experiment in which we look at the probability of a probe, arriving in orbit around our planet at some time in its past, determining that the Earth is in fact habitable by human beings. (Short answer: extremely low. Long answer: we suffer from an interesting cognitive bias in assuming that because we evolved here we're generally suited to live here ...)

What is the minimum number of organisms one needs to create a stable biosphere — on a space colony or generation ship? (Hint: the action is all in the comments, and the answer is a lot more complex than most of the early commenters seem to realize.)

Mechanical problems associated with space habitats/generation ships — ditto on those comments.

Designing society for posterity — never mind the propulsion, engineering, or life support side of a generation ship: what kind of society would make it to the other end of a multi-thousand year journey intact? (Again: the comments are enlightening, in a gruesome kind of way. It's amazing how many space colonization enthusiasts love the idea of (a) nautical-military hierarchies or (b) theocracy.)

The myth of the starship — when we stick the -ship suffix on a piece of machinery, we are also bringing a whole bunch of inappropriate assumptions to the party. Given what we now understand about the prospects for interstellar travel, has the compound word "starship" outlived its usefulness?

It's a crime — on writing the intersection of SF and police procedural.

21st century phone — is Google planning on destroying the mobile phone companies' business model?

Aaaaand ... that's it for 2009!



Happy New Year Charlie!


Charlie, in the post discussing how to design a society for long-term stability, I don't think you specified what constitutes failure. Complete depopulation, that's failure, sure, but what lesser disasters qualify?

To be specific, how many times has society in the British Isles failed by your standards since 1066?


Johan: the British isles failed several times since 1066 by my yardstick. The difference between the British isles and a generation ship, however, is that the British isles has an exterior (and indeed for 820-odd of those 950 years didn't have a single government -- the single government phase only ran from the Act of Union in 1707 through to the establishment of the First Dáil in 1919. (And I'm assuming we're not going to squabble over the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man or similar constitutional eccentricities.) Moreover, the British Isles had externalities -- territories to colonize, imperial rivals to attack or defend against -- and had the insurance policy of a self-sustaining biosphere in the middle of an ocean full of fish.



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on December 30, 2009 2:54 PM.

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