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Let's put the future behind us

To the eternal whine of the superannuated free-range SF geek ("dude, where's my jet pack? Where's my holiday on the moon? Where are my food pills? I thought this was supposed to be the 21st century!") can be added an appendix: "and what about those L5 orbital space colonies the size of Manhattan?"

Well, dude, I've got your L5 colony right here. In fact, they turned it into a vacation resort. I just spent a day checking it out, and I'm back with a report.




As William Gibson remarked, the street finds its own uses for things: he might have chosen to generalize the observation by noting that if a thing is big enough and fantastic enough, people and the bizarre hominid hive intelligences called corporations will come together in groups to make a use for it, even if the use they find is nothing like the function it was designed for.

Big-ass L5 space colonies as envisaged by Professor Gerard K. O'Neill in his book The High Frontier turn out to be both economically and biologically questionable. To be fair, it's not entirely his fault: he took NASA's early-1970s estimates of Space Shuttle flight rates as gospel—one flight per week, costs around $1M/ton delivered into orbit—back when they were selling it as a "space truck". At which point, hauling 50,000 tons of hardware and 10,000 workers into orbit to build a gigantic factory town churning out gigawatt range solar power stations using materials mined from the lunar regolith and positioned where they could transmit microwave power beams down to Earth 24x7 sounded like it should cost about as much as the 350-odd tons and 6 astronaut crew of the ISS. And as a solution to the 1974 oil shock, it seemed like a good idea. If we ever do get space trucks like that, it might be time to dust off those concept drawings and go for it. But in the meantime ...

The 1990s were a time of wild commercial optimism, driven by the end of the cold war, rapidly burgeoning public access to the internet, and deregulation of financial and banking controls. All of these came with an eventual crash and an ugly hangover in the following decade, but at the time funds managers poured money into whatever high-tech startup sounded good with a cocaine high. Roton, the fully reusable surface-to-orbit helicopter, got funding. VCs lined up to pour money down the rat-hole that was Netscape Communications in the hope that they could sell a web browser (while Microsoft were giving theirs away for free). And in Germany, a bunch of very serious engineers did their best to take us back to the Gernsback Continuum by setting up CargoLifter AG, with the goal of developing the CL160, a gigantic cargo airship with a payload capacity of 160 tons and a 550,000 cubic metre lift volume. (For comparison: the Hindenberg, the largest airship ever built to date, had a payload of 90 passengers and crew, their luggage, and another 10 tons of cargo. Lift volume: 200,000 cubic metres.)

All these ventures came adrift, but not before they built extraordinary things. CargoLifter AG in particular bought the defunct Soviet air force base at Brand-Briesen Airfield, 50km south-east of Berlin: and before they ran out of cash they build a gigantic airship hangar. I use the word advisedly. The hangar at Brand-Briesen, known as the Aerium, is one of the world's largest buildings: The only larger buildings are the Boeing Everett works, the Airbus A380 super-jumbo assembly hall, and a Target distribution warehouse in Washington state. (It's 360 metres long and over 100 metres high: so large you could fit a Nimitz class super-carrier inside it.) It was a suitably ambitious plant for what was essentially a plan to build an aircraft with a cargo capacity even greater than the Antonov An-225 Mriya, with vertical take-off and landing thrown in as a bonus. And so, when CargoLifter AG went bankrupt in 2004, having completed the hangar, it should be no surprise that someone, somewhere, sat up and said to themselves, "hey, we could use that!"

So here's what happens. One morning you get up early in your hotel or apartment in Berlin. You collect your swimming gear, flip-flops, beach towel, and sundries. Then you wrap up warm, because of course it's November in Prussia and while it's not snowing yet the wind has a sharp edge to it. You head for Zoologischer Garten station (or maybe the Ostbahnhof if you're on that side of the city) and catch a train, which over the next hour hums through the pancake-flat forests and villages of East Germany until it stops at a lonely (but recently modernized) platform in a forest in the middle of nowhere.

You're wondering if you've made some sort of horrible mistake, but no: a shuttle bus covered in brightly colored decals depicting a tropical beach resort is waiting for you. It drives along cracked concrete taxi-ways lined with pine trees, past the boarded-up fronts of dispersal bay hangers and hard stands for MiG-29 interceptors awaiting a NATO attack that never came. The bus is raucous with small children, chattering and screeching and bouncing off the walls and ceiling in a sugar-high—harried parents and minders for the large group of schoolgirls in the back of the bus are trying to keep control, unsuccessfully. Then the bus rumbles and lurches to a standstill, and the doors open, and you see this:

Panoramic view of the Aerium

It's hard to do justice to the scale of the thing. It's one of those objects that is too big to take in at close range, and deceptively small when viewed from a distance. It's like an L5 space colony colony that crash-landed in on the West Prussian plains: a gigantic eruption from the future, or a liminal intrusion from the Gernsbackian what-might-have-been.

And inside it—I'm going to go with stock photographs because, alas, I was too busy enjoying the saunas to go back to the lockers and fetch my camera until after sunset (at 4pm, around this time of year)—it's, well ...

Panoramic view of Tropical Islands

Welcome to Tropical Islands, Germany.

You can get the history from the wikipedia link above: in a nutshell, the Zeppelin hangar was bought from the liquidators by a Malaysian resort operator, who proceeded to turn it into an indoor theme park. They stripped off a chunk of the outer cladding of the hangar and replaced it with a high-tech greenhouse film: it's climate-controlled, at 26 celsius and 64% humidity all year round. (That's pretty chilly by Malaysian standards, but nice and comfortable for the German and Polish customer base.) There's an artificial rainforest, with over 50,000 plants and a 5km long walking trail inside. There are about a dozen different saunas, hot tubs, and a swimming pool complex: there's a 200 metre long artificial beach with sun-loungers for you to work on your tan wrapped around an artificial tropical lagoon—a 140 metre swimming pool with waves. There are bars, shops, restaurants, hotels, even a camp ground for tents: and of course the usual beachside resort song and dance show every evening.

If you want to see it from above, a pair of helium balloons with wicker gondolas wait to waft you the length of the hangar for a guided tour: like the CL160 these aerostats are never destined to leave their hangar, but they're probably more profitable.

Tropical Islands is the mother of all water parks, with a separate play area for the kinder while the teens and adults discreetly down their pina coladas or Erdinger weissbiers in the thatch-roofed bars overlooking the beach. It's safe, and clean, and organized and curated and manicured to within an inch of its life. It's got that Malaysian high concept futurist vibe going, combined with German thoroughness and attention to detail, for an experience that's pretty much what you'd expect if Disneyworld opened a park in Singapore, only with fewer dire declarations of death to drug smugglers. It is in short thoroughly enjoyable if you're in Berlin and for some reason decide you want a relaxing tropical beach-side day out in an environment that's barely less artificial than an L5 space colony.

And then the real world—the panopticon future we never asked for but somehow ended up with all the same—intrudes.

Panoramic view of Tropical Islands

Entry is ticketed: you pay the basic entry price at a turnstile and in return you're issued with a band with an RFID chip in it, like a blank-faced plastic wrist-watch. You tap it against the turnstile, and go in. The changing rooms are first: your transponder has a number on it, and this is the number of your locker. To enter the sauna area (€10 extra for the day, or thereabouts) you go through another turnstile with a contactless reader. To pay for food at the restaurants, or a temporary tattoo at the tattoo parlour, you tap on a reader. Or drinks. Or a newspaper. They've abolished cash: you can leave your wallet safely in the locker—until it's time to leave, and then you settle up the balance on your transponder at an unmanned ATM, deposit it in an exit turnstile, and leave.

Of course there's a down-side. You can imagine a hapless tourist, buying entrance with their credit card, not realizing that their issuer's mainframe will decide their card has been stolen: they enter, and like Charlie on the MTA they can never leave. Trapped forever, unable to pay the robot it's exit fee, they live feral lives trapped in the interstices of a tropical future ...

But that's just a harmless fantasy compared to the real down-side. Every turnstile you go through, every drink you buy, every experience you request, can be logged and tagged with your unique ID. Yes, you can pay cash for everything: but the resort operators still know that someone entered the sauna area then, 42 minutes later, proceeded to Bar number four and bought a pint of Erdinger Alkoholfrei. And there are cameras. They've actually made wearing a tracking tag a rewarding experience. Of course it's entirely voluntary, keeping count of entrants and exits can be justified as a safety measure, and it saves you from having to carry cash around in your swimsuit ... but, but, tagging!

After you stop spluttering with indignation, you realize that it's an inevitable part of this package. Hell, Disney do it too, don't they? And now your imagination cuts loose. Let's imagine ourselves in that bright future of space trucks and (relatively) cheap orbital access, of hard-hat construction crews building out our solar future at the L4 and L5 libration points. They'll live in space colonies, derived from Bernal spheres or O'Neill cylinders, for it's too expensive to commute from Earth's surface to orbit even with fully reusable spacecraft as cheap to operate as airliners, as long as we rely on chemical fuels. These habitats will be comfortable, long-duration homes ...

O'Neill colony concept, via wikimedia

... And they're going to be as artificial as, and even more vulnerable than Tropical Islands. If someone goes nuts and tries to blow a hole in the wall of the fourth largest building in the world, well, there are evacuation routes into the car park. The failure modes for space colonies are much deadlier, so the panopticon paradise with tracking devices and cameras everywhere seems to be pretty much an inevitable corollary of such an environment. So, too, are climate control and the curation of space. The Aerium is cunningly filled with distractions and diversions, until the 5km rainforest walk seems unexceptional, even though it's folded into a space less than 300 metres long: it's as twisted and knotty as your intestines. Long-duration orbital colonists will need a sense of space: many of the same techniques—lots of interrupted sight lines, branching routes and creative environmental features—will almost inevitably be deployed. Everyone's going to be under surveillance the whole time, behaviour monitored for signs of stress. Any children are going to be shepherded, lovingly but firmly, away from harmful things like airlock doors and plumbing, protected by doors that refuse to open for the unauthorized and robots that offer alternative, more attractive diversions for the fractious and bored or merely curious.




So: I had a good time visiting the L5 simulator at Brand for my regular scheduled glimpse of our future in the off-world colonies. But I happen like novelty swimming pools, artificial beach resorts in giant geodesic structures, and spas with clothing-optional saunas. I can even kind of cope with omnipresent surveillance and being tracked everywhere: that's the real spirit of the age. I wasn't expected to strap myself into a spacesuit and go outside into the chilly darkness with its weird smell of gunpowder, diesel fumes and barbecue, working in an environment as deadly as the deep ocean. The surveillance was of the most anodyne kind, monitoring my spending and how much time I spent in each feature: not looking for tangible signs of stress with gentle but draconian enforcement waiting in the wings. And at the end of the day I could put my clothes on, pay up, and catch the train home. From L5, the best you can hope for if you can't handle it any more is that they'll lock you in a capsule with an oxygen bottle and some ration packs and fire you, screaming, at the Earth.

Anyway, this is the future, folks. It's built from the bones of the past, it's unevenly distributed, and it's already here. And while it's an interesting place to visit, I'm not sure I'd want to stay.

(The title is, of course, a tribute to Jack Womack's extraordinary historical post-apocalyptic novel of the same name.)

246 Comments

1:

"Trapped forever, unable to pay the robot it's exit fee, they live feral lives trapped in the interstices of a tropical future ..."

J. G. Ballard would have a had a field day with this place.

2:

J. G. Ballard would have a had a field day with this place.

No shit!

3:

J. G. Ballard would have a had a field day with this place.

Oh God, but yes. This place (and it sounds like an interesting place to visit, but not to stay there). Maybe I would have been too wrapped up to take many photos either

4:

Hard to tell, but it looks like you could drop Spa Resorts Hawaiians in Japan inside that hangar. That's the only similar thing I can think to compare it to.

5:

Why did anyone bother with Biosphere3 when you could just put an airlock on the door of this place?

6:

Is that Luftschiff hanger bigger than those at Cardington?
because of course it's November in Prussia
Err ... "Preussen" was formally abolished as part of the WWII allied settelment in 1945.
I THINK you mean the Duchy/Land of Brandenburg, don't you?
*cough*
Hell, Disney do it too, Yeah & wasn't Walt one of Adolf's admirers, for some time, at least?

7:

Is that Luftschiff hanger bigger than those at Cardington?

Ah, you could have found out for yourself. But the answer is yes, much. It's designed for an airship about 4 times the volume of R101.

Err ... "Preussen" was formally abolished

Yes, and Mercia and East Anglia aren't nations any more either. That doesn't mean that any of them has been replaced by a gap in the geography. The Prussian region is still there, you know.

wasn't Walt one of Adolf's admirers

And *kerching* Godwin's Law gratuitously invoked 6 posts in.

8:

Did someone say Spirit of the Age?
Can I just leave this here please?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEwi2UZrewA

9:

To further complicate matters: There was the state of Prussia and the region of Prussia. The latter one lies today deep in Poland and the russian enclave of Kaliningrad. Even west prussia (the region) lies east of the german border.

The hangar is in the region of Brandenburg, which is has been the Mark Brandenburg as a principality in the Holy Roman Empire, then Brandenburg-Prussia for the personal union of both, then, after the abolishment of the empire it transforms into a prussian province.

So, if you call it prussian, you don't talk about the region (which always was Brandenburg) but speak of it being a part of the state of prussia, meaning the timespan of 1815 – 1945. Or 1947, when the Allied Control Council made it official non-existent.

„Prussian“ as an adjective is extremely fluid. Case in point: I'm writing this from a medium sized town deep in western germany whose sportsball club is named after a beer brewery which is named after Prussia, because of those 130 years of prussian rule.

10:

One might also extend the L5 metaphor to Bourj-al-Khalifa and the 'Palm Island' theme park of Dubai.

Admittedly, the comparison is weaker, for the time being.

But the *other* bit of L5 (and William Gibson'sStraylight orbiting habitat) is economics. In the absence of resources and high-value manufacturing, the high-end tourism is a flashy distraction from the real economc basis of the habitat: shadow banking, tax evasion, money laundering, hoarded assets on an island for the super-rich.

Dubai City's got that part nailed.

And, absent the threat of death in vacuum, they're not doing badly (if one can say 'doing well' as a dystopia) in terms of fragile infrastructure in a hostile environment, with the unseen denizens clinging to the underside of society struggling for essentials like potable water.

11:

Didn't the Disney Corp have an ever so futuristic concept wherein The Worthy Strivers Not Skivers! - To use a U.K. Conservative Right Wing, Dog Whistle to their Centre of Support at this moment -were to be rewarded by their Community of Choice? A swift Google...

http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=950&dat=19850308&id=iQpZAAAAIBAJ&sjid=X1kDAAAAIBAJ&pg=7025,1854173

I really like the...scroll down to paid political advert for here is the future in the U.K if the powers that be get their way... “Re-elect Jim Miles ...actively working towards “...and so on.

Here in the U.K the Powers that be are ever so keen on Paid Public Mayors /Police Officials and so forth...the Political Right REALLY, REALLY long to be US of American Politicians and share in the sheer Wealth that is their Status ... Blatantly? Well way back when in Sunday 21 June 1998...

“...Labour's rich friends
Once champagne socialism was a term of abuse. Now they're all welcome at the party....

Those being elevated have grown rich during the years of Labour's exile, many of them benefiting in the City and in the world of television and the media from the reforms of Margaret Thatcher. These are men who enjoy their wealth, with none of the squeamishness about money that might have been found in previous circles of Labour support. More importantly, the Labour Party itself is entirely unembarrassed by the association, taking very public pride in having the support of millionaires such as Gavyn Davies and Waheed Alli."

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/labours-rich-friends-1166325.html

How things have changed since the 1970s, when there were few greater objects of hate among many in the People's Party than those condemned as champagne socialists.

But it is easier to make big money than it used to be and, because of the reduction in tax for high earners under Margaret Thatcher, a great deal easier to keep it. So there are many more millionaires about, by no means all of whom are inclined to support the Conservative Party.

Historically, the Labour Party has always drawn some of its leading lights from public schools and enjoyed the support of a few rich supporters. In the 1930s these tended to be wealthy aristocrats who deployed their money in a deferential mission of political reform, seeking - perhaps because they did not need to - neither influence nor advancement. “ And so on.

Oh hum, and disregarding stuff like this...


" Last week research from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh suggested that, with fewer people now able to buy their own homes, and the decline in social housing, the next 25 years will see rents rise twice as fast as income. As rents rise, so do the numbers of people being priced out of home and neighbourhood – as is happening at the New Era housing estate in Dalston, London, where residents face eviction by a US-backed consortium intent on raising rents."


http://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/nov/23/revenge-evictions-landlord-evict-us?guni=Keyword:news-grid%20main-1%20Main%20trailblock:Editable%20trailblock%20-%20news:Position6

The British/English political Establishment looks ever so U.S. of American these days, which is why the Scots may well come to regret their failure to choose Independence over ... You CAN Have it All and we English will Pay for it! ..Trust Us for We are Tories! Would WE lie to you?


Oh Well, and Ouch the New Labour...

http://wingsoverscotland.com/the-candle/

12:

The key point here is that you volunarily entered a panopticon system. In fact, you paid to do it. And when you were ready, you left it.

That's considerably different from having a panopticon imposed from without, that you can never escape.


Space-habitat-as-panopticon: done quite well by John Stith in "Memory Blank" some years back. Not just a public panopticon, but "life logging" too. Stith doesn't appear to be writing any more, but I got a signed copy from him back in the day.

13:

More on topic that prussia: from the seventies to the early naughties the major part of south pole station was a geodesic dome giving the right sci-fi-vibe in an inhospitable place. Sadly the interior never had rain forests.

14:

You're right about artificially creating a sense of space in space colonies, since the O'Neill Cylinder set-up never seemed realistic to me - too much unused open space in a very expensive megastructure. The real open space would be confined to parks and artificial water areas like Tropical Island, while the rest of the colony would look like an indoor shopping mall at best with enclosed arcades of residential areas and business/colony offices.

Of course, if they're experimenting with this now, then maybe by the time someone is thinking about space colonies (if ever) they could plaster the walls and ceilings with screens simulating a more open environment.

15:

Forgot to add-

"Tropical Islands" reminds me of an indoor water park at the West Edmonton Mall that I went to when I was a child, including a massive interior lake. I'll have to check it out if I'm ever in that area in Germany.

16:

The discussion of safety in space habitats reminds of The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress; that of future panopticons brings John Varley's Eight Worlds Society to mind, particularly story "Blue Champagne". Perhaps in these societies, openness will be the norm and privacy an antiquated notion:

"His hate died quickly. His hurt lasted much longer but a day came when he could forgive her.

Much later, he knew she had done nothing that needed his forgiveness".

17:

That looks awesome from above, but of course like most resorts the big problem is presumably having to share it with several thousand other tourists. A picture from ground level shows what that might be like, as well as giving a better view of the balloons.

http://www.krmg.com/photo/travel/tropical-islands-germany-lures-winter-tourists/ppHQt/

I'm willing to bet that an O'Neill colony would feel MUCH more crowded!

18:

Thank you
I wasn't going to go into all that, however, the history/remembrance bok I referred to some threads back [ Norman Davies; "Vanished Kingdoms" ]has this as its theme ... countries that no longer exist, such as Prussia, the USSR, Etruria, Galcia, Burgandy, etc .....

19:

Small typo: The airship was called Hindenburg, not the Hindenberg.

20:

In the link on the words "biologically questionable", they mention the problem with CO2 being sucked out of the atmosphere by the concrete walls:

"the excess carbon dioxide was reacting with calcium hydroxide in the concrete walls to form calcium carbonate and water"

I presume those who are thinking about the problem of the excess CO2 in Earth's atmosphere have thought about this? I mean, I'm sure there's some obvious reason it won't work, but I'd sure like to know that someone's given it at least 20 seconds of thought.

21:

The production of concrete produces vast amounts of CO2 in the first place (5% or so of all man-made CO2 apparently), so not really a winner I'm afraid.

22:

I think we have a winner for the "missing the point" award.

23:

Nah. Looks more like a member of the libertarian space brigade.

24:

Folks, please don't respond to obvious trolls.

(Among other things, the comments may mysteriously go away. OooooOOooooOOoooo.)

25:

"After you stop spluttering with indignation, you realize that it's an inevitable part of this package. Hell, Disney do it too, don't they?"

Yes, yes they do. The "Magic Band" is in use all across the Walt Disney World resort in Florida, and is expected to be deployed for Disneyland Resort in California as well. Short-range RFID acts as your hotel key (if staying at a Disney Resort Hotel), your park ticket, your FastPass for rides, and, of course, is used for payments.

Long-range RFID allows them to track the bands around the parks for crowd control and planning - such as when to deploy more Cast Members to deal with traffic flow, etc. And they use them for some 'customer experience' things, such as telling a costumed cast member that the family approaching has a child celebrating a birthday, and the child's name, so they can provide a 'magical experience'.

It is awesome in multiple meanings of the word. Personally I rather like the system - both from a customer perspective, as well as something to geek-out about on the tech side. Even before Magic Bands they had cameras everywhere, so I always figured I was probably being tracked anyway - along with everyone else - as a data point if nothing else.

26:

As a kid I was a massive O'Neil fan. Sadly I've put away such things. I feel the poorer for it. However I can't get past the idea that while putting solar panels in a place with 24 hour per day sunshine was a great idea when solar cost 1000 dollars (2014 dollars) per watt, it's less of a fantastic idea when it costs 0.5 dollars (2014 dollars) per watt. I think working on efficient long distance power transmission is more likely to bear fruit. Certainly here in Australia where the major population centres are in the east. Panels on the East cost cover consumption in the morning and panels in the west to cover the early evening peak demand.

27:

And at the end of the day I could put my clothes on, pay up, and catch the train home. From L5, the best you can hope for if you can't handle it any more is that they'll lock you in a capsule with an oxygen bottle and some ration packs and fire you, screaming, at the Earth.

Or, more likely, if you can't handle it no one will sell you a ticket to L5, and you'll just have to wallow in misery in a tropical resort in Low Earth Orbit (which will be exactly the same as the L5 one, just much closer to home).

Wait, why are we even building the resort in L5? There's NO VIEW.

28:

I love this sort of thing. Or the idea of it anyway; never been in a big one. "Indoor [that feels like] outdoors". Nicer malls, hotels, and airports can approximate it: multi-story ceilings with lots of natural light, fountains, and plants. Or greenhouses. My most memorable experiences were the IU Bloomington greenhouse, which isn't very big but has one tall enough for tall trees, and gives a 'tropical' experience while outside the window is the cold and snow of Indiana winter. And Odaiba Venus Fort in Tokyo, which tries to feel like an Italian village inside, complete with blue ceiling and painted clouds. Compared to how bleak the day outside was, it worked.

Cherryh's stations always felt "realistically" bleak, gray metal corridors. Who in that world would pay for public comfort and aesthetics?

Bujold didn't describe Beta Colony much, apart from the Mental Health Board keeping an eye out for potential saboteurs and fixing them, but a French graphic novel of _Shards of Honor_ gave it a colorful mall feeling, with skylight ceiling and deep wells.

Of course, if you extend the idea, you get paraterraforming: don't terraform Mars, just cover it in connected habitats.

29:

Why particularly?

Ok, if you add a "floor" every 3m or so to a volume with a present "ceiling height" of 90m you do get 30x more "floor space" than the atruim offers, but the structure is going to be several times heavier as well.

30:

Space-habitat-as-panopticon is a somewhat important trope in the Imperial Radch universe too, to just bring up the (probably) most recent occurrence of it in notable SF. (To be fair, all of the society depicted there is awfully oppressive; I would not live there even for the finest tea served in the finest serving porcelain in the universe.)

31:

I find it interesting that although Leckie is to me strongly reminiscent of Banks (at least Culture Banks, maybe not Wasp Factory Banks)(yes, I know of the 'M' distinction), her universe ain't anything like as desirable.

32:

Of course, if you extend the idea, you get paraterraforming: don't terraform Mars, just cover it in connected habitats.

It doesn't even have to be on Mars; you could just go to Toronto.

33:

"The Culture" as an "absolute militarist dictatorship" rather than a "libertarian communism" (where "from all according to their means to each according to their needs" actually works?

34:

We do that now, in borderline-uninhabitable parts of Earth. The only thing is, it's a chain of micro-environments - home, car, bus station, train, subway, store, office building - all independently heated or cooled for habitability. "Outside" may be rough, but people only experience it in short dashes from one micro-environment to another.

Heat may be uncomfortable, but cold will kill you...

35:

In practice the whole of the interior is likely to be "open space" and will mostly be arable farmland. No life support engineer is going to want sunlit areas being used for buildings when it can have oxygeneating plants growing. Accommodation, offices, workshops and the like will all be "underground" with the interior space being a very big roof garden.

36:

In practice the whole of the interior is likely to be "open space" and will mostly be arable farmland.

"Arable farmland" and "O'Neill cylinder habitat" in the same context is an anachronism.

37:

The Malaysians have form - while in Kuala Lumpur for a competition, we went to this place:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunway_Lagoon

Fairly impressive; take a large hole in the ground left by a tin mine, turn it into a beach resort. Add a massive hotel / shopping mall complex up one face of the cliff of said hole in the ground...

38:

Huh? How does the comment about CO2 footprint of concrete is "missing the point"?

39:

It appears there was a trolling comment deleted that that was responding to, rather than the concrete point.

40:

I think that comment may be to the troll that has been deleted. When that happens the "replied to" disappears from replies. At least that's my guess.

41:

Google Image "Quarry Hotel"

42:

On the subject of the troll, this essay briefly turned into a trending topic on Hacker News. It tends to draw the loons every time that happens.

(I'm still in Berlin. Checking out of the hotel and flying home tomorrow, which means I probably won't be around here on Tuesday.)

43:

I've always wondered about the practicality of building proper cities on Antarctica. I was really struck by the the Gobi argument: that setting up a working settlement in the middle of the Gobi Desert or Antarctica or one of those libertarian sea-steading platforms would be much, much, much less difficult than a space habitat or Mars colony.

I've always liked the idea of a group of people settling in a place that everyone else considers marginal to useless and creating a proper community, a place you would actually want to live.

The shine of the modern Disney park has worn off years ago but I remember my first childhood experiences when the place still had magic. I can still get twinges of that seeing examples of good urbanism around the world, places people would want to go, places people would want to be, places that are attractive on an instinctual level.

I know they're probably about as impractical as passenger zeppelins but I do love the idea of the ocean arcologies. An impossibility to be sure.

Frankly, at this point I'd be happy just to see a 21st century, post-car city with sensible transportation options. Bicycles and electric trains and no exhaust fumes. I'm fearing that's futurist fantasy, too.

44:

I've always wondered about the practicality of building proper cities on Antarctica. I was really struck by the the Gobi argument: that setting up a working settlement in the middle of the Gobi Desert or Antarctica or one of those libertarian sea-steading platforms would be much, much, much less difficult than a space habitat or Mars colony.

Yes, but Gobi is boring. You can just drive there. No even a tiny rocket launch necessary.

45:

The intelligent ships and maybe the genderfree language are reminiscent of the Culture. Nothing else is. It's like near-Culture tech gone horribly wrong.

46:

I don't see any reason not to let people travel to the Gobi by rocket if they have deep enough pockets and really, really want to. We have the technology after all.

Some of them might even survive the trip.

47:

A while back I read a now offline essay version of Siberian Curse, a book on how much building and maintaining cities in Siberia sucks, and how it might have been one of the economic anchors around the USSR, and now Russia. Cold sucks. It's doable, but expensive.

48:

The Gobi is plenty hard enough to get back from if the whole colony idea turns to shit. Adding a gravity well and 40-200M km of distance to the evacuation route seems kind of imprudent, doesn't it?

Hell, it's not as if Phoenix, AZ would be any fun at all to be in if the power and gas went out. It's in the middle of a desert, after all, with some suburbs 50 miles from the "centre" of the city. If infrastructure fails, lots of people aren't going to survive attempting to walk out of there ...

Caveat: colonizing Mars probably is do-able and not too desperately dangerous, if we build out the infrastructure before we actually go down and try living on the surface. There's a strong case to make for starting by digging tunnels into Phobos or Deimos for human inhabitation. The astronauts can then shelter from solar and cosmic radiation while they drive teleoperated robots on the surface. With sub-second lag time (rather than 15-30 minutes we get when controlling them from Earth) they could get a lot more done than we're used to expecting of our robot probes, and by not sending humans down to the surface we can avoid the how-to-land-and-return side of the exploration problem.

Which means a whole lot of construction could be taken care of by remote control before we actually venture onto the surface.

(This begs the question of "why", but at least it's less suicidal than some of the other proposals for how to build a Mars colony -- mostly by attempting to do it all in one shot, so that if anything goes wrong everyone dies.)

49:

Oh please, that's the favorite excuse of Russian government sycophants concerning the reason Russia sucks economically. We have a lot of border to defend the roads are too long its too cold.

Cry me the bloody Angara river, you are sitting on half the resources of planet Earth. Russia sucks economically because of a very long tradition of bad government.

50:

Actually, I completely agree with all this, and care about a possible Mars colony only as an amusing side-effect of general space-faring technology getting cheaper and better.

Because, honestly, forget Mars, there is an entire Solar System full of stuff. It's just sitting there, being useless. Not even a single microbe to protect.

We need to exploit the shit out of it.

51:

Why at this stage should we worry about colonizing planets?

Screw planets.

The future of manned colonization of space is the asteroid belt.

What do you get when you cross Space X (privatized space flight) with Planetary Resources, Inc. (privatized asteroid mining?

You colonize Ceres, instead of Mars,in order to establish a logistical base for asteroid prospecting and mining.

http://www.pagef30.com/2009/04/why-ceres-might-be-better-location-for.html

Ceres has no significant gravity well to overcome and lots of water for life and fuel. Instead of Star Fleet starting human colonies on the surfaces of planets, we'll have the Weyland-Yutani Corporation contracting out the space equivalent of oil rig and crab fishing work - extremely dirty and dangerous work with a high death rate.

Work that makes investor back home extremely wealthy and mankind more prosperous. And allows space workers to make enough money to retire early with their hazrd pay - provided they live long enough.

And no permanet colonists. Oil rig roughnecks don't bring their families with them to the Arctic or North Sea. Neither will space workers.

Maybe we'll have the occasional scientific base established on Mars or floating in the atmosphere of Venus, but they'll be no bigger than a current Antarctic base and be nothing more than a PR stunt.

52:

Because, honestly, forget Mars, there is an entire Solar System full of stuff. It's just sitting there, being useless. Not even a single microbe to protect.

Are you sure about that last bit? Because I'm not.

I have a personal hypothesis that we're unlikely to find life beyond the orbit of Jupiter because it hasn't had time to evolve yet.

There's an approximate definition of life out there, from some NASA researchers, which is: a set of self-sustaining chemical reactions (external energy source optional) which can support Darwinian evolution. Chemical reaction rates are generally proportional to background temperature, or maybe energy flux: so expecting evolutionary processes to operate in a cryogenic deep freeze like Titan is ... optimistic. It might be going on, it might even have been happening since the formation of the solar system -- but the overall reaction rates are so much slower than on Earth that it's probably gotten no further than life on Earth did in its first few tens of millions of years.

But that's only if we're looking for life -- self-sustaining evolving chemical processes -- that resemble our own chemistry. Other chemistries are possible. We could run into realms where RNA catalysis predominates and peptide enzymes are unknown. Or where entirely different replicator molecules are used as information stores. And it's hard to know how we'd identify such things. Again: there are deep crustal archaea and other bacteria that seem to obtain their energy through anaerobic processes working on minerals and rocks. It's very hard to test for such things when we're sending tiny instrument probes that sit around on the exposed surface of planets. And then there's the posited ocean of Europa, which may be liquid water at temperatures suitable for even terrestrial extremophiles.

TL:DR; don't rule out life elsewhere in the solar system just yet. (Just rule out intelligent alien primates that look just like us only with funny facial structures. Implausible as hell!)

53:

IOW, don't think of mankind colonizing space so much as working in space.

We have oil rigs in all of the world's oceans, but we have not colonized them. We have science labs and weather stations all over Antarctica, but we have not colonized it.

We will have asteroid mining, factory and shipbuilding operations throughout the asteroid belt, but we won't be colonizing it. We will have science stations on the Moon, Phobos, the surface of Mars and the skies of Venus, but we won't be colonizing them.

54:

:-)

Let's just say I'm very exited that Dawn is about to reach Ceres.

55:

With advances in automation this seems even more likely. Why pay to ship hundreds-thousands of miners, support workers (to do everything from maintaining the environment to admin to cooks) and family when it makes far more sense to invest in a highly automated facility and send a handful of warm bodies to supervise and troubleshoot the bots.

56:

TL:DR; don't rule out life elsewhere in the solar system just yet. (Just rule out intelligent alien primates that look just like us only with funny facial structures. Implausible as hell!)

I'm not so sure.

Form follows function. If your function is to be an intelligent tool using species its hard to design a better form for this task than an upright hominid with a pair of matched apendages for holding weapons and tools, and a large brain case at the top collocated with with most of its sensory organs. Maybe a centaur is a better design?

Convergent evolution gave humans and octopi almost identical eyes, and we are not even remotely related. Why shouldn't convergent evolution produce intelligent hominds throughout the universe?

57:

I'm not sure either. Would love to see some extraterrestrial life found.

However, my personal hypothesis is that it is much easier for life to adapt to extreme environments, than to evolve in them. So, perhaps Mars have some remains of life from its wetter past...

58:

"I have a personal hypothesis that we're unlikely to find life beyond the orbit of Jupiter because it hasn't had time to evolve yet."

I know this may be way off subject, but George Dvorsky of IO9 has a fascinating essay on why we may be completely alone in the universe (or at least our galaxy):

http://io9.com/is-it-time-to-accept-that-were-alone-in-the-universe-1654960619

59:

Why shouldn't convergent evolution produce intelligent hominds throughout the universe?

Because it didn't on Earth. Consider the fact that while molluscs and vertebrates have somewhat similar eyes, they are not not in general very similar at all. Despite having a common ancestor. Also consider the arthropod eye, which is quite different.

60:

Form follows function. If your function is to be an intelligent tool using species

That betrays a teleological error, a fundamental misunderstanding of evolution: organisms don't have a function, they just are: their capabilities emerge from their morphology and responses to stimuli, and the evolutionary filter removes non-viable variants so that the next generation is derived from what worked last time round.

There are other species on our own planet that have been observed using tools: crows, dolphins, octopi, chimpanzees. None of these resembles a human being (except possibly the chimp -- very approximately).

61:

The failure modes for space colonies are much deadlier, so the panopticon paradise with tracking devices and cameras everywhere seems to be pretty much an inevitable corollary of such an environment.

For the immediate future, perhaps. As you alluded to in Saturns Children and Neptunes Brood, perhaps it is just as inevitable that humans will modify themselves to better tolerate the hardships of space travel. Perhaps there is hope that society could subsequently devolve the need to constant supervision for safety purposes once the safety requirement is eliminated.

Having made that observation, I'm not sure that society could subsequently relax into being less like a police state. Like an earthquake relaxing stresses in tectonic plates, it seems to require the build up of enormous social forces to displace/disrupt the rigidity of a police state.

62:

There's the question of whether life is an inevitable result of the universal constants. It would be pretty strange to discover that the trend towards human-sized sophonts is common, though the solution set can vary. Flying mammals, flying reptiles and birds all developed similar yet distinct takes on powered flight. Flying squid, flying fish, the gliding mammals and gliding snakes all use the same principles of aerodynamics but take some very different paths to get there.

We'd have to see many more planets and ecosystems before we could start generalizing but it could make for some good scifi in the meantime.

63:

The better question is "what's required for intelligent animals to get into space?" By definition I think this would involve tool use. Do they have to be amphibious or fully on the land? Do you need to be dry to smelt metals, make complex tools, build rockets?

I'd love to see what a terrestrial octopus would look like. Tool using, land-walking... I have a suspicion they would be partial to motorbikes.

64:

"That betrays a teleological error, a fundamental misunderstanding of evolution: organisms don't have a function, they just are"

True, but a bit pendatic. The "function" of a predator is to eat other organisms. The "function" of human being is to be an intelligent tool user. The hominid design optimizes this function.

"There are other species on our own planet that have been observed using tools: crows, dolphins, octopi, chimpanzees."

True again, but none of them are very good at it. Octopi tentacles implies the lack of an internal bone structure - a major handicap outside of a water environment where fire and technology are possible. And while a chimp barely resembles a human being, it does conform to the basic hominid design outline.

65:

"we can avoid the how-to-land-and-return side of the exploration problem."

The Martian atmosphere is too thin for parachute landing and its gravity is too heavy for rocket landing.

We may have to terraform it from orbit before we can land on it.

66:

Yo, NASA already landed on Mars several times. USSR, too.

67:

Not people and the supplies they need.

68:

Yup. Landing safely on Mars is hard. The atmosphere is too thin for aerobraking of massive payloads, but thick enough to kick up horribly unpredictable turbulence if you try and use retro-rockets. So for small payloads recent probes have used the bouncy air-bag trick ... but that involves loads of up to 20 gees on impact (not good for humans!) and maxes out at around 1000 kg of payload (or the airbags are infeasibly bulky and heavy). The big sky crane approach is promising (allows retro-rockets while avoiding the turbulence/disruption of landing site effect) but nobody's tried doing it on a payload within an order of magnitude of the size necessary for even an unfueled ascent stage capable of sending an astronaut back into orbit: an ascent stage with fuel on board would be even more massive (on the order of 40-50 tons, minimum).

My gut feeling is that for putting humans on Mars, we'll start with teleoperated robots ... and by the time it's time to go in person, we'll do it the civilized way, via a Martian space elevator. (Tensile strength needed for an SE on Mars is much lower than on Earth, and it can leverage the Martian moons for construction material or ballast. It's still a huge engineering job, but it may be easier than operating a reusable orbit to surface to orbit rocket shuttle.)

69:

Getting into space is simple, the problem is carting along our supporting biosphere. Without the means of removing excess CO2, balancing heat and moisture etc, as well as a food supply, we won't survive long. SF novels etc. have usually glossed over the difficulties, assuming that with lots of energy, whether solar or fusion, we can make stuff work. Meanwhile, back in real life, it seems to be a lot harder to manage a system with multiple feedbacks than we would like it to be.

70:

Funny. Today, on my way back from work I was thinking about how crime might look like in panopticon space station. I arrived at a guy who breaks into a liquor store and drinks all he can before the police arrives. of course that assumes a) alcohol in b)stores that can be c) broken into and a d) police that has some response time is not, say, built into the store.
Anyway, I arrived at instant gratification of some desire, in the ful knowledge that one gets caught, or some deals like "beat up so-and-so and do your time and I'll take care of your family". or "... OR I'lle 'take care of' your family."

I don't know why I was thinking about a panopticon on a space statiopn, and not one on earth. Maybe because all ingfrastructure in space (if ever ...) will be built from ground up scratch by people growing up in an almost panoptican, cracks and crevices without supervision might simply not be a thing. Plus the fact that the environment is genuinly dangerousm as stated above, legitimizing surveillance.

There's the saying that if we want to explore space, we need to take better care of earth because we will never live beyond our planet in appreciable numbers. I'd add: If we want to live in space, we need to figure out how to build a society that does not need a police state to protect a fragile but important structure from the people swarming its inside.

71:

Anyone have any idea how much wattage Tropical Islands needs to sustain operations? I haven't been successful finding through-puts.

72:

To even approach a hominid design, you have to start out with a quadruped body plan. Which is by no means a given -- most animals on Earth are hexapods. You may have been close with your centaur comment earlier -- but not because centaur design is "better" for a tool-user, -- it's just that if you start out with a hexapod, you will end up with a centaur.

Also, how human-like does an alien have to be, for you to consider it "humanoid"? There have been many bipedal vertebrates in Earth's history, but we are the only species which walks with the spine upright. All other living or extinct bipeds carry their spines horizontal. Would you consider a velociraptor "humanoid"?

73:

If only all that stuff was just sitting there!

Most of it is moving at speeds measured in tens of kilometres per second, relative to us. We might build a space elevator to get past the first hurdle - Earth's gravity well - but you have to ask what kind of stuff is worth several dozen Saturn V boosters per ton to get it back here.

It gets a lot better if you posit habitats among clusters of asteroidal debris in the Lagrange points of Jupiter's orbit (the 'trailing Trojans' of the Mote civilisation!) But even that might not be viable until we have better-than-fusion power sources for impelling matter out of reaction motors.

Hell, maybe it would be just feasible with fusion. And human lifetimes that are happy with decades for travel and centuries for building. We *have* had successful civilisations that were good at that.

But don't kid yourself that the riches are just sitting there. You could have efficient fusion motors and *still* regard a solid uranium asteroid as not worth chasing because it isn't worth the hydrogen.

74:

"Would you consider a velociraptor "humanoid"?"

Yes, they're called the "Gorn".

http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Gorn

Or maybe an evolved intelligent dinosaur on an Earth that wasn't hit by that asteroid:

http://scienceblogs.com/tetrapodzoology/2008/03/24/dinosauroids-2008/

75:

"My gut feeling is that for putting humans on Mars, we'll start with teleoperated robots ... and by the time it's time to go in person, we'll do it the civilized way, via a Martian space elevator. "

Carving out a tunnel base inside Phobos makes a lot of sense. Could we lower a sky hook down to Mars anchored on Phobos?

76:

"Almost identical" except ours is built backwards and theirs is built correctly, which is a pretty big difference - the effects start with the fact octopus eyes have no blind spot.

77:

Phobos' orbital period is ~7 hours 39 minutes, Mars rotates once every 24 hours 37 minutes. So unless we build a skyhook with the fastest railway in existence for the Mars-side end, it's unlikely.

78:

I don't remember the article sounding like "Russian sycophants", and I'm certainly not.

"Russia sucks economically because of a very long tradition of bad government."

Yes, and one way that bad government could manifest is by subsidizing permanent cities on the permafrost in winters where machinery just breaks from the cold. The point wasn't just "it's cold", it was that the Soviet government made bad decisions that continue to be an albatross around Russia. A contrast was how North America approaches similar regions, which is with seasonal resource camps.

Though I've also been reading about Nunavut, which sounds like Canada's project for very expensively providing a fairly crappy modern life. No roads, so everything's flown in. Hard to keep nurses or doctors up there. But the population there is 1/1000 of Canada, vs. 17% of Russia's in the Siberian and Far East districts. (Though I can't say all of Siberia's population lives in "who thought that was a good idea?" cities.)

WP on the book:
'The Siberian Curse: How Communist Planners Left Russia Out in the Cold is a book written by Fiona Hill and Clifford G. Gaddy, two political scientists and fellows of the Brookings Institution in 2003.

In the book they propose the thesis that Siberia, while one of the most resource-abundant regions in the world, is too big and harsh to be populated and industrialized on an economically rational basis. Consequently, since the collapse of the USSR, which planned and subsidized Siberian towns, a westward exodus to the urban European part of Russia is occurring. The large territory, they state, is not one of the greatest sources of strength of Russia, but one of its greatest weaknesses.'

Resource-abundant but too big and harsh for rational colonization. Sounds like... space.

79:

This review makes them sound like condescending rather than sycophants (not surprising for the Brookings Institution). Also criticizes their more extreme claims, while granting the basic premise. Siberia, where you have to subsidize gold mines...

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v26/n13/james-meek/reasons-to-be-miserable

80:

Howza 'bout this for your Big Future of Yesteryear: Geodesic domes, big ones, held up by differential air pressure. What creates the differential? The air inside is warm, say 25 degrees Centigrade or higher. What can warm up a significant fraction of a cubic kilometer of air? Why, nuclear power, of course. Something modular, like those fabled pebble-bed reactors. It's not as if there isn't a nice big heat sink right outside the domes . . .

Presto Allegro, and there's your High Frontier.

81:

It also looks (economically) unfeasibly heavy: bear in mind that, among other things, an O'Neill cylinder is a whacking big pressure vessel. Hoop stress is going to be pretty big, which means either thick walls or some sort of suspension cable.

82:

creating a sense of space in space colonies

I LOLed at this one.

83:

I thought Niven and Pournelle did a pretty good job of portraying the trade-off between security and freedom on a space station in their novel, Oath of Fealty. It certainly made me think hard, 30 years ago.

The whole Space Colonies project eventually seemed to become a metaphor for modern society here planetside. At the time, we were kind of in the mode of a breakthrough-a-day-keeps-the-crisis-at-bay. Now we seem to be realizing that biology trumps technology, that all the great things of the 21st century hardly matter if we kill ourselves with global warming. Someday, we will evolve to silicon (or computronium). But until then, we need to keep our little space colony called Earth, livable.

84:

There is definitely microbial life on Mars. I have personally helped to put it there :-) (No spacecraft has ever been launched completely sterile).

But joke aside... I have my serious doubts that we will find live on the surface of Mars. We have now looked too many places without finding the required carbon compounds in the various mass spectrometer measurements. So unless we are talking about something really exotheric like non carbon based life we are unlikely to find it. The subsurface of Mars may be another story.

Personally I am most intrigued by the icy moons where tidal forces have created liquid water subterranean oceans. This includes Europa but also the other Galilean Moons may be candidates. Also the Saturn moon Enceladus is a possible candidate.

85:

I'll admit, I may have to reread for content, but did I miss, in the rather dismissive discourse of the L5 - Big Ass Space Colony critique, the most salient point for their support?

These were never supposed to be idyllic resorts (though O'Neill and others after him showed how they could be very comfortable and livable). They were and are intended to provide a lifeboat for our species as we strain both Earth's real estate and resources to the max. Maybe we can dismiss the idea of species survival for another few generations - or maybe another few hundred years - but in a very Malthusian way, someday we are going to HAVE to do this.

One can only hope that, unlike what's been done to health care in my country (yes, I'm across the Pond), the final decisions for long term survival are not left to the bean counters...

86:

These were never supposed to be idyllic resorts (though O'Neill and others after him showed how they could be very comfortable and livable). They were and are intended to provide a lifeboat for our species as we strain both Earth's real estate and resources to the max. Maybe we can dismiss the idea of species survival for another few generations - or maybe another few hundred years - but in a very Malthusian way, someday we are going to HAVE to do this.

A commenter above somewhere referred to the Gobi argument ("I'll believe in people settling Mars at about the same time I see people settling the Gobi Desert") which is pertinent here. It doesn't take much scrutiny to realise that the space-as-survival argument looks pretty weak at second glance. The argument is based on two assumptions:

1) Earth is not inhabitable

2) It is technologically possible to build self-sufficient, closed ecosystems that can support a population large enough to run the technological economy to maintain the habitat

Without either of those the space-as-survival argument falls apart. But if they are true then you don't need space, in fact it makes less sense to go there. Unless the Earth apocalypse is something that vaporises the surface of the planet why not build "domed cities" here rather than space habitats?. It's incredibly expensive to put things in space, not to mention the technological hurdles of doing so. If a society exists that has the ability and money to build a space hab then they have the money to build multiple planet bound versions for the same cost. Why save 1 million people by putting them in space when you could save 2/10/100/X million by building on Earth.

TL;DR the ROI for a space hab is much lower than a domed city and both require similar technology.

87:

Why build something that looks like a Death Star taking a bath when ou can build somethign that looks like a Death Star?

Now, will anyone else recognise the reference?

88:

Fraid not, though you comment does prompt me to clarify that I put "domed cities" in quotes to indicate that I don't specifically mean throwing a giant glass dome over a city. Just any artificial, self-sustaining ecosystem that is Earth-bound rather than in space.

89:

Dunno about the reference, but Death Star construction has already been overruled.

90:

I happen to agree with both your points, Ryan.

Here's a crude analogy: you're taking a cruise, and if you're reading this, you're probably in one of the luxury cabins, not in steerage. Anyway, you find out that, in 20 years, the ship is going to be broken up for scrap. Panicked, you grab your life preserver, jump over the side, and swim approximately 200 miles. There you find a fishing boat, and you spend the rest of your life as lowly crewmember on that boat.

To unpack that story, for us, Earth is a luxury cruise ship. Yes, in a billion years or two it will get consumed by its power plant (the Sun), but in the meantime, it's pretty good, even in the Gobi desert or more rugged places, like Greenland or the Atacama.

With current technology, settling another planet or even space is akin to jumping off the cruise ship with a life preserver and swimming 200 miles. Long duration deep space voyages may be slightly more survivable, but we don't really have the technology to guarantee that yet.

And, of course, most other planets are a lot less pleasant to live on than the Earth. to be fair, they're a lot less pleasant to live on than most fishing boats.

Still, that's the choice we're being sold when we're told our liner is doomed and taking to the water is the only option.

91:

Here ya go The High Frontier Redux.

And another take from the same source Space Cadets.

92:

Many of those "created" cities go well back into Tsarist times. They were likely founded to establish occupancy of their regions to oppose Chinese or Japanese territorial claims.

Also, there was no other way to exploit Siberian mineral resources. Mining takes an industrial infrastructure, and the Russians have always liked to keep things under their heel where they could keep an eye on them. A region has easily-accessible bauxite? The step from "mining camp" to "city" is quite logical when your supply lines get long enough.

93:

Hmm. I wonder if the aspects that would make a space station a likely candidate for a police state would also apply in Siberia, or Greenland or Antarctica (just a few orders of magnitude les so, but still more than in Milan or Paderborn or Ougadougo). My guess is not so much. Bad climate means more energy for heating and a more difficult upkeep for everything, but I don't think it means insanly vulnerable infrastructure. What I'm getting at: When we colonize the Gobi, we still have no soljution for the social side of space exploration.

94:

(Thanks for that book recommendation. I'm two thirds through and already fascinated by those medieval states like Burgundry and Aragon. A fascination I didn't know I had until now.)

95:

The Malthusian lifeboat hypothesis for why we might need space colonies strikes me as suffering from one gigantic flaw: how reasonable is it to believe that, if we start by rendering one very fault-tolerant human-adapted biosphere uninhabitable, we'll be able to safely manage a much smaller and more brittle biosphere that is radically non-fault tolerant?

That is: if the liner is sinking because it's in the grip of 100 metre super-waves, then the lifeboats aren't likely to fare any better.

96:

It's worth noting that the colonization of Siberia was driven on the backs of convict labour -- not just in the GULAG, but before that, in the Tsar's labour camps in internal exile.

In terms of remoteness, Siberia -- if you view the borders of the Russian Empire as being closed -- is about as far from the hub of things as you can get and still be on the same planet: the trans-Siberian railroad from Moscow to Vladivostok is around 9300km. That's less than the 17,000km from London to Sydney (where the British Empire sent its exiles), but given that prior to aviation and railroads ground transport was harder than sea transport, there's an equalizing factor.

Antarctica: nobody has really colonized it -- there are research sites, some of which are manned all year round, but they're entirely supplied from afar: AFAIK there is no indigenous agricultural or industrial capacity at all. As research sites they're staffed by folks who volunteer for the job -- you can keep them in line to some extent by threatening to send them home. (Let's not get into minor public order issues like drinking and practical jokes: they don't signify as threats to the authority under which the colony/research site operates.)

Greenland: has been colonized, a couple of times. Colonies had an unfortunate tendency to go extinct. Not hopeful. But I don't think we can learn much about police state issues in a lifeboat realm from the Vikings, who were pretty much proto-feudal in social structure (stratified into nobles/peasants/slaves).

97:

Um, not to be to contrarian, but I suspect that about 50,000 Greenlandic Inuit might disagree that colonies in Greenland go extinct. Their ancestors have been there for at least 4,000 years. The Vikings only lasted about 400 years, which, quite honestly, ain't bad.

And Antarctica did/does have three indigenous industries: whaling, fishing, and science (http://io9.com/8-abandoned-antarctic-whaling-stations-and-bases-that-a-471066973). There's reportedly some coal in the Transantarctic mountains. If you wait until the ice melts off them in about 500 years, and if you can stay out of the tunnels where you hear tekeli-li, you might have the basis for a bit of industry down there.

98:

Bad analogy Charlie - in big storms, well designed small boats, such as lifeboats, can do quite a bit better than large vessels. As long as they don't ship water and you're protected from the wind and the rain (which is true in modern lifeboats) a small boat will just go up and down on the big waves. A big vessel can end up bridging them and either the middle is supported and the ends dangle free, stressing one way, or the ends are supported and the middle dangles free stressing the other. Repeat a few hundred times and it's not good. Now, if you're in the middle of the Southern Ocean and the big vessel survives, the long term survival prospects are better there, but short term you could easily be better off in a lifeboat.

You're the sci-fi author - you can reverse engineer the scenario for a setting that makes sense to you I'm sure.

But here's one that's topical - Ebola mutates and an airborne mutant emerges with only slightly reduced virulence and a somewhat longer infectious period so it's more likely to hit pandemic territory. It's far enough forward that the asteroid mining plans (or Indian or Chinese space plans maybe) are advanced enough there's a realistic chance to establish "life rafts" on the Moon (or Mars at a push) and be able to come back once the pestilence has passed. The risks are fairly high but the prediction is Ebola is going to explode worldwide so the risks of staying are high too. I'm not sure I'd go, and I don't know if you'd go, but are you sure you wouldn't have people queuing up for the chance to go?

Classic Malthusian disaster scenario. Not one that seems hugely likely, thankfully: I have picked it purely to be topical. One where a combination of the scare (false sense of the risks because the mode of death is seen as particularly unpleasant) and a possibly false sense of the chances of going and coming back OK will combine to make it happen I suspect.

99:

Thank you yourself!

Seriously, everyone, especially in the light of current let's call them "political disputes" shall we?
In Ukraine & Moldova & Georgia, where that nice Mr Putin is err, "defending the interests of ethnic Russians" ( *cough* ) ... reading about:
Poland-Lithuania, Poland, Galicia, "East" Prussia, Etruria, Rusyn (Carpatho-Ukraine) & the SSSR is educational & interesting, for Chinese values of interesting.
Repeated LINK for those interested.

100:

"Um, not to be to contrarian, but I suspect that about 50,000 Greenlandic Inuit might disagree that colonies in Greenland go extinct. Their ancestors have been there for at least 4,000 years. "

This turns out not to be the case. The Thule culture, ancesters of the modern Inuit, arrived in Greenland about the same time as the Norse. The Dorset culture, who were there first, lasted longer than the Norse, but were eventually displaced altogether, the remnant population eventually succumbing to disease.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorset_culture

101:

Re: Greenland.

The wonderful Historical Atlas of Canada notes that 1/3 of all property in the East Greenland settlement was owned by the Church.

That's (IMO) an appallingly high figure. According to Jared Diamond, the church made it a priority get bells for their churches in exchange for what the Greenlanders produced. Rather than, for example, getting iron / steel tools. As a result: plenty of church bells. And what metal tools there were were worn down to nubbins because even a tiny bit of steel to scrape or cut with was better than bone.

102:

TL:DR; don't rule out life elsewhere in the solar system just yet. (Just rule out intelligent alien primates that look just like us only with funny facial structures. Implausible as hell!)

A good antidote to anthropomorphism (*) is the book Evolving the Alien by mathematician Ian Stewart and biologist Jack Cohen. I'e linked there to a London Review of Books review of it.

(*) A.k.a. "Rubber-Forehead Aliens". Could be said to be the application to humans of "Call a Rabbit a Smeerp".

103:

The primary advantage of space colonies over gobi desert (or wherever) colonies in the lifeboat scenario is spatial separation. Your lifeboat city won't be very useful if the dinosaur killer lands smack on top of it... More generally, any catastrophic event significant enough to render Earth uninhabitable is quite possibly also going to break any earth-bound lifeboat structure.

I should also note that in the catastrophe scenario, it does no good to build the lifeboat - whatever version you go with - after the event, since the existing civilization structures will be too slow\chaotic\dead to build it afterwards.

I'd also note that solutions to the catastrophe scenarios are necessarily going to be quite different from slow burning problems like global warming, which has already "happened" and we probably still have time to build a domed survival city or whatever. The main problem with earthbound solutions (assuming that they are possible in the first place - see Biosphere 2) is avoiding having your lifeboat swamped by refugees, and there are easier solutions to that one than having it in space.

104:

Hell, it's not as if Phoenix, AZ would be any fun at all to be in if the power and gas went out. It's in the middle of a desert, after all, with some suburbs 50 miles from the "centre" of the city. If infrastructure fails, lots of people aren't going to survive attempting to walk out of there ...

This may be a bit of a side-track to the main topic, but is Phoenix so inhospitable? When I read your comment, I started wondering when it was founded, and whether that was before technology such as air-conditioning; or indeed electric power. Wikipedia says it was settled in 1867 and incorporated as a city in 1881. How did the early settlers cope? They presumably didn't have much infrastructure anyway.

105:

Your argument relies on the phrase "well designed small boats". Nobody designed the liner we're sailing in, and nobody here knows quite how to design a small boat. I see our situation as more like the wreck of the Meduse, and the raft the survivors constructed ...

106:

Bad analogy Charlie - in big storms, well designed small boats, such as lifeboats, can do quite a bit better than large vessels. As long as they don't ship water and you're protected from the wind and the rain (which is true in modern lifeboats) a small boat will just go up and down on the big waves. A big vessel can end up bridging them and either the middle is supported and the ends dangle free, stressing one way, or the ends are supported and the middle dangles free stressing the other. Repeat a few hundred times and it's not good.

This phenomonon is normally known as "hogging" and IIRC is worst when the distance between crests is about 0.9x the waterline (length) of the vessel and the wave height is equal to or greater than the draft.


Of course, there's also the issue of lying beam(side)-on to the wave fronts rather than end-on. In this case sufficiently large waves can capsize a vessel (see film "The Poseidon Adventure" where the film makers actually capsized a real ocean liner), and this tends to be fatal for large vessels although a modern self-righting lifeboar will just rummle the occupants around a bit.

107:

Going from conversations with an ex-native, but: Phoenix didn't really begin to expand until the post-war period -- it's a very modern settlement. (Remember, you don't get "villages" and "towns" in the US; just about any random gathering of houses and a general store incorporates as a city as soon as it can.) It has virtually no local water resources, and obtains supply from a long way up the Colorado river, where it competes with other growing cities: headlines like this might seem alarming, but we tend to forget that places like Dubai are situated on a coast and can get fresh water by desalination: Las Vegas and Phoenix are in the middle of inland continental deserts.

108:

The problems you've listed have easier solutions than going to space:

1) Being hit by an asteroid.
- If you can build a giant space station in time then you have the ability to detect and nudge an asteroid out of the way
- Failing that you can predict where it will land and build your terrestrial hab elsewhere. Somewhere as safe as possible like underground far from any fault lines

2) Building after the event.
- If you have enough warning to build a giant space station you have enough time to build multiple domed cities
- If you have the political will to build a giant space station as a precaution against sudden civilisation collapse you have the political will to build multiple domed cities.

3) Refugees swarming the life boat
- If you have the security to guard every launch facility, logistics chain and industry site involved in giant space station construction you can guard multiple domed cities.

Regarding the type of catastrophe I don't know of any likely ones that would cause so much damage that a domed city couldn't be built to survive it. The majority of likely catastrophes involve collapse of the biosphere (whether it be drastic climate change, asteroid impact, nuclear winter etc).

I'm not saying there aren't scenarios where a giant self sufficient space station would be a handy thing to have around. Just that for the vast majority of supposed reasons to have one there are terrestrial alternatives that you could afford multiple versions of for the same effort.

109:

Didn't the USSR consider the use of solettas (orbiting space mirrors) to beam more sunlight down on cities in Siberia, creating a warm local climate (heat island)?

It seems that a similar brute force method could be used for terraforming:

http://nextbigfuture.com/2014/10/brute-force-terraforming-of-mars-moons.html

All you need to make mars or anywhere else in the solar system habitable is a sufficiently large mirror.

110:

Ever since visiting Las Vegas, I've thought that theme parks are the perfect venues for experimental architecture - including potentially for space colonization. The destination-revisit rate alone would tell you what's a good/liveable idea and what isn't. Could probably provide a useful cost-tracking/logistics analysis related to various types of architecture.

111:

And while I agree with that, yours relies on people making rational decisions rather than an exaggerated sense of the dangers they're facing on one hand and an underestimate of the risks they're facing on the other.

Ebola is an excellent example of this one. Look at how it's dominated the news despite actually infecting a relatively small number of people. Look at how idiots with a public voice have screamed for "all flights from infected countries to be shut down" and how the UK and US have instituted expensive and stupid policies about checking people arriving in airports for signs of infection - when anyone with half a brain and about 10 minutes checking can tell you it's really not likely to catch anyone travelling and infected with Ebola.

It's so scary people who are being given actual good advice by the CDC and Public Health England (they've both publicly said things other than the governments have done) and the like are making daft choices already. Do you honestly think, if Donald Trump could buy his way onto the ISS he wouldn't have gone after Obama didn't listen to his "wise" advice?

112:

And if full scale terraforming is too big a project, orbiting mirrors can be used to create local havens of warm climate on mars and other worlds:

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn10573-space-mirrors-could-create-earthlike-haven-on-mars.html#.VHXdEYvF-So

> The concept calls for 300 reflective balloons, each 150 metres across, arranged side-by-side to create a 1.5-kilometre-wide mirror in orbit around Mars.

> The mirror would focus sunlight onto a 1-kilometre-wide patch of Mars's surface. This would raise the temperature in this patch to a balmy 20° Celsius (68° Fahrenheit) from Mars's typical surface temperature of between -140° C and -60° C (-220° and -76° F).

> The extra warmth would mean the astronauts would not need heavily insulated suits or living quarters, allowing them to work more easily. The extra sunlight would also boost power from solar cells.

> And the higher temperature would melt any water ice on the ground. This could make precious liquid water available for astronauts to drink, and the water could also be used as a raw material to produce rocket fuel for the journey home, Woida says.

So now in addition to full scale terraforming and small scale enclose structures (para-terraforming), we have a third option in between these two - localized havens created by heat islands generated by orbiting mirrors.

113:

A quote I intended to post much earlier in the thread, from James Lileks:

"Nothing quite says 'yesterday' like yesterday's 'tomorrow'."

114:

I see the benefits of libration point settlements as primarily exploitation of off-planet resources, launch costs permitting, a handy place for solar power stations, radiophobes permitting, a place to develop particle shielded habitats, or else, a more comfortable destination for asteroidal exploitation than LEO, lest a rounding error create a crater. A breeding population off-planet would be a side effect, made more unlikely by automated processes.

115:

Furthermore, if you can build a large space habitat, you can build a large moonbased habitat with the advantages of , Gravity(not 1g but not 0g either),Free radiation shielding, free meteor shielding(i.e. build the base in deep tunnels, simpler pressure vessel constuction in there is a supporting underlayer hence weight is less of a problem, and a large thermal mass to reduce rapid heat cycling which your space habitat will be vunerable to.

116:

Well, to get this off Google and into the literature, Robert McGhee's Ancient People of the Arctic points out that the Palaeo-eskimos were the first settlers of Greenland.

Here's what we think we know:

1. There's a definite displacement of the Dorset material culture by the "Thule" material culture in the archaeological record.

2. Both people probably came from a common group of ancestors, much as the Polynesians did, so the displacement may be akin to what seems to have happened in Hawai'i, where the Hawaiians mostly conquered the people who are now called the Menehune. What do you call it when one group of Polynesians conquers another group of Polynesians? Is there a discontinuity in the colonial record?

3. Most likely, a bunch of Dorsets became Thules somewhere along the line, just as Celts became Romans became Saxons became English.

4. Are the Thule the ancestors of the modern Inuit? Probably. Just as the ancient Anasazi were ancestors of the modern Puebloans, the Hohokam were the ancestors of the modern Pima, and so forth. Archaeologists have this truly annoying habit of naming cultures after either a dig site or whatever. The separate names speak to separate material cultures, and then we assume that this difference in material culture is also reflected in differences in human gene lines and so forth.

Following the archeologists' logic of material culture, we could say that a band of Modernists started in Europe in the early 20th Century and scored a decisive victory in WWII. After that, they spread on a wave of invincible conquest all over the world, setting up their distinctive square skyscrapers in cities around the world, those buildings marking their domination as surely as did the temples of Babylonia or the Cathedrals of Latin America. Obviously, they kicked out, and perhaps killed, the local elites before they imposed their highly distinct building culture and industrial plantation form of agriculture. Unfortunately, the evidence from the graves of the time don't show much evidence for the Modernist People, so we don't know what they looked like. Perhaps they practiced cremation, unlike the people they conquered who were entombed in graves around their cremated remains. In any event, almost nothing of their intellectual culture survives, since it was mostly stored on highly perishable paper and electronic media. Most of what archeologists think they know of them comes from speculative reconstructions based on excavations of the rubble piles after the skyscrapers fell, in the few places that these weren't looted for metals and glass.

You get the point. Getting back to Greenland, I think it's safe to say that it's been colonized continuously for thousands of years, and it's probably safe to say that the people who were there before are the ancestors of those who are there today. I was trying to correct Charlie's take that the Greenland vikings had colonized a land barren of humans.

117:

You would be a good fit with the archaeologists I know, who are wont to talk of such things as "Atomic Age trackways" and the "ouch school of archaeology".

118:

Very good!

But for bonus points you need to refer to the characteristic Ritual Objects of the Modernist People -- the flat glass rectangles of 16:9 aspect ratio set in metal and plastic frames, backed by oddly inscribed fibreglass panels with runic inlays studded with black beetle-like resin rectangles held on with elaborate solder joints, each containing a sliver of impure quartz of that kind that doesn't occur in nature. They're found in all excavated Modernist People dwellings, and many of their workplaces, in a variety of sizes but all sharing the characteristic aspect ratio.

And don't get me started on the curved and irregular slabs of toughened, laminated glass found near the rusted remnants of their war chariots.

119:

It clearly does exist in nature, but all the easily accessible reserves were mined in order to make mysterious ritual objects.

A shortage of the stuff is the most likely reason for the late modern age collapse.

120:

And don't get me started on the curved and irregular slabs of toughened, laminated glass found near the rusted remnants of their war chariots.

They're one of the great puzzles — they're obviously a crude form of vegetable cloche, but why oh why are they with those chariots and not in the fields? Unless, just perhaps, the final catastrophe struck just as the Vegetable People were about to invade their neighbours in order to plant cucumbers.

121:
… they're obviously a crude form of vegetable cloche, but why oh why are they with those chariots …

Obviously they were a vegetarian nomadic culture, pushing their mobile little gardens on the great roads, migrating season for season after the sun.

122:

Sorry for the off-topic, but could anyone who had read the Jack Womack's book “Let’s put the future behind us” tell me what he thinks this book is about and what historical period (if any) in what nation it depicts?

I found the free sample to be disgusting enough to prevent me from buying the whole book in any case; but I am curious how this book is perceived by those who do not cringe from its wrongness on so many levels...

123:

Thanks. To give credit where it's due, many years ago I read an essay by Poul Anderson, where he parodied the icons of the day ("Bunni," "The Bomb," etc.) by describing them as Greek gods were described back in the 1960s. Wish I could remember the name of the essay. Still, I'm quite sure the meme is older than him, just as I'm quite sure that archaeologists are more aware than we mere mortals are of the difference between the "material cultures" they name and the people who produced them.

124:

It's set in the era of the "New Russians", and is essentially about criminal gangs in Moscow.

125:

Why are all the shields pointing south? And why we're they attached to dwellings?

126:

I think you missed the significance of the 16:9 aspect ratio ...

127:

Refugees is who lifeboats are for. I think you are talking about castles for practically feudal elite. Cosy catastrophy much?

I think KSR got the whole 'lifeboat' argument right in the latter parts of the mars trilogy: There's so, so many of us that the thought of getting all of us into space is just ridiculous. This talk of 'preserving the species' is just a fancy way of saying 'I get to escape, you don't'

128:

Are you saying the aspect ratio is related to the direction of the shields? Ridiculous!

129:

Don't know the real details of Phoenix, but AIUI hot dry climate is relatively easy to deal with if you have enough water to survive on at all. We build eastern-style buildings and apply lots of air conditioning, but smarter and more traditional housing e.g. high-mass adobe, white paint, artifical shade, and good airflow get you lots of comfort. Nights get cooler, after all.

...or they used to. Wikipedia says the urban heat island effect means Phoenix now sees many nights with lows above 80 F.

Anyway, as deserts go, Phoenix was built at the confluence of two rivers, and was agricultural early on. So that's how it started. The massive growth is imported water + A/C.

130:

"Lifeboats for the human race" are a terrible reason for space colonies. Because they're not lifeboats for the people making the decision, they're backup for the human race as an abstract collective, which almost no one really cares about in planning. The colonies don't save anyone on Earth in the event of an asteroid impact, so why should taxpayers vote for them? The effort would be better spent on shelters, detection, and deflection, to save us. More benefit, as well as much cheaper.

Colonies are the opposite of low-hanging fruit, they're more like standing on top of the canopy reaching for the clouds. Especially as, to be real backup, they have to be self-sufficient, not dependent on trade to survive. Which makes it even harder. Especially as the people living there would probably like to trade, so the colony government would have to impose inefficiency to enforce autarky.

Granted, being located in the asteroid belt would help with that.

Still, if you're seriously worried about existential risks, many other things make far more sense to do before space colonies. Public granaries with multi-year supply; bomb/gas shelter for all citizens (Switzerland still mandates an ability to shelter its whole population); more effort in detecting and deflecting asteroids; experiments with lancing magma chambers to see if we can tame vulcanism; deliberate oversupply of hospital beds and medical personnel; hardening the grid against EMPs; underground or underwater "colonies", perhaps with people rotating through instead of a permanent population, so that no one has to permanently live in isolation but a population is in place in case of sudden gamma ray burster frying the surface.

All of those (a) are probably much cheaper and (b) potentially benefit the people making the decisions, not other hypothetical people. You'll note that despite that, we're not really doing any of them; markets naturally favor short-term efficiency over hard redundancy, and almost no government is making sure to counterbalance that. Funding colonies so that "if we die, someone else gets to live"? Yeah right.

131:

Concerning space colonies: Wouldn't people living there have to accept a degree of control that would be repugnant to us today? Presumably reproduction would have to be carefully controlled, with females required to have a certain number of children, possibly by nominated fathers. Bearers (either sex) of certain genetic conditions being told that they could not reproduce.

Would a colony have a limit on the number of disabled people? Would this be tiered by the extent of the disability? How would this be enforced? Bear in mind that we will all become disabled as we age.

As I said, this is repugnant to contemplate, but I presume that this has been thought through in some author's work. Anyone got any pointers for books I could put on my Christmas list?


http://englishrussia.com/ documents the abandonment of much soviet era infrastructure.

132:

Speaking of food pills, Charlie, have you done a High Frontier Redux style demolition of the idea for us to look at in the archives?

133:

All you need for a refutation is basic chemistry and mass. Humans need an ounce or two of protein a day to survive. I just weighed out 12 Tums on my food scale, to get one ounce. And 30 grams of protein gets you just 120 calories. To get another, say, 1800 calories, needs at least 200 grams of fat, or about 7 ounces. You can't live on a pill a day; you could maybe live on a cup or two of high-fat slurry.

If you're willing to live on multiple pills a day, we call that "kibble", or "fortified cereal", and it's already here, at least for pets and lab animals. (I don't advise living on cereal.)

134:

After seeing what the monkeys in one research lab ate, I thought it would be perfectly possible to make grad student kibble, something that we could by in 20 pound bags for a relatively low price. Fortunately for everyone, I never carried out the idea.

In any case, UN survival rations are pretty close to a standard ration bar. But you're right, food pills don't work.

135:

Poul Anderson's essay is collected in Fantasy by him.

Niven and Pournelle's Oath of Fealty made the point that we don't really know what a new city will require, so the best way to build one is a new city with really good, cheap transportation from an old city. New York is built down as well as up. If I was building a New New York I'd build underground, and I'd start with one of the old subway lines.

Really liked Dean Ing's Down and Out in L5 Prime.

136:

Archeologists have a habit of tagging anything they don't readily understand as "religious."

I've wondered what some far-future archeologists would think of Mount Rushmore, or Crazy Horse, or the Gateway Arch, or why the pyramid on the Mississippi is shiny stainless steel when the ones in Africa are stone...

137:

SOME of our war-chariots have flat glass!
( Land-Rover, of course ... )
Re. the Vikings in Thule/Greenland ... as Jared Diamond points out, they were surrounded by food ( FISH ) & yet refused to eat it & thus starved ...
Why? We'll never know, I suspect.

Oh, re "hetermeles" point #3
The whole idea of peoples being militarily displaced/slaughtered etc, collaped violently, almost as soon as DNA (mitochondrial & Y-chromosom) analysis arrived.
The case of "Cheddar Man" & an approx 8000-year later collateral descendant, living within 3km of the original find certainly got people's attention.

138:

For a classic example of this unbelievable short-termism, resulting in a complete fuck-up, you need look no further than the energy policy ( Wot that? ) of the UK guvmint from about 1985 onwards to the present day.
ALL the main three political parties are to blame for this one .....

139:

I can't remember the exact volume or title off-hand (even with an assist from Wikipedia), but I think it was in "Before the Golden Age" or "The Early Asimov" that I first read something similar, written by a Martian archaeologist after the successful invasion of Earth and extinction of Homo Sapiens. It referred to such individuals as "Sherk Sper" and his line "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears..." and how it was indicitive of the species' early invention of plastic surgery and "Sherk Olmes" and his thwarting of early invasion attempts by agent Moriarty...

140:

He's slightly off in the angle (the Astra cluster is more S/E) but I think he's suggesting a relationship between the 16:9 panels and and the shields?

141:

Referring to the British "Channel 4" series "Time Team", and their format which involved making models of some of the sites they were investigating, I once imagined a future, say 3_000CE, archaeologist's paper on the Atomic Age having an abstract that included "...an interesting people, the Atomic Agers, who seem to have attached great religious significance to making small replicas of Neolithic monuments that they were attempting to investigate with their crude methods..."

142:

----There's so, so many of us that the thought of getting all of us into space is just ridiculous. This talk of 'preserving the species' is just a fancy way of saying 'I get to escape, you don't'

Worse than that, like so many of these Armageddon I'll Survive fantasies it boils down to "Bill Gates and the Koch brothers agree I'm so important/useful I get to go with them (but not to be the space janitor because that's no fun)" or even less realistically "Sometime soon but still before the end I'll have more money and influence than Bill Gates and the Koch brothers".

143:

There are some attempts at a single food source. Frankly, to me, they look universally vile -- eating is as much a source of pleasure as sex and physical intimacy. (I note that some particularly heinous US prison administrations try to supply prisoners with something similar, only less tasty, as a punishment: "real" food is a reward for good behaviour. I'd call that an abusive treatment, somewhere on the torture spectrum with solitary confinement and sensory deprivation.)

Furthermore, these are artificial foods, manufactured from a variety of ingredients. There's no one-nutrient-fits-all-metabolic-needs manna source out there: humans and their ancestors weren't dependent on a single diet, the way giant pandas are dependent on bamboo shoots.

144:

If I was building a New New York I'd build underground, and I'd start with one of the old subway lines.

Drainage could be a bit of a problem. Especially the next time a hurricane in the same class as Sandy hits. I'd be more inclined to suggest running an overhead maglev out from Penn Station (well-connected to the existing subway network, pretty central in Manhattan) to somewhere 20-50 miles inland and a few hundred metres uphill, if a suitable location can be found. If the transit time is under 15 minutes and the transit cost is subsidised, then in human geography terms it becomes as commutable as somewhere in Brooklyn, but far more resilient in the face of climate change.

145:

Re. the Vikings in Thule/Greenland ... as Jared Diamond points out, they were surrounded by food ( FISH ) & yet refused to eat it & thus starved ... Why? We'll never know, I suspect.

Random guess ...

Q: What are boats made of?

A: Wood.

Q: How do you get to the fishes?

A: You build a boat, and nets.

Q: What's the nearest source of great big trees, suitable for the building of boats, to Greenland?

A: ... (sound of crickets) ...

(See also Easter Island.)

146:
He's slightly off in the angle (the Astra cluster is more S/E) but I think he's suggesting a relationship between the 16:9 panels and and the shields?

No, I'm explicitly denying the relationship between the 16:9 panels and the shields because there is no way that this can be deduced from the artifacts in question using rational evidence based methods save the occasional surviving link between the shields and the panels.

Admittedly some "para-archeologists" claim the shields received messages from the Sky God Mur-d-och, but there is no evidence to support their contention. It's a great shame so much knowledge was lost in the blight of prehistory. But without that lost knowledge we cannot advance contentions that are unsupported.

147:

The 'lifeboat' justification for posited space colonies seems bizarre to me - pure survivalist fantasizing, like stocking up on ammo and canned food.

Doing it 'just because we want to', though... All our space exploration to date is basically for that reason, from Apollo to Rosetta.

We won't build domes in the Gobi unless we really have to, but we will try to build something in space someday (if we keep going long enough).

148:

Q: What are boats made of?

A: Wood.

Q: How do you get to the fishes?

A: You build a boat, and nets.

Yeah, I'm a bit suspicious of anybody who says people from Scandinavia wouldn't eat fish. Even nowadays fish preserved in strange ways are local delicacies. Also, if you boat all over the world, you kind of get the fishing with that.

(No, I won't touch surströmming a second time, but I would like to try the Icelandic shark thingie.)

149:

Q: What are boats made of?

Whale skin and whale bones!

Q: How do you get to the fishes?

Who needs fishes when you can have whales?

150:

Q: What's the nearest source of great big trees, suitable for the building of boats, to Greenland?

To answer the rhetorical, Vinland or Iceland.

The former had a native population (the Skrælings, whom the Vikings didn't really get on with), and the Viking presence in North America was brief. Iceland would be where they would expect to get big trees from, followed by Norway (and given that Iceland ended up deforested, and itself had to go to Norway for wood, Norway would end up the prime source).

I'm dubious that the Norse Greenlanders didn't fish - I suspect that's one of those historical myths like the mediaevals believing the world was flat. I more suspect that the Little Ice Age was so unpleasant in Greenland that they ended up sailing away to migrate south.

151:

My understanding of the lost Greenland settlement is that ocean currents shifted in the little ice age and put the good fishing out of their reach.

152:

(((Extensivly refering to Jared Diamond is another strange attractor round here. We should get him to take his knowledge of birds and islands and derive some bold, counterintuitive statements about the singularity. Nerdsplosion ensues))

153:

Can you name a single case where a shield has not been found on the South side or roof of a building and at least one of the 16x9 panels has not been found in a place of prominance within the structure?

154:
Can you name a single case where a shield has not been found on the South side or roof of a building and at least one of the 16x9 panels has not been found in a place of prominence within the structure?

How do you explain the many 4:3 boxes, I hesitate to call them panels because of their more robust nature, and then there's the mega-shields which are associated with the celebrated "beige boxes" which have been conclusively shown to be sited in centers of worship & sacrifice.

The 16:9 conjecture is simply insufficient to overturn existing shield theory! It may be that in time with further diligent research and discovery 16:9 conjecture may evolve into a consistent theory, but without evidence it cannot be currently entertained in serious academic circles without evoking spirit messengers and the like!!

155:

Oddly, yes. There seems to have been a ceremonial pylon of immense local significance on the northern edge of the C'mbr'dj camp, with shields facing away from it for many leagues away. However, it appears that a later culture overtook it, and few of the outward facing shields remain.

156:

I'm sorry, but that is nonsense. The beige boxes are normally associated 1:1 with 4:3 or more rarely 16:9 panels, or sometimes boxes, which are rarely to never over 500mm in any direction. Furthermore, they may be found in rooms as small as 2m by 2m, which is clearly a personal shrine and not a centre for family, never mind tribal, worship.

The external shields are normally associated with a 16:9 panel which is at least 800mm across the diagonal, and not infrequently 1250mm or more. Also these panels are virtually invariably installed in what, from its size, usually one of the largest single entry rooms in the structure, and from the standard of the furnishings, is clearly a room of great prominence in the building.

157:

My researches suggest that these C'mbr'dj shields, where present, almost invariably pre-date the SE shields, and the 16:9 panels. Perhaps they may indicate a proto-religion that focussed on a local structure, and they fell into disuse as the national religion gained popularity?

158:

I'm sorry, but that is nonsense.

I cannot help but feel that while shield theory has more explanatory value than 16:9 conjecture, there is a group of facts we're missing that would tie them all together into a coherent whole. It may be that we have to question our fundamental assumptions about prehistoric cultures but this should only be done within the bounds of accepted academic disciplines unless startling evidence justifies a greater latitude of approach.

Perhaps the forthcoming dig at the city of the white will turn up something along those lines, but I doubt it.

159:

IIRC, the book "Song of the Vikings" mentions that medieval Iceland was pretty short on tress, too - big boats had to be built with imported lumber form Norway, because the trees on Iceland didn't get big enough.

(As an aside, I've also read that they had to import honey to make mead, also due to lousy plant life and climate.)

160:

Everyone seems to be overlooking the evidence we have that not all of buildings with panels have the associated shields. In particular, shields are rare in areas where there are substantial numbers of older buildings. Perhaps the shields are an indicator of status and people who used the older buildings were of low status and not allowed to have them?

But regardless of status, the panels all seem to have associated boxes, usually black.

161:
There are some attempts at a single food source. Frankly, to me, they look universally vile -- eating is as much a source of pleasure as sex and physical intimacy.

The guy behind Soylent, Rob Rhinehart, would agree with you there. His argument is that the vast majority of meals we eat are primarily just human-fuel, not tasting good enough to justify the time and effort they require or the waste they generate. Soylent is intended to be a cheap meal you might have (in minor flavour variations) for 7 breakfasts, 7 lunches and 3 dinners in a week, while making a bigger deal out of the 4 dinners you cook yourself or get from a fancy restaurant (with the money you've saved by not eating real food the rest of the time). I'm not sure I agree with him, but it's certainly not obviously wrong...

Furthermore, these are artificial foods, manufactured from a variety of ingredients. There's no one-nutrient-fits-all-metabolic-needs manna source out there [...]

Custom combinations of the standard Soylent ingredients could be mixed up, which is at least more predictable than cooking a dinner with a specific calorie count, if not perfect.

162:

This is just the kind of fact based out of the box thinking that's sadly lacking in our discipline, albeit that the consensus is that high status individuals did not require appeal to divine protection having been granted it by virtue of their birth status.

163:

As a long term bachelor I'm pretty good at meals I like eating that don't take much time. Salsa and canned black beans and olive oil is a current love. Chips and store guacamole, smoked salmon and bread and cream cheese, clementines or mandarins, nuts of various kinds, leftover or store dim sum, a good salad... most of my meals are tasty and quick.

Now, it's possible you could get Soylent to actually taste good by that standard, adding some hot and sour or other flavors to what should already be a fat and sugar mix. But 2.5 liters of what's described here? http://gawker.com/we-drank-soylent-the-weird-food-of-the-future-510293401
Eww. It's not even that cheap, either.

***

AIUI, Diamond's claims about Greenland and Easter Island are considered to be pretty flawed, if not outright shoddy. Possibly the whole book of _Collapse_, for that matter.

164:

For future Greenland scenarios -- boat-building (including space arks) would likely incorporate the latest in 'biological materials' research as in this example: fish scales!

http://barthelat-lab.mcgill.ca/files/papers/ABM2011.pdf

Structure and Mechanical Performance of a ‘‘Modern’’
Fish Scale** By Deju Zhu, Cesar Fuentes Ortega, Ramak Motamedi, Lawrence Szewciw, Franck Vernerey and Francois Barthelat*

Nature increasingly serves as a model and inspiration to
scientists and engineers, and biomimetics has the potential to lead to novel engineering materials and systems with new combinations of properties, multi-functionalities, adaptability, and environmental sustainability. In this work, we have studied the structure and mechanics of modern teleost fish
scales, which have received relatively little attention in the past.

This type of scale displays interesting combinations
of flexibility, strength, resistance to penetration, light weight, and transparency. Fish scales exhibit large variations in shape, size, and arrangement. The general classification includes cosmoid, ganoid, placoid, and elasmoid (cycloid and ctenoid)
found in the modern teleost class of fishes. The ‘‘primitive’’ cosmoid and ganoid scales are bulky, bony scales which offer very effective protective properties, through a multilayered structure capable of a variety of dissipative mechanisms. However, over the course of evolution the reduction of the integumental skeleton has improved swimming performance, and the ‘‘ancient’’ cosmoid and ganoid scales have been replaced by the thinner, more flexible teleost scales. Teleost scales have excellent hydrodynamic properties and provide a protective layer resisting penetration.
Currey, in a review article on mineralized tissues, noted that some fish scales are so tough that they cannot be easily fractured even after immersion in liquid nitrogen. At larger lengths, the arrangement of the scales provides a flexible skin that allows for changes in shape. In fact, the scaled skin has been shown to play a critical structural role in fish locomotion by regulating wave propagation and by storing mechanical energy in order to make swimming more efficient.

165:

Fishes in Greenland:
According to Diamond (yes, I know there are doubts as to rhe solidity of (some of) his conclusion ...
No fishooks found in remains, no fish-bones ... um. You can use a coracle or a hide-skin boat - but you still need a "timber" or at least woven "willow" frame for it.
Nets? Made from what?
Yet the Vikings were trading with other settlements, so they could have acquired these items, but didn't - & of course they had pissed-off the "skraelings" so they could not go South, could they?

166:

Er, no. Whalebone (i.e. baleen) makes excellent ribs, and nets
can be made even from woven grass - indeed, fish baskets and
similar (think crab and lobster pots) are one of the few things
you can make without first making tools.

I knew Jared when he was a research student, and must buy a
couple of his books to see how badly he is being misquoted.
Certainly, the quotes I have seen are often simple ballocks,
and he wasn't an idiot.

167:

According to Thomas King's The Inconvenient Indian, Mount Rushmore was IRL a sacred place for the Lakota Sioux. They're still p*ssed off about the graffiti that those white guys carved on it.

168:

> surrounded by food ( FISH ) & yet refused
> to eat it & thus starved

In the USA, today is a holiday officially recognizing such an event; British colonists who were prepared to starve rather than eat American foods they were unfamiliar with.

Or, at least, that's the official story... I always figured it was unlikely.

169:

> Soylent

Regardless of how their product might sell, the name is such a colossal marketing fail that they may have secured a place in history...

170:

There's a bunch of theories for the Greenlanders including conflict with the Inuit and piracy from the Basque or English. Certainly the Icelanders were complaining of English pirates kidnapping the young for slaves. That could quickly make a small community unviable.

171:

I think you're talking about White Plains, which seems a little anticlimactic.

But what's the backstory behind this particular comment? I got the earlier reference to Oath of Fealty but couldn't figure out where that came from.

172:

(To be clearerL I got the arcology-space colony stuff; but why the mundane turn towards building a nearby city where melting icecaps can't reach?)

173:
followed by Norway (and given that Iceland ended up deforested, and itself had to go to Norway for wood, Norway would end up the prime source).

not likely, most trees in Iceland are 2 meters or shorter, most of the bigger trees are more recent imports(200 years or so if I recall) they have a saying "if you are lost in Iceland, just stand up"

174:

hit submit instead of preview, full quote should have been:

Iceland would be where they would expect to get big trees from, followed by Norway (and given that Iceland ended up deforested, and itself had to go to Norway for wood, Norway would end up the prime source).

175:

Reverting to the original subject (!)
The Beeb appear to be running a series on The Unearthly history of Science Fiction
The link should point to the re-play of the first programme.

I WANT MY FUTURE BACK, RIGHT NOW.
Some bastard stole it, about 1973 .....

176:

I've seen their National Forest, and yes, I'm aware that the modern trees are a bit pathetic. But what's there is after deforestation.

Initially they did have better forests.

However it may be they were having to go to Norway anyway for keels and masts, even if the trees in Iceland were fine for hull ribs and roof timbers.

177:

That's true, but seems to miss a point.

I presume that these black boxes which you're associating with the panels have a hilariously large and poorly secured 21-pin data? socket on them, similar to one (or two) on the back of the larger (usally 16:9 screen) boxes? If so, then these black boxes occur in cases where there is no evidence of the associated structure having had a shield mounting, but there is a cable containing glass cores entering the building. Even today, a similar technology using transparent aluminium cable cores is used for secure data transmissions.

178:
[...] Even today, a similar technology using transparent aluminium cable cores is used for secure data transmissions.

And here we go, the implicit suggestion that there was a highly advanced civilization, hidden in the mists of prehistory...

179:

Why not? We know that the Atomic Agers had basic silicon-based electronics, lasers, and an understanding of the modulation of signals in the electro-magnetic spectrum.

Are you going to deny that the depth of dust accretion on the various crude instruments and the apparent landing platform at "Tranquility Base" dates them to about CE1969 +/-10 years?

180:

All discussion threads that aren't ruthlessly curated eventually veer into something that bears only the most tenuous relation to the original topic after about 70 comments, when they become too long for new incomers to plough through the prior discussion. So you get a mixture of the original discussion continuing, admixed with drive-bys and derailing observations, one or two of which are so amusing that they spawn new sub-discussions (such as the "ritual objects" in atomic-age ruins thread).

181:

Yes, but the Tranquility Site relics can't possibly be taken as implying that the atomic age ruins all contained high data rate electronics. For one thing, the Tranquility Site ritual objects didn't get there by accident: building a mature reusable space colonization platform capable of soft-landing a temple on the Moon is an apex activity for any civilization, and must have been so for theirs, too. You don't go all that way, build a temple, then go home again!

But the cables and discrete logic components found at Tranquility and elsewhere on the Moon are all surprisingly primitive, kilohertz to megahertz clocked items that can't possibly have had any generic consumer applications. The vacuum tube photodetectors used in the cameras found on the Moon, for example, are of a wholly lower order of development than would be needed for a modern telecinematic experience. These devices obviously represented the peak of the Atomic People's technology, so I submit that the bits of impure silicon found in the panel-like ritual objects are just that -- bits of impure silicon, perhaps embedded in a cargo-cult like attempt to evoke the performance of a modern Trinitron tube telecinema. (They collapsed the screen into a flat panel out of ignorance, being unaware that such a flat panel would require either a projector or an entire skyscraper full of control electronics.)

182:

I think you're presuming here that all technologies would reach simultaneous apices. I'll happily agree that Tranquility Site represents an apex in chemical rocketry, but that does not necessarily require that the TS electronics also represent the apex of AE electronics.

The frames of a minority of the larger 16x9 panels are made of Carbon Fibre composites. Now this is obviously a luxury material compared with metals or Glass Reinforced Plastic composite, but it is lighter for a given strength. Accordingly, you would surely choose to make the semi-structural panelling of an artifact not subjected to friction heating and to be propelled through space to a soft landing by chemical rockets of CF rather than metal or GRP if you could? Whilst this does not of itself demonstrate whether non-metallic composite materials science apexed before or after the TS project I would submit that it does demonstrate that those technological apices did not occur simultaneously.

183:

(They collapsed the screen into a flat panel out of ignorance, being unaware that such a flat panel would require either a projector or an entire skyscraper full of control electronics.)

Oh boy, these people are up for a nasty surprise when they discovered the 2013 Chang'e 3 lunar lander with all its modern electronics glory...

184:

I'm just extrapolating from how archaeologists think. (Hint: married a Bradford Uni archaeology grad.)

185:

{real World} I didn't know what Feorag was qualified in (she never offered the info and I'd no specific reason to ask), but #181 makes it quite obvious to me that you do sometimes hang out with archaeologists, read archaeological journals or books etc. So do I.

186:

I suspect that all these glass panels will be found in small shrines known as Closets, or in the subterranean bunkers called Basements.

Now that there seems to be paper thin light sources with LEDs the size of red blood cells, how long before we have TVs that can be rolled up? Future archaeologists may wonder about all the large, blank posters tacked to the walls with furniture placed facing them.

187:

The long run of Time Team on British TV is something that makes the archaeological banter herein something that can be appreciated by a great many people, though it maybe has made for a few irritating catchphrases.

Referring to the tendency to explain things by religious motives is maybe a sign of rather deeper knowledge of the subject.

Me, I'm waiting to see the geophys on that AE site...

188:

{what passes for real world}.

I thought this was quite interesting because of how it reflected on what we can know of past civilizations, particularly that you were right about the 16:9 panels, but like Galileo couldn't show the working. I mean there could have been an early Victorian level civilization around over 50,000 years ago, centered on the North Pole couldn't there?

189:

Victorian - sure. Our technological level - bloody unlikely that we wouldn't notice anything, unless they became obsessed with nature preservation, removed all traces of their presence and then committed suicide.

190:

bloody unlikely that we wouldn't notice anything, unless ... then committed suicide

Or moved off planet, as per David Brin's Uplift society.

(All great fun, but I wouldn't posit it as a likely scenario. Relying on subduction trenches and a few million years requires a really long view. Also the mass extinction we're currently causing ought to be quite distinctive in the fossil record.)

191:

Or moved off planet, as per David Brin's Uplift society.

When a whole civilization moves off-planet, you'd expect a lot of giant launch centers to remain as evidence. :-)

192:


That's why I specified the North pole. All the evidence is under the ice.

193:

completely off topic.

My Cat was just euthanized after 15 years of life. Kidney failure. I am most upset.

I liked that cat.

When the future digs up my garden, will they relate cat bones to the 16:9 panel & shield?

194:

Or there's the scenario in this one-off SF novel -- off-world colonization requires high technology, but pre-tech behaviour patterns persist, resulting in the same high technology being used for wars resulting in species extinction. It's a Fermi Paradox solution -- subtype: the great filter lies in our future -- and explains the extinction of the dinosaurs ...

195:

Much sympathy.

In general, bones eventually decompose, over a time scale of decades to centuries: small bones do so much faster than large ones, and a moist sub-surface environment helps the process along. (This is probably a good thing, or we'd be up to the tree tops in dinosaur bones: we tend to forget that they were around for over 100MYa.)

Humans are unusual in that we tend to take steps to ensure that our buried remains don't decompose completely -- embalming, mummification, burial in lead-lined coffins (ick!), storage in ossuaries and charnel houses, and so on. But unless your garden is particularly dry your small friend's bones are unlikely to survive to be disturbed by future archaeologists.

196:

Not if the Indigenous Civilization used Cavourite!


http://metaresearch.org/msgboard/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=438


As with Antonia at...

187:

" The long run of Time Team on British TV is something that makes the archaeological banter herein something that can be appreciated by a great many people, though it maybe has made for a few irritating catchphrases.

Referring to the tendency to explain things by religious motives is maybe a sign of rather deeper knowledge of the subject.

Me, I'm waiting to see the geophysics on that AE site... "


Time Team makes repeated use of Ground Penetrating radar type Scientific - insert...Star Tricky... Tech - stuff to detect traces of ... STUFF!! From Out of Time!! Ancient Old Ones and so forth...err, all right then ROMANS... who are Vikings or some such!

This with lots of presenter/ presentation Time from a series that the punters can't quite remember.... but HE is ever So important, for if HE weren't then they wouldn't remember HIM would they? FACE time is all significant here.


Anyway it is CLEAR...reasonably Clear... if you had bothered to read the Research... that The PLU People Left Proto Earth whilst It was Threatened with Climate Charge and, using the power of Cavourite, colonized Mars which they turned into a Verdant Paradise of a GARDEN of Un-Earthly Delights, which is, even now threatened by the Primate Violence Obsessed Natives of The Blue Planet who, despite the Ancient Wisdom of Stealth Technology of The Martians, are close to breaking through The Disguise that has kept Civilisation Safe and ....


But who shall dwell in these worlds if they be inhabited? . . .
Are we or they Lords of the World? . . .
And how are all things made for man?--
Kepler (quoted in The Anatomy of Melancholy)

No one would have believed in the last years of the 20th centuries that their world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than that of
The People and yet as mortal as their own; that as People busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a Person with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency People went to and fro over their globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same. No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of The Peoples danger, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable. It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those departed days. At most terrestrial Persons fancied there might be other People upon The Blue Planet, perhaps inferior to themselves and ready to welcome a missionary enterprise. Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this Mars with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us. And early in the twentieth century came the great disillusionment. "


We Martians are DOOMED !! DOOMED I TELL YOU!!

197:

Yes, I think the Fermi Paradox is fascinating. But any solution has to account for different evolutionary histories, environments &c if complex intelligent life is commonplace. Pre-tech patterns of behavior persist for all civilizations given the presumed diversity of origin and imperatives.

If intelligent life is rare in terms of separation in time & space then that's the solution; it's just not a very interesting as solutions go.

If our great filter is in the past, and we're unique, we own the universe, and will probably try to sell it... But who to?

198:

Oops.

Pre-tech patterns of behavior persist for all civilizations given the presumed diversity of origin and imperatives.
should have read
Pre-tech patterns of behavior persist for all civilizations given the presumed diversity of origin and imperatives?

The rhetorical question mark should make quite a difference!

199:

bit late in the debate, but wouldn't heating a square mile of Mars to 20 degrees result in some very strange weather?

The thermals might present some interestingly useful effects regarding getting up and down, especially if being above the Toasty Patch also implies being in the watt-laden glare of the Great Mirror.

Oh, dear. I just had this vision of humanity shining giant mirrors at various items in the solar system to see what will happen a-la the kid with the magnifying glass and the ants...

200:

I thought we're mutated Pak.

201:

Like This ? ..

http://larryniven.wikia.com/wiki/Pak

HA! US of American Imperialist Propaganda!

" The Jolly Green Giant Vs. The Incredible Hulk "

http://whosmoreawesome.blogspot.co.uk/2009/04/jolly-green-giant-vs-incredible-hulk.html

Note that Niven advocated Genocide Against The People of Mars in one of his Propaganist Tracts!

We of the Peaceful and Verdent Planet of Mars are DOOMED ..unless the People of The Blue Planet vote for The Green Party ..Vote Green Get RED!

202:
Note that Niven advocated Genocide Against The People of Mars in one of his Propagandist Tracts!

So I should think, give it's axiomatic the only good bug is a dead bug! But remind me where he advocated genocide, if you wouldn't mind?

203:

Oh, alright then.Ghods it’s been a long time since I read that story! Rather than dig too far into my age raddled memory I...

Google " niven martian genocide water "


First Up


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_in_fiction


Scroll down to...


" Late 1960s and the 1970s

In Larry Niven's harsh Known Space stories (1964- ) Mars is a backwater bypassed by humans in their rush to the mineral wealth of the Asteroid Belt. A single attempt to colonise Mars ended disastrously, due to the combination of violent conflict between the would-be colonists and a confrontation with the native Martians—a shadowy race spending most of their time swimming under the surface of the Martian dust, and to whom water is a deadly poison. They are neither able nor interested in going into space, and humans are not really interested in Mars, so there seems no reason for conflict. Still, in the book Protector (1973), the Martians are brutally exterminated by a large water asteroid deliberately hurled at the planet, raising the water content in the atmosphere to a degree deadly to them, by Jack Brennan, a human who had turned into a Pak Protector—a creature completely devoted to protecting its descendants, or sometimes his entire species, and is unreasonably xenophobic towards anybody else. This act of interplanetary genocide in effect ties Niven's Mars with the older Wells/Stapledon tradition. Some of these Martians are thought to have survived on the Ringworld, however. See Ringworld Engineers, Ringworld Throne, and Ringworld's Children. Various Protectors set up traps against Niven Martians. "

A little while ago Lady Friend declared - in response to my being Gloomy after a slow and Arthritic recovery from a minor fall off a ladder - OF COURSE YOU AREN'T OLD!!!


But I remember when Nivens Work was fresh and new!


204:

The John McLoughlin science fiction novel that Charlie refers to began as a 1984 scientific paper, a speculative but not entirely far-fetched explanation for certain weird characteristics of the K-T boundary. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to be online anywhere :-( Animal Kingdom magazine, April/May 1984 issue. 'Scuse me a moment, just got to buy the book from Amazon...

Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart, and Jack Cohen put neolithic level intelligent dinosaurs into the first of their Science of Discworld books, right before the asteroid. In the factual chapter, they argued that while there wasn't any evidence for intelligent dinos, after 65 million years the evidence wouldn't have survived, and also that paleontologists weren't expecting to find any so wouldn't notice. (Well, they would notice a Cretaceous-era Saturn V launch pad, but probably not a wedge-shaped rock.)

Velociraptors, another strange attractor...

205:

"I've always liked the idea of a group of people settling in a place that everyone else considers marginal to useless and creating a proper community, a place you would actually want to live."

Take a look at a certain small chunk of the Middle East, and note that it was basically worthless and deserted, until the Jews moved in and spent the money to build Israel.

206:

There have been LOTS of experiments with semi-closed and fully-closed circuit life support systems and environments.

The biggest problem is probably balancing micronutrients, including recycling them.

SO FAR, we don't know any closed biospheres smaller than Planet Earth.

On a micro level, you used to be able to buy closed glass spheres, partially filled with water, containing a few tiny shrimp, a fern, and some microalgae. All they needed was daily sunlight.

207:

Actually, James Oberg once told me that their is linguistic evidence that the (Infamous) Kensington Rune Stone is authentic, thinks that authenticate it but were unknown in the 19th Century....

I suspect there was more casual transatlantic and transpacific contact (The Whole Amazonian Fighting Cocks thing) than we will ever be able to document, it just did not leave much physical evidence, and much of what might have been found was destroyed by 19C "Treasure Hunters"

208:

Just had to look up the Kensington Runestone - & it seems that people are still arguing "fake!" or "genuine!"
Um.
However, there is a n other strong suggestion, shall we say, that "N America" was known to peoples over here, and it's only about 11km due south of Charlie.
I'm referring, of course to the carvings of maize-heads seen over one of the windows in Rosslyn Chapel
Ignore Dan Brown, but, even so, Rosslyn is WIERD - & well worth a visit!
[ Another strange attractor, of course ... ]

209:

Speaking of Niven and missing long lost civilisations. He made mention of what I think might be the earliest "lost civilisation" in the literature. A race of intelligent anerobes. No physical works to speak of but a rich history of philosophy and mathematics. Wiped out by oxygen.

210:

Take a look at a certain small chunk of the Middle East, and note that it was basically worthless and deserted, until the Jews moved in and spent the money to build Israel.

Yellow card.

What you're trotting out there is basically a big lie, promoted by apologists for the inter-war zionist colonial program. The area west of the Jordan valley was about as "empty" as Syria, Lebanon, and the area immediately east of the Jordan -- which is to say, not at all! -- all it was "empty" of was white European settlers.

(But admitting that "they were there first" is highly inconvenient if you're wanting to legitimize a claim to a chunk of territory. See also the First Nations in North America, and other targets for genocide at various times in history.)

The one concession I'll make is that the Palestinian arab population haven't been exterminated -- but the Nakba was as much a case of bloody-handed "ethnic cleansing" as anything that happened in the Balkans during the Bosnian War.

And I should probably add "apologias for genocide and ethnic cleansing" to the list of things in the Moderation Policy that will get you banned if you persist in making them.

211:

Wow, this was fast. From Space Colonies to Israel-Palestine shit fight in 2 posts. :-)

212:

The Mars Genocide:

Hi Arnold,

Thanks for that, I'd forgotten that Brennan dropped an ice asteroid on the Martians, but then giggled like a loon over humans breeding for luck before consulting the diaries of Lazarus Long regarding temptation, and then risked missing my shot as regards tax collectors. Consequently I have a slight headache this morning.

213:

The Drake equation was a bit of a joke until quite recently, because we had few reliable numbers to plug into it. And we still don't have most of them.

If extra-terrestrial intelligent life with a technological bent is fairly common, why haven't we seen any evidence of it (apart from in Arkansas trailer parks)?

What should we look for? What can we look for? Is it important to look?

214:

Remember, you don't get "villages" and "towns" in the US; just about any random gathering of houses and a general store incorporates as a city as soon as it can.

Ah, not really.

It may seem like that from afar but outside of the major metro areas the US is full of small communities with no city or town in site.

The one I grew up in even incorporated as a city and then disbanded since I grew up there in the 60s and 70s as they discovered the costs were not worth it.

215:

The mirror would focus sunlight onto a 1-kilometre-wide patch of Mars's surface. This would raise the temperature in this patch to a balmy 20° Celsius (68° Fahrenheit) from Mars's typical surface temperature of between -140° C and -60° C (-220° and -76° F).

Should create some interesting local weather. Maybe even tornadoes. Unless they can't form in such a low air density. But the temperature differential should create some strong winds. And make it hard to maintain the local heat.

216:

So Charlie, what you're asking is whether we (industrialized nations) should build stuff that lasts eons therefore can be studied by future archeologists rather than protect the current, homo sapiens species life-sustaining equilibrium - as environmentalists would have us do?

I think that a couple of years ago we discussed rare-earths on this board during which several commenters pointed out that there are villages/slums whose 'economies' rely on the electronics (PC/laptop) recycling industry. Such rare-earths recycling is currently very injurious to human health. Even so, this approach may be cheaper/more profitable than investing in expensive mining equipment therefore might last -- and if sufficiently profitable -- might even expand to other geographies/substances. Bottom line - very little likelihood of 16x9 finds.

Also (repeating from an earlier post), we do seem to be gaining ground in understanding and making biological materials. If this continues - and is demonstrated to be environmentally sound/healthy - then the 'dig and excavate' form of archeology will only be useful for the pre-'mechanobiologic' eras. Ditto vanity: even politicos and uber-wealthy are no longer expressing their egos in stone carvings/long-lasting physical monuments. This trend shows a possible future scenario of eventually becoming so tidy/thoughtful as a species that we'll leave nothing behind to show that we ever existed.

217:
So Charlie, what you're asking is whether we (industrialized nations) should build stuff that lasts eons therefore can be studied by future archeologists rather than protect the current, homo sapiens species life-sustaining equilibrium - as environmentalists would have us do?

I had, at one time, an ambition to engrave Britannica onto bronze and bury it it a geologically stable area. Having edited it to give the impression the Cthulhu Mythos is real.

Might be fun if there's a major collapse of our civilization. Evil but fun. Wonder if it'd run as a KickStarter?

218:

I read a story long ago in an SF magazine in which the alien archaologists on Earth were puzling over the predominant ceramic artefacts left by the long extinct humans.
Some of these were associated with writing on flat ceramic tiles of which a typical examples were "Please wash your hands" and "Please adjust your dress before leaving"

219:

In all fairness I don't think the argument is about how empty the land was but about how productively it was used. I don't think their can be any argument that the Israelis have been better stewards of the land than the previous Arab owners.

Whether this argument justifies ownership is an open question. But if it does not, what then does justify anyone's ownership of the land? Why not give Britain back to the Celts or Israel back to the Canaanites?

And can you seriously expect the traumatized survivors of the Holocaust who founded the State of Israel (secular, socialist Jews like yourself - not the theocratic Orthodox Israelis of today) to be nice to anyone who stood in the way of them establishing a safe haven for themselves and their people?

220:

#218: I think that would be Randall Garrett's Asimov pastiche "No Connections" (June 1958 Astounding, collected in Garrett's Takeoff!).

221:

And can you seriously expect the traumatized survivors of the Holocaust who founded the State of Israel

That's not a correct way to describe the foundation of Israel.

222:

I had, at one time, an ambition to engrave Britannica onto bronze and bury it it a geologically stable area. Having edited it to give the impression the Cthulhu Mythos is real.

To be honest, stuff like this annoys me to no end. You want to literally BURY valuable resources. Just dwell for a second on the incredibly wasteful stupidity of that idea.

223:

Then how should it be described?

224:

It is not my job to educate you, but there are a lot of resources on the web.

Look, the foundation of Israel began long before the Holocaust. The Holocaust was not the main justification for anything.

225:

You mean the pre-war and even pre-20th century Jewish settlers who bought their land from willing Arab sellers?

226:

This is at risk of derailing, but:

1. Efficiency of use is not a suitable basis for a claim of legitimate ownership over land. (Otherwise one might argue that Hitler had a valid claim to parts east ...)

2. The traumatized survivors of the Shoah weren't the founders of the Israeli settler movement: it had been running for over forty years before the holocaust took place.

The whole safe haven/national homeland argument is deeply suspect: it's actually a hold-over from the 19th century European imperialist ideology that was used to justify the theft of the Americas, Africa and other land masses from their owner-occupiers. A better "safe haven" reaction would be to work to make genocide utterly unacceptable wherever and to whoever it happens, so that everyone is safe from that evil -- and as it's frequently a side-effect of colonialist enterprises, an end to colonialism would seem to be a necessary precondition.

227:

A better "safe haven" reaction would be to work to make genocide utterly unacceptable wherever and to whoever it happens

You don't think you ask a bit too much from the Jewish people? Why should they be the ones who were supposed, after being attacked terribly, to turn into some nation of saints and preach world peace or whatever you imagine by "make genocide utterly unacceptable"?

228:

I read a book recently that pointed out that the Roslyn 'Maize' heads matched the sort of carved stuff found in lots of other medieval places and aren't that special at all.
And it was pointed out centuries ago that the setup at the east end matches that of Glasgow cathedral; also most of the stories concerning it were made up in the 17/18th centuries anyway.

229:

" [ Another strange attractor, of course ... ] "

Well, maybe ..but there are many such. Consider the modern interpretation of these ..


https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=earth+mother+archetype&client=firefox-a&hs=uc&rls=org.mozilla:en-GB:official&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=RSR6VMuaIsPqaOThgJgB&ved=0CCIQsAQ&biw=1024&bih=551

and then skip back to ..

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mother_goddess

Really? But what if the interpretation is simply, how shall I put it? WRONG ?

Oh, just come upon this in the Search For The Great Earth Google Mother ..


"Carl Gustave Jung and his disciple Erich Neumann have set forth archetypes of the psyche, and introduced their study,. The Eleusinian Mysteries are a beautiful example of the spiritual nature of the Mother-Daughter archetype. One of Jung's patients gave, in a series of spontaneous visual impressions and poetic images the essential meaning of the mysteries of Demeter, Persephone, and Iacchos. This woman had no particular interest in mythology and was merely trying to understand her own psychological problems by letting her mind go free. This is her account with bold words emphasized by Jung: .."


http://www.san.beck.org/Eleusis-5.html


Or, in other words, Nothing in this world is SO complicated that Academics in search of a research project can't make more even more complicated ..with lots of footnotes of Doom and references to other complicated research studies.


I am a simple creature and I interpret the Earth Mother Archetype as being a that of a person who longs to lose weight through the as yet undiscovered technology of the Gastric Band ..though I may be wrong here. For There are Many Paths to The Secret Wisdoms of the Secret Masters ..or Mistresses of course ..See Here ..

http://www.whitelightevents.co.uk/our-exhibitors.html


In the light - the Led Light - of modern Tech NEW/Old Wisdoms spread with alarming speed ..Come Now Would I Lie to You? Only Believe ... Look into My Eyes .....

230:

Oh, I've just realised that I Should have referenced my personal favorite of that list of those who could tag onto the list of the,

" Amalgamated Union of Philosophers, Sages, Luminaries and Other Professional Thinking Persons "

And here She is ...


"If you wish to learn what it is to walk your natural path then you have come to the right place. Here you will discover your Shaman Within...... Click on the about page to learn more about me, Barbara Meiklejohn-Free, and the journey to becoming the Highland Seer and Shaman. Visit some of the places it has taken me and share my encounters, in both the written and spoken forms. You will also find details of workshops running throughout the year, shows where you are most welcome to discuss matters of the heart, soul and spirit. Visit our online shop for all things wise and wonderful including clothes, drums, flutes, books, music and meditation CD’s and online courses to your Shaman Within…"

http://www.barbarameiklejohnfree.com/


Either I have Drunk too much of the Mystical Scotish Highland Liquids of Power this evening or I have Drunk too little of the same.

Either way ..


" it’s quick and easy, join the mailing list by simply entering your name and email address (over in the right-hand column) and be kept up to date with news, workshops, tour dates, special shop promotions and events, as they happen. You can always join us for an intense residential or a reading. Alternatively send us an email and let us know how your journey is unfolding! "

So theres Hope for you yet.

231:

Your question does not follow from my assertion.

(I'm not passing judgement on the foundation of Israel other than to note that in context it must be seen as one with the history of 19th century European imperialism, that it relied on the theft of land from people who already lived there, and that it doesn't solve the ostensible problem -- one of ethnic hatred directed against Jews. If anything it compounds it, by allowing a minority of zealots to commit crimes in our name and supposedly requiring the rest of us to shut the fuck up and salute the flag. No thanks!)

232:

"1. Efficiency of use is not a suitable basis for a claim of legitimate ownership over land."

OK, so what exactly is a suitable basis for a claim of legitimate ownership over land?

And how far back do we have to go to find the legitimate owners (druidic Celts in Britain? Canaanites is Israel? Mayans in Central America?)

233:

Bronze Tablets?

Those will be melted down for scrap by the Meth Addicts. (Arkansas Trailer Park here....)

Try Marble or Granite.

Also, for more weirdness, check out the Wikipedia on the "Georgia Guidestones"

234:

Hi Vanzetti

re:222. Just dwell for a second on the incredibly wasteful stupidity of that idea.

I gather most valuable resources are buried, generally speaking. Besides, I did observe it was an evil idea. But not sufficiently evil to, but maybe not too much, of a long shot, to not entirely eschew.

Funny if our evolutionary successors melted down our knowledge for the metal it was engraved on.

235:

----If extra-terrestrial intelligent life with a technological bent is fairly common, why haven't we seen any evidence of it (apart from in Arkansas trailer parks)?-----

Obvious answer; we haven't looked very far in either time or space, I mean at this point we've seen a bit of our own system and we can just barely infer that other systems have planets.

Other possibilities; interstellar travel isn't possible, for either physical or economic reasons and/or large scale long lasting engineering isn't possible which again could be either economic or physical limitations.

Alternately, really advanced tech looks exactly like the natural environment (see Karl Schroder on rewilding)

236:

You've managed to compare Palestinians to two extinct cultures (with unfortunate implications) and one with members in an ongoing war with the Mexican state. I don't feel this helps your point, whatever it is.

237:

it doesn't solve the ostensible problem -- one of ethnic hatred directed against Jews.

I don't think that's the main problem Israel was founded to solve. The problem was violence directed against Jews, and that problem has a straightforward solution in the form of an Army. And a State for that Army to base out of. (And in modern days, Nuclear Weapons, too).

Hatred, on the other hand, is a vague concept. Notice how a lot of people really hate the USA...

238:

Well if Middle East is not empty, neither is Gobi desert, it belongs to China and I don't think the Chinese government would appreciate anyone else setting up camp there. Same goes for Antarctica, there're treaties preventing anyone from claiming it as territory.

An off-world colony as life boat is the wrong analogy, it's not a life boat, it's where we start building the 2nd cruise ship.

239:

-----I don't think that's the main problem Israel was founded to solve. The problem was violence directed against Jews, and that problem has a straightforward solution in the form of an Army. And a State for that Army to base out of.------

If that's the solution it didn't work, there's still plenty of violence against Jews. Much of it outside Israel where that army and those nuclear weapons don't help at all and the presence of the state is a contributing factor. But also quite a bit in Israel as well more or less continuously since its founding.

240:

Much of it outside Israel where that army and those nuclear weapons don't help at all

That's not quite correct.

241:

Well if Middle East is not empty, neither is Gobi desert, it belongs to China and I don't think the Chinese government would appreciate anyone else setting up camp there.

Are you sure? If someone went to the Chinese government and proposed to invest a few billion dollars in settlement in the Gobi, do you think they'd refuse?

242:

----That's not quite correct----

Truly curious, how does the IDF and nukes help prevent violence directed at Jews outside Israel?

243:

Well, think for a moment - does the power of a state ends right on the border? Does, for example, the US of A has some power to protect its citizens outside its borders?

Or just google "Operation Entebbe".

244:
Or just Google "Operation Entebbe".
So, was the number of terrorist attacks against non-Israeli Jews reduced after 4th July 1976? I wonder if Leon Klinghoffer would think so? Or any of the victims of anti-Semitic attacks that not infrequently happen in the UK? This is to say that Israeli Nuclear ambiguity or the undoubted skills of the IDF aren't much use up close and personal while walking home from the pub in North London.
245:

I'm confused, the operation you referenced is in relation to a hijacking by a Palestinian terrorist group trying to free Palestinian prisoners in Israel - hard to imagine they'd ever have hijacked a plane if it wasn't for the conflict over Israel in the first place.

246:

RED CARD

This comment thread has turned into a train wreck and is therefore indefinitely closed.

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