Sunday, April 26, 2009

Quote of the Day:

In about 5 billion years, Sol, our star, will enter its red giant phase, and engulf the orbit of the earth. After this event, the universe will continue for at least 10^100 years. Well prior to that, Earth's atmosphere will boil away. Earth will be entirely, 100% destroyed, down to the last molecule, taking humanity with it.

The only way to avoid that fate is to attain star faring capability and get off this rock.

I submit therefore, that while stewardship of our resources is a laudable and necessary thing, that ultimately, our planet is 100% expendable, down to the very last molecule towards the goal of our ultimate escape.


Humanity needs exactly two game changing things: a compact, self contained, potent clean energy source along the lines of the fictional ZPM, and a star drive.


Such items will be the product of freedom, prosperity, and the material application of the intellect of man, and won't be dropped out of the sky as a result of granola munching Gaia worship.

Nature is pleased to eat us, or kill us in any of a number of lingering, nasty, painful ways.


Word.

(Inevitably, I am reminded of one of my favorite gags from the graves of academe:

Droning Prof: "...and in approximately five billion years, the sun will swell into a red giant, destroying the earth..."

Inattentive student: "Huh!? What?!?"

Droning Prof: "I said 'in about five billion years, the sun will swell into a red giant, destroying the earth.'"

Inattentive student: "Oh, whew! I thought you said five million years.")


(H/T to Kevin.)

17 comments:

Pohjanakka said...

If you think in terms of preserving Earth life, that's our job. We are the only ones capable of getting, not just ourselves, but our type of life off this solar system, and perhaps give Gaia a change to last until the end of the universe. So if you worship Gaia, shouldn't that be your duty? Every individual life form, whether it's polar bears or oaks or butterflies, is ephemeral by definition, but if you can get even bacteria planted into suitable environment elsewhere in time they might evolve into a new version of Gaia.

And as for the Christian version, perhaps 'Go forth and fill the Earth' actually meant 'fill the galaxy' :)

geekWithA.45 said...

>>And as for the Christian version, perhaps 'Go forth and fill the Earth' actually meant 'fill the galaxy' :)


Dude.

All your multiverse are belong to us. :)

Mark said...

Sing it, sister. We're the only sentient life we know about, and that's the most precious thing we've found unto date. Off The Frakkin' Rock, to put it politely! If we have to burn it up to get off it, it's hard to see that as a bad trade.

reflectoscope said...

We'll have to be careful how we divide the population amongst the ark ships; there are certainly enough to populate Ark Ship B, but it would be a shame if we forget the telephone sanitizers.

Jim

Anonymous said...

As the saying goes, Earth First(!), we can mine the other ones later.

Shane said...

Main Sequence Star doesn't mean five billion years, then BANG! Sol is suddenly a red giant. Some scientists think the Earth will be uninhabitable within 100 million years due to Sol aging and warming up. We need to be ready to move out next week!

TJP said...

Let's claim some of Jupiter's moons before the Monolith does.

Mark said...

In a very real sense, the resources of this planet are our booster stage to Orbit. Once you're on orbit, as Admiral Bob said (pbuh) you're halfway to anywhere.

Thank Mercy for folk like Burt and his ilk, 'cause nobody else seems to have a clue.

Y.T. said...

Unless we are completely in the wrong on fundamental physics, FTL is quite improbable. So, no stardrives, unless someone cracks the "where to get infinite amount of energy problem". That would get us near lightspeed travel, that is almost as good as FTL. (depending on how hard you accelerate, it can look like FTL for those travelling at that speed)

But it's a moot point. Canned primates don't belong out there. Everyone more adaptable can take their time, breathe vacuum and travel at 5% of lightspeed without going insane with boredom on the way, etc.

5% of c ,that's easily achievable with antimatter rocket engines, I believe.

Mark said...

Y.T., Hawking signed off on Warp Drive (using electromagnetic fields to compress space around you, resulting in effective FTL flight whilst your local reference frame is still sublight).

The smartest physicist alive says it's an engineering problem not a theory problem. Good enough for me! Yes, we still lack a ZPM, Tylium refinery or Ficton Reactor but that's one reason why the white-coats at the LHC are giving the Higgs boson such a hard time (or will be when they get their spinny thing fixed).

As to "don't belong out there" - sorry chum. I don't think we have the same book, so I doubt we'll ever end up on the same page. If little things like "being impractical" got in the way, we wouldn't have the Sistine Chapen or Quake Deathmatch.

Y.T. said...

Y.T., Hawking signed off on Warp Drive (using electromagnetic fields to compress space around you, resulting in effective FTL flight whilst your local reference frame is still sublight).
What about causality? Throw it out of the window? Marko, you aren't much older than I am(24). I would be willing to bet that when we are both old farts(in 30 years), it'll be more firmly established than today that FTL travel belongs to fantasy books, video games, or films. Most hard sf has already dispensed with it.. to no ill effects.

I couldn't find a quote of his on the warp drive. I don't understand modern physics beyond special relativity and the modern atomic theory, so I can't say whether he's the greatest living physicist.. but certainly the most mediagenic..(paralyzed/voicebox..etc)

If little things like "being impractical" got in the way, we wouldn't have the Sistine Chapen or Quake Deathmatch.
Both of these are quite practical...
Quake Deatmatch, is a computer game(inferior to UT, though) that can be run on general purpose computers that are being manufactured by the million. It doesn't need exotic matter, or astronomical amounts of energy..
Sistine Chapel.. that's just a chapel. A heap of stones, plaster, and some paint, all thrown together by competent craftsmen and parts of it painted by a real artist. See.. no causality violations, yotta-watt hours of energy, etc. Just spending money and getting art in return..
Quake Deathmatch with 1970 computers is a good comparison to feasibility of primate space exploration. A computer powerful enough to run it probably wouldn't be able to run reliably enough..


.. and that's what I get for trying to sound humorous. Space travel for primates is not just impractical. It's very risky, unhealthy, prohibitively expensive to anyone but a major government which can burn other people's money senselessly (see Apollo Project). And when it won't be those things(this decade next century, perhaps, or just in 50 years), primates won't be at the pinnacle of the tree of life. They'll be sulking, feeling obsolete, down there on Earth.

Charles Stross wrote a good recapitulation of reasons why primate space colonization won't happen. That is, unless causality goes out of the door and FTL comes in..


http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2007/06/the_high_frontier_redux.html

, but in my opinion, the concept of FTL got invented precisely because when dreamers first realized how vast the universe really is, and it dawned on them that it's really of such an inhuman scale, that they said to themselves.. "that can't be." If only we could get to the stars in a few weeks.. and thus FTL was born.

Roberta X said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roberta X said...

So, Y. T. we should just give up, go emo and cut ourselves?

You first.

Maybe FTL is impossible (as you claim), maybe we've already been doin' it for years (per some of my writing). Perhaps causality has some hidden clauses that allow for FTL without breaking the rules: we won't find out by sittin' home whining!

Say we never go faster than light; we still have a vast Solar System, bathed in radiant energy and lousy with kerogen and metals. We'll be awhile usin' all that up -- way longer than if we stay on this ball of mud, soaking in a pool of our own pee.

How likely was it that a nekkid, weak primate with puny teeth and puny claws would end up on top of the heap here, ever? But we did. Our species got this far by betting big and winning. No point in stopping now just so the whiners won't miss naptime!

Y.T. said...

So, Y. T. we should just give up, go emo and cut ourselves?

You first.
Umm. No. Never said that. It's just that it's implausible to believe humans cannot be improved via artificial means.

Or that it's impossible to create intelligent software.
Both of those things are very hard, but both are very attractive.. For example the first company to market artifical programmers/sysadmins at costs lower than Indians can offer is going to make a *real* killing.
Plus, the team or genius who writes the first real thinking software is going to have their name(s) up there next to Newton, Einstein, etc..

I kind of wonder what the markets'll look like if stuff can be made cheaply, but most people are unemployable..

Let's just hope that there'll be some way to upgrade what just became obsolete, when the time comes...such as..
Oh bugger it. It's late here :(
Go read Greg Egan if you're curious.

Roberta X said...

Dental fillings, eyeglasses (et cetera), artificial limbs? ...As the recipient of two of tthe three and some serious knee surgery and such, I have to tell you, the best medicine has to offer right now falls short of the real thing; it's way better than nothing but this "human impovement" stuff is a lot farther out there than space travel. At present, it's just a fancy way to...cut yourself. And as I said, you first.

Too much fiddlin' with people is a short trip to genetic slavery -- or "people" who aren't mentally people any more. Hooray, we could be our own worst enemies!

AI won't happen. Will Not, not with elecronics or even rat brains in a jar. Can't be done.

Y.T. said...

At present, it's just a fancy way to...cut yourself. And as I said, you first.
I largely agree. Though, the time when it won't be that is approaching. Compare where was implantable prosthetics technology 50 years back, and where it's going to be in 50 years..
One of these days, they'll figure out how to make implantable electrodes that last more than two years, or how to read/write thoughts.. and I think we'll agree on technological telepathy being pretty awesome, and something the DARPA is going to cream it's collective pants about. (provided it still exists 20 years from now.. )

Too much fiddlin' with people is a short trip to genetic slavery -- or "people" who aren't mentally people any more. Hooray, we could be our own worst enemies!We aren't our worst enemies? That's a new one for me :)

The right amount of fiddling could do wonders. For example, sociopathy(no empathy, no conscience..) occurs almost exclusively in people with a certain gene-set. And those people make about 1/2 of all heavy duty assholes, perhaps 3/4 of the most serious repeat offenders, 90% of confidence men and so on. Would be a relief to be rid of them..

Well, the fiddling would be dangerous, but were it done ethically and sanely, there's no real danger. Increasing general intelligence, perhaps getting rid of myopia, heritable diseases, etc.. all of that wouldn't change our essence. Were that available exclusively to the very rich, that could create an undesirable social dynamic though.

AI won't happen. Will Not, not with elecronics or even rat brains in a jar. Can't be done.
What makes you so sure? There's a number of pretty smart organisms around... and no reason to believe
intelligence is possible only in animals.
Unless you are an obscurantist like Searle or the so called "new mysterians" or what's their name.. it's all just a matter of reverse-engineering brain wiring and implementing it elsewhere..
Their arguments have been debunked by people smarter than I am.

That's going to be a very difficult task, but there's no shortage of funding or talent interested.
Just last year DARPA and IBM entered into a long term project to create neocortex derived neural networks capable of as much image processing and decision making capability as a cat. We'll see in 15 years..

Anonymous said...

I personally don't think that we need to worry about FTL drive. Once we reach (and stripmine) the asteroid belt and other planets, we can simply build either generation ships or figure out suspended animation.

As a wise man once said," The meek will inherit the earth. The rest of us will head for the stars!"


verification: relit

a useful thing to be able to do if your star-drive craps out.