Friday, February 15, 2008

Nobody really has a choice.

MattG has a post up on the possibilities of various means of human interstellar travel without using magic wands. One of the things he mentioned was generation ships. I felt my usual quasi-libertarian objection about generation ships start to twinge. You know, the one about condemning your offspring to being born into a ship on a mission in the interstellar void. Then it hit me: Nobody asked me if I wanted to be born in Chicago, did they?

Launch the ship, then.


Anonymous said...

Tam, just discovered that you were coming to Indy. If your interested, I can offer places to make brass out of loaded ammo. One is a League that was IDPA and IPSC before IDPA and IPSC were even a thought, the second is a true 1000yard range. You're invited if I can find a way to contact you.

Tam said...

email address is in the right hand column. I've made a New Year's resolution to even try and answer it, too! :)

NotClauswitz said...

Heh - Chicago is all? How about Calcutta - or some weirder unfathomable-unpronounceable. Just along for the ride on a ship manned by Missionaries, rather than people actually trying to increase their earning-power. Docked at some interesting ports-of-call however.

Read a good SciFi book long ago about such a ship (forget the title), which begins with the subsequent generations trying to come to grips/unravel the forgotten past and that their "world" is a big old ship. Best specific of the story I can recall is one guy gets Religion and goes bananas running around shouting, "The Truth never set anybody free!!" :-)

Alan said...

If it takes 200 years to get to another system that might support life, is it worth taking the trip now?

Some questions have to be answered first.

1. Do we have the ability to build a ship that can last 200 years?

2. In the 300+ years it will take to build a ship and arrive at another system, will technology advance to allow us to build a faster ship that will take less time? There are several SF stories where a generation ship spends a few hundred years traveling only to find people waiting at the destination who got there first with a faster ship.

3. Can a small society maintain the knowledge and stability required to maintain and operate the ship over a few generations?

Of course it's all moot if we can't build the ship now. Since we can't even put people on the Moon or Mars now, it seems a little premature to worry about colonizing a system 40+ light years away.

Matt G said...

Alan, we're not really dedicating any resources toward doing it at all, right now. With a will and a dedication, yes, we could get one launched pretty damned fast-- call it a decade? Two at the outside.

1. Why not? Space is absent of corrosion, and the engines we'll be using are the simplest propulsion devices, with almost no moving parts. The U.S.S. Constitution (Old "Ironsides") floats even yet in our Navy.

2.We might be able to propel a person faster, but imagining that we're going to get from one point to another faster than light is wishful thinking, at this point. "Wormholes" and the like are just prayers that there's some way to cross the void faster; we have NO indications of them that we can even think about hanging our hat on, now. They are sheer fancy. (Unfortunately.) So maybe we'll send some crew off at 10% c, and 10 or 20 years later another crew goes to another planet at 20% c. What's the problem? The real hold up is: when you're sitting stationary, you're not traveling anywhere.

3. We could pack more knowledge and culture in a few servers and a ton of memory storage than was in existance during the birth of this country. Also, while the crew would be a long way from Earth, they won't be cut off; they can still receive transmissions.

4. Alan, if you don't mind, go read the comments over at my post. We could likely go to Mars this year, if we were willing to accept that it's a frontier, and that going to frontiers is inherently dangerous.

We could do this faster than we think.

Anonymous said...

I think I have that one in an anthology of sci-fi from the golden age of sci fi

NotClauswitz said...

It took a couple hundred years to actually dismantle and end slavery - a societal object/artiface that had existed and flourished everywhere since Civilization had begun - and there's still bits of it floating around.
Can our Democracy survive another 68 years - or is 300-years the limit? What race of Ubermensch will fly the ship and what will their children be like?
Kewl Gregg!

Jenny said...

Hrmm.. then again, after being born in Chicago you had the option of moving somewhere other than hard vacuum.

Which ain't to say all sorts of folks aren't born in pretty sorry situations they *can't* get out of.

Still a moot point for the time being I reckon, until we know for sure there's somewhere to go. Wouldn't looking into terraforming Mars somehow be a better place to start with the whole "colonization" thing?

And um.. is it just me, or did the whole space exploration pretty much come to a screeching halt right about the time we tasked the gov't with the whole "buy everyone out of poverty" schtick? I can't help but think that absent the "Great Society" there'd already BE a Tranquility Base and a couple LaGrange stations.

Anonymous said...

Space exploration didn't stop, but our manned space exploration hit the skids when NASA started spending 90% of their budget on the shuttle program.

LMB said...

Tamara, you mentioned the "Useless third" of humanity that Douglas Adams references?

Imagine if we sent all the gun grabbing moonbats, terrorists, and the entire population of France.

.... we'd just have to hope and pray FTL capable aliens didn't find them!kaszlu

Andrew said...

Read a good SciFi book long ago about such a ship (forget the title), which begins with the subsequent generations trying to come to grips/unravel the forgotten past and that their "world" is a big old ship.

Robert A. Heinlein's novel, Orphans of the Sky? (Caution -- Wikipedia article has spoilers, starting in the "radio adaptation" section.)

- Andrew Rothman from THR

Matt G said...

No, I want a taste of our good folk involved in the emigration project; otherwise the first sentient beings they run across will backtrack their flight path and nuke us from orbit ("'s the only way to be sure.").

Anonymous said...

I recall a science fiction story from some years ago...two factions were fighting a war inside a huge generation ship, not even knowing they were on a ship anymore.