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Andre's question

  1. humans establish some type of life, extrasolar

    58.3%
  2. self-inflicted setback rules that possibility out

    25.0%
  3. neither event ever happens

    16.7%
  1. Nov 6, 2005 #1

    marcus

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    In a parallel thread to this one, Andre asks the following question
    https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?p=811811#post811811

    After having filled in the variables to the Drake equation. What's going to happen first:

    - Into the wild black yonder to the next solar system?
    - Serious setback of human civilisation due to built-in deficiencies (wars, depletion of resources, etc)?


    Andre originally complicated the question with a third event:
    "Serious setback due to natural factors, meteorites, volcanic, tectonic disasters?" Logically this can be subsumed in the case that NEITHER of the first two events ever occurs, because something else happens that eliminates them as possibilities.

    Probably many people have posed this question and written essays about it, but Andre did not cite any reference and I can't think of one offhand. So it is a local PF question that Andre happened to ask. How do you reply? Can you act so as to affect the outcome or is the answer predetermined by material, social and historical realities that we cannot change? Do you have an opinion?

    To make it more precise, I will specify that "into the wild black yonder of the next planetary system" includes both the case of establishing DNA LIFE extrasolar and also the case of establishing SELF-REPLICATING ROBOT SURROGATE LIFE.

    Which event do you expect to happen first?

    A. establishing some type of life in "the wild black yonder"

    B. self-inflicted setback (war, depletion of resources) rules out A as a possibility.

    C. neither event occurs because both are somehow preempted.
     
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2005
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 6, 2005 #2
    We have to--it's our duty.
     
  4. Nov 7, 2005 #3

    marcus

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    Yes. I see that you are serious about this. But is there sufficient reason to suppose that we will be able to carry it out?

    I thought Andre was asserting a real probability that human civilization would cripple the earth as a life-spreader (by war or resource depletion) before anything was accomplished.

    do you have any other argument for expecting success besides the strong urge and sense of responsibility which you share with others.

    BTW the urge to spread life and explore new habitat may have gotten partially hardwired in the brain by evolution, somewhere along the way. It wouldn't be a surprise to find some kind of "colonization" program bred into a successful species, terrestrial or otherwise. So when you say "duty" there may be a composite of moral imperative and basic instinct here analogous to fiberglass or carbon-fiber composite materials.

    I was asking is the outcome (one way or another) predetermined by social and economic conditions which we cannot voluntarily change or do you think there is something that you can do to alter the odds.

    In any case Warren, thanks for responding to the poll.
     
  5. Nov 7, 2005 #4
    I'm more optimistic. The self-corrective tendency of society to rebound from natural and man-made disasters is robust (cf. Katrina), and resource shortages merely result in alternative technologies being developed. If we can continue to grow the economy by a mere 3% per year, NASA's budget would increase by a factor of twenty in real dollars within a hundred years, while still taking the same percentage of GDP. So, in a hundred years, technology will be much more advanced, and there will be more economic resources to throw at the problem, and private enterprise will also get into the act (as it is already doing).

    So, if we can keep it together for another century, or so, the solar system at least should be within our grasp.
     
  6. Nov 7, 2005 #5

    wolram

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    I feel there is simply not enough, "spare", money or international will power to
    drive extra solar travel forward, has anyone calculated the cost involved in
    getting a ton payload into orbit ? i think the average man in the street would screem in horror if he found out that his tax $,£ was used to this end, he will
    be more interested in his/her quality of life, so space travel will only become
    possible if some huge surplus finance is found that will not diminish our comfort.

    :grumpy:
     
  7. Nov 7, 2005 #6

    turbo

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    We can most efficiently explore the solar system (and beyond) by sending out unmanned probes. It is pure hubris to think that our physical presence in interplanetary space is required to do science. Real scientific advances have been made (and will continue to be) by people using data from unmanned probes.

    When clueless politicians tell us that it is our "goal" to set up a manned base on the Moon and send astronauts to Mars, they are reading from a lobbyist's script. There is no overriding need to send men to Mars, but the R&D to make any progress toward doing so will funnel trillions of our tax dollars into the pockets of big corporate campaign donors like Boeing and Lockheed Martin. When in doubt, follow the money. :grumpy:
     
  8. Nov 7, 2005 #7

    Danger

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    We have to do it eventually, for racial survival. It's a sad but true statistic that stars don't live forever. While it isn't an immediate problem, Sol is going to go Red Giant someday, and I'd prefer to be in a different neighbourhood at the time.
     
  9. Nov 7, 2005 #8

    turbo

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    Priorities...

    Well, we still have several billion years before the sun gives us that kind of trouble, so we don't need to be in too much of a hurry just yet. I would much rather spend the money trying to clean up the environmental messes we have made and breaking our foolish dependence on fossil fuels. If we don't make some strides in this area, we will not exist as a species for long enough for the development of interstellar travel to do us any good. If we don't destroy ourselves in the next thousand years or so, and we manage to get our populations to levels that are safely sustainable without stripping the planet bare, we may have a chance of diverting sufficient resources to the technical problems of interstellar travel.

    We have to remain mindful that in interstellar space, matter is spread thinly and energy is hard to come by. We are fat and happy because we live on a planet that is a rich conglomeration of elements and we have a Sun that gives us free energy, AND we have a magnetic field and an atmosphere that protects us from the worst of that free energy.
     
  10. Nov 7, 2005 #9

    Danger

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    I agree in principle, Turbo. That's why, in the other thread, I advocate putting space research into private/corporate hands. The profit margin (and there will be a huge one) will keep them working their asses off and leave the governments free to use their tax money for the things that you are pressing.
     
  11. Nov 7, 2005 #10

    turbo

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    Right now, there are very few private or quasi-private enterprises capable of taking up the task. Most of the world's R&D, launch technology, guidance technology, etc, is in the hands of huge corporations that suck on their countries' tax bases and rely on near-monopoly conditions enforced by secrecy agreements, classification of critical technology, etc. The US government in particular does not want advanced propulsion or guidance technology to be given or sold to countries that might want use it for weapons.

    Bert Rutan is a visionary, but don't expect him to turn a profit from space travel anytime soon. He is privately re-developing sub-orbital capabilities that were routine stuff for Chuck Yeager et al, and is taking advantage of lightweight materials, control technology, miniaturization, etc that were not available during the heyday of the X-planes. I'm as happy as I can be that there are mavericks like him saying "yes, I can" and following through, but putting a single man or a small crew in a compact vehicle into a sub-orbital trajectory is a far cry from being able to loft many tons of equipment and supplies into a stable orbit that can be sustained while the materials are assembled into something that can be used for interplanetary travel. I do not wish to belittle Mr. Rutan's acheivements, by any means. Shortly after Wilbur and Orville developed their flyer, Orville was demonstrating it in Europe and actually took Kaiser Wilhelm's son for a flight (for which recklessness, the Kaiser confined him to house arrest). Not long after, Germany was a powerhouse of military air power. Bert Rutan's accomplishments might enable poorer, less-technologically developed countries to develop military capabilities which are now beyond their reach. Human nature makes the development of such capabilities a double-edged sword, with utility for good, bad and indifferent. It's the "bad" that worries me, because the people with the power to destroy something can exert control over that something, no matter what it is.
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2005
  12. Nov 7, 2005 #11

    Danger

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    Again, Turbo, you make good points. I believe, however, that there will be enough break-out companies to force the giants into the race for fear of losing out on something good.
    Other than the US government, nobody cares what the US government wants or doesn't want. They certainly have no collar on the intellectual/technological resources of the planet, and with Brazilian, Venezuelan, Russian etc. launch facilities, the Cape is redundant.
     
  13. Nov 7, 2005 #12

    turbo

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    I'm sorry Danger - I made a small but time-consuming edit in the above post, and refreshed well after your last post. I do not believe that it would change your thinking one bit, though - your reasoning is compelling. I would argue for international cooperation if I thought it would do any good, but there is a particularly "close" relationship between the US government and the "military-industrial complex" that President Eisenhower warned us of when he left office (yes, I am THAT old!) that will prevent free cooperation. The best we can get is taxpayer-subsidized cooperative ventures in which large US corporations get to develop very lucrative portions of the overall package, free from competition and oversight. The US is a country in which free enterprise is given lip service, but is more commonly honored in the breach. Orwell was not a dummy!
     
  14. Nov 8, 2005 #13
    Interesting read. Unfortuately I cant comment on US government policies as i live in Australia. Coming back to a point made earlier regarding interstellar travel. Do you think this is the path our species will take? (provided we survive long enough, as turbo pointed out) Perhaps we will have more success trying to avoid the limitations placed on organisms or large collections of matter trying to travel the vast distances of the universe and head down the path of intelligent waves? Already most of our information gathering processes are based on waves and particle interactions. Computers
    are paving the way for this to become a reality as we strive to develop artificial intelligence.

    If the exponential acceleration of our knowledge and technology keeps up, who knows what possibilites we may be able to achieve. Some sort of cosmic radiation powered super intelligent wave capable of conscious interactions with matter and time? Lets hope so.
     
  15. Nov 8, 2005 #14

    Garth

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    It seems to me that the technology required for interstellar travel would make it all the more possible for us to wipe ourselves out before such travel was achieved.

    We have to crack the technology crisis first - i.e. obtain the wisdom to handle the power yielded by such technology.

    Garth
     
  16. Nov 8, 2005 #15

    wolram

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    The need of the meny outwieghs the need of the one, over come that hurdle
    and you may get some progress, but do not hold your breath, any one that thinks space exploration should be a priorty is in the minority, rib eye steak sir?
    or bangers and mash?
    :mad:
     
  17. Nov 8, 2005 #16

    Danger

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    Maybe a wee bit, since it clarified your concerns. First off, I totally agree that any technology can be used for good or bad (which is, in itself, a subjective characterization). We can't let that prevent us from developing it, though.
    One point where you might have misinterpreted my intent was regarding corporate co-operation. What I was suggesting is that they should be forced into competition with the goal of establishing the first foothold in orbital/lunar/Martian colonization. If some of them choose to co-operate, so much the better. While I'm no fan of multi-national corporations, and multi-planetary ones would probably be even more unruly, I believe that it would at least get things going at an acceptable pace.

    Warp, your idea is intriguing, and would make for a great SF story, but I think that there would be far too many physical constraints to allow such a thing (primarily the encoding and sustaining of engrams and decoherence of the wave). Space Tiger or Zapper would have a lot better handle on that subject.

    Wooly, as usual you have managed to baffle me. :tongue:
     
  18. Nov 27, 2005 #17
    Mankind has always been driven to explore new territory. If we stop now simply because it has become more expensive and more difficult my faith in the human race is gone. Its sad to se that the spirit of humanity is flickering. Lets just hope it wont die out completely.

    When cheaper methods to get paylods into space(like ESA's Phoenix http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EADS_Phoenix ) gets aviable I think we will se a explosion of space exploration. Atleast I hope so because that is the area I want to work in when Im done with my education :)

    If we just can get a foothold on the moon, everything we need can be manufactured on site and launching from the moon costs pennies compared to launching from earth.

    If we take the first steps to the moon, to mars, space technology will take on a life on its own and continue to developt. After that it will just be a matter of time before we go into deep space voyages.
    To ge where no man has gone before :)
     
  19. Nov 27, 2005 #18

    Chronos

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    I still think you can't get there from here. Physics, as we know it, makes the prospect of interstellar travel very impractical. SETI may yet confirm this dire prediction. There are few like us who hang around long enough to communicate similar frustrations.
     
  20. Nov 28, 2005 #19

    James R

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    I really don't know what will happen.

    If we're going to move off the Earth, we only have until the sun goes into its red giant phase to do so. But that's still a very long time away.

    We might wipe ourselves out with wars. Even global warming could create huge problems, from which humanity will take a long time to recover. But I'd say the most likely thing is that either of those possibilities would be a delay (in the extreme long term) rather than totally stopping us from expanding into interstellar space.

    We could be hit by an asteroid, in which case we may or may not survive, but we'll probably work out how to miminize that risk in the next couple of hundred years.

    We might be wiped out by extraterrestrials, but the chance of that is negligible, especially seeing as there don't seem to be any around our region of the galaxy.

    We might decide that expanding into space is just too much effort, and we'd be quite comfortable staying at home in our solar system, but I doubt it.

    So, optimistically, looking at the very long term, I'd say the first option is the most likely.
     
  21. Nov 28, 2005 #20
    There is going to be alot of mabies on this post :) But in the not to distant future maby we will be able to greatly expand our lifespan(nanotech, genetic enginering, artificial limbs and organs or something like that). If we could live for 500 years interstellar travells time constrains wouldnt be as bad anymore. If I could live for 500 years I would glady be in a bussard ramjet(if that kind of ship is possible) for 100 of those.

    The most depressing thing I can imagine would be that the human race is stuck in the solar system.:cry:
     
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