Culture and Society

The Prime Directive – A Real World Case

August 28, 2015

Trying to observe but not harm another civilization can be tricky business, as Michael Michaud explains in the article below. While Star Trek gave us a model for non-interference when new cultures are encountered, even its fictional world was rife with departures from its stated principles. We can see the problem in microcosm in ongoing […]

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The Scientific Imperative of Human Spaceflight

August 21, 2015

Interstellar distances seem to cry out for robotics and artificial intelligence. But as Nick Nielsen explains in the essay below, there is a compelling argument that our long-term goal should be human-crewed missions. We might ask whether the ‘overview effect’ that astronauts report from their experience of seeing the Earth from outside would have a […]

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A Science Critique of Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson

August 14, 2015

I haven’t yet read Kim Stanley Robinson’s new novel Aurora (Orbit, 2015), though it’s waiting on my Kindle. And a good thing, too, for this tale of a human expedition to Tau Ceti is turning out to be one of the most controversial books of the summer. The issues it explores are a touchstone for […]

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Upcoming Interstellar Conferences

August 11, 2015

The interstellar community has seen a surprising number of conferences since the 2011 event in Orlando, which kicked off the 100 Year Starship effort and brought unusual media attention to the idea of travel between the stars. I had thought when 2015 began that further conferences were unlikely — it seemed to be a year […]

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Envisioning Starflight Failing

July 31, 2015

Science fiction has always had its share of Earthside dystopias, but starflight’s allure has persisted, despite the dark scrutiny of space travel in the works of writers like J. G. Ballard. But what happens if we develop the technologies to go to the stars and find the journey isn’t worth it? Gregory Benford recently reviewed […]

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The Exploratory Imperative

July 8, 2015

If you’re a long-time reader of this site, you doubtless share my fascination with the missions that are defining our summer — Dawn at Ceres, Rosetta at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, and in the coming week particularly, New Horizons at Pluto. But have you ever wondered why the fascination is there? Because get beyond the sustaining network […]

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Science Fiction: An Updated Solar System

June 4, 2015

Having written yesterday about the constellation of missions now returning data from deep space, I found Geoffrey Landis’ essay “Spaceflight and Science Fiction” timely. The essay is freely available in the inaugural issue of The Journal of Astrosociology, the publication of the Astrosociology Research Institute (downloadable here). And while it covers some familiar ground — […]

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Transhumanism and Adaptive Radiation

May 29, 2015

Centauri Dreams regular Nick Nielsen here tackles transhumanism, probing its philosophical underpinnings and its practical consequences as civilization spreads outward from the Solar System. In a sense, transhumanism is what humans have always done, the act of transcendence through technology being a continuing theme of our existence. But accelerating technologies demand answers about human freedom […]

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NExSS: A ‘Virtual Institute’ for Deep Space

April 23, 2015

The Nexus for Exoplanet System Science, or NExSS, is a collaborative initiative from NASA to draw on the collective talent of researchers from ten universities, three NASA centers and two research institutes. Conceived as a ‘virtual institute,’ the effort is both geographically diverse and multidisciplinary in nature, focusing not only on the search for exoplanets […]

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Voyager to a Star?

April 21, 2015

The latest imagery from New Horizons has me wondering what it must be like to be on the team for this mission. Although released a week ago, the photo at left was taken by the Ralph color imager aboard the spacecraft on April 9. The distance from Pluto and Charon in the shot is about […]

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