Culture and Society

ISEE-3: The Challenge of Long Duration Flight

April 9, 2014

Some mission concepts for interstellar flight demand equipment that can stay functional not just for decades but for centuries. Do we know how to build such things? Missions like Voyager are encouraging in that we have two spacecraft that were never built for the kind of longevity we’ve demanded of them, and we’re still tracking […]

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Woven Light – Proteaa

April 4, 2014

Heath Rezabek is concerned with information — how we uncover it, how we use it, how we store it against cataclysmic events. A librarian and futurist, Heath uses science fiction to explore how Vessels of preserved knowledge might be developed and maintained not only on Earth but in the far reaches of our Solar System […]

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Small Probes, Hybrid Technologies

April 1, 2014

Reducing the size of a starship makes eminent sense, and as we saw yesterday, Alan Mole has been suggesting in the pages of JBIS that we do just that. A 1 kilogram interstellar probe sounds like it could be nothing more than a flyby mission, and with scant resources for reporting back to Earth at […]

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What Kardashev Really Said

March 21, 2014

Whenever we’re audacious enough to categorize far future civilizations, we turn to the work of Nikolai Kardashev. Nick Nielsen today looks at the well known Kardashev scale in the light of a curious fact: While many use Kardashev’s rankings in their own speculations, few have gone back and dug into his original paper. In Kardashev’s […]

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SF Influences: A Solar Sail Theory

March 18, 2014

Last week I looked at three figures who put solar sails on the map in the 1950s — Carl Wiley, who wrote the concept up in Astounding, Ted Cotter, who analyzed it for colleagues at Los Alamos, and Richard Garwin, who brought solar sailing into the academic journals. It was not long after Garwin’s work […]

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Creative Constraints and Starflight

March 14, 2014

I discovered Karl Schroeder’s work when I was researching brown dwarfs some years ago. Who knew that somebody was writing novels about civilizations around these dim objects? Permanence (Tor, 2003) was a real eye-opener, as were the deep-space cultures it described. Schroeder hooked me again with his latest book — he’s dealing with a preoccupation […]

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Woven Light: Augmented Dreamstate

March 7, 2014

Heath Rezabek, an Austin, TX-based librarian, futurist and long-term thinker, continues the chronicle of his evolving work on the Vessel project and its ramifications. Developed as a strategy for preserving our cultural and biological heritage, Vessel is inevitably a way to re-examine ourselves in new and startling ways. Science fiction offers a supple way to […]

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Toward an Extraterrestrial Paradigm

March 3, 2014

Growing up in the Sputnik era, I followed the fortunes of space exploration with huge enthusiasm. In those days, the model was primarily planetary in nature, the progression from the Moon to the nearest planets and then beyond seemingly inevitable. At the same time, a second model was developing around the idea of space stations […]

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Science Fiction in Extreme Environments

February 26, 2014

I’ve had pulsars on the mind the last couple of days after our discussion of PSR 1257+12 and its contribution to exoplanetology. A bit more about pulsars today and the way we look at extreme objects through science fiction. PSR 1257+12 was discovered in 1990 by Aleksander Wolszczan using data from the Arecibo dish, and […]

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Extraterrestrial Dispersal Vectors

February 21, 2014

If human civilization is to extend itself beyond our planet, it will need to take with it the plants, animals and microorganisms that can sustain a living ecosystem. Nick Nielsen argues in this compelling essay that preserving our own species into the remote future thus means preserving terrestrial biology as well, drawing sustenance from it […]

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