Culture and Society

Woven Light: The Orphan Obscura

October 2, 2015

Heath Rezabek began exploring Vessel, an evolving strategy for preserving Earth’s cultures and biology, in these pages back in 2013. A librarian and writer in Austin TX, Heath went on to push these ideas into the realm of science fiction, in the form of a series of excerpts from a longer work that is still […]

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Pluto, Bonestell and Richard Powers

September 28, 2015

Like the Voyagers and Cassini before it, New Horizons is a gift that keeps on giving. As I looked at the latest Pluto images, I was drawn back to Chesley Bonestell’s depiction of Pluto, a jagged landscape under a dusting of frozen-out atmosphere. Bonestell’s images in The Conquest of Space (Viking, 1949) took the post-World […]

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Greg Matloff: Conscious Stars Revisited

September 18, 2015

It’s no exaggeration to say that without Greg Matloff, there would have been no Centauri Dreams. After reading his The Starflight Handbook (Wiley, 1989) and returning to it for years, I began working on my own volume in 2001. Research for that book would reveal Matloff’s numerous contributions in the journals, especially on solar sail […]

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The Closed Loop Conundrum

September 10, 2015

In Stephen Baxter’s novel Ultima (Roc, 2015), Ceres is moved by a human civilization in a parallel universe toward Mars, the immediate notion being to use the dwarf planet’s volatiles to help terraform the Red Planet. Or is that really the motive? I don’t want to give too much away (and in any case, I […]

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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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