Culture and Society

‘A City Near Centaurus’

January 4, 2016

Let’s start the year off with a reflection on things past. Specifically, a story called “A City Near Centaurus,” set on a planet circling one of the Alpha Centauri stars. Just which star is problematic, because our author, Bill Doede, describes it as a planet circling ‘Alpha Centaurus II.’ I’m sure he means Centauri B, […]

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Can Social Insects Have a Civilization?

December 31, 2015

I first encountered Michael Chorost in his fine book World Wide Mind (Free Press, 2011), which looks at the relationship between biology and the machine tools that can enhance it. Mike’s thinking on SETI has already produced rich discussion in these pages (see, for example, SETI: Contact and Enigma). In today’s essay, he’s asking for […]

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Voyager to a Star

December 24, 2015

The essay that follows is a much expanded version of a brief post that ran here last April, the idea being to give our Voyager spacecraft one last (symbolic) mission. It will run later this year in a publication called ‘Handbook of the Unknowable,’ produced by Espen Gangvik (Director Trondheim Biennale, Norway) and edited by […]

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A Bill for a Starfaring Future

December 8, 2015

Back in 2012 I reported on Peter Garretson’s What Our Civilization Needs is a Billion Year Plan, an essay advocating a robust human expansion to the stars. Lt. Col. Garretson lives and breathes futuristic issues. A transformational strategist for the US Air Force, he has served as an airpower strategist and strategic policy advisor to […]

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Will We Stop at Mars?

November 27, 2015

In the heady days of Apollo, Mars by 2000 looked entirely feasible. Now we’re talking about the 2030s for manned exploration, and even that target seems to keep receding. In the review that follows, Michael Michaud looks at Louis Friedman’s new book on human spaceflight, which advocates Mars landings but cedes more distant targets to […]

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The 3 Most Futuristic Talks at IAC 2015

November 23, 2015

Justin Atchison’s name started appearing in these pages all the way back in 2007 when, in a post called Deep Space Propulsion via Magnetic Fields, I described his work at Cornell on micro-satellites the size of a single wafer of silicon. Working with Mason Peck, Justin did his graduate work on chip-scale spacecraft dynamics, solar […]

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The Initiative for Interstellar Studies: A Three Year Update

November 13, 2015

Kelvin Long is chief editor of the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society and the author of Deep Space Propulsion (Springer, 2011). A founder and first project leader of Project Icarus, the ongoing re-design of the Project Daedalus starship, Kelvin is also a co-founder of the non-profit Icarus Interstellar. He now serves as executive director […]

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Science Fiction and the Symposium

October 30, 2015

Science fiction is much on my mind this morning, having just been to a second viewing of The Martian (this time in 3D, which I didn’t much care for), and having just read a new paper on wormholes that suggests a bizarre form of communication using them. More about both of these in a moment, […]

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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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