Culture and Society

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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Starships on Earth

February 14, 2014

Building a starship takes us along an evolutionary path as we master the myriad methods of its creation. And the process does not start at some arbitrary point in the future. Rather, it begins now as we put today’s technologies to work in the service of new concepts. Living ‘meta-technologies’ offer a way into the […]

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Starships: Sentient Habitats

January 31, 2014

Librarian and futurist Heath Rezabek has become a familiar figure on Centauri Dreams through his writings on existential risk and how our species might counter it through Vessels, installations conveying our planet’s biological and cultural identity. The Vessel concept is far-reaching, and if we build it on Earth, we would likely take it to the […]

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Stepping Stones Across the Cosmos

January 17, 2014

by J. N. Nielsen Nick Nielsen thinks big. In fact, today’s essay, which ranges over vast stretches of time and space and places human civilization in a continually expanding context, reminds me of nothing so much as the Olaf Stapledon of Starmaker. As with Stapledon, the questions are deeply philosophical: If we find a way […]

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Vessel: A Science Fiction Prototype

December 13, 2013

Futurist and librarian Heath Rezabek returns with further thoughts on preserving mankind’s heritage through Vessels that would contain everything we are as a species. But in an unusual offering, he goes on to provide a fictional look at how such Vessels affect the future. Just how do we preserve and present Earth’s cultural and biological […]

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Encounter with a Blue/Green Planet

December 11, 2013

When I first read about Project Daedalus all those many years ago, I remember the image of a probe passing through a planetary system, in this case the one assumed to be around Barnard’s Star, at high velocity, taking measurements all the way through its brief encounter. And wouldn’t it be a fabulous outcome if […]

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Cosmic Loneliness and Interstellar Travel

December 6, 2013

Nick Nielsen’s latest invokes the thinking of Carl Sagan, who explored the possibilities of interstellar ramjets traveling at close to the speed of light in the 1960’s. What would the consequences be for the civilization that developed such technologies, and how would such starships affect their thinking about communicating with other intelligent species? Sagan’s speculations […]

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Putting the Solar System in Context

December 3, 2013

Yesterday I mentioned that we don’t know yet where New Horizons will ultimately end up on a map of the night sky like the ones used in a recent IEEE Spectrum article to illustrate the journeys of the Voyagers and Pioneers. We’ll know more once future encounters with Kuiper Belt objects are taken into account. […]

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Leafing Through Early Interstellar Ideas

November 22, 2013

Although John Jacob Astor IV did many things in his life — as a businessman, builder, Spanish American War veteran and financier — his place in history was secured with his death on the Titanic in 1912. His was actually one of the three hundred or so bodies that were later recovered out of over […]

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