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Tau Zero Foundation Announced

Last February, Centauri Dreams described the formation of a new foundation, a private nonprofit (501c3) corporation dedicated to supporting the advances in science, technology and education that may one day enable us to reach the stars. Conceived by Marc Millis, former head of NASA’s Breakthrough Propulsion Physics program, the foundation aims to support a carefully chosen group of researchers whose work is directed at this goal. On that occasion, I described the fledgling foundation’s need for a name and asked for comments from readers. Now that the choice has been made and the necessary legal work accomplished, it’s time to announce the advent of the Tau Zero Foundation.

Inspired by the Poul Anderson novel of the same name and seconded by a number of readers, Tau Zero seemed a natural fit. Tau refers to the Greek letter representing proper time in relativistic equations. Tau Zero refers to what happens when one approaches light-speed and one’s proper time shrinks compared to the surrounding universe. Thus the premise of the Anderson novel, as an interstellar craft unable to stop accelerating takes an inadvertent grand tour of the cosmos. Anderson, who passed away in 2001, remains highly regarded as a science fiction writer whose work reflects sound and thoughtful science. He wrote often of interstellar flight and is believed to have inspired many students to become scientists and engineers. In February 2006, his widow, Karen Anderson, granted permission for the Foundation to use this name as well as joining the Foundation as one of its advocates herself.

Centauri Dreams‘ next post will be a statement by foundation founder Marc Millis discussing the goals and composition of the organization. An older background statement with more detail about the group’s structure is available, and all these documents will be be updated when the foundation’s Web site becomes operational. The Tau Zero Foundation is still in its infancy, but Centauri Dreams will continue to report on its growth and progress as events warrant. And as the foundation grows, this site will grow with it, continuing to report on developments in interstellar science that may bring the grand goal just a little closer.

A final thought: the motto of the foundation is ad astra incrementis. The Latin word incrementis is the root of English ‘incremental,’ a fitting thought given the nature of the challenge. Translated literally, ad astra incrementis means ‘to the stars in steps, with each step larger than the last.’ Going to the stars is not likely to be the result of a single breakthrough, but rather thousands of small, incremental discoveries that build upon each other.

The goal of the Tau Zero Foundation is to ensure that those early steps are taken now, so that some day people working with technologies far more advanced than our own may complete the work of reaching nearby stars and giving humanity the means to thrive beyond Earth. If that is a future most of us may never live to see, it is enough to know that we played some role in bringing it about.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Joseph Mahaney June 26, 2006, 20:15

    I do believe Warren Buffet is giving away BILLIONS of dollars beginning next month! :)

    Was wondering if Tau Zero will also support possible near future ground launch vehicles and infrastructure to gain better access to LEO and beyond. I would think that garaunteed LEO access would be important for future experiments.

  • Dennis June 26, 2006, 21:34

    Very interesting! Do you have their (future) web-site address? I would like to follow their progress. Interstellar flight is one of my most desired dreams…

  • Administrator June 27, 2006, 8:41

    Let me answer two questions:

    Joseph Mahaney asked whether Tau Zero intends to support near-future ground launch vehicles to build infrastructure for easy access to LEO. I can’t speak for anyone but myself at this stage, but my own thinking is that at the beginning, at least, the foundation will target propulsion research with interstellar potential only. The need for access to LEO is indeed a major item, but probably not the focus of Tau Zero. More on this in the next post here (either late today or tomorrow) when Marc Millis provides more information about the foundation’s thinking.

    Dennis asks about the Web site address. At present, the site is being built and not yet ready for access. But be assured that as things develop, I’ll cover them here. And I’ll post the address immediately when it’s ready to go.

  • Marc Millis June 29, 2006, 7:46

    Tau Zero will only pursue deep spaceflight technologies and their sociological implications. There are enough other service providers working the near-Earth adventures.

  • Fernando Loup June 29, 2006, 11:24

    Excellent….i loved the part quoted from the introductory text

    ” Conceived by Marc Millis, former head of NASA’s Breakthrough Propulsion Physics program, the foundation aims to support a carefully chosen group of researchers whose work is directed at this goal. ”

    at this time i am inviting the members of this forum to read my arXiv.org work already accepted for publication it terminates with a Legacy to NASA/BPP


    i am starting to move myself towards International Space Station ISS(lets see if i can really do it) due to section 8 of my work and to look for more experimental signatures of Extra Dimensions needed for Superluminal motion

    one of the works is this one


    i would like to see Marc Millis again in the “bridge” of NASA/BPP

  • David Fleming September 21, 2007, 8:06

    Any further news/updates on the work of the Tau Zero Foundation?,

  • Administrator September 21, 2007, 8:25

    David, plenty going on at present re Tau Zero, and we should have some news for announcement this fall. I’ll be talking about developments here as soon as they happen. Thanks for your interest!

  • george scaglione September 21, 2007, 9:46

    paul i will very much look forward to hearing the developments at tau zero!!should’nt be too hard…i’m here to check at least once a day most days!thank you very very much george

  • Jess Lomas September 22, 2007, 15:28

    With the re-introduction of the Mini-Mag Orion concept, news on photonic propulsion and other propulsion ideas, including the latest on antimatter, I am more positive that we’re moving forward – even if so VERY slowly.

    If research continues in industry, the military and academia, then we will get what we so desire. I agree whats needed is for the U. S. to become a leader and DO stuff. While its going to be humankinds destiny to travel in space, like you all I do not want that to be in a circle above our planet Earth. I want Mars, Venus, the asteroids and beyond too…

  • Administrator September 22, 2007, 16:05

    I’m with you on that, Jess. We have to remember that incremental progress is the way much of this will happen, one step leading to another, and that a long-term perspective that keeps the goal in mind is necessary to prevent short-term disillusionment. Thus the Tau Zero motto: ‘ad astra incrementis.’ One step at a time, acknowledging the fact that many leads won’t pan out along the way, but always looking to further those that do.

  • Crway March 4, 2008, 18:58

    I have been following recent developments in Laser Sail Technology as well as developments in particle physics at CERN. I came across this website and found it interesting. I do not see any recent posts?

  • Administrator March 4, 2008, 19:52

    I assume you’re asking about the Tau Zero Foundation when you ask about recent posts. Let me quote the answer I gave another recent commenter: “Marc Millis, who headed NASA’s Breakthrough Propulsion Physics program, is actively developing the Tau Zero Foundation to take over from where BPP left off when it lost NASA funding. We support Tau Zero here and will be providing news of current developments germane to its work and to the broader issues behind this research. Tau Zero itself is being developed behind the scenes and has already enlisted a number of scientist practitioners whose research is active. The Foundation intends to use philanthropy to fund research projects that its practitioners are engaged in. The public side of Tau Zero will take form this year as we work toward getting its Web site ready. More on this here on Centauri Dreams as things develop.” And yes, we’re behind the schedule we originally set to get Tau Zero up and running as far as general memberships and public presence are concerned, but we continue to work behind the scenes to make this happen. The delays have been frustrating but I’m afraid necessary as we sort out the demands of day jobs and current projects.