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Starship Congress

No stranger to these pages, Richard Obousy is president and senior scientist for Icarus Interstellar, which among other things is engaged in the ambitious redesign of Project Daedalus. But the organization has more on its plate than a fusion-powered starship. From worldships to lightsails, Icarus Interstellar is probing the possibilities both near-term and far, all of which will be discussed at an upcoming gathering of the interstellar community that Richard now describes.

by Richard Obousy

richardO

Starship Congress is the interstellar summit that Icarus Interstellar is hosting this summer in Dallas, August 15-18. As an event, Starship Congress will play host and give voice to a wide variety of interstellar organizations and distinguished proponents from the interstellar community. Registration for Starship Congress is now open on Icarus Interstellar’s website. A call-for-papers has been made with selected presenter’s papers to be published in a special Starship Congress-dedicated issue of the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society.

The event is split into three days, with each day advancing progressively in terms of its focus on the future of science and technology.

Day 1—Interstellar Now

Day 1 will examine what we can do today and for the next twenty years. The aim is getting the interstellar community to think about critical building blocks needing to be addressed in the near term in order to establish the correct social, economic and technological conditions leading to the building and launch of a starship before the end of the century.

Day 2—Interstellar This Lifetime

DAY 2 will be focused on semi-realistic targets for what we may see accomplished from 20-to-50 years from now. Likely areas of discussion will be technologies that are presently considered to be at low-technology readiness level (TRL). On the propulsion side of things this will include fusion and antimatter rockets. There will also be discussions on the human exploration and colonization of our own solar system as a plausible next-step on way to becoming an interstellar civilization.

Day 3—Interstellar Future

DAY 3 will be focused on topics that are deemed speculative by today’s standards. Warp drives, wormholes, the extraction of energy from the quantum vacuum, are examples of the kinds of talks and discussions that are planned. In addition, papers and presentations are anticipated on ‘mega-engineering’ projects such as space elevators and terraforming. The consideration of social aspects of long distance space exploration will be talked about. (For example, how do closed communities evolve in space, and how do we ensure the protection of minorities on such a mission while limiting religious extremism?) Similarly, another interesting topic can be the degree of autonomy an interstellar crew have from the population that funded their mission.

Speaking for myself, as president of Icarus Interstellar I’m deeply cognizant of the relatively low interest there is globally in putting money into space exploration, and therefore the questionable assertion that we’ll be ‘going interstellar’ anytime soon. As an example, the annual budget of the US Department of Defense is about equal to the sum total of money NASA has ever spent since its inception in 1958. However, I’m also mindful of the unpredictable effects of disruptive technologies and the profound social and technological advancements humanity has seen in the last century. So Icarus will stick to its ambition of launching an expansive campaign of interstellar exploration and colonization to commence by the end of the century.

Idealistic? Undoubtedly. Possible? Yes.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Sean the Cosmist April 12, 2013, 11:06

    Sounds like fun. I have an idea for a paper, but I don’t know if it’s the kind of thing this congress is looking for. As I see it, there needs to be a “memetic offensive” in the near term, to bring space exploration back into the public consciousness and seed the ideological ground for bold new initiatives. Looking back at history, would the Apollo project have been possible without the memes propagated in the previous decades, in novels, magazines, movies, etc., such as the “Man Will Conquer Space Soon!” articles, the “Conquest of Space” book, “Destination Moon”, TV shows like “Tom Corbett”, Heinlein novels, etc.?

    Contrast that with today, when space exploration seems to have largely dropped off the cultural radar screen. Without cultural support, where will the funding and political will come from for large-scale projects like starships? So I think space enthusiasts need to start spreading their memes more aggressively, because if our memes aren’t catching on then someone else’s are, and that’s probably bad news. I have several ideas for ways to spread space memes that you can read on my blog; my favorite is to create an ideological movement (“Cosmism”) which combines science, engineering, art, literature, politics, philosophy and religion in a way that can transform our rather mundane culture into something more worthy of going to the stars.

    (See http://templeofcosmism.com/engineering-the-cosmic-order-planting-memes/ for more thoughts along these lines)

  • ljk April 12, 2013, 17:47

    Sean, you might find this book of interest:

    https://www.centauri-dreams.org/?p=23526

  • ljk April 12, 2013, 17:48

    http://arxiv.org/abs/1212.1592

    Cosmology and Science Education: Problems and Promises

    Authors: Helge Kragh

    (Submitted on 7 Dec 2012)

    Abstract: Cosmology differs in some respects significantly from other sciences, primarily because of its intimate association with issues of a conceptual and philosophical nature. Because cosmology in the broader sense relates to the world views held by students, it provides a means for bridging the gap between the teaching of science and the teaching of humanistic subjects.

    Students should of course learn to distinguish between what is right and wrong about the science of the universe. No less importantly, they should learn to recognize the limits of science and that there are questions about nature that may forever remain unanswered. Cosmology, more than any other science, is well suited to illuminate issues of this kind.

    Comments: 37 pages

    Subjects: History and Philosophy of Physics (physics.hist-ph); Physics Education (physics.ed-ph)

    Cite as: arXiv:1212.1592 [physics.hist-ph]
    (or arXiv:1212.1592v1 [physics.hist-ph] for this version)

    Submission history

    From: Helge Kragh [view email]

    [v1] Fri, 7 Dec 2012 12:33:05 GMT (501kb)

    http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1212/1212.1592.pdf

  • David April 12, 2013, 19:10

    The Russians today ( think of them as an energy and aerospace contracting company with a lot of real estate) are building a new Cosmodrome and planning a moonbase with mining ,hotels, tourism and science.
    Putin announced it himself . I couldn’t control myself I thought what a perfect place to launch Project Orion.
    I think we have to add that one to the list because we have the technology and we and the Russians have plenty of parts and fuel just lying around
    I have to believe that we could get it to 1% launched from the moon with a small enough probe.
    I think we will surpass it this century but we have to start somewhere.

  • Eniac April 12, 2013, 20:32

    Never fear: The defense budget will eventually become a space budget. Some of it already is, when spy satellites and ICBMs are all counted.

  • Christopher Phoenix April 12, 2013, 21:40

    I agree with you, Sean, that spreading a deep interest in space travel through articles, novels, art, movies, TV shows, and all the rest is an important step if we expect anyone to take interest in the idea of building a starship. In this way artists influence the future by helping define our goals and ideals more than governments, businesses, and space programs. And, the nice thing is, all you really need is a pencil to get this started, not a rocket.

    Today interest in space and space fiction has dropped off in favor of more mundane, cynical near-future fare, and so has interest in space exploration dropped off in the real world as well. Myths define us and motivate us, and potent myths of space travel will underly any real effort to reach the stars just as decades of space fiction underlay the beginning of the space age. There is a symbiosis here, science inspires art and that art inspires people to study the science.

    Equally potent, though, is the nonfiction. For me, I got interested learning abut space in books and old CD programs. Then I saw these wonderful SF illustrations and magazine covers showing astronauts visiting asteroids and starships setting out on long journeys to the stars, and I also read and watched science fiction. This inspired me to learn more about the science, math, and engineering involved in space travel… stories are fun, but there is something deeply and intrinsically exciting about considering an interstellar drive that is a real concept.

    Astronomer Sten Odenwald states in his book, The Astronomy Cafe, that the answer to the question “Will humans ever reach the stars?” has more to do with our societies long term interests and trends than whether we can imagine ways to build interstellar spacecraft or not. This is where interstellar art, fiction, and nonfiction can make a big difference!

  • william f collins April 13, 2013, 1:57

    Richard,
    Thank you for all of your efforts. It never ceases to amaze me of the enthusiasm that exists among space advocates specifically those who see human kinds future in the interstellar realm. Although I sincerely believe that a long period of interplanetary exploration and development is a necessary step towards our development as a spacefaring race, I believe that we will travel in some manner to other solar systems. I am rather skeptical about any practical possibilities for “warp drives” and I , rather sadly suspect that ” wormholes” are like alchemy or perpetual motion machines – undetected/unobserved fantasy(ies). We will spread through the galaxy albeit much slower than Jean Luc Picard or Lando Carlissian. Too Bad

  • Astronist April 13, 2013, 8:05

    This is very puzzling. Since Icarus is one of the 100yss partners, but the core business of Icarus itself is not a (manned) starship but a robotic interstellar probe, I would have thought that the Congress described here would be more appropriately held under the 100yss banner than hosted by Icarus alone. Yet the 100yss website talks about a public symposium to be held the following month and does not even mention the Starship Congress, so far as I can see, as if 100yss were in competition with one of its own team members. What’s going on?

    Stephen

  • johnq April 13, 2013, 10:37

    >how do we ensure the protection of minorities on such a mission while limiting religious extremism?

    Equally valid questions are: How do we
    Ensure the protection of the majority from rapicious and power-lusting minorities? Historically, this has been a big problem.
    Encourage religious feelings, ritual, doctrine and so forth for the cohesion and fecundity of the group? This is the problem we face today.

  • railmeat April 13, 2013, 11:15

    @Astronist I agree the relationship between 100YSS and Icarus is interesting. There are a few organizations that seem to both cooperate and compete. The topics at the 100YSS and Icarus starship congress seem to overlap.

    I am afraid the various intersteller groups will compete when they should be working together. I hope the little public interest and funding available for intersteller efforts won’t be squandered because the intersteller community is too fractured.

  • william f collins April 13, 2013, 11:22

    Although 100yss received a DARPA grant to be the “tip of the spear” to push the very concept of interstellar travel as a part of the public discourse especially here in the USA, there can be no shortage of forums especially by non-governmental entities . After all, space advocates are a distinctly small voice in the the public discourse. There can be no shortage of platforms to exchange ideas on humanity’s interstellar future.

  • Brasidas April 13, 2013, 11:38

    I know it is fashionable to take potshots at defense spending (“the annual budget of the US Department of Defense is about equal to the sum total of money NASA has ever spent since its inception in 1958.”), but idefense often provides significant benefits for space exploration, whether in rocketry, satellites, telescopes, sensors, propulsion, or other areas. The real enemy of government spending on space is social programs. It is not an accident that the Apollo program was gradually defunded as spending on the war on poverty ramped up. Defense spending as a share of GDP has been relatively stable since the end of WW II. The spending on all the other stuff has consistently grown, to the point now that it is crowding out everything else, including scientific research and space exploration. If mankind must rely on governments to fund space exploration, it will be a much longer wait to get to the stars.

  • william f collins April 13, 2013, 13:30

    Brasidas,
    Here is the thing. The so-called War on Poverty actually only lasted the legth of the Johnson Administration – 5 years. Nixon effectively ended that effort fairly quickly. The War in Vietnam was a lot longer and a lot more costly. I worked as a graduate intern in the War on Poverty and I served in the US Army during Vietnam. So I know a little a bit- maybe more than a little bit about that period. Space race expenditures decreased with the war concurrent with Prez Nixon’s lack of interest .

  • Richard Obousy April 13, 2013, 14:32

    @William f Collins, thank you and it’s my pleasure.

    @Astronist, Icarus Interstellar was ‘sub’ on the DARPA 100YSS RFP, with The Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence as ‘prime’. Our contributions to the proposals assisted in the award of the DARPA contract to the prime. It is not, however, correct to call Icarus Interstellar a ‘partner’. We helped in the early days of the 100YSS award, however we are an independent 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization pursuing our own projects and initiatives.

    In addition, I need to clarify that “Project Icarus” is specifically a design study for an unmanned fusion propelled starship. This is vastly different to “Icarus Interstellar” which is the name of our organization which has a much broader purview, including 10 design studies (of which Project Icarus is one)’ a public outreach branch, fund development, education, experimental efforts and more.

    I hope that helps clarify a few things. We’re making efforts to improve our website to convey this information more effectively.

    Thanks,

    Richard Obousy

  • Brasidas April 13, 2013, 21:49

    Mr. Collins,
    I found this article very informative:
    http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2012/10/federal-spending-by-the-numbers-2012
    They have some well done graphs stretching from the early 1960s to the present.
    If I were king for a day, I would certainly redirect a significant portion of what the U.S. spends on defense to space exploration and other scientific endeavers. However, a significant portion of what is spent on defense is scientific research with applicability to space exploration. And the defense budget is currently stable to shrinking. On the other hand, none of the funding for social programs has scientific benefits, and social programs are the largest and fastest growing part of the budget in most western countries. Until governments learn to control spending on social programs, space exploration, and scientific research in general, will go begging.

  • James Jason Wentworth April 14, 2013, 3:50

    Brasidas wrote:

    [I know it is fashionable to take potshots at defense spending (“the annual budget of the US Department of Defense is about equal to the sum total of money NASA has ever spent since its inception in 1958.”), but idefense often provides significant benefits for space exploration, whether in rocketry, satellites, telescopes, sensors, propulsion, or other areas. The real enemy of government spending on space is social programs. It is not an accident that the Apollo program was gradually defunded as spending on the war on poverty ramped up. Defense spending as a share of GDP has been relatively stable since the end of WW II. The spending on all the other stuff has consistently grown, to the point now that it is crowding out everything else, including scientific research and space exploration. If mankind must rely on governments to fund space exploration, it will be a much longer wait to get to the stars.]

    I have often wondered if putting the majority of our aerospace talent under one civilian roof (NASA) was the best way to go. Reading the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force lunar base plans of the 1950s, I’m inclined to think that the competition of inter-service rivalry could have led to greater things, and more quickly than we have seen to date. ARPA (sometimes called DARPA) and the RAND Corporation were also quite active in space activities back then. Also:

    Addressing william f collins’ posting, did the Great Society ever really go away? We still have public housing, welfare (plus equivalent programs at the state level), Medicare (plus state public health clinics and programs), Medicaid, federal and state college tuition loans & grants, school lunch (and breakfast, and now even dinner) programs, and food stamps. Leaving aside the issues of whether these programs are effective or even desirable, it appears that spending on them has steadily increased over the decades, despite President Nixon’s actions to rein them in.

  • tom April 14, 2013, 7:10

    Readiness levels of current technology is rather vague. There are lots of science & engineering projects that go bust. The principles are sound, but effective execution of task management is a lot of cost. Consider the STS; a bold vision of reusable spacecraft. Everybody is an expert on how to make such a vehicular program… but short falls of economic & engineering performance were impacting design and logistical use in missions. Why weren’t these shuttle companies rolling these vehicles out like the 747s in Seattle? the $5 million dollars per launch into orbit never materialized. The 12 flights per year for 1 shuttle never achieved that schedule. The joint NASA/US Air Force space plane never really emerged. All the things that could have happened didn’t.
    You want interstellar travel; you really need organizations that can be both innovative, well ran as much as it is funded and get the milestones delivered! Rule of thumb; 5-10 years from blueprints to launch day.

  • Sean M. Brooks April 14, 2013, 12:22

    Like “johnq,” being a Catholic I was troubled by Mr. Obousy’s comment about “limiting religious extremism.” I hope I’m wrong in detecting a possible note of hostility to Christians in that comment. I wish Mr. Obousy had defined more thoroughly what he meant by those words.

    When I think of how many convinced Catholics had beeen scientists, esp. in astronomy, I don’t believe Catholics find the sciences contrary to faith in God. A few examples from the past two centuries should suffice: Louis Pasteur (chemistry), Fr. Gregory Mendel (genetics), Fr. Georges Lemaitre (astronomy and cosmology), down to the astronomers who staff the Vatican’s obervatory, etc.

    And my comments apply to Protestants as well. Evolution denying Young Earthers comprise only a minority of Protestants.

    As a Catholic I too support a REAL space program and believe we NEED to get off this rock and beging settling other worlds. First in the Solar System and then planets around other stars. But, it would be wrong, foolish, counterpoductive, and short sighted for advocates of a real space effort to scorn or alienate religious believers, including Christians.

    Sean M. Brooks

  • nullzero April 14, 2013, 15:40

    You are all too much US government and NASA centered when you talk about the space budget.
    I think that NASA is not going to play as significant role in the 21st century as it did in the 20th.
    Look, there’s China, soon overtaking the USA in terms of GDP. There’s Russia. There’s India. And last but not least there are the private companies. Their budget may be low today, but maybe once it’ll be as big as IT today.

  • Astronist April 14, 2013, 17:06

    Richard, thanks for the clarification. I had always assumed that Icarus Interstellar was the name of the group primarily dedicated to the Icarus project, so I appreciate the correction.

    There remains I think the question as to whether Icarus Interstellar, Tau Zero Foundation, 100yss Organization, Institute for Interstellar Studies and so on should be coordinating their conferences and supporting each other (such as listing each other’s meetings on their websites), given the smallness of the interstellar community at present. Certainly Centauri Dreams sets a shining example of hosting news and commentary from all parties involved.

    Stephen

  • Astronist April 14, 2013, 17:24

    Sean M. Brooks, I am sure that when Richard referred to “religious extremism”, he meant exactly what one would normally understand by the phrase, i.e. violence perpetrated in the cause of a religious ideology. Given the prominence of terrorist acts in recent years, ostensibly with a religious motivation, and the extreme vulnerability of any kind of space habitat to malicious damage, one can see his point.

    The broad concept “religion” has, I think, three basic modes of operation: religion as a social control system, religion as a personal philosophy that answers the deep questions of life and provides personal moral guidance, and religion as a personal ritual practice analogous to sports and arts. The latter two modes are compatible with industrial civilisation, and should be perfectly acceptable in any space colony or starship. Their presence would indeed act as a confirmation that a certain amount of personal liberty was possible. The first mode, however, is emphatically not compatible, which is why, I would argue, the countries which have made the most material progress over the past couple of centuries are those which have enforced the separation of church and state, and placed the forces of law and order at the service of the secular democratic government.

    Stephen

  • Thomas W. Hair April 14, 2013, 18:13

    Sean Brooks, I too was a bit taken aback by the comment about minorities and religious extremsim. It would serve Icarus Interstellar to focus on the science of interstellar travel far more than it would to become mired in the identity politics of the present. If Richard and his organization want to be taken seriously by the mainstream of science, then they should focus on the precise mathematical and physical details of the propulsive method or methods that can get us to the stars…otherwise they run the risk of becoming a paper tiger.

  • william f collins April 14, 2013, 19:13

    James, thanks for your response. Yes, the Great Society did go away. With the possible exception of the school lunch programs were never part of the Great Society programs. With the one named exception, all of your examples actually preceded the War on Poverty – some started with the New Deal. Welfare emerged from amendments to the original Social Security Act. If you include Social Security to which medicare is attached, programs for veterans/their families, etc. probably most Americans are, have, or will be recipients of one or more of the Federal “Social Programs”s. Our fellow Americans – the target group that will or will not support either directly or indirectly America’s future role in space. By the way, percent of Americans receiving welfare has decreased NOT increased.

  • ljk April 15, 2013, 9:25

    David said on April 12, 2013 at 19:10:

    “The Russians today ( think of them as an energy and aerospace contracting company with a lot of real estate) are building a new Cosmodrome and planning a moonbase with mining, hotels, tourism and science.”

    Putin said the Russian government is contributing $50 billion to revitalize their space program. We shall see if that does indeed translate into what you are describing, though I would hope space science comes first.

    At the same time there is a renewed chilling between the USA and Russia. Is there a new Cold War in the works? Will this translate into another space race? Will that be a good thing for space science?

    “Putin announced it himself . I couldn’t control myself I thought what a perfect place to launch Project Orion.”

    I have said on Centauri Dreams numerous times that Russia and China are the two ideal nations for making Orion a reality. A mature space and nuclear infrastructure, lots of room for testing and launching an Orion, and a historical trend of not asking their citizens in advance for permission.

    Even if they do not use Orion for interstellar travel, the concept can definitely work for getting around the Sol system. And not too long ago the Chinese showed an interest in planetoids. Anyone who seriously wants to take hold of our celestial neighborhood will focus on the planetoids.

  • Sean M. Brooks April 15, 2013, 10:53

    Dear Mr. Hair:

    Thank you for your comments, even if I don’t agree with them. While the PRIMARY focus of pro space groups has to be on the scientific and technological aspects, I don’t think philosophical, religious, or political ideas are off topic. Poul Anderson, for example, was as hard an SF writer as you can get, but he took religion and honest believers in God seriously and treated them with respect in his works.

    To conclude, I’m only urging pro space groups not to needlessly offend or alienate a very large source of possible support for their efforts.

    Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

  • GaryChurch April 15, 2013, 11:12

    “- I’m also mindful of the unpredictable effects of disruptive technologies-“

    Interstellar travel is not an engineering problem, it is a medical problem. The most disruptive technology I can imagine coming to pass is freezing people; freezing them without damaging them and then thawing and reviving them.
    Not only would it allow humankind to travel centuries through space to other stars, it would delay death until a cure for disease and a way to reverse aging is found. It would be a universal right to NOT die and to be put into storage when appropriate.
    The successful freezing and reviving of a human being would ignite a vast construction project to store the endless millions near death. Along with storage would be medical research to cure and return those frozen to a productive life as the primary activity the human race.
    After that little project is underway…..the stars.

  • william f collins April 15, 2013, 15:34

    All of the major nations involved in the space programs (even the People’s Republic of China) exist with populations that they are accountable to. Governments provide the positive climate in which private sector space ventures can thrive. I see 100YSS , Icarus Interstellar, etc. as building constituencies for space travel/exploration. Most folks will never go into space and they often (at least Americans do ) do not know about its benefits. I just hope that masses never oppose space travel now or in the future. Government’s main purpose in the 21st century is serve the population in various ways and in differing degrees. Space Advocates must continue to be a part of the public discourse even more than we are now. Note -( the worst historical case in which science was isolated from the masses- radical Christian Militants burned the Great Library at Alexandria and murdered anyone that in attendance.)

  • GaryChurch April 15, 2013, 19:44

    “Governments provide the positive climate in which private sector space ventures can thrive.”

    The only difference between a government space program and a private space program is that one is transparent and the other is decieving the public about their activities. The most visible private company has converted given away government funded technology into “innovation.” The company makes impossible claims concerning it’s very mediocre launch vehicle and has the public fooled. Private space is the worst thing that has ever happened to space exploration.

  • Marc Millis April 15, 2013, 19:59

    Regarding coordination of workshops … Here are the events that I know about in 2013, in addition to the usual annual conferences of broader scope which sometimes have interstellar sessions:

    (1) May 21-22, UC San Diego CA, “Starship Century” symposium is an initiative of Gregory and James Benford, coincident with their completion of the book of the same name, which is an anthology of science and science fiction spurred from the 2011, 100YSS symposium, that was run by DARPA/Ames.

    (2) August 15-18, Dallas TX, “Starship Congress” initiated by Icarus Interstellar, as described in this article.

    (3) September 19-22, Houston TX, “100YSS Public Symposium” run by Mae Jemison, for which there is not yet a description. The site does still lists some Icarus Interstellar folks as ‘affiliates.’

    Tau Zero has no plans to convene a workshop. Amidst this flurry of events, it would not be a wise thing to do. For me, specifically, it’s too soon after the 2011 symposium to have ‘genuinely’ new content to present.

    Tau Zero was informed by all of these organizers about their plans, but I don’t have any reliable information about if the organizations talked with each other to coordinate schedules and to avoid duplication and dilution of attendance.

    I hope the travel budget woes of NASA and others does not further dilute attendance. Personally, right now, I can only attend events if someone else is paying my travel. I will not be attending any of these 3 events.

    The recent Brussels event was an initiative from the European Union who invited Mae to bring in some speakers. I found out about it via Mae. I was able to attend since my travel was covered by others.

    Other than those facts, I will not add any commentary.

    Marc

  • Kelvin April 17, 2013, 21:48

    I believe if we spot life just in our back yard then interest will rise. However; if we spot intelligent life anywhere ( regardless of distace), then we would be spread out into space. Our whole idea would be under the false pretence of talking to other intelligent species but our natrual survival instict would be to be the dominat species in a now growing world. We would fear the unknown and hurry to grow our strength. Governments will not wish to talk until we are just as capable or beyond the observed species. Am sorry but it seem we will nly spread if to defend ourselves wether it be from us ( war or national power), or from and alien species ( wether they are space capable or not just the thought they could impose their will to us).

  • Kelvin April 18, 2013, 18:06

    I would also like to point people towards the I4IS one day conference at the BIS in London May 29th titled “the philosophy of the Starship”.

    Marc, the purposes of conferences is not to just report new content IMO. It also serves as a social hub, and networking opportunities, among other things. Just bringing people together for meetings. Tau Zero most certainly should have organised its own conference.

    By the way; for the record the “kelvin” who commented above was not me, to avoid any confusion. Perhaps that person could show their surname or something to avoid confusion in the future.

    Kelvin F.Long

  • GaryChurch April 18, 2013, 18:13

    “We would fear the unknown and hurry to grow our strength.”

    Absolutely agree. Fear is why humans built rockets and walked on the Moon. We fear others more than natural catastrophes like impacts- and this could be our undoing.

  • ljk April 23, 2013, 17:29

    Kelvin, I agree with your basic sentiment, but I find it interesting that no one else in the galaxy seems to be afraid of us. By that I mean that we are still here as a civilized society and species. Unless they are very subtly undermining us for some reason. But why be subtle when a few well-aimed space rocks or one relativistic starship could take us out in short order, if taking us out is the goal.

    However, I think that unless intelligent technological life is rare in the Milky Way, we are simply not advanced and spread out enough to be noticed – and this additionally assumes we would be recognized as a sufficiently intelligent species by ETI.

    Note how on Earth that ants and termites appear to be smart but they run mainly on instinct and ancient biological programming. Meanwhile cetaceans are considered smart but not *that* smart, yet we do not really know if they are wiser than humans and simply have no need for technology. Thus we assume they just like to swim around all day eating fish and krill and reproducing. So who knows how an alien mind might perceive us. I keep thinking of the first Star Trek film from 1979, where the machine intelligence V’Ger calls humans “carbon units” and declares that we are “not true life forms” because we are so dissimilar.

    For an interesting take that deserves some thought on why we have not detected any ETI yet, read here:

    http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/aliens.php#id–The_Fermi_Paradox–Blindsight

    I keep hoping this is just our primitive, paranoid selves basing ourselves on millions of years of surviving on a single world with one “brand” of life forms, but who knows if biology is the same everywhere on basic levels?

  • GaryChurch April 24, 2013, 23:50

    “But why be subtle when a few well-aimed space rocks or one relativistic starship could take us out-”

    I am concerned whether or not “they” are on their way here- just a couple thousand years away. Civilizations that were isolated for quite long periods on Earth were destroyed in a few years by “aliens” who finally showed up.

    If star travel must be conducted at a low percentage of the speed of light- and it certainly seems so- aliens may have detected our planet several millenia ago and are now several millenia away. Since the chances of our ecosystems being compatible with each other are small, the best course would be to send fast ships ahead to bombard our world with comets. This would remove our complex life and allow their own forms to be seeded invasively. When they get here they would find a world ready for colonization; we would be extinct.

    I do not have nightmares about it but the fact is it could happen tomorrow. Before the scoffing begins it might be wise to think about what would have been said before 911 about jetliners bringing down towers.