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Justin M. Stoddard


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Space Art, Space Rangers and Little Green Men
October 22, 2003 — 7:15 pm

I’ve always been in love with all things Space. Astronomy, Cosmology, SETI, Colonization, Physics, Space Novellas, Movies, T.V. shows…it all just fascinates me. So, in honor of Space, here are a few topics I’ve been following on the subject for the past couple of weeks.

Space Art

A recent panel discussion at the American Museum of Natural History tried to solve the issue of whether or not pictures from various deep space probes constituted “art”.

The impetus behind the event was the publication of an unprecedented collection of photographs from such machines as the Voyagers, Vikings and Magellan, called Beyond: Visions of Interplanetary Probes, by filmmaker Michael Benson, who was also a panelist. The book hits bookstores in November, just months ahead of robotic missions to Mars and Saturn, and after the deaths of probes Pioneer 10 and Galileo.

Hey, in my book, not only is it art, it’s a clear expression of the infinite spirit of Mankind.

Space Rangers

However, as much as I am in love with the idea of future space exploration or colonization, I’ve given up on the idea that any significant gains will happen in my lifetime. NASA has proven itself to be an incompetent boondoggle that will probably never really go away. I’m convinced that our government will never willingly allow the average “Joe” the opportunity to make overtures towards colonization, much less travel in any unsanctioned way into Space. Remember NASA’s illogical rants over letting a wealthy American Citizen travel on a Russian rocket into Space?

Now, let me just get in a side note here. I love the literary work of L. Neil Smith. Though he is rough around the edges, I’ve always thought that the worlds that he imagines (along with Robert A. Heinlein) are pretty much Libertarian utopias. Taking a look at works such as Pallas and The Probability Broach makes me yearn for such a society. But hey, that’s just me.

Anyway, Mr. Smith recently wrote a great article pretty much putting into words what I think about the current space program.

In all that time (and earlier, in fact) I always expected that, sooner or later, I’d end up space myself, maybe even die there (after living a couple hundred years, like Lazarus Long). And although I didn’t necessarily want to move there, the one sight I always wanted most to see in person was Saturn and its rings, from one of its inner moons.

As I grew up, I became disappointed and disillusioned. The Mercury program came and went, the Gemini program came and went, the Apollo program came and went, followed by SkyLab, the Shuttle program, and the International so-called Space Station. What they all taught us (unless you actually care about fruitfly reproduction in microgravity) was that the only individuals who would ever be allowed to get into space were precisely the kind of government-approved jockstraps who were on the varsity football team when you were in high school – oh yes, and an occasional cheerleader – oops, make that public school teacher.

Mr. Smith goes on to announce that not only is he writing two more books set in the Pallas universe (great news to me), but he will also be working on a book preparing the youth of today for space travel, much in the vein of the old Boy Scout Manuals some of us grew up on.

First, it will help young people (I’m aiming the book at a certain mindset, rather than a given age group; it should appeal at some level to everyone of both sexes between the ages of 5 and 20) to prepare themselves for working, living, and eventually settling in space, in more or less the same way that my old Boy Scouts of America manual, A Handbook For Boys [Reprint of Original 1911 edition] (1955 edition), helped to prepare me to survive – and even prosper – in several different kinds of wilderness on this planet.

I think this is absolutely wonderful stuff. I certainly will be buying my four year old a copy. (She has stated many times that she wants to be an Astronaut. Now, I’m certainly aware of the games life plays with us from time to time. However, even if she changes her mind in a few months, a book like this can do no wrong in helping her both shape and maintain a spirit of optimism).

Little Green Men

I’ve been arguing for years that if Mankind ever hopes to colonize space, he will first have to throw off the chains that bind him. Secondly, traditional borders and the ideals of Nationalism will have to fade. Colonization will be a job for rich countries, which means some sort of market economy will first have to envelope the world, enriching us all in the process. I’m positive that colonization will be a joint venture between many nations. I’m not necessarily talking about governments here, but instead private individuals acting through organizations dedicated to the idea of colonization. Government may well have a role but mankind must not be tempted in making it a defining one. It is inevitable that said colony will eventually declare independence. It will be much easier to do so without the chains of Terrestrial kingdoms holding them down.

Anyway, If you are interested, Michio Kaku has written many fascinating articles on how mankind is likely to evolve to this end. Here is one of those articles. Extrapolating this information, he also does a fine job in theorizing how civilizations on other planets may eventually be found.

The late Carl Sagan once asked this question, “What does it mean for a civilization to be a million years old? We have had radio telescopes and spaceships for a few decades; our technical civilization is a few hundred years old… an advanced civilization millions of years old is as much beyond us as we are beyond a bush baby or a macaque.”

Although any conjecture about such advanced civilizations is a matter of sheer speculation, one can still use the laws of physics to place upper and lower limits on these civilizations. In particular, now that the laws of quantum field theory, general relativity, thermodynamics, etc. are fairly well-established, physics can impose broad physical bounds which constrain the parameters of these civilizations.

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— Justin M. StoddardComments (0)

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