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Kentuckian
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The pessimism here about human ability would be funny if it weren't so potentially handicapping.

In the late 1800s it had been demonstrated mathematically beyond a shadow of a doubt that manned heavier than air flight was impossible.

It was also predicted that by 1940 the last tree on Earth would be cut down.

Pessimists about the human future have rarely, if ever, been correct.

But on a deeper level, this all fails to understand the process of technological innovation. It's true that there are very few flashes of genius in human history: most technological or conceptual advances are in fact the end results of long historical processes. BUT, and this is a big BUT... This is not how it seems to the people involved. It is plain to our eyes that the airplane was merely a logical extension of the advancements made in understanding aerodynamics for centuries preceeding the Wright Brothers. However, to the people of Kitty Hawk the month BEFORE they watched Orville soar, flight seemed as far away as it had to the Egyptians. It is only in retrospect that these sweeping, seeming inevitable intellectual trends can ever be seen, no one has ever been able to confidently predict what lay around the corner.

Someone could invent Faster Than Light TOMORROW. Five years from now we would look back and see the clear theoretical growth from which it was a natural extension, but tomorrow it would be a shock and completely unexpected.

And that's just the way it works.

As for space being useless... That's only because we don't have the technology to exploit it. For instance, H3 is just lying around in the Lunar surface... Potential fuel for fusion reactors, some speculate. However, we don't have the reactors to make Lunar mining worth the trip. Therefore, no Lunar mining. The argument that since NASA COULD have been mining for decades there must be nothing there worth mining is asinine and ignorant. No one was mining England's massive coal supply prior to Watt's engine... Did that mean there was nothing worth the trouble of digging it up?

Historical perspective, gentlemen.

In 500 years, we could be extinct. Or, we could be spread throughout this part of the galaxy. My money is on the latter.


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Baldar
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Excellent post Kentuck, could not have said it better.
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Tom Grey - Tigger
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I love the idea of space colonies. But I hate taxes. And I especially hate wasting tax money for little or no benefit. And putting humans up there is SOOOO expensive.

See the tether idea for my bet on most likely future usable tech -- in the next 50 years.

JonO, if you look at UN world estimates of population, over time, you'll see a continued marked reduction. If we have reasonable property rights based development in the Third World, I doubt that we'll even see 15 billion -- successful economy families have fewer children.

Solar/ wind powered desalination & irrigation systems to farm the Sahara & Australia; much cheaper than colonizing Mars.

How about 90% tax credit for those who want to donate to any non-profit space development organization? (So it's "your" money, not the govt's that supports it.)


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JonathanTheOmnipotent
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Kentuckian: "Someone could invent Faster Than Light TOMORROW."

Infinitely unlikely. When the Wright brothers built their first plane, they had the tools to actually make it. They also knew by precedence--because birds could do it--that it was possible. We don't even know if its possible to go faster than light, and the tools to build anything like it are way beyond our reach. Without even giving consideration to the design of such a ship, we know enough that the amount of energy needed to go one tenth the speed of light could blow up the Earth a million times over.

Pioneering flight is a very different story. When you already have nature showing you how to fly, it's much easier to invent something to allow humans the power of flight. The Wright borthers simply had to imitate nature. We have to defy it.

Sure, as soon as we encounter something that goes faster than light, we'll start studying it. But until then, we're limited to our imaginations.


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Locus
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two points ...

First ..it's VERY unlikely that someone will develop "already there" technology anytime in the forseeable future. Such technology will be a complete departure from EVERY mode of transportation we've used to this point. Walking and landing a manned probe on Mars are one and the same by comparison. Even so, conventional methods are not useless .. imagine the boost a linear accelerator the size of a solar system could provide Travel between the stars IS possible ..we just don't have all our ducks in a row yet..

Secondly ...population growth on Earth isn't the primary problem. It's resource consumption ..those people with the higher standard of living that don't reproduce are the ones doing the most long term damage. If nothing changes there won't be much of an ecology left on Earth in a hundred years.

The solution to both of these problems is humanity must develop patience. The kind that crosses galaxies.


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JonathanTheOmnipotent
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The solution to a shortage on resources isn't going to be found in the stars. By the time we start running out of oil (i'll say again) we definitely won't be mining anything from anywhere above our atmosphere.

Managing resources in better ways, developing new resources, and cutting back in uneccassary areas is the solution. Space exploration is for a later stage of civilization.


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Baldar
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Lets look at the technology we have developed in the past centuries. 1850's the steam engine and the industrial revolution.

Late 1800's and early 1900's air plane.

50 years later, sound barrier, trip off planet, regular shuttle flights, nuclear energy, satellites leaving the solar system. Fusion potential, solar power. We are now talking about worm holes, ionic engergy sources, dark matter, bypassing the light speed limits.

Resources are definately not that limited. We have nuclear and solar potential, neither of which has been much enhanced.

Most societies that develop "patience" die very quickly. The Chinese were "patient" in their isolationist approach. Not seeking to advance their knowledge of the outside world. They lost the clock, they lost the potential US west coast colonies. They were carved up. There was no fecundity for exploration.

The medievel age is another time in which we were "patient". The Japanese adopted "patience" in their ability to live within their island.

I sincerely believe if we do not strive to travel beyond and explore, we consign our selves to another era as the ones I pointed out. If we do not try, we will never know, and patience means not trying.

With fusion, the worlds oceans will be a new energy source, and its much more efficient. You really are taking a static look at technology development.


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JonathanTheOmnipotent
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"Patience" is an interesting take, though I think you may have applied it a little too broadly. But that's another discussion.

Patience isn't even what I'm describing though. It's beyond patience. Patience implies that at some future point, you're waiting will come to fruition. For space travel, any amount patience you or I could ever have will not outlive the time it takes to concieve the necessary technological advancements. We'll both be long dead.

Yeah, let's start the research now, don't just sit around thinking about how far off this technology is--but let's not get our hopes up, either.

"With fusion, the worlds oceans will be a new energy source, and its much more efficient. You really are taking a static look at technology development."

That's the kind of resource that I've been talking about. Those innovations will solve our problems for the next century, but won't suffice for space travel. The kind of energy required for deep space travel cannot be found on this planet. And even if it is (in some ultra-unrealistic fantasy), it won't be found for quite a long time.

Applications for space travel when considering today's problems are pointless. Saying hey let's go get some methane gas from space is absurd--when we're able to actually mine that methane gas, we won't even need it! In the future, when we have the capability of space travel and cultivating minerals from space, such mundane energy sources will be laughable...like watermills are to us, today.

Let's keep dreaming of how to accomplish space travel, but don't waste our time thinking of ways it can be useful. By the time we actually have it, our needs will be very different.


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Baldar
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I disagree, today's problems will always be here, there will always be a "problem" in our world. It has never been different in the world.


quote:
Let's keep dreaming of how to accomplish space travel, but don't waste our time thinking of ways it can be useful. By the time we actually have it, our needs will be very different.


I suggest you read up on your HG Wells, Verne, and perhaps most importantly Tesla. In Tesla's case we are just coming to fruition of technology that he envisioned, including the use of Tesla coils (which we use in medicine).

Your question of mundane energy sources is both presently accurate and incorrect. Methane may very well be an important source, as may matter in general depending on how we use it. We are just begining to experiment with gravity controls and coming up with something that may actually overcome it magnetically. We have barely started looking in the direction of the strongest known force in the universe.

quote:
Patience implies that at some future point, you're waiting will come to fruition. For space travel, any amount patience you or I could ever have will not outlive the time it takes to concieve the necessary technological advancements. We'll both be long dead.

What you have said here gives no reason to stop and every reason to accelerate the work. It doesn't matter if the use of the technology does not come about until after we are gone and buried, a rather self absorbed view if you ask me, but what matters is the ability to strive for it, so that the advances we make will bring the next generation that much closer and that much faster to the goal. Spain could have waited alot longer for the financing to make itself available for Columbus, after all there were more pressing problems of the day.

Think about it.


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