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Hawking Says Humans Must Go Into Space 843

neutralino writes "The Associated Press reports that astrophysicist Stephen Hawking wants humans to establish colonies in space in order to ensure the survival of the human race. At a news conference in Hong Kong, Hawking said that 'It is important for the human race to spread out into space for the survival of the species. Life on Earth is at the ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as sudden global warming, nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus or other dangers we have not yet thought of.'"
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Hawking Says Humans Must Go Into Space

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  • The irony is (Score:4, Insightful)

    by suso ( 153703 ) * on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @02:05PM (#15525954) Homepage Journal
    We'd just start creating things that can wipe out the galaxy.
  • by AmazingRuss ( 555076 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @02:05PM (#15525959)
    ...otherwise, space exploration is a boondoggle.
  • Life == humans? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Roy van Rijn ( 919696 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @02:10PM (#15526029) Homepage
    Why do we have to start with humans in space, isn't it a much better idea to start making colonies with animals?

    Those can provide us with a LOT of experience at a lesser risk. If animals die in space (or maybe even bacteria) people will probably make a small fuzz but forget it quickly. If humans die in space it could mean the end of the space project.

    Once we establish a solid base, and knowledge about building a new colonie we can send humans...??
  • by posterlogo ( 943853 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @02:12PM (#15526058)
    FTA: "We won't find anywhere as nice as Earth unless we go to another star system..."

    Sounds like his solution isn't necessarily based on developing habitats in the solar system (though he did say moon and Mars were the first steps). This seems like an ultra-long term scenario for which the technology doesn't even exist yet. It's almost like he's saying the Earth is screwed, so let's get off this hunk of rock. I think, considering we could be here for a very very long time, the better solution is to develop technology or philosophies dedicated to helping us live where we are. Can't just give up on Earth...we have no other options no matter how many sci-fi shows we watch.

  • Re:avoidance (Score:5, Insightful)

    by div_2n ( 525075 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @02:12PM (#15526069)
    Right. So we don't need to backup data, have spare tires, insurance of any kind or disaster recovery plans. Because, after all, those are just measures that ignore the problems.
  • Re:Right now? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bsartist ( 550317 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @02:13PM (#15526077) Homepage
    Do we have to go into space right now? Do I have time to go home and change?
    This joke, like many, is funny because there's a grain of truth in it. Do we have time? No one knows. The Big Disaster could happen tomorrow, or it might not be for a thousand years. If we wait until we *do* know about it, it may be too late to avoid it.
  • Re:avoidance (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cyngus ( 753668 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @02:13PM (#15526080)
    Certainly solving the world's problems is a better idea, its also much harder. Pragmatically, if your goal is preservation of the species, the easiest way to increase the chances is to get some of us off this rock. As to over population, its not going to be a problem. The world population is forecast to peak in the next fifty years. Population is already falling in many European countries and Japan (or will be shortly), and if it weren't for immigration, the population of the US would be declining as well. The challenge in a century may not be over, but under, population. One thing that could be an issue is resource competition. Will there be enough food for us to survive? Yes. As India and China grow richer the competition for resources that make consumer goods will increase, causing prices of many items to rise. Ironically the low-cost production the West has been tapping for the last couple of decades will eventually lead to increasing prices.
  • yes (Score:3, Insightful)

    humanity has a dark self-destructive side

    and as weapons become more and more powerful, it will take smaller and smaller groups of people to do more and more damage

    until the truly scary it is achieved: it is not inconceivable that at some future date, just one committed nihilistic person could unleash something which could wipe out most of humanity, and at the very least destroy civilization

    this could be via genetics or nanotechnology or something weirder and not yet discovered

    so indeed, the best way to safeguard from such people is to live in far flung locations, such that a disaster, manmade or not, in one location can lead to recolonization by the other location

    hawking is 100% right, it really is in mankind's best interest to take out a survival insurance policy and get our asses into space in a self-sustainable manner

    i would give us a century or two to achieve this goal, and with serendity and luck, we will get into space before the statistical inevitability of that one demonic person appearing making their vile mark on the world by killing most of us
  • Re:avoidance (Score:3, Insightful)

    by honestmonkey ( 819408 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @02:17PM (#15526120) Journal
    You hear that "whooshing" sound? That's the whole idea, going right over your head.

    Hawking isn't saying "Earth's toast, let's go screw someplace else up." He is saying that we don't want to put all our eggs in one basket. Let's have a backup Earth somewhere, so that if the huge meteor hits, or global warming drowns us all, or some virus comes along and kills us all, at least some of humanity will survive.

    We can try to fix things that we can here on Earth, but we don't control the rest of the solar system, or viruses, or massive volcanoes, or [your favorite disaster here].
  • by Valthan ( 977851 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @02:18PM (#15526139)
    Umm, not coming soon, its here already... []
  • by gEvil (beta) ( 945888 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @02:20PM (#15526168)
    Even if we don't destroy ourselves, the Earth is doomed. It will not last forever.

    No, it won't last forever. But no matter what happens to humans, the Earth will long outlast us. Humans have been on this planet for about 200,000 out of the Earth's 4,600,000,000 years. That is an incredibly short amount of time in the grand scheme of things.
  • by Wellington Grey ( 942717 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @02:27PM (#15526244) Homepage Journal
    Would colonizing space really solve the basic problems that could cause mankind to die out on Earth?

    Of course not, but that's not the point. Look, no matter how many health-and-safety lessons the human species attends, there will always be a small probability of a planet-destroying event. If you live on one planet, no matter how safe you make it you will eventually be destroyed.

    Trying to solve all of Earth's problems before going into space is the same as cleaning your whole house before starting your homework.

    -Grey []
  • by Mostly a lurker ( 634878 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @02:29PM (#15526260)
    There are good reasons, other than colonisation, for expansion into space: some of them potentially helping with the survival of earth. If we can move dirty manuafacturing, mining activities and some food production into space, the pressure on our own ecology will become much less severe.
  • Re:Kobol (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @02:30PM (#15526272)
    Really: first thing I'm gonna do when I get to Caprica is get a "Boomer" cylon of my own ;-)
  • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @02:32PM (#15526297)
    Previous human migrations were driven by less, ahh, altruistic motivations. Survival, distaste for the status quo, better living, things like that.

    And what part of wanting your offspring (or theirs, etc) to actually live and carry on your culture is "altruistic?" For most of us, that's exactly the opposite. It's completely, rationally seflish. We want what we build to last and improve. And you don't build large systems without redundancy, that's all. And the thirst for some adventure and a challenge is hardly "altruism." You want altruism? That would be killing yourself to free up some resources for somebody else so they don't have to work as hard. Except, a fat lot of good that does if a giant meteor smacks into your resources.
  • Re:avoidance (Score:5, Insightful)

    by J05H ( 5625 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @02:36PM (#15526345) Homepage
    > it's creating a limited backup.

    Bollocks. Space offers us an unlimited future. As soon as anyone can exist in space, we have that limited backup (sort of). As soon as we can build, garden, live and breed in space, then we have that unlimited future.

    The problems people cite as reasons not to explore have always been with us, read Tacitus, Sun Tzu or the Hammurabi column for proof. The "Fix us first" crowd wants Utopia on Earth. There is no such thing, unless you can stamp out human nature. If their arguments won out, we'd still be clubbing antelope in Africa, "Oh, no, don't walk north, you might stub your toe."

    Space is our future. Lead, follow or get out of the way. The meek shall inherit the Earth, the rest of us are going to the stars. Earth is the cradle of civilization, but one cannot live in a cradle forever . Ad Astra, etc, etc.

  • by posterlogo ( 943853 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @02:37PM (#15526367)
    Thanks, you've really clarified the problem and offered some sound solutions (/sarcasm). No matter how much hopin' and wishin' you wanna do, we don't live in a Star Trek world. Getting "resources" from "elsewhere" doesn't get you very far in terms of practicality. Welcome to "reality". Instead of responding to your personal attacks, I'd rather focus on the article. Hawking says potential disasters include "sudden global warming, nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus..." I fully agree with him on that point, but the reality is that it is not practical to abandon this planet or even plant seeds elsewhere, or even rely on "resources coming in from elsewhere." Although those options may be all we have in the very long future, there isn't even a hint of any of that being possible right now. It doesn't take an "enviro-weenie" to realize that many current threats, be they biological, geophysical, or nuclear (geopolical), any solution begins with an attitude adjustment, and continues into some serious focus on how to deal with them given what we have on hand, not what we wish we had.
  • ObBabylon5: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ahmusch ( 777177 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @02:38PM (#15526382)
    Season 1, Episode 4: Infection 04.html []

    Reporter: "After all that you've just gone through, I have to ask you the same question a lot of people back home are asking about space these days. Is it worth it? Should we just pull back, forget the whole thing as a bad idea, and take care of our own problems, at home?"

    Sinclair: "No. We have to stay here, and there's a simple reason why. Ask ten different scientists about the environment, population control, genetics - and you'll get ten different answers. But there's one thing every scientist on the planet agrees on: whether it happens in a hundred years, or a thousand years, or a million years, eventually our sun will grow cold, and go out. When that happens, it won't just take us, it'll take Marilyn Monroe, and Lao-tsu, Einstein, Maruputo, Buddy Holly, Aristophanes - all of this. All of this was for nothing, unless we go to the stars."
  • Re:avoidance (Score:5, Insightful)

    by XenoRyet ( 824514 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @02:42PM (#15526421)
    It's not about leaving the planet compleatly in order to escape the problems that exist here. It's about having more than a single point of failure for the existance of the human race.

    People will stay on Earth, and try to fix it's problems, and other people will go to various colonies and start fresh, and perhaps differently there. That way if any one spot gets whacked by a huge rock, or any other disaster you care to think of, not all of us will be killed. There will be some left somewhere to continue the species.

  • the Golden Path (Score:2, Insightful)

    by the_tsi ( 19767 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @02:44PM (#15526440)
    By (repeatedly) suppressing humans' ability to travel in space for the past ~20 years, this has promoted a deep desire to disperse into the cosmos, thus guaranteeing the survival of the race. It was all part of the Golden Path, and now we will enter the Scattering.
  • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @02:46PM (#15526462)
    But why should an individual care about whether or not the drama of humanity continues? For instance, if we permit let every person who currently lives to live out a natural and good life, and somehow do so without creating any new people, would that be acceptable?

    Because a hardwired, nihilistic, self-destructive (self, including species as self) outlook wouldn't have allowed us to get this far, genetically. The very traits that allow us to nurture offspring that take years to develop simply require us to look at the big picture, and to cherish the future. And to make that more workable, we develop cultures that are built around generational continuity and hope. Anything less than that is a sort of cultural insanity and requires a truly loony willing suspension of disbelief (see 70-virgins-if-I-blow-myself-up-in-a-Zbarro, childish "rapture" fantasies, and related examples).

    We're generally wired to get a warm and fuzzy feeling from passing along our culture and protecting our little broods. Remove that, and you're not going to have people, as a whole, living out a "good" life.

    Reaching out to or making other livable environments (as in, off-world) is just as rational as clearing the bear out of the cave you need to shelter your tribe. Just as rational as using that bear's hide to keep your little naked ape-like offspring warm through the ice age. It's silly to ask if we "deserve" to survive... survival is deserved by rationally taking advantage of the fact that we exist at all. There is no meaning in anything, otherwise. Since we make the meaning in our lives, we decide if we're worth surving or not. The universe doesn't give a crap one way or the other.
  • by Have Blue ( 616 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @02:49PM (#15526488) Homepage
    It is hubris of the highest order to believe that humanity can destroy or even nontrivially damage the universe as a whole. It exists on a scale we can barely comprehend, let alone affect in a nontrivial way.

    If we destroy our species on this planet, life will survive. Wiping out *all* life (which, considering the variety, adaptability, and ubiquity of life, would require nothing short of physically disrupting the planet, Death Star-style) is something we won't be able to attain for a very long time, no matter how optimistic you are about our technology. Even if you grant that one day we'll be able to do that, what effect do you think we can have on the sun- an operating fusion reactor the size of the Earth? A star hundreds of light-years away? A galaxy of a hundred million stars? A galaxy trillions of light years away?
  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @02:51PM (#15526502) Homepage
    For instance, if we permit let every person who currently lives to live out a natural and good life, and somehow do so without creating any new people, would that be acceptable?

    For many people a "natural and good" life involves having children and raising a family, then later to have grandkids and so on. Even those that haven't got their own kids would certainly miss them. So we wouldn't choose to, and if forced upon us the whole panic and depression about it would be terrible in itself, even if we were physically well.
  • Do people feel the need to identify so strongly with their species that they'd be unwilling to allow its passing?


  • by 1984 ( 56406 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @02:53PM (#15526527)
    The problem with sending animals is that you have to send a functioning biosphere along with whatever creature you send into space. That's a big technical challenge, and for people it's a tradeoff between discomfort and the smartness of the machines against the smartness of the people. For animals, assume that they can't really contribute anything to the (meta) running of the biosphere. If you give them grass they can crap on it and all, but they won't be picking up a wrench to fix a broken water recycling plant or irrigation system. Also, for any significant duration your're talking about an environment where the significant input is energy. No "food enough for three days" but a system that'll continue to provide as long as it receives energy.

    I'm guessing that it's more complex to set up an animal-supporting artificial biosphere in space than one to support humans.
  • by DamnStupidElf ( 649844 ) <> on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @02:57PM (#15526555)
    I'm not anti-human or anything (in fact, I'm good friends with a number of them!). But why should an individual care about whether or not the drama of humanity continues? For instance, if we permit let every person who currently lives to live out a natural and good life, and somehow do so without creating any new people, would that be acceptable?

    If everyone joined the voluntary human extinction project, that is what would happen. The fact that droves of people aren't rushing to sign up probably means it's an unacceptable solution. For one thing, who takes care of all of us when we get old? What happens after everyone retires and the infrastructure (all of it; roads, cars, water, electricity, farming, etc.) crumbles?
  • Re:Poor solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RobotRunAmok ( 595286 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @02:57PM (#15526558)
    They (westerners) haven't the slightest hint of how to be happy. They're always unsatisfied. They need more and more, and they live for the future.

    Good. It's called "drive." It fuels things like space exploration. Unlike our navel-contemplating planet co-squatters in the East, our "God" is outside us, above us, and we're forever (hopefully forever) building towers and spaceships to meet Him. Works for me, just fine.

    It's the itchy, unsatisfied sacroliliac of some impotent balding outside-looking 40ish engineer today that will -- again, hopefully -- lead to my daughter finding herself working on Mars thirty years from now.

    "Woot!" to Professor Hawking, sez I.

    "Woot!" to his nurse, too...
  • Re:Poor solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by E-Rock ( 84950 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @02:57PM (#15526564) Homepage
    Of course a few hundred years ago, I would have been born, lived and died within a 100 mile radius. Probably not have been able to read or even be exposed to an idea that wasn't promoted by the Church or my Lord. Unless I was lucky enough to get an apprenticeship with a local artisan, I would likely have no other option but to do whatever my father and his father before him did. Subsistance agriculture. I would then marry a woman who also was trapped in the same little bubble as I was and breed up some more workers for the farm.

    I'd be too damn busy and tired to notice that I was miserable, or even wonder if there was any other way to be.

    I'll take my slot in the rat race, thank-you-very-much.
  • by Runefox ( 905204 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @03:00PM (#15526588) Homepage
    People keep saying that the human race is fundamentally evil, is doomed to annihilate itself, all those lovely things, and yet the human race has thrived and advanced so far in such a short amount of time (even just one hundred years ago, things like cathode ray tubes, plastics, and any number of modern-day polymers were unthinkable). The very fact that people are aware of the problems we as a species have created means that humanity, at its very core, is not entirely as bad as some of its members make it out to be. It's inevitable, however, that something will happen someday that will threaten the existence of mankind - It happened with the dinosaurs, unless you're one of those people who believe the Earth is 4,000 years old.

    Maybe it isn't feasible to go to space now, but if we, as a species, come together to pool our resources to create interstellar travel or indeed any kind of feasible, long-term space flight, we could just pull it off in a few generations. Things like cancer research, AIDS research, and research into creating more efficient and environmentally-friendly ways of life would all continue on while the project is underway; The world wouldn't stand still for a few centuries while such a project is put in motion. In fact, it could be considered as top priority in the research required for such a thing, since in order for a colony to be sustainable, it must have a higher standard of health than we've ever known, and it must be composed almost entirely of renewable resources. It would require a renewable source of food, a renewable power source, renewable water sources, a renewable source of oxygen, a renewable crew (both robotic and human), military/policing forces, skilled workers, a large surplus of parts and materials to fashion new parts, sufficient fuel to reach its projected destination (preferably with excess), medical services, entertainment services, and so on. It would have to be, in and of itself, capable of functioning as a country on Earth might, with the added disadvantage of the inability to perform trade (and so requiring a mass surplus of supplies).

    I think Hawking is one of the greatest people of our time, and I also think that he's dead-on about this particular issue. However, I also think that wider-scale marine colonization would probably be a better place to start this venture than the Moon or Mars. If we can successfully live day-to-day life in an underwater environment for extended periods of time, with high degrees of external pressure, then it's entirely possible to live in space, where the opposite is true. The preparations for such space travel are right here on Earth; We just need to use it, and I'm sure the extra habitable space wouldn't go unused.
  • Re:The irony is (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <> on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @03:06PM (#15526651) Homepage Journal
    If that's what you believe, I hope you'll do you part first and ensure you don't procreate.

    Me personally, I'm a big fan of humanity. I don't quite get the whole nihilistic "humanity sucks, boo hoo hoo" thing. If that's what you really believe, that we're all so terrible, go eat a gun -- you won't be much missed. I don't think I'm alone here when I say I really like what we've gotten going over the past few trillion years, and I'd like to see it continue for another trillion or so, the rest of the universe be damned.

    In addition, there are a bunch of other species of non-human animals that I'd like to see get taken along for the ride off this rock before the sun burns out. (Mosquitos, however, are a no-go.)
  • Re:The irony is (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <> on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @03:11PM (#15526715) Homepage Journal
    Which is a good argument for why, if you were going to start a colony someplace, and you believed that it had sufficent resources to eventually become completely self-sufficent, you might do well to not leave them with any memory of Earth, or at least of its precise location. It wouldn't be that hard to do; raise the first generation of colonists using androids or people who've been conditioned not to mention (because they're members of a particular religious cult, for example) their original origin. Eventually they might figure it out, but with a properly concocted creation myth, you could probably ensure it would take a few thousand years.

    The best way to prevent such a situation though would be to find ways in which Earth and the colonies could co-operate; something that's produced on each which is necessary to the other, so that they become trading partners. If you can't socially engineer peace, you can always try economics.
  • Re:The irony is (Score:5, Insightful)

    by suso ( 153703 ) * on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @03:15PM (#15526747) Homepage Journal
    The irony is in that Hawking wants us to leave the earth to protect humanity... You know what, nevermind. You're not worth protecting.

    If these are all problems of being human, then the problem is humans. We need to do the galaxy a favor and protect the galaxy from humans.
  • Re:Right now? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @03:15PM (#15526756) Homepage
    Yeah... too bad things like "money" and "power" are more important. We can't seem to do anything without money being involved and no one is willing to give up all they have in order to change the way things are done.

    Maybe I'm just a Star Trek geek (and if I am, not I'm not a particularly good one... I haven't memorized any episodes or anything like that and it was only yesterday that I got the joke of Data telling Scotty, " is... green...") but the idea of a world where things like money are obsolete? A simply amazing thing. There are people like that from time to time such as Nikola Tesla... he wanted to give the world free power, but J.P.Morgan put a stop to that pretty quickly. There's always someone ready to shamelessly stand in the way of mankind to make a buck.

    Given that we seem bent on such things as placing the value of a dollar above the hunger of our neighbors, do we really deserve to be able to infest the rest of the universe?
  • Re:Poor solution (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Golias ( 176380 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @03:16PM (#15526766)
    Buddhism and Zen came from the east, yes... But so did Shinto and gunpowder.

    Life in ancient China was pretty shitty for everybody who wasn't the Emperor, and Buddha himself had a pretty fucking miserable life, which drove and informed most of his teachings about humility and acceptance.

    I, on the other hand, am very happy and content, living in my suburban house on a French land-lot style yard in a straight row with many other houses. My air and water are clean, my food is delicious, my TV set is huge, and life is wonderful.

    Sometimes you gotta stop re-watching "Koyaanisoatsi" and just go outside and fire up the BBQ grill, especially on a nice day like today. Happiness has nothing to do with culture, and everything to do with your state of mind.
  • by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <> on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @03:19PM (#15526794) Homepage Journal
    Actually might not be as bizarre as you think. If a large asteroid split up into several smaller lumps, the lumps would orbit around the center of gravity/mass of the original rock, and thus would seem like a flock of smaller asteroids, all following each other. Eventually they'd probably be drawn off in different directions by the influences of other bodies, but if one split up on its way into the solar system, it might still be a big ball of fragments by the time it passed by Earth.

    It's certainly not totally implausible.

    Also, I suppose a really big asteroid might have enough of a gravitational field to attract other objects, or maybe you could even have some semi-stable situation where two asteroids of relatively equal mass orbited around each other, and then their center of mass collectively orbited the Sun (like a binary star system). Again I don't think it would be stable for very long because of all the interfering forces, but it could probably exist for a short while.

    Going off on a tangent here for a second: I think the odds of us recognizing the thing that's going to kill us all before it happens is pretty slim. It's not exactly a short list: anything from climate change to asteroids to a virus to some sort of germline genetic engineering gone awry could wipe us out -- and that's only the things we know about or have the capacity to conceive of. There are probably lots of threats out there that we're as ill-equipped to think about as the dinosaurs were of wondering about an asteroid from space. Even if you could put up some type of asteroid shield and control climate change and elimiate industrial pollution and reduce the risk of genetic manipulation, that doesn't mean that we're not living, as a species, in an incredibly precarious situation, all packed together on one planet.

    So regardless of what you do to "improve" things here on Earth, Hawking's (and many other people's) point still stands: spreading us out some is an inherent Good Thing from a long-term survival perspective.
  • Re:Poor solution (Score:2, Insightful)

    by RexRhino ( 769423 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @03:25PM (#15526838)
    Um, sorry to break your self-hatred and self pity, but living in the modern western world is pretty damn great. Most people have plenty of food, comfortable homes, good health... we have exposure to food, music, movies, and culture from all around the world. Nearly everyone I know is pretty damn happy, and the few I know who are unhappy it is usually family problems or personal mistakes and has nothing to do with "oppressive western society".

    I mean, you do know what life is like in the third world, and in the pre-industrial area, right? Perhaps you need to travel more, or read more history. Life is in the west is pretty much the best human living ever in the history of the species.
  • Re:I doubt it. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by russ1337 ( 938915 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @03:28PM (#15526858)
    Did you ever think that the human race is the berserker? We seek out life, and destroy it. We destroy each other, we destroy the earth. If another species comes to earth, i have no doubt that we will destroy it also.... we are the berserker...
  • by bill_kress ( 99356 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @03:41PM (#15526970)
    The universe isn't out to get us, but did you read the summary?

    We are out to get ourselves. The chance of all those things are growing. In fact, global warming may be well beyond stopping.
  • Re:Right now? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by amliebsch ( 724858 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @03:42PM (#15526984) Journal
    The Federation is a military dictatorship. Deal with it.
  • by farble1670 ( 803356 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @03:49PM (#15527042)

    the same factors that lead to it destroying the Earth and/or human life thereon might well lead to the same outcome in our planetary colonies.

    yes, but not all at the same time. think of life on a larger scale. instead of there being hundreds of countries, there are hundreds of colonies. some may destroy themselves. some won't. new ones will be founded. no problem.

  • Re:The irony is (Score:5, Insightful)

    by c6gunner ( 950153 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @04:05PM (#15527174)
    I don't quite get the whole nihilistic "humanity sucks, boo hoo hoo" thing. If that's what you really believe, that we're all so terrible, go eat a gun -- you won't be much missed.

    The problem is, what they're really saying is "humanity sucks, except for me".
  • Re:Poor solution (Score:2, Insightful)

    by natophonic ( 103088 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @04:05PM (#15527176)
    Unlike our navel-contemplating planet co-squatters in the East, our "God" is outside us, above us, and we're forever (hopefully forever) building towers and spaceships to meet Him. Works for me, just fine.

    Priests and ministers and born-agains often rush in to give God the credit, but really feats of engineering and procreation occur because the process of creation is *fun*, not out of a specific desire to Glorify Him, Praise Him, Meet Him, or Otherwise Interact with God in Ways that Demand Use of Capitialization.
  • Re:Poor solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Illserve ( 56215 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @04:18PM (#15527272)
    Great Post.

    I'm sick to death of people romanticizing the past. Far from being an idyllic life full of good health and hearty laughs, it was, for the average person, a grim and miserable existence by modern standards. Poor health and toothaches were the norm, mixed with a variety of concerns about how this season's dry weather was going to allow the family to survive the winter.

    We have it pretty good. Our concerns and stresses about getting ahead in the rat race are a damned sight more tolerable than last century's stresses about simply staying alive.
  • by TallDave ( 916610 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @04:19PM (#15527281) Homepage
    Step 1: Identify habitable planets

    If any exist, we should start finding them in the next 10-20 years.

    Step 2: Build interstellar craft

    This is the tough part. Whether FTL remains a pipe dream or new physics turn out to allow it, we'll either need space elevators or a massive new source of energy (cheap fusion, maybe) to get the huge amounts of mass into orbit. (Fusion power would be used to create the massive amounts of fuel, not power craft directly).

    Step 3: Seed planet with bioengineered life

    We would probably send a very smart AI probe to do this, armed with bioengineered terraforming microbes. The trip would be very very long, but I think it could conceivably leave by 2056.

    Step 4: Move in!

    Hopefully the AI will also build us some nice beachfront condos to enjoy the purple sunsets and double moons. Either the colonists would be frozen for the trip, or spend the duration awake and wandering around the ship, fornicating and filling themselves with flavored fizzy fermented fruit juices. Arrival would be timed for opening of beachfront condos.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @04:23PM (#15527318)
    ...but YANAPTMCI (you are not a physicist, though my cousin is) - he works at Brookhaven, and takes occasional duty on the "big red button", as in, "crap! there's something wrong! push the big red button to shut it down!"
    You're afraid of something hundreds of thousands of times less dangerous to your health than a dozen risks you blithely take every day, such as walking down the street, drinking tap water, eating cooked meat, flying on a commercial jet, etc.
    Your comment reminded me of my grandmother, who became alarmed when she heard there was an "electron gun" in her television. I mean really, should we listen to you? You can't even spell "dissipate."
  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @04:26PM (#15527351) Homepage
    ...if we're talking about just the mere survival of mankind, a tiny fraction to keep our race in existance, I'll take my chances on a deep subterranean nuke-proof bunker with lots of decontamination chambers, perhaps even a self-sustained eco-system.

    Space travel as we know it today is incredibly fragile, and is completely dependent on high-tech from earth. Any disaster of cosmic enough proportions (sorry, mankind would survive global warming, nuclear holocaust and geneticly engineered viruses, if not much of it) like our sun going beserk is quite likely to wipe out any space colony or planetary base. If not, the 250,000 parts of the space shuttle will break down and replacements run out.

    The only thing I can concievably think of that would wipe out earth, yet not qipe out any space base (unless we can go interstellar which takes 73000 years with our fastest spacecraft), would be a massive asteriod hitting earth and cracking it like a giant walnut. However, hundreds of millions of years of evidence say that's incredibly unlikely. It killed the dinosaurs, but us mammals survived. So would mankind today.

    Not you and me, mind you. "Important" people that would be evacuated to said bunkers. But then again, you and me should worry more about being hit by a car...
  • Re:I doubt it. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jerf ( 17166 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @04:32PM (#15527398) Journal
    Did you ever think that the human race is the berserker? We seek out life, and destroy it. We destroy each other, we destroy the earth. If another species comes to earth, i have no doubt that we will destroy it also.... we are the berserker...

    Oh yes. The sterile wastes of the Universe had better watch out, baby, because Humanity the Great Destroyer of.... uh.... err..... whatever-it-is-out-there is on its way!

    To make it.... err.... yet more sterile or something. And more desolate.

    Except it's pretty much as desolate as it can be. And if not actually sterile, than to all indications, nearly so.

    You know, I sort of understand "The Great Nobility Of Mother Nature", although I don't agree with it to speak of in the sense you are advocating. But you have thought this out and realize you are advocating "The Great Nobility Of Utter, Complete Desolate Lifelessness", right?

    What possible thing can humanity do to the universe at large to make it worse than the state it is already in ?

    Practicing to be goodlife [], are we?
  • Re:Poor solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ElephanTS ( 624421 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @04:33PM (#15527408)
    I liked your comment but /. is an impossible audience for that kind of thinking. You're mainly talking to American technologists who believe that a techno-fix exists for all problems. They will be the last people in the world to see that this isn't true and will always dump on the messenger for it.

    Personally I was brought up on sci-fi stories and used to think that we would colonise the stars someday. I no longer think this is possible. Even a moonbase I regard as highly unlikely and the idea of living on Mars for me belongs to 1950's style sci-fi. To me, sadly, the future of mankind looks more like NOLA post-Katrina than Star Trek. But every culture and civilisation has it's fantasies and dreams and these are ours.
  • Re:Right now? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by timster ( 32400 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @04:48PM (#15527565)
    Nikola Tesla... he wanted to give the world free power, but J.P.Morgan put a stop to that pretty quickly. There's always someone ready to shamelessly stand in the way of mankind to make a buck.

    Everyone WANTS free power, but Tesla was a scientist and inventor, not an economist. Had he found a way to MAKE power for free, then we would be getting somewhere. Unfortunately, as making the power is still expensive, somebody still has to pay for it, and one way or another, it's going to be you (that's economics).

    Money will be obsolete when we have unlimited resources. Until then, it's simply impossible to live without it in some form. Communism (as seen in Star Trek) doesn't eliminate money; it's just a system where the average person doesn't have any.
  • Re:Right now? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dance_Dance_Karnov ( 793804 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @05:15PM (#15527742) Homepage
    any blackhole we can make will dissolve due to hawking(see ontopic :P) radiaiton long before it can do any damage.
  • Re:Poor solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by saltydogdesign ( 811417 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @05:24PM (#15527796)
    Yes, well, I hope you recognize that for most people on this earth, nothing has changed. Lucky us.
  • Re:Poor solution (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Illserve ( 56215 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @05:36PM (#15527881)
    "very strong backing in Quantum Physics"

    Why do I suspect that this boils down to "mystical things are mysterious and so is Quantum physics, therefore the two are related"?

    Q physics gets related to everything that people don't understand. It's often a substitute for the unknowable divine for people who find the concepts of God and the supernatural distasteful but yet want to believe in something beyond the ordinary.

    Are you sure that isn't the case for you?

  • Re:Right now? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @05:47PM (#15527944)
    You realize that money is just a measurement of how much resources you have to accomplish a given thing, right?

    Complaining about how "you have to worry about money for everything" is roughly equivalent to complaining about how you need oxygen for standard combustion.
  • by Taevin ( 850923 ) * on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @05:58PM (#15528011)
    It's almost like he's saying the Earth is screwed, so let's get off this hunk of rock.

    Umm, it is. I could easily list off a million and one doomsday circumstances, but I'll stick with the one that's nearly guaranteed to occur: the death of our sun. Eventually the Earth will be incinerated by the sun and long before that living on Earth will be less than practical. Assuming we survive the extremely long time it will take for that to happen, we had better be able to leave Earth or the blip of humankind's existence will be over. Given that we will eventually need to leave Earth, why not start now? I'm not saying we should drop everything we're doing and work only towards space colonization, but we should continue researching it and exploring the possibilities.

    I think, considering we could be here for a very very long time, the better solution is to develop technology or philosophies dedicated to helping us live where we are.

    Yes, we are going to be here for a very, very long time. Advancing technology and cultivating the popular drive towards space will take a long time. But we'll never get to that point if we never try, will we? Researching the possibility of efficient space travel and colonization does not have to exclude researching things to help us on Earth. In fact, it's more than likely that research into technology supporting the colonization of other planets will dramatically improve things on Earth. Just as an example, finding a planet with an existing environment similar to that of Earth and just waiting for humans to arrive is unlikely and thus, we'll need some form of terraforming technology. If we have that kind of technology and understanding of its use and effects on a planetary environment, why would we not be able to apply the same principles to "repairing" Earth? If we can create an amenable atmosphere on another planet, surely we can cure the evil global warming that is bound to annihilate us all...

    Can't just give up on Earth...we have no other options no matter how many sci-fi shows we watch.

    Again, exploring space does not mean "giving up on Earth" and I don't understand why everytime this topic comes up an enormous number of people repeat this idea. An easily identifiable analogy (hey, every good argument needs one right? ;) to this is early seafaring explorers. They weren't "giving up" on their homelands; they were simply exploring, looking for new lands of opportunity and resources. Europeans colonizing the Americas didn't cause massive stagnation in Europe. Instead it led to a surge of growth in population, technology, ideas and philosophies, and resource utilization. Why would colonizing Mars, for example, be any different?

    Finally, to conclude my rant, I must comment on the "no matter how many sci-fi shows we watch" bit. You're implying that space exploration can't be done or at least will never be at the level pervasive in science fiction. Any rational person must admit that this is a very real possibility, but why does that have to be the end of the discussion? Where is your hope, your dreams, your imagination, your willpower? None of the major advances that changed human existence just happened or were made by people just trying to live within contemporary bounds. Why didn't Edison strive only to improve the design of fuel-based lamps instead of creating a working lightbulb? Why didn't the Wright brothers try to improve existing transportation instead of achieving an entirely new method?

    I'm quite sure that in both cases, the majority of people thought these new ideas absurd. In that, I realize that such views on the future are quite common but I just cannot understand them. Skepticism is a good thing and we should use it to keep our imaginations in check, but it's foolish to go too far and believe things will never change and thus extinguish the hope for a better future.
  • Re:Right now? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MagicDude ( 727944 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @06:02PM (#15528038)
    I'd like to hear your explanation of that statement. The Federation is likely a government unlike one we have ever seen before, but is probably closer to a republic democracy than anything else. The president and the council of the federation seem to be elected by some means. Starfleet is the military and scientific branch of the Federation (like rolling the marines and NASA into one branch). Starfleet is definately under the control of the Federation, so much so that Starfleet has even attempted a coup on ocasion ( episode/68250.html []). We've seen federation life through a very limited perspective, through life on Starfleet vessels and stations. Trying to understand the intricacies of federation politics from watching Star Trek episodes would be like an alien trying to understand the US government by watching "JAG".
  • Re:The irony is (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sandmaninator ( 884661 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @06:11PM (#15528105)

    Happy trails!
    The earth "destroyed" by every imaginable human and environmental catastrophe would still be more habitable than any other place in the known galaxy:
    1) Our bodies require a certain gravity over the long term.
    2) Food, oxygen, yadda, yadda.
    3) The amazing technology that could allow us to leave earth long-term requires a very wide diversity of raw materials. What happens when your ice drill breaks on mars?

    Bottom line is that we would need a very earth-like planet to survive and I think that the earth in a "destroyed" state would still be more earth-like than some other planet.
  • Re:Poor solution (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Illserve ( 56215 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @06:17PM (#15528146)
    There are degrees of self-awareness. We have alot, monkeys have some, ants have none. If I started picking your brain apart one neuron at a time, you wouldn't ever notice a specific point at which self-awareness ceased, you would gradually get less and less aware until you were just a brainstem controlling your heart, lungs and digestive system.

    The "secret" of consciousness is that there is no secret. Just because people are fascinated by a problem doesn't make it profound. I myself enjoy picking my nose too, and likely will for the remainder of my days, but that doesn't mean my nose is deeply mysterious.

    I suggest you begin with the assumption that the world is a mundane and boring place, rather than that there are deep mysteries that need solving. It's not as depressing as it sounds :)

  • by halfcuban ( 972832 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @06:28PM (#15528208)
    I've never quite understood the obsession with "continuing" the human race. While I am certainly concerned with the long-term impacts of what humans do,thus a concern for environmental impacts, population control, and the conditions under which my fellow people exist under, I one could care less if humanity survived for a million more years or not. I'm not going to be there, and I have little concern about whether or not our "civilization" still exists. It's this ridiculous sentimental attachment to a non-existant overarching concept, in whatever forms it takes (racial prejudice, nationalism, religious fervor) that leads to the stupid wars and completely preventable human created disasters. As far the ones outside of our control, well, sitting around worrying about a meteorite striking seems like a lot of paranoia.
  • Re:Poor solution (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Illserve ( 56215 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @06:39PM (#15528284)
    Something can be a complex problem worth studying without being a deep and mysterious secret. You know what the difference is, stop playing semantics.

  • Re:I doubt it. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gnovos ( 447128 ) <> on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @06:43PM (#15528317) Homepage Journal
    The problem with all kinds of "berzerker" "grey goo" type stories is that they ignore the thermodynamics of evolution. All over the Earth, right now, as we read slashdot, there are a trillion different forms of "grey goo" trying like hell to take over the earth and eat every last ounce of available energy. They are called plants, animals, fungus and bacteria. All of these things, genetically speaking, would like NOTHING beter than to cover the entire world with copies of itself and devour *everything*.

    But, for some reason, that doesn't happen...

    Every wondered WHY something was more or less fit than something else? It simply has to do with resource efficiency. You can't just go gung-ho in one single direction, such as non-stop reproduction, and expect to be successful... otherwise there would be organisms NOW that don't stop reproducing to take a breath. If the evolutionary system doedn't spend teh energy to balance the forces, focusing in required measure on health, defense, resource allocation and rationing, it will be quickly over taken by an organism that does.

    The grey goo spends all it's time making more grey goo.... thus very little time developing defenses against the things that would love to either make a meal of them (everything is edible to someone, various iron metabolizing microbes are hungrily waiting to meet the micromachines at the bottom of the ocean) or build a house out of it, nor does it spend any time building feedback systems to make sure that it is expanding in a direction that won't leave it stranded in a dead end (like expanding directly down a hole and then unable to expand back out because it's own dead little corpses are blocking the exit), etc.

    Grey goo, on Earth today, would quickly discover that attepting to compete with an system with a 4.5 billion history of winnter-take-all-no-holds-barred-free-for-all evolutionary deathmatch is not quite as easy as it may have first thought, and that's before the humans even begin to notice.
  • Re:Poor solution (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sickofthisshit ( 881043 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @07:45PM (#15528655) Journal
    The very plain fact is that far more Iraqis have died in this *year to date* in sectarian and insurgent violence than died in the September 11th attacks. That sectarian and insurgent violence was *directly* unleashed by the U.S. invasion that was completely based on the decisions of the Bush administration.

    Just because the U.S. didn't benefit doesn't mean it was some kind of admirably selfless act. Actually, it was a giant fuck-up that could have easily been forseen and avoided. That is a BAD THING, get it?

    I don't believe the Bush administration deliberately did this to get access to Iraqi oil; I can actually believe GWB justified it to himself by thinking of all the nasty things Saddam Hussein did, although such justification is amazingly selective and based on a complete misunderstanding of Iraq. (E.g. "But he used chemical weapons against his own people!", he gassed Kurds. Saddam Hussein is not a Kurd.) Whatever the justification, the invasion has become an absolute disaster from the point of view of the average Iraqi.
  • Re:avoidance (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Foolhardy ( 664051 ) <> on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @08:26PM (#15528852)
    Colonizing space means abandoning a perfectly serviceable planet to pursue a simple-minded superstitious belief: that it is physically feasible and statistically likely to find one or more places that are better than earth, and transport significant numbers of people at an affordable cost.
    I don't think anyone's suggesting we abandon the Earth (i.e. leave no one behind) unless there was some kind of enormous disaster.

    Personally, I think if we are going to be living somewhere other than the Earth, it's not going to be on planets but in space stations. Planets and such will be useful for their raw materials, which can be extracted in an automated way. Due to the lack of gravity, construction materials will be much lighter than terrestrial buildings. Although we'll have to maintain the entire environment where people will be living explicitly, the volume of that environment will be much smaller. One problem I can see is radiation: the Earth's magnetic field and atmosphere blocks a lot of radiation that a space station would be exposed to.

    The pollution that is causing problems on Earth will be a non-issue since the sheer volume of space available out there will make dumping easy; the tragety of the commons problem we have right now in the environment would essentially go away. Space (with virtually unlimited volume) would be the only unavoidable common left.
    At the moment, it cannot be done.
    No, I don't think the technology exists today either. Still, even going into space was impossible some 50 years ago. As I see it, there are two major hurdles that need to be fixed before living in space becomes an option: we need be able to build closed living systems that don't need outside support; every attempt of building one that I know of has failed in some way, and we need to make overcoming the Earth's gravity considerably cheaper.

    As for why, I think that hedging against some kind of catastrophe (possibly caused by us) that endangers our survival but wouldn't affect people living offworld. An alternative to this, sealed underground vaults should also be considered (although the closed system problem would still have to be fixed).
    People who believe in terraforming are implicitly claiming that even though we cannot maintain sustainable conditions on a planet with plenty of water, oxygen, plant and animal species, and free energy from the sun, we can build a similar environment elsewhere that would require interplanetary transport of enormous quantities of water, nitrogen, soil, plant and animal species, building tools and materials etc.
    I don't think you'd want any animals out there, except as a luxury. They don't provide any net production. Plants, yes. Bacteria, yes. I would think that the water, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, etc could be mostly recycled. Energy would certainly come from the sun.

    I think the idea is that such a system could exist outside because many of the irrational issues we have here that are causing sustainability problems could be avoided up there. Population could be carefully controlled. Survivial would be everyone's problem and doing it wrong would manifest very quickly and predictibly, unlike here.
  • Re:avoidance (Score:2, Insightful)

    by vikstar ( 615372 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @08:59PM (#15528985) Journal
    It's not about leaving the planet compleatly in order to escape the problems that exist here. It's about having more than a single point of failure for the existance of the human race.

    Why is it so important to many that the human species survives? Sure we don't want ourselves or our children or any other living family or friends to perish, but what's the big deal with the human species millenia from now? If a few people go off onto, say Mars, and teraform/colonize/whatever, and then we all get wiped out on earth who cares if the human species has survived? Sure those few colonists survived, but I don't see what the big deal is for the human species to survive. We all have our survival instinct and care about our own lives and that of the lives around us, but some instinct of survival that extends to our distant decendants and that of our species as a whole is an artificial or fabricated idea.

    Ok, so you want your great-great-great-great-grandchildren to have a happy life (which i guess is real and comes from our parental instinct). For arguments sake, that child has a 50-50 chance of either being on Earth or Mars during a catastrophic event that occurs on Earth such as an asteroid impact. It seems you've given your child a 50% chance of survival, but the catastrophic event could just aswell have happend on Mars, so nothing gained. Unless of course there is someway to transport the human population from the disaster-pending plant to a safe planet before the disaster.

    Therefore, it is not survival of the human species that we are after, it is survival of all humans.
  • by ChrisA90278 ( 905188 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @09:37PM (#15529128)
    No matter how BAD the earth gets. Even with run away globl warmming and unbreathable air it will still be easier and cheaper to build an enclosed living space on Earth then to build it on, say, the moon. Even if all the air on earth were is disapear and the Earth were to be in hard vacuum it would still be cheaper to live inside a presure tank here then inside a presure tank on the moon because. Even if you share the gaol of moving people off the Earth, now may not be the right time. If you start today it might take 150 years to build a sutainable industry in space, one that can operate without support from Earth. But if we start in 50 years it might take only 110 years to do the same thing. To be free of Earth you need things like a stell and aluminum industral and plants that make basic metals and machine tools. How long until there is a factory of the moon that makes digial camera and childred's toys. Not this century.
  • by Wraithe ( 570188 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @09:57PM (#15529212) Homepage

    Oh, dear God, I'd forgotten about "TEH TERRORUSTS".

    Listen up, and by: "Listen up", I only peripherally mean YOU. I really direct this to the people who use "TEH TERRORUST!" as a way of trying to make it sound like we have some major concern here in our tough, tough, post-9/11 world.

    Let me direct you to a simpler time of life, a time when Reagan's and Kennedy's walked the earth.

    A simpler time when people lived with the idea the upwards of 50% of the USA, USSR, and chunks of Europe's populations could be dead in under an hour's time. Yeah, right. Ooooh, scary terrorists.

    Hell, I'll take terrorists any day of the week over continuing to live with that. Hell, I'll take terrorists over living with the fear that my village was going to be raided and a member of my family killed. I think my odds are STILL better with the terrorists.*

    *Note: Offer not valid in Israel, Palestine, Afghanistan, Most of the Middle East, Iraq, Sierra Leone, Iraq, Indonesia, Iraq, Chechnya, Sudan, Iraq, and Tennessee.

  • Re:Poor solution (Score:3, Insightful)

    by steve_bryan ( 2671 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @11:39PM (#15529575)
    Neither Alan Watts, nor the Dali Lama, nor myself, would disagree with you when you say "stick to science". Never have I said you should not, in fact I'm a great proponent of it. As I have shown, it is the other way around, "western" scientists are the ones who do not stick to science. They scoff at their own results, and say things like "God does not play dice".

    It's a fool's errand but I guess I can't resist replying to this and your whole shtick.No one who matters in this context cares what Alan Watts or the Dali Lama has to say on the subject. Despite the disengenuous claims to the contrary quantum mechanics was developed entirely in places like Copenhagen, Berlin, Cambridge and other locations noted for their scarcity of ashrams. It was conceived and developed by people with extensive training in and knowledge of advanced classical mechanics (Lagrangian, Hamiltonian mechanics and so forth, not the high school level stuff that is often bandied about). If we were waiting for Buddhists to reach a useful level of creativity to discover QM we would still be waiting (probably forever). In fact the subject in question has not been a static edifice. It continues to be developed and improved, QM -> QED -> QCD -> quantum gravity (that last arrow is a direction, not a completed step). Notably absent from this progress is a useful contributions from any temples or ashrams.

    I know a statement like that comes off as insulting toward those institutions which I really don't intend except in regard to bullshit claims made on their behalf and possibly without their agreement with the claims. I had the opportunity to attend some of the lecures of Feynamn and I was even a classmate of Polchinski. These are people who were responsible for improving our understanding of QM and I didn't detect even a hint of oriental philosphy informing either one of them and yet they have done OK. I imagine Joseph might bring matters to higher levels yet.

    My point is that QM is a Western game. There have been plenty of contributers from most areas of the world including, for instance, Tomonaga who contributed to the formulation of QED. My point is that his contribution was in no way Eastern except as an incidental geographical matter. I'm only aware of popularizers like Fritjof Capra who make claims such as yours. Not actual working physicists who have made contributions to the advancement of QM. I'm sure there have been many, because of their voracious intellectual interests, who have been curious about Eastern philosophies as well as being actual contributors. Oppenheimer is an example who studied Sanskrit in order to read the Bhagavad Gits. But I don't think anyone claims this was part of the intellectual framework that informed his research thinking. Gelman's Eight-Fold Way illustrated his familiarity with Buddhist philosophy but it has immeasurably more to do with the group SU(3) than any discourse delivered by the Buddha.
  • Re:Right now? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MagicDude ( 727944 ) on Wednesday June 14, 2006 @01:06AM (#15529999)
    Starfleet commanders repeatedly order civilians around
    In time of emergency or extenuating circumstances, this can be necessary. In the real world it's illegal to disobey the instructions of a police officer, and I presume the same law applies to obeying military officers too.

    The only civilian space transport ever shown is on federation vehicles, at the discretion of the federation. No federation civilian-owned space (or even stratospheric) vehicles are portrayed.
    In DS9, Kasidy Yates (Sisko's girlfriend/wife) was a civilian freighter captain who at one point was a convey leison officer between a convoy of civilian freighters and starfleet. In TNG, when Worf's mother brought Alexander to stay with him on the Enterprise, she mentioned how she got on a transport to get there. It is unlikely that the wife of a retired enlisted cheif petty officer would be given privlidges to use starfleet vessels for personal travel across the galaxy, so it was likely a civilian or commercial transport.

    No private corporations are ever shown
    In the TNG episode "Family", Picard was asked by his friend Louis to leave Starfleet and join a civilian project for terraforming the ocean floor. Picard's family also owns a vinyard. Sisko's father owns a restaurant. Ezri Dax's family owns some kind of mining operation.

    Contrary to your assertion, I don't believe any election is ever portrayed.
    During the changling crisis on earth, the Federation president wishes he had never entered his name onto the ballot for the office.

    No civilian media organizations are ever shown
    There were several mentions of a "Federation News Service" during DS9, something I imagine would be analogous to the AP.

    No legal civilian energy weapons are ever shown (in fact, civilians appear not even to be allowed to have blades!) - yet starfleet personnel are rarely without a powerful sidearm
    Well, first off the Star Trek universe is supposed to be idealic where civilians didn't need to be armed. However, Guinan did own a phaser rifle of some kind. About owning blades, if you're refering to Worf disarming Okana in TNG episode "The Outrageous Okona", it seems a resonable precaution to not allow armed civilians to roam around a starfleet vessel.

    There appears to be no such thing as privacy, except for high-ranking Starfleet officers. The federation appears to have massive databases containing all known information on everyone, used liberally by Starfleet.
    Starfleet is a branch of the government, so it makes sense that they'd have access to government data banks. If the FBI wanted to to a background check on you, how much information do you think they could dig up in various databases? Hell, how much information do you think you could dig up about a person on the internet?

    Actual buying and selling appear to be officially prohibited (Picard didn't even understand the concept of "investment"!), reducing trade to barter and trading bars of latinum on the black market
    The economy of the federation is a matter of protracted discussion, but doesn't exclude the possibility of some kind of modified socialism that actually works. Just because we can't think of how it could work, doesn't mean it can't (Kinda like Warp Drive).

    In at least one case, a civilian is tried by a court with a Starfleet judge!
    You'll need to be more specific of where that happened. However, if a person commited a criminal act against the military or government, I'm sure there's some kind of legal precident where they're tried in a military tribunal as an enemy combatant or something along those lines.

    The most prestigious jobs in the federation appear to be starfleet offices Dr. Bashir talked about how he was offered a position in a civilian hospital in Paris by his girlfriend's father.

    I can't think of examples right now, but the point is that there is sufficient evidence that the Federation is not a military dictatorship.
  • its meant to be (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BRUTICUS ( 325520 ) on Wednesday June 14, 2006 @02:58AM (#15530319)
    because it is possible.

    people think our space shuttles are synthetic creations and therefore unnatural but I think the act of humans flying into outerspace is perfectly natural. and infact inevitable. if you look at the earth from a distance. ships continually try to make it out of orbit some succeed and some fail. but one will make it all the way in this way the act is quite similar to the insemenation of a human child. However once the one makes it through many more will follow. The only way to do this is to MAKE It happen, plan on it happening, continuiing missions and creating settlements in places out in space where we are not dependant on Earth. I agree with Hawking 100%.

    We need to do this for our species. We need to think of the herd. The fact is that we aren't simply looking out for HUMAN life, but EARTH life and LIFE in general considering we have found no evidence of life elsewhere.

    Support space travel and space colonies.
  • by salec ( 791463 ) on Wednesday June 14, 2006 @06:37AM (#15530902)
    ...the ransack attack of the human space diaspora fraction gone militaristic, technologically advanced and greedy. At first, I thought: "Well, a virus can traverse to colonies, as people will travel to visit relatives or do business", when it suddenly occurred to me that perhaps it is actually ment to be a "never look back" voyage for space emigrants. Here on Earth, thruout history, the groups of humans, of the same specie, were constantly THE ultimate threat to each other, just because they were separated for a while and hence developed distinct group identities. It IS going to happen on the large scale if we colonize the space across large distances. The space aliens will be us.
  • Re:I doubt it. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Archtech ( 159117 ) on Wednesday June 14, 2006 @06:59AM (#15530946)
    '...there are a trillion different forms of "grey goo" trying like hell to take over the earth and eat every last ounce of available energy. They are called plants, animals, fungus and bacteria'.

    This is a sound argument, and one that certainly needs to be made (and attended to). There is, however, a slight flaw in it. If you believe in evolution (broadly speaking), you concede that organisms evolve stepwise. They cannot take huge leaps, but have to progress through a series of intermediate states all of which are evolutionarily successful. That is one reason why no living things have wheels, laser death-rays, or (AFAIK) radio communication.

    Introduce a human designer into the loop, and the picture changes drastically. As gnovos reminds us, we are neck-deep in millions of species of fungi and bacteria (and viruses and protozoa...) Very few of them, however, are fatal to humans; and hardly any are fatal wholesale, in the sense that they wipe out whole populations. Why? If a microorganism wipes out its host, it disappears too - or, at the very least, suffers a serious check. But a human scientist can analyze the human body's defence mechanisms, and tailor an existing bacterium or virus to sidestep them. If a microorganism appears that kills whole populations, it will almost certainly be an artificial one.

    The same applies to grey goo.

The other line moves faster.