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View Diary: New Curiosity Images Bring Home That Mars is a Real Place, We'll Be Seeing Soon With Our Own Eyes (283 comments)

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  •  Hmmm. I don't begrudge it, but (1+ / 0-)
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    I am baffled by the motivation, energizing etc.. I am a science person but it just doesn't excite me. And I worry that American expansion in space will mirror the territorial expansion of our ancestors.

    The founding fathers knew of the mutually corrupting influences of Church and state, wisely sending them to opposite corners.

    by emidesu on Tue Sep 11, 2012 at 05:07:05 PM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  How could it possibly "mirror the territorial (10+ / 0-)

      expansion of our ancestors"?  At most there are microbes out there in the rest of this solar system, and probably not even that in most places we would go.  And you're talking about centuries of continuous expansion before colonies started coming into any serious conflict with each other.  Mars alone has the same surface area as the entire land surface of Earth.  

      If you're concerned that history will repeat itself or at least "rhyme," there's no avoiding that if humanity is to have an infinite future: Life is life, and you either accept the good with the bad or turn into one of those sad people who think humans are wicked and should go extinct.

      It's fine if it doesn't excite you, but it excites billions of people, and millions enough to be passionately interested.  And out of the vast numbers and diverse cultures that would arise from the human diaspora into the solar system, undoubtedly you would find ideas, technologies, and scientific discoveries that would interest you - that would interest anyone with the slightest intelligence or curiosity on any subject.   Space promises this, and this is literally all there is: Worlds without end in infinite diversity, in infinite combinations, across infinite time.

      Everything there is to know about the GOP: They're the Bad Guys.

      by Troubadour on Tue Sep 11, 2012 at 05:23:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  So you really see people living in (3+ / 0-)
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        Troubadour, mamamedusa, melfunction

        space? Before climate change puts us into short term survival mode?

        I don't see humanity having an infinite future at all. Species go extinct when they either can't keep up with changes or decimate their environments. It's not a matter of whether I think humans should go extinct, it's simply what happens.

        At any rate, as I said I don't mind the money that is spent on NASA and if I didn't have at least a little curiosity I wouldn't have looked at this diary. But I grew up in the post-Sputnik era, and would have gotten into science much earlier if more (literally) mundane aspects had been emphasized.

        The founding fathers knew of the mutually corrupting influences of Church and state, wisely sending them to opposite corners.

        by emidesu on Tue Sep 11, 2012 at 05:52:57 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  What's a future? (5+ / 0-)

          You mean, will there be people just like you and me, forever? No, probably not. But could we do something in the mean time? Yes.

          It's probably within the ability of what is one day achievable to send humans to other planets in the solar system, send robotic probes to the nearest stars, and make contact with other intelligent life or at least discover life on other planets.

          Will it be possible to spread human life all over the universe? Probably not. Not unless some kind of energy source and physics that don't exist are discovered.

          But, just a little bit more "down to earth," Curiosity is one test away from putting the preponderance of evidence in favor of at least metabolism or pre-life on Mars if not life.

          Wouldn't that be an important discovery? (Or at least confirmation of the Viking test?)

          GOP: The Party of Acid rain, Abortion of the American Dream, and Amnesty for Wall Street.

          by Attorney at Arms on Tue Sep 11, 2012 at 05:58:44 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  When we start talking about (4+ / 0-)

            that metabolism and its characteristics I will be with you ;-)

            The founding fathers knew of the mutually corrupting influences of Church and state, wisely sending them to opposite corners.

            by emidesu on Tue Sep 11, 2012 at 06:20:37 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I'll bite. We will colonize the oceans and (0+ / 0-)

              a develop technology to live at various depths.  

              Innovative agricultural projects on the ocean surface will initially provide essential nutrients and fuel, until later, undersea agricultural technologies are developed that do not require sunlight.  Instead they will harness the heat, pressure, minerals, and aquatic organisms from places along the mid-atlantic ridge.  

              Technology will be developed to tap the heat and pressure from from deep ocean vents to power almost everything the undersea colony needs, from desalination, to carbon and nitrogen waste recycling.

              Natural selection will lead to a new species of human, much smaller in stature, with much less muscle mass, a much slower basal metabolic rate and having a much shorter maximum life cycle (you only need to start the next generation, and all the food/fuel/medical costs of old age go away).  Muscle mass will be selected against since much the work will not require physical strength, and instead will involve manipulating machinery with one's eyes.  The new species will lose the capacity to digest meat, and will disfavor carbohydrates, developing instead efficient fat storage and retrieval.  No one will notice since the mammals on the surface all went extinct long before.

              Brain/lung/heart systems will become more efficient and adapt to low oxygen environments that approximate the oxygen content of 25,000 feet above sea level.


          •  It was only about a hundred years ago (2+ / 0-)
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            Trotskyrepublican, Troubadour

            that the Wright brother's invented the airplane.

            Something, most people could not even imagine, and even the experts of the day could see no commercial use for.

            So within a century, it's likely that some inventions will exceed whatever we CAN imagine now.

        •  Absolutely. (9+ / 0-)

          Absolutely people will be living in space, and not in some distant future - like in 10 years (for Earth orbit), and 15-20 for Mars.  I track the development of the commercial space industry, and it's spiraling upward, building up an industrial feedback, getting both NASA and private funding, building partnerships globally between business, government, and academia, and it's really starting to move.  Granted, I'm not predicting some massive expansion into space in 10 years - I'm talking about a few dozen 8-figure millionaires - but once on a commercial footing with reusable rockets, it starts to follow a growth pattern like aviation.

          Species go extinct when they either can't keep up with changes or decimate their environments.
          Yeah, when they become hyper-adapted to some particular set of conditions and can't handle anything else.  But we live in 130-degree furnaces and -50 degree iceboxes; deserts where not even microbes are found in any abundance, and tropical rainforests; equatorial places with constant weather, and extreme latitudes with 6-month days and nights.  We have technology.  We adapt the technology to changing circumstances.

          Humans do not go extinct.  Not without a giant asteroid impact or a total nuclear war in the next 50 years.  Not without the cosmos conspiring against us, as if all of life were one big joke waiting for the punchline to arrive just now.  Climate change is a danger to the long-term stability and security of human civilization on Earth, not the survival of the species - and certainly not if we spread to multiple environments.  We should address it, obviously, but on the scale of the entire species terrestrial climate change is just a nuisance.  A big, bad nuisance that may kill millions of people through both direct and indirect consequences, but it is not the harbinger of our doom.  We survive.  We flourish.  We learn.  Always - even if the learning process is slower and more painful than it should be.

          Everything there is to know about the GOP: They're the Bad Guys.

          by Troubadour on Tue Sep 11, 2012 at 06:26:10 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  "Humans do not go extinct" (2+ / 0-)
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            melfunction, niemann

            Human exceptionalism is no more rational than American exceptionalism.

            •  Bullshit. Humans are exceptional. (1+ / 0-)
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              We are not only technological, but have the scientific method through which to iterate and adapt our technology on a continuing basis.  That doesn't mean we're invulnerable, but if you think we're not vastly more survivable than species that completely depend on minor fluctuations in the weather to survive, then your opinion is based on ideological hostility to mankind, not honest understanding of what we are.

              Everything there is to know about the GOP: They're the Bad Guys.

              by Troubadour on Tue Sep 11, 2012 at 09:06:11 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Sorry (0+ / 0-)

                I don't worship at the church of Frank Tippler any more than I do at the church of Ayn Rand.

                •  You just make use of all the exceptional (1+ / 0-)
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                  things previous generations achieved without acknowledging what future ones will.  How convenient, to be a cynic in a world of wonders without relinquishing their benefits.  Are you planning to become Amish or live your life in cave by hunter-gatherer methods?  Didn't think so.

                  Everything there is to know about the GOP: They're the Bad Guys.

                  by Troubadour on Tue Sep 11, 2012 at 10:30:45 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Since I'm 60 (0+ / 0-)

                    I expect not to be around when the human dieback gets underway in a big way. I have no idea what will be the outcome, but I seriously doubt the first response will be to colonize Mars.

                    •  Then your pessimism is just self-involvement. (0+ / 0-)

                      I have enough health problems to know what mortality feels like, so I feel I can say this without guilt of cruelty: Humanity will continue to grow, evolve, and learn without you.  Your twilight is not the waning of the world.  There are new people born everyday, and new possibilities with them - people for whom this world and all worlds that follow are new and hold boundless promise.  And you are of much less use to them with this shit attitude of yours than if you simply acknowledge that we have a choice in our own future.

                      Everything there is to know about the GOP: They're the Bad Guys.

                      by Troubadour on Tue Sep 11, 2012 at 11:00:02 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  No (0+ / 0-)

                        My problem is that what you are dreaming about requires expanding Earth's biosphere to other planets. That is not something SpaceX brings about -- it is a project for millennia. And first humanity has to survive the catastrophe we have arranged for ourselves.

                        What you are overlooking is that our technology depends on a complex, delicate and vulnerable infrastructure, and that infrastructure is in no way immortal.

                        •  In a nutshell (0+ / 0-)

                          Technological optimism has always been a cargo cult. We need to understand nature, yes -- but we need to learn how to live within its limits. So long as we continue to delude ourselves that we are somehow not dependent on Earth's biosphere, we will continue to pursue our own extinction.

                          •  We have vast unexplored terrain and (1+ / 0-)
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                            and untapped resources below the surface of the sea, some of which is not mapped at all.

                            When the undersea surface area is eventually measured and totaled it will be some multiple of the surface area above sea level.

                            Most of what we know relies on an oxygen rich atmosphere and photosynthesis.  We have the chemical and engineering capability to build fully functioning colonies in the deep ocean, harvest minerals locally down there, and to synthesize every compound that homo sapiens need to survive and reproduce.  We have growing capability to find or create micro-organisms that do much of that chemistry very well and reliably.  

                            Of course, living in such an environment for an extended period of time would select against traits that are currently very energy consumptive on the surface (strong bones, strong muscles, bright light, loud sounds).

                          •  The oceans will also be affected by global warming (0+ / 0-)

                            Higher levels of dissolved carbon dioxide are acidifying ocean waters and are implicated in coral reef bleaching. The biological productivity of the photic zone will probably be significantly reduced, and that would in turn affect productivity in the lower zones that depend on a rain of nutrients from above.

                            The exception might be hydrothermal vent communities, but I don't see humans thriving on a diet of extremophile bacteria... Even sushi bars haven't yet experimented with that cuisine.

                        •  SpaceX brings about mass migration (0+ / 0-)

                          of people and materiel to Mars, which produces the kernels from which biospheric transplantation occur and grow self-sustainably.  And not just to Mars - to anywhere that people find a way to operate sustainably.  It enables experimentation and exploration.  And while they're learning how to live on Mars and elsewhere, we'll be learning how to live on Earth in a more dynamic climate picture, and we'll all be learning from each other.

                          Everything there is to know about the GOP: They're the Bad Guys.

                          by Troubadour on Tue Sep 11, 2012 at 11:11:49 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  It won't bring about "mass migration" to Mars (0+ / 0-)

                            The place is a dingy, frigid, UV-blasted desert. Yes we might put a base there -- like the bases on Antarctica.

                            But where is the mass migration to Antarctica? It is not impossible for lack of transportation.

                          •  You don't know what you're talking about. (0+ / 0-)

                            You're completely dismissive of even the concept, so it doesn't surprise me that you've never bothered to learn anything about it or what's going on in the field.  Just accept that you're out of your element.

                            Everything there is to know about the GOP: They're the Bad Guys.

                            by Troubadour on Wed Sep 12, 2012 at 11:17:20 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I've been arguing with technological optimists (0+ / 0-)

                            since the Internet was email lists and gophers. The debate hasn't changed significantly. The optimists still believe, with Julian Simon, that there are no resource limits to human growth. In fact there are limits to growth, and we hitting against them now.

                          •  And I've been arguing with apocalypticists (0+ / 0-)

                            for years, and their fallacies and ignorance of basic areas of science and economics never change.

                            Take silicon as an example of a "limited" resource: In 2008 there was a major shortage, but guess what - it wasn't a shortage of the resource in absolute terms, but of the manufacturing capacity to extract and process it.  Guess what happened?  As the price of silicon spiked, more money went into building new industrial capacity, which increased the quantity of silicon in the market and reduced the price beneath where it originally was.  Yes, there is a physical limit to the amount of accessible silicon on Earth, but not one that civilization confined to this planet could ever practically approach (do the math).  And once not confined to this planet, the underlying resource base increases orders of magnitude.

                            Or take energy: All the fossil fuels in all the world put together, both utilized and in reserve, add up to only a tiny fraction of the accessible solar energy from Earth's surface, never mind once you're talking about space-based solar power.  You just don't understand technology or economics - they evolve fluidly, around single-resource obstacles.  Or water: The oceans have more of it than humanity could ever hope to consume, and all it takes to access it is the energy needed to extract and desalinize it - and as I just mentioned, the available energy resources of planet Earth are far beyond what the world is consuming today.

                            By your logic, the resources available inside your house will be exhausted within a few days, so you're going to die of thirst or starve within a few days.  Hell, the oxygen in your house can't last much longer than that either, so you're approaching multiple resource limits!  You're doomed!  The things you're saying are so unbelievably dimwitted and ignorant without the excuse of lacking intelligence - you're obviously smart enough to know better - I just don't know what to do for you.  Planet Earth is not its own separate universe, its metal/mineral resources and renewable energy sources are not even remotely reflected by current industrial capacity, and the current configurations of economies by which we exploit terrestrial resources are not set in stone.

                            You're welcome to crawl in a cave and contemplate the imminent Apocalypse, but you'll have to excuse the rest of us while we focus on building the future.

                            Everything there is to know about the GOP: They're the Bad Guys.

                            by Troubadour on Wed Sep 12, 2012 at 11:52:32 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  The resource limits we are hitting first (0+ / 0-)

                            are climate stability and the amount of arable land.

                            Despite your dreams, humanity is dependent on Earth's biosphere for the foreseeable future. Our technology is a fragile, delicate result of human activity and it could easily be disrupted by climatic and social chaos.

                            Technology and economics are living systems , and like all living systems they have a range of conditions within which they can adapt, but when presented with conditions outside that range, they die. They are not immortal or exempt from their biological foundations. The notion that they are derives historically from the Christian belief in an immortal soul separate from the material body.

                          •  "Climate stability" is not a "resource." (0+ / 0-)

                            And as arable land becomes scarce, its price increases and causes greater investment in efficiencies that make better use of that land - e.g., vertical farming.  You don't understand even the most basic economic principles.

                            Our technology is a fragile, delicate result of human activity and it could easily be disrupted by climatic and social chaos.
                            Yes, yes - we're all completely helpless, delicate, gossamer beings who can only survive in a padded playpen and would be stamped out of existence by the slightest disruption.  That's how we've gone from being a few thousand survivors of the Toba supervolcano 75,000 years ago - survivors who had no technology more advanced than chipped stone tools and fire - to covering the entire Earth in every conceivable climate.

                            We're so weak and delicate that a plague that exterminated a third to half the population of an entire continent led to the Renaissance within a few generations, and a 20th-century war that destroyed almost an entire continent's productive capacity was recovered from within a decade.  So pitiful are we puny mortals.  That's why Hiroshima and Nagasaki are thriving cities today.

                            I'm not claiming that nothing can render us extinct, just that it's extremely improbable to occur soon enough to prevent us from spreading into the rest of the solar system.  And not only improbable, moot.  Even bringing it up is the worst kind of useless apocalypse porn fetishism.  Why are you even at your computer typing instead of being in deep spiritual contemplation 24/7 about the fact that you could die at any moment?  Why eat?  Why sleep?  Why have sex and watch movies?  It's very simple: We choose to live, and grow, and evolve.  To create the future, not pusillanimously sit around waiting for it to happen to you.

                            Everything there is to know about the GOP: They're the Bad Guys.

                            by Troubadour on Wed Sep 12, 2012 at 12:41:31 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Climatic stability is a biological resource (0+ / 0-)

                            regardless of whether current mainstream economists consider it one. It is a characteristic of a habitat on which humans depend, and one which is limited by the climate systems limited capacity to buffer our waste products. That buffering capacity is a limited resource.

                            I don't intend to respond to the ad hominem stuff. It's my observation that technological optimism is a religious faith -- the sort of faith people organize their identities around, and defend when challenged as if they themselves were somehow being attacked. From my point of view, technological optimism is a dangerous illusion fostering denial. We cannot run away from global warming by moving to another planet. We have to deal with it here. So far, we have shown no sign of willingness to deal with it intelligently, and that does not bode well for the human future.

                          •  It's frankly ironic to hear the charge (0+ / 0-)

                            that optimism - the overwhelming lesson of human history - is a "religion" from someone who simply ignores all of that history because it doesn't agree with their apocalyptic views.  I know it makes people feel special to imagine that their experiences hold special significance to history - that they stand at the pinnacle of history, and all eras that follow, if any follow at all, will be just pale imitations at best.  It's the same self-involved nonsense that drives people to believe in religious apocalypse fantasies, and why "The End" has been "nigh" for 2,000 years.  Why we've been just on the cusp of radical resource scarcity since 1979.  

                            You're welcome to your negativity, and you're welcome to take any survivalist measures you see fit to endure the coming zombie apocalypse - in fact, feel free to unload your soon-to-be-worthless dollars on me - but you're not entitled to your own facts or to project the irrationality of your views on to me.  I'm not proposing we leave Earth, just that we add more places and more resources to the human repertoire.  There is no downside to doing so, because you know damn well the money "saved" from not doing so would not be devoted to saving "the" planet while everything learned from surviving on other planets would be directly applicable to making this one more livable.

                            Just give it up already.  No one is going to stop building the future because you tell them it's pointless.  

                            Everything there is to know about the GOP: They're the Bad Guys.

                            by Troubadour on Wed Sep 12, 2012 at 01:22:57 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  More ad hominem (0+ / 0-)

                            I'm in favor of increased funding for research in basic science generally -- basic biology (as opposed to biomedical areas) are severely underfunded, and I'm favor of increased spending on robotic planetary exploration and astronomy.

                            If I wanted to play the ad hominem game, I could say that you "obviously don't understand economics", because in your "analysis" of market responses to decreasing arable land, you took economic concepts that apply at best to small local perturbations around an equilibrium and applied them to a global stability problem: what happens if large tracts of the planet become unsuitable for agriculture over socially short time scales?

                          •  Human population of Antarctica in 2012 (0+ / 0-)

                            "There are no permanent human residents, but anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 people reside throughout the year at the research stations scattered across the continent. "

                            And this is after a century of exploration and good sea and even air transportation... where are the teeming millions of permanent migrants?

                  •  We are indeed standing on the shoulders of giants! (1+ / 0-)
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              •  And one of those adaptive capabilities, (0+ / 0-)

                which is currently a moral and political hot potato could come in to play if there is any threat to total homo sapien extinction.

                We already have the capability to selectively combine, donor egg nucleus, with different donor mitochondria, and a sperm.

                It's within the realm of possibility that if the survival of a species is at stake it becomes not only acceptable but imperative to use cloning to sample a large number of  combinations and use artificial natural selection to choose known properties, then release adult organisms into specific environments to "naturally select" which ones can adapt.

                We already know that monoculture will REDUCE long term survival so I think selection for a single superhuman species will not become a goal.  I think that preservation of genetic diversity will remain a highly valued store of adaptability, even if the exact reasons change.

            •  You might like to read Jonathan Weiner's (0+ / 0-)

              book, "The Beak of the Finch"

              The book chronicles some biologists from Princeton, who over more than 25 years took down detailed measurements in the Galapagos Islands.

              Among their discoveries, they recorded the emergence of a new species of finch, (which is natural selection in action, accumulating a large number of measurable changes in only 25 generations).

              They also assembled a convincing explanation why there are some giant species of other animals down there.  Just one aspect of the story is that when the weather is great and times are flush, many different body sizes and features  thrive, but in the occasional multi-year droughts that occur on the islands, the animals with the largest body sizes are the last to starve.

              Observations like that make me think it's quite plausible that a distinct species of humans could emerge in as few as 500 years and co-exist with homo sapiens.

        •  We need to get some L5 installations up soon. The (3+ / 0-)
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          Troubadour, Odysseus, kyril

          research and manufacturing to support them are going to be needed and the sooner the better as the climate changes take hold.

          Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

          by FarWestGirl on Tue Sep 11, 2012 at 07:48:36 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  We're never going to *need* (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            kyril, FarWestGirl

            space travel due to climate change - it would always be easier to just build enclosed habitats on Earth than on other worlds or in space.  But the experience gained from living and operating in space will teach us a lot about how to manage both artificial and natural environments that will improve the quality of life on Earth in many ways.  

            Everything there is to know about the GOP: They're the Bad Guys.

            by Troubadour on Tue Sep 11, 2012 at 07:52:08 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Sorry, I wasn't clear, I didn't mean that we (0+ / 0-)

              needed L5 for population pressures or preservation.  I do think that some diaspora is important for species survival in the long term, but the research, mining and manufacturing potential, as well as maintaining the momentum of an interest and funding for space while we still have the tech capacity to achieve such things is important. It's worrisome that we're losing capacities for heavy lift and other technical capabilities, I sincerely hope that the privatization does end up making space cheaper and more accessible.

              Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

              by FarWestGirl on Wed Sep 12, 2012 at 07:39:08 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

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