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Post 28 Feb 2015, 12:47 am

At any rate, did people in 1955, Clarke included, believe that there was an atmosphere and possibly flora on the Moon? (Possibly?)
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Post 28 Feb 2015, 3:52 am

It would cost more to spin? Like, how much more?


No of course not, although it probably would cost more overall because it would need more complicated control systems etc. The extra cost comes about because a spinning space station to create artificial Gs is completely pointless unless it's a lot bigger than the tin cans we currently send into orbit. The vast bulk of the costs involved in space comes from getting significant payloads out of the gravity well. The more mass that you want to put up in the space the greater the expense.

At any rate, did people in 1955, Clarke included, believe that there was an atmosphere and possibly flora on the Moon? (Possibly?)


No, of course they didn't.
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Post 28 Feb 2015, 7:15 pm

Funny, because the way that he describes an "atmosphere" and "little plants" almost like they did. Perhaps he mentioned they were beginning to terraform it or something and I missed that? You would think also that Clarke, with his knowledge of astronomy and physics, would have known that Venus, because of where it is, is impossible to build a colony on, as is Mercury. Of course, these were the days when even the best telescopes showed the Galilean moons of Jupiter as tiny dots at most, and they hadn't a clue what was on them; at least until the Voyager probes revealed what they were really like.

Yeah I didn't think so, that's why the description surprised me...

Danivon, by the way, I've revisited Childhood's End, since Earthlight is getting a little boring. I keep thinking "when's the bloody war going to start and what friggin' weapons are they going to use???"
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Post 04 Mar 2015, 6:47 pm

Which ones have you read Sassenach? of Clarke? I know you said Stephenson was better, SF-wise, and the others you suggested. I'm just curious. [or....maybe you did say already and I just now went right over it.]

I might have mentioned I read all four "odyssey" books. 3001 I admit was not spectacular but I did not think it was terrible as some readers have expressed their discontent with it. Ditto for 2061, Odyssey Three.

You know I wonder if 2001 has been banned from libraries in some public schools, in more "conservative" (or perhaps more neanderthal---I hate libraries banning books it's so stupid, it's like the Church in the f***** Middle Ages, kind of childishness) school districts.

After all, instead of God having created the Human Race, it's a machine (the Monolith) constructed by a race of highly-advanced aliens that made the monkeys (apes, whatever) smart by probing their heads so they'd think "Hey, if I can take this thick bone and beat the shit out of one of the wildebeests, I can eat its flesh and therefore survive! happy days! and while I"m at it I'll beat the living crap out of the other tribe of ape-men trying to steal our watering hole! Yay!"

That definitely sounds like a recipe for a banned book in Texas, or some sort of red state.

Well OK, that's a bit hypothetical. It seems out of the ones I now have, Childhood's End is the oldest (1953) and Earthlight was next (1955).

One wonders how far away from our current abilities they thought we would be in 1953. I think they hadn't even invented the hydrogen bomb, speaking of which, until what, 1957?

And have you ever heard of Project Orion?
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Post 05 Mar 2015, 9:24 am

I think they hadn't even invented the hydrogen bomb, speaking of which, until what, 1957?


The first was tested in 1952, but this is obviously misleading as the concept would have been known and understood for several years prior to that.

Yes, I've heard of Orion. No real surprise that one never got off the ground. Can you imagine the protests ?
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Post 05 Mar 2015, 10:17 am

[Sorry, long-ish post].

I don't think protests would have been necessary to derail Orion. The very thought of the first "push" being from the ground is insane. You'd have to use a really, really small tactical nuke, and the spacecraft would have to be at the top of a launch tower much higher than the Empire State Building for the first detonation. And even then, the astronauts, God rest their souls, would likely still be burnt to a crisp or, in the very least, suffer fatal doses of radiation poisoning.

I once heard of a design for an "atomic hand grenade". I put this in the same category....

However, if you had a spacecraft already built in space that would be different. Regular, chemical "booster" rockets could take it from high Earth orbit, to a "safe distance" from the Earth ("safe" as in far enough away from our plethora of orbiting satellites that the EMP wouldn't fry their circuitry...or turn the satellite into dust--see first paragraph). Then, once the spacecraft was at launch point, go nuts on the nuclear bombs and pray the engineers thought of everything.

I saw this documentary called Evacuate Earth in which a neutron star fragment or whatever was coming towards the solar system and we had 75 years warning, during which time we could build a spaceship to preserve the human race by carrying 250,000 humans, on a 70+ year journey to the nearest star system we were "pretty sure" had a planet orbiting it in the "goldilocks zone" and was probably habitable (if we were wrong, well, oops...)

Also, they didn't explain how it would SLOW DOWN once it got there. But it used the technology from project Orion. They would have to build almost thousands of new nuclear warheads (the current ones sitting dormant in missile silos just wouldn't do) and shoot them out of the aft of the spacecraft, a bunch of them, once every three seconds, for like....a few days. That would accelerate the ship to a "respectable percentage" (they said seven per cent) of the speed of light.

Just had that on my mind, now that you mentioned it. :P

So at any rate....

Like I said I'm waiting and waiting for the damn war to begin in Earthlight, and I'm on chapter seven (which would have been practically unthinkable to me a month or two ago so...happy days! [I just hope it lasts!]). Anyway: This agent from "Central Intelligence" isn't exactly James Bond. I think if, by chapter ten, they don't start making nuclear weapons again, or start invading the lunar colony inn spacesuits and breaking some China, I may abandon the thing, at least for now. Like I said I downloaded/purchased Childhood's End as per Danivon's suggestion. I didn't like it when I read the "sample" on my Kindle (I prefer a Kindle to a Kindle app, much in the way that I have always preferred paper books to a Kindle). But maybe it'll be more interesting than I thought if I stick with it for a while (which I can now do :)

BTW do you think it was terribly, terribly stupid for NASA to put those "recordings" on the Voyager probes, complete with the location of Earth in some sort of diagram? I do. As it was stupid to send a message to that star that was discovered a few years ago to have a planet in the Goldilocks Zone that may have water and oxygen.

Besides, as my father noted, they could fall into the hands of the Empire...
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Post 05 Mar 2015, 10:29 am

It would slow down the same way that it sped up. Just fire some chemical rockets to flip it round and then shoot a bunch more nukes out of the back end to decelerate again.

Strictly speaking a launch from the ground wouldn't be a problem if the ship was big enough. You'd need a base plate about the size of a football field but if you throw enough nukes at it then it'll shift. Can't imagine it being terribly popular with the locals though...

BTW do you think it was terribly, terribly stupid for NASA to put those "recordings" on the Voyager probes, complete with the location of Earth in some sort of diagram? I do. As it was stupid to send a message to that star that was discovered a few years ago to have a planet in the Goldilocks Zone that may have water and oxygen.


I doubt it'll matter. Voyager will have to travel for thousands of years before it hits another star system and by that point all it's electronics will long since have died (if they haven't already) and it'll just be one more bit of small space debris that will most likely pass by completely unnoticed.
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Post 05 Mar 2015, 2:06 pm

Well, the gigantic gold record---pitted to represent ones and zeros just like a DVD or old record---contains the goodies: "Greetings from the President of the United States...Hello from the Secretary-General of the United Nations" etc....a sampling of our music, our languages, pictures and videos of Earth, etc. One of the songs is, in fact, "I can't get no Satisfaction" by Rolling Stones. This does not depend on electrical power to retain its information. So I imagine that, if humans of the 19th century technology and knowledge can decipher the Rosetta Stone (and read Egyptian hieroglyphs written thousands of years before our time from a deceased civilization), then it would not stretch my imagination to believe that a civilization out there, hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of years ahead of us in advancement can decipher a gigantic, gold DVD-like...thingy.

There were Nobel prize winning physicists and astronomers who, at the time, said that was not a good idea. Stephen Hawking is of this opinion, apparently. And also that radio message we sent to Gliese-[whatever #] that is 12 LY distant (or something like that, I can't remember exactly but it's not too far), IMHO is the worst idea since Abraham Lincoln said to Mrs Lincoln "Darling, I'm bored, let's take in a show tonight." Again, a portion of the eggheads concur (though just in case certain somebod[ies] duck [their] head[s] into this thread, I must attach the standard disclaimer of anecdotal support, only.)

Yes, it could slow down that way. Or it could have TWO pusher plates, one for speeding up and one for slowing down.

But what I want to know is, what about the HOLES in the pusher plate, or in its center, where the nukes are shooting out of? It would have to be exactly where you do not want holes, as they would defeat one of the two purposes of the pusher plate in the first place (1. cause the spaceship to accelerate due to the shock waves from the nukes; 2. protect the entire rest of the ship from....uh....nuclear bombs going off in proximity of the spacecraft.)

OK, not a scientist, but I do not see this being done successfully from the ground. I cannot imagine all the "eggheads" agreed on this one. At least, I would hope not. The heavier (or more massive) the ship the bigger the first nuclear bomb[s] being set off on the ground to get it going. The bigger the nukes, the......you get the idea.

Do you get NETFLIX or something similar in the UK? It is an American documentary and as I said it is called Evacuate Earth. A neutron star is hurtling toward the solar system, making lots of nasty shit bump into the Earth and the rest of the solar system. We have 75 years of warning to get a quarter of a million people the hell out of dodge.

Which (typical of an ADHD brain) reminds me of another flick, Dr. Strangelove. The president is saying "Gee, I'd hate to have to decide who gets to go down [into the fallout-free mines] and who has to stay up." and Strangelove (one of those German scientists likely brought over via Operation PAPERCLIP) says "It would not be difficult, Mein Fuhrer....oops, I mean, Mr President. I t could be accomplished with a computer. And with a ratio of say, 10 females to each male, I estimate we would return to the present gross national product within 20 years!"

They cover that in the documentary, as 250,000 is a pitiful fraction of 7 billion-ish. But of course, even though the spaceship could initially hold much greater than that amount, there'd have to be living space for the next two generations who would live on board. Because the Journey to Barnard's Star (the one they found with a possibly habitable planet 12 LY away) would take about 70 years at 7% or so of the speed of light.

Ok.....but I was just hoping there would be a lunar colony within my lifetime. And I do not care if it is Chinese as long as they are a democracy by then. [The Chinese have sworn to make a lunar landing of their own by 2025 or 2030 or something like that but it could just be the bravado of the Communist Party elites.]

Exactly, what would be involved in "terraforming" Mars? any idea how one terraforms a planet; or turns a piece of crappy cosmic real estate into a fixer-upper, and then tart it up for the galactic real estate agents?
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Post 05 Mar 2015, 2:31 pm

The only thing they have on the moon that would justify a permanent colony is helium 3, and this is just a substance that has a theoretical value if we crack the technological challenge of mass fusion power, which doesn't look like happening anytime soon. Mars has even less commercial value than the moon. As such I don't really see us bothering to spend the trillions of dollars it would need to terraform the place. It'll happen eventually no doubt, but not in our lifetimes. I can see there being a manned mission at some point in the next 20 years though.

They use an Orion system to launch a craft from the Earth surface in the Niven and Pournelle novel called Footfall, written sometime in the 70s. I don't really want to reveal the reasons for why this was necessary though, in case you ever get round to reading the book. Great read, but fundamentally ludicrous.
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Post 05 Mar 2015, 2:52 pm

heh, sorry to be picking your brains so much but it seems to me you know more on this subject than me. Which, being a recreational astronomer (kind of half-a$$ed recreational astronomer) I really ought to know stuff like this.

I have a really nice telescope but it requires some legerdemain to set up and "align"---it is a "go to" telescope, which uses a power source, not a simple push to where you're looking and hope you find something-type. (I am wondering if I ought to have bought the latter).
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Post 05 Mar 2015, 6:27 pm

JimHackerMP wrote:I have a really nice telescope but it requires some legerdemain to set up and "align"---it is a "go to" telescope, which uses a power source, not a simple push to where you're looking and hope you find something-type. (I am wondering if I ought to have bought the latter).

Oh that's always such an impossible decision, so many trade offs in the end.
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Post 05 Mar 2015, 11:15 pm

Exactly, what would be involved in "terraforming" Mars? any idea how one terraforms a planet; or turns a piece of crappy cosmic real estate into a fixer-upper, and then tart it up for the galactic real estate agents?


Well I'm obviously not an expert on this stuff, but I have read a few ideas. The core problem is the fact that Mars has a very thin atmosphere almost entirely comprised of carbon dioxide. This needs to be thickened so as to create a greenhouse effect which could heat up the planet. There's plenty of water on Mars but it's mostly all frozen at the poles, so this would need to be melted somehow. I've seen various fanciful ideas touted for this. One idea is that we'd bombard the planet with massive snowballs (asteroids with a high water ice and ammonia content). These would be captured further out, accelerated to a very high relative velocity and set on an intercept course for Mars. The amount of energy they'd release on impact would raise the planetary temperature by a few degrees and they'd also bring valuable water and other elements with them which could then be released into the atmosphere. Another idea is to build huge orbital mirrors which could focus the energy of the sun at the poles and heat them up enough to melt some of the ice there, releasing water vapour and trapped gases into the atmosphere. A third, probably more realistic idea is to simply build a load of automated factories on Mars to pump out oxygen into the atmosphere and gradually thicken it. This could possibly be done in conjunction with releasing specially designed bacteria to breathe the CO2 and convert it to oxygen. All of these ideas would take decades at best, but more likely centuries.
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Post 08 Mar 2015, 12:02 am

I heard about releasing bacteria, yeah. And that that would take...well, quite a while. A lot of time we likely do not have.

Think we can really terraform Mars in time, or at least prepare Mars for receipt of at least a few millions of the Earth's population (at the absolute positive MOST) by, say, 2050? Just a guess...with the increase in the world's population, we might have to start thinking of that.
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Post 08 Mar 2015, 2:33 am

No, not really. Mass population transfers are wholly impractical and any attempt to terraform Mars will take a very long time and likely encompass multiple generations. The best we could hope for is the establishment of some self-sustaining human colonies on Mars, but even this promises to be very difficult.
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Post 08 Mar 2015, 3:02 am

That's what I figured. I have more to say on that but for right now I need to stick to a quick question about ACC again.

the Question: supposedly, Against the Fall of Night and The City and the Stars are both the same novel, but one is an "update" of the other. Clarke apparently wrote both, and each has equal popularity, both the original, and his revision.

Have you guys read either? And which one is actually better?