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Wanderers: An Introduction 
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Post Wanderers: An Introduction
The introduction, and actually the whole book, centers around the thesis that it is in our species best interest to continue to be wanderers. Carl points to the fact that for most of human history we were hunters and gatherers, traveling from one place to the next, always in search of a more suitable climate or greener pastures or supply of prey.

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This zest to explore and exploit, however thoughtless its agents may have been, has clear survival value. It is not restricted to any one nation or ethinic group. It is an endowment that all members of the human species hold in common.
Our future lies in space and the colonization of other worlds. This I'm sure of. I liken limiting our habitat to just planet Earth to putting all our eggs in one basket. To be certain, the day will soon come when this planet can no longer support our species exponential population growth. If we do not continue to wander and explore...we are doomed. Just like great floods or volcanos of the past wiped out entire societies, a mass extinction event such as a global nuclear war, meteor strike, or plague could wipe out the entire human species. Our only chance of survival would be to have a thriving and self-sufficient community on another world.

Chris

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Tue May 04, 2004 8:16 pm
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Post Re: Wanderers: An Introduction
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These days there seems to be nowhere left to explore, at least on the land area of the Earth. Victims of their very success, the explorers now pretty much stay home.

"The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them"



Tue May 04, 2004 9:44 pm
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Post Re: Wanderers: An Introduction
I agree completely; the future of our species is in outer space. Even after we colonize some of our 'sibling' planets, our eggs will still be in the same solar basket. We'll be needing to explore and expand farther out.




Tue May 04, 2004 10:06 pm
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Post Re: Wanderers: An Introduction
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No one on Earth, not the richest amond us, can afford the passage; so we can't pick up and leave for Mars or Titan on a whim, or because we're bored, or out of work, or drafted into the army, or oppressed, or because, justly or unjustly, we've been accused of a crime. There does not seem to be sufficient short-term profit to motivate private industry. If we humans ever go to these worlds, then, it will be because a nation or a consortium of them believes it to be to its advantage -- or to the advantage of the human species. Just now, there are a great many matters pressing in on us that compete for the money it takes to send people to other worlds.
Sagan concludes the Introduction with a sense of optimism for our species, which I, unfortunately, do not share. While I feel we have unlimited potential, and could reach the stars quite literally, we are dramatically hindered by our own ignorance, short-sightedness, and selfishness. Not enough people understand the problems facing humanity in the not too distant future. The minority that do understand and care are not enough to make a difference.

Perhaps I will be proven wrong, but I think my theory might be validated right in this forum. I predict that we will see posts about the need to solve our current problems before we worry about exploring other worlds. "Why should we spend money on traveling to Mars when there are people starving...."

There will always be starving people and war, oppression, and problems. Howard Bloom's "The Lucifer Principle," my all-time favorite non-fiction book, explains that these negatives are a part of natures creative efforts. We will never eliminate them and to wait for it to happen might result in us waiting too long.

Chris

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Tue May 04, 2004 10:11 pm
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Post Re: Wanderers: An Introduction
Tiarella

Eventually we will indeed need to move beyond our solar system. Our sun will one day die. But I think in all practicality we aren't needing to focus on an event that is slated for several billion years from now (I think 4 to 5). Then again...one can never be too prepared! :b Were you referring to the death of our star?

Chris

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Tue May 04, 2004 10:18 pm
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Post Re: Wanderers: An Introduction
:lol The eventual demise of the sun is not the most immediate danger; I was thinking of ourselves. How long would you give it before there's war between the people on Mars, Venus, the asteroid belt, and Earth? Spread farther apart, perhaps humanity will survive long enough to mature.

You can tell I read a goodly bit of sf. :b

edited to add: My fear is that we will destroy ourselves, and perhaps all life on Earth. If we insist on solving our social, economic, and political problems before we engage in space exploration, I fear we are doomed - because we will probably bomb ourselves out of existence before we solve anything.

Edited by: Tiarella at: 5/5/04 1:03 am



Tue May 04, 2004 11:51 pm
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Post Re: Wanderers: An Introduction
I certainly agree we should continue exploring, but disagree on colonization. OK, maybe we'll have science colonies on the moon and Mars, but this will not be a way to save humanity when the Sun becomes a red giant.

In the superb book A Short History of Nearly Everything , Bill Bryson makes a powerful case that humans will never EVER leave the solar system. This is due to distances that are difficult to comprehend. Consider how long it would take us to get to Mars, where the Earth is 1 astronomical unit from the Sun and Mars is about 4 au's if memory serves. Now consider how long it would take to get to Neptune or Pluto which are around 40 to 50 astronomical units and to reach what, planets that offer ammonia ice??? But we haven't left the solar system yet - to get out of the sun's gravity and beyond the Oort cloud would require travelling approximately FIFTY THOUSAND ASTRONOMICAL UNITS! That is completely impossible. Humans will remain in the solar system until it disintegrates...

Edited by: LanDroid at: 5/8/04 10:59 am



Sat May 08, 2004 9:55 am
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Post Re: Wanderers: An Introduction
LanDroid

Quote:
I certainly agree we should continue exploring, but disagree on colonization. OK, maybe we'll have science colonies on the moon and Mars, but this will not be a way to save humanity when the Sun becomes a red giant.
The death of our star is the last of our worries, although it is an inevitable event. We don't have much to worry about for several billion years. Our real concerns are exceeding the carrying capacity of our planet due to exponential population growth, nuclear winter due to global nuclear war, global warming and mass extinction due to acting like assholes and abusing our rain forests, estuaries and waters.

Colonizing the Moon and Mars and other planets is not a means of saving humanity from the death of our star. We must learn to teraform and colonize other worlds so that eventually we can spread out across the cosmos. Our sun will die, but our species will be extinct long before this could ever happen. A meteor could strike at anytime and wipe out the entire planets biosphere. There are numerous ways life could cease to exist on planet Earth that do not entail our sun dying. If our entire species is here on Earth our entire species will be no more. That's my argument for the need for venturing elsewhere. All of our eggs are in one basket, and the basket could slip and fall at anytime.

Quote:
In the superb book A Short History of Nearly Everything , Bill Bryson makes a powerful case that humans will never EVER leave the solar system.
Nonsense. I can throw zillions of examples of where educated and respected people said something cannot be done...and then it was done.

"Whether you think that you can, or that you can't, you are usually right."
- Henry Ford (1863-1947)

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."
- Thomas Watson (1874-1956), Chairman of IBM, 1943

Do you really want to plan our future around the negativity of the nay-sayers?

"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons."
-Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949

"This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us."
-Western Union internal memo, 1876.

"Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value."
-Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre.

"Everything that can be invented has been invented."
-Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899.

"640K ought to be enough for anybody."
- Bill Gates, 1981

So Bill Bryson says, "...humans will never EVER leave the solar system." I'm sure he does and I'm sure he never will. But if we put the best minds together and work on a problem, any problem, we can solve the problem. My opinion is that the masses don't see the value, and won't see the value, until it is far too late. The learning curve and lead-time necessary to develop the technologies of deep space exploration are massive. The means of travel may be via some sort of solar sail or wormhole...who knows. One thing is for certain, and that is that the technology doesn't yet exist. But there was a day when electricity was unknown, computers were a fantasy, and cloning the stuff of science fiction. We have to be diligent in researching and exploring the heavens and the sciences of astronomy, cosmology and physics.

Quote:
"...to get out of the sun's gravity and beyond the Oort cloud would require travelling approximately FIFTY THOUSAND ASTRONOMICAL UNITS! That is completely impossible. Humans will remain in the solar system until it disintegrates...
People said airplanes were impossible. How the hell could something heavier than air fly? Now excuse me please. I have a plane to catch. ;)

Chris

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Sat May 08, 2004 8:48 pm
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Post Re: Wanderers: An Introduction
Tiarella

Quote:
My fear is that we will destroy ourselves, and perhaps all life on Earth. If we insist on solving our social, economic, and political problems before we engage in space exploration, I fear we are doomed - because we will probably bomb ourselves out of existence before we solve anything.
I completely agree. And I don't view it as simply a matter of us destroying our species before we have the chance to solve our problems. I don't think we will ever solve our problems. As long as there is a scarcity of resources, competitive behavior, lack of compassion and empathy, and other such factors, there will be problems. Thinking we will eliminate poverty, oppression and warfare completely is absurd. Animals compete. They don't just compete for food and mating rights, but for respect and prestige.

While we should strive towards peace and stability amongst the peoples of our planet, and preservation of natural resources and delicate ecosystems, we will never achieve it completely. It is impossible and against our very nature as living organisms. So we must face the music and not sit still trying to fix the unfixable. As you stated...we may eventually destroy ourselves. I sure hope we've moved a self-sufficient colony off this rock before that day comes.

Chris

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Sat May 08, 2004 9:15 pm
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Post Re: Wanderers: An Introduction
LanDroid

Bill Bryson is an author of travel books, and not a scientist. Why are you placing so much weight on his words, as opposed to the opinions of people involved in the space program?

Chris

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Sat May 08, 2004 10:04 pm
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Post Re: Wanderers: An Introduction
Quote:
Our real concerns are exceeding the carrying capacity of our planet due to exponential population growth, nuclear winter due to global nuclear war, global warming and mass extinction due to acting like assholes and abusing our rain forests, estuaries and waters.


According to Edward O. Wilson, there is now a trend toward smaller families. As women gain more freedom both socially and economically, they tend toward smaller families. If this trend continues, the global population will peak and level out in the neigbhorhood of 10.7 billion somewhere around 2050. Some think that the fertility rate may fall even more quickly, in which case we might find that level around 9-10 billion.

World production of grain is theoretically enough to feed 10 billion people if they are mostly vegetarian. However, if the population eats much more beef as in the US, that grain production is only enough to feed about 2.5 billion. It takes a lot more grain to feed people if they insist on converting it to beef first. Unfortunately, as other areas of the world experience greater economic development, what do you suppose they want to do?

Karen




Sat May 08, 2004 11:57 pm
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