Unification News for February 2005
January 23, 2005
In the previous article we discussed how crowded this planet Earth is becoming. Ideally, children should be raised amidst nature, yet rural areas only remain because almost everyone prefers to live in cities. Humanity needs more room! Fortunately, new worlds beckon. An earlier version of this article appeared in 1997.
Astronomers have found more than one hundred planets around other stars. So far they're all big ones, Jupiter-sized and larger. No one knows whether any of those solar systems bear life. We still haven't found any civilized aliens out there. Humankind may settle on the Moon, and then Mars. Eventually, millions could dwell there. Once settlers get established, those worlds could fill up quickly. To really have enough room, we'll need to expand into the galaxy. Trouble is, the stars are immensely far away. How far? It takes several days to drive a car across the United States. The Apollo spaceships reached the Moon in several days. But it took years for the Cassini probe to reach Saturn. Yet Saturn is nearby, compared to the stars. The fastest existing probes, the Pioneers and Voyagers, would take tens of thousands of years to reach the nearest star, several light years distant. (They are aimed in a different direction.) Presumably, we'd like to complete such a journey within our own lifetime. Past explorations were carried out by hardy pioneers, as were the first jet and space flights. (As depicted in the novel and film The Right Stuff.) It wasn't long before air travel became routine. Soon, space will be opened to regular travel. The successors to Burt Rutan's amazing Space Ship One will likely provide the means. However, those private ships (also NASA's troubled space shuttles) can only reach low Earth orbit, a mere fraction of the way to the Moon. Better ships must be built for routine flights there, much less to the Sun's other planets.
Enthusiastic scientists are already planning genuine starships. Most of the starships in popular fiction depend upon imaginary propulsion systems, such as 'warp drive,' that might as well be sheer magic. The actual plans take many forms. Most would accelerate a craft to a substantial fraction of the speed of light, and still their journeys will take years. The first starship might be unmanned: a tiny, swift Starwisp. Or crewed: a fusion-driven Daedalus. Even a populous space ark: a lumbering O'Neill Colony. Several web sites have good information. (See, www.centauri-dreams.org) The universe has a built-in speed limit, the speed of light itself. Nothing material can reach, much less exceed, that velocity. The universe does provide one helpful advantage, first taught by Einstein, called time dilation. Crudely put, the faster you go, the slower time passes. Above 90% of lightspeed, time 'slows' dramatically. A voyage of a century might seem like only a year, but back home, the full time would pass. Such voyages would require true pioneers. The first starships will be risky, and the cost enormous. Nothing but wilderness would await their lonely crew. Similar objections were raised when Christopher Columbus headed across the Atlantic Ocean. He took tiny ships on a long and arduous voyage, with no assurance as to their eventual landfall. Columbus didn't imagine that, five centuries later, jumbo jets would routinely fly thousands of people across the Atlantic, in a matter of hours. Or that bustling cities like New York would receive them. The best starship plans are entirely realistic. Any computer-company billionaire could, if he wished, invest a portion of his wealth to back such a venture. What a legacy! There might even be better ways. Many science fiction writers posit a 'jump' technology that allows spaceships to leap across huge distances in an instant. Best of all would be a 'stargate,' a doorway that directly connects distant locations. (Theoretical physicists call it an 'EPR bridge.') It is said that the gap between the stars is too great. We shall see.
Our Earth is covered by the works of humanity. Graded road and rail beds, dams, mines, and canals leave marks that can be seen from orbit. Metal and wooden pole lines crisscross the landscape. Factories and power plants occupy, and often pollute, large areas. Farms require vast acreage. Need a new world be scarred in this way? No! Technology will enable its settlers to dispense with all those things. Many Third World nations are already leaping ahead, installing cellular phone systems instead of wires. Flying cars, perhaps hydrogen powered, will be common. Graceful, elevated trains, speeding along on magnetic cushions, will carry passengers and freight between cities. These could supplant surface roads almost entirely. Prodigious energy, whether from fusion or some other compact source, will be needed to power a starship. That same source will also power the new worlds, so pole lines will never be strung. Such energy could distill fresh water directly from the seas, and pipe it, deep underground, across great distances. Dams and canals will not be so important. Robotic fabrication, perhaps nanotechnology, will bring clean, versatile manufacturing into homes and business. Large factories will only be needed for special purposes. Bulk facilities like warehouses could be located underground, as is already done in several cities. Genetic engineering will allow robust, customized food to be grown anywhere. Huge, commercial farms and ranches would be nearly obsolete. Hopefully, there are many verdant planets. If only a few are found, humans could alter themselves to live on harsher worlds. Gills to live underwater, special organs to neutralize alien toxins, blood that endures intense heat or cold; the possibilities are endless. There are ways to make more room. Asteroids, which are numerous, could be converted into orbiting colonies, each housing thousands. Barren planets could be 'terraformed.' Robots could go on ahead to begin that work. Ultimately, a star's Jupiter-sized planets could be dismantled, and a Ringworld, or even a Dyson Sphere, built from their substance. Those fantastic constructions would encircle a star, their entire inner surface made habitable. The living area would equal millions of Earths!
Human society will have a fresh chance as well. To usurp an old communist term, Earth societies host countless 'parasitic' individuals and occupations. Investments, advertising, and art can help a free society flourish. Bloated bureaucracies, violent criminals, and financial skimmers contribute less than nothing. Does that imply a planet-load of workaholics? Hardly! I've had some interesting discussions with science fiction writers, about how humanity might spend its time (and feel its worth), once clever robots are doing all the work. True Father speaks of an ideal 'hobby culture,' and we'd have many great places to realize it. Such paradises will be popular destinations. What agency would provide transit to the new worlds? Today, many nations are embroiled in border arguments. Who, if anyone, would regulate interstellar emigration? No doubt every nation, company, specialized organization, and visionary religion, will feel that they are best qualified. If there are many new worlds, all those entities will probably have a chance. But if, at least initially, there are only a few available planets, this could be a source of great contention. Wealthy people might want the utilize best places, and penal systems the worst. The initial landings will be tightly organized exploratory parties. The first colonists will be scientists and pioneers, too busy to quibble. Soon enough their populations will grow, and various factions (in the broadest sense of that term) will arise. Each colony, or settled world, will have unique conditions, and differing inclinations. They will be starting with a clean slate. Internally, there will be no Providential history to replay. Externally, rival castes and cliques can be left behind. The opportunities for manifest wisdom will be great. Opposite this, familiar tragedies could unfold. (Read Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars series.)
Will this new chapter of history be a triumph or a tragedy? Spiritual restoration must take place first. The science mentioned above could be turned into weaponry. An unbraked lightspeed ship, impacting a planet, would shatter continents. Chlorine-metabolizing organisms, let loose in an ocean, would convert the salt into poisonous gas. Nanotech devices could inflict bizarre tortures. Everyone hopes that humanity will export its best to the stars. In this regard, we Unificationists have our own special dreams. Perhaps our children will have an opportunity to fulfill them.
by Paul Carlson
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