Field Notes of a Cosmic Anthropologist

"The universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine." - J. B. S. Haldane

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He wouldn’t hit golf balls like the American astronauts. He would squeeze out rhythms from a talking drum into the blackness between the stars. These were the drums of war and death, of celebration, the drums that had bonded the towns of his homeland over centuries in tonal communication… He would bind the stars with the drums. There would be dancing.
— Nigerians in Space

(Source: afrocyberpunk.com)

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In personal journals Butler admits Olamina is an idealized self, her “best self” — and the poetry that drives the Earthseed religion actually mirrors the style of the daily affirmations, self-help sloganeering, and even self-hypnosis techniques Butler used to keep herself focused and on-task.

The ultimate expression of “shaping God,” the culmination of human historical achievement Olamina calls “the Destiny,” likewise seems to parallel Butler’s deep-rooted psychological investment in science fictional speculation, which dates back to her childhood:

“The destiny of Earthseed,” Olamina prophesies, “is to take root among the stars.”


The two published Earthseed books trace the tribulations of Olamina’s early life and her efforts to find some safe space for her nascent utopian community in the desperate and increasingly fascistic America of the coming decades. But the last chapter of Talents skips ahead to the end of the story: jumping forward six decades, the epilogue sees a very aged Olamina, now world-famous, witnessing the launch of the first Earthseed ship carrying interstellar colonists off the planet as she’d dreamed.

Only the name of the spaceship gives us pause: against Olamina’s wishes the ship has been named the Christopher Columbus, suggesting that perhaps the Earthseeders aren’t escaping the nightmare of history at all, but bringing it with them instead.

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The future of Congress has been on our minds.

Recently, we considered how advances in technology and data analysis can and will change the way legislators do their work. There are places that are pushing the envelope in this arena. In Brazil official state hackers are building apps, games and data visualizations to help Brazilians – and the members of Parliament – understand the legislative process. In Finland, they are trying legal reform through crowdsourcing – literally turning the legislative process over to the people.

There’s one other place we wanted to explore for ideas about the future and politics – Mars.

Author Kim Stanley Robinson is probably best known for a trilogy of novels called “Red Mars,” “Green Mars” and “Blue Mars.” Their story follows the first human colony on the Red Planet, from scientific outpost through growing villages and cities, to political revolutions, independence from Earth, and a new constitution.

Science fiction is like a big sandbox of ideas in science and technology, but also in culture, politics, and governance. “Lincoln’s great sentence, ‘government of the people, for the people, by the people, shall not perish from the Earth,’ is a utopian science fiction story because it’s in future tense,” Robison says. “We do science fiction all the time in stating our political goals and then acting on them.”

A broad theme in Robinson’s work is tinkering with Mars to make it more hospitable to human life. He’s concocted a Martian constitution where the environment itself is an acknowledged stakeholder that has rights.

As his characters embark on this massive experiment, two factions emerge: those who believe that it is right and good for humans to manipulate and change the planet as much as they like, and those who believe the wild Martian environment should be protected. Sound familiar?

In this case, Robinson’s work is more about NOW than the future. He uses his science fiction to express a clear point of view on issues such as climate change. As far as he is concerned, we are actually in a better position to protect earth than his characters are on Mars.

This week on the DecodeDC podcast, it’s the future of Congress from about as far outside the Beltway as you can get.

Special thanks to Jeremy Stursberg for his original music in this week’s podcast.

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Eventually, commercial moon landers may help carry a diverse library of cultural and biological records to the lunar surface, where they would be preserved in case Earth suffers a pandemic plague, nuclear holocaust or lethal asteroid strike.

The first artefacts to shoot for the moon could be three religious and philosophical texts. The Torah on the Moon project, based in Tel Aviv, Israel, has been courting private firms to deliver a handwritten Jewish scroll, the Sefer Torah, to the lunar surface. If they succeed, later flights will carry Hindu scriptures called the Vedas and the ancient Chinese philosophical work, the I-Ching.

Each document will be housed in a space-ready capsule designed to protect it from harsh radiation and temperature changes on the moon for at least 10,000 years.


The texts would join a Bible left on the moon in 1971 by Apollo 15 commander David Scott. The red leather Bible sits on the control console of an Apollo moon buggy.


“I don’t think these religions are claiming the moon. It’s about saving our culture, saving the humanities,” says Naveen Jain, CEO of the California-based X Prize hopeful Moon Express.

Jain thinks future projects should find a representative sample of humanity, perhaps a million people, take their DNA and store it on the moon. “So in case of an asteroid strike that wipes us out like the dinosaurs, humanity can be saved.”

Jain’s idea may become a reality: New Scientist has learned that a UK-based venture is quietly developing a mission to store human, animal and plant genomes on the moon – although flaws in this plan are turning up in seed banks on Earth (see “Banked seeds are plants out of time”).

Such off-planet backup missions are proliferating, says Joanne Wheeler, a lawyer specialising in space issues at CMS Cameron McKenna in London. “There are several missions planned to put religious and spiritual icons on the moon and also to preserve some trace of humanity on it,” she says.

Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins says that the moon could even become a “cosmic tombstone” if humans become extinct.

"We should be using it to store the best humanity has ever had to offer, like the works of Michelangelo, Beethoven, Schubert and Shakespeare," he says.


Meanwhile, Roger Launius at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC thinks it apt that such space flight projects should be tied to religion, because space flight advocacy itself has many of the hallmarks of a religion. “There is salvation theology, in that they believe the human race will be saved by space flight’s ability to make us a multi-planetary species,” he says. “And we have pilgrimages at gatherings like launches, which are like a euphoric religious experience.”

permalink The results support the idea that primitive life might have possibly arisen on the icy moon. Scientists say that places where water and rock interact are important for the development of life; for example, it’s possible life began on Earth in bubbling vents on our sea floor.

Prior to the new study, Ganymede’s rocky sea bottom was thought to be coated with ice, not liquid — a problem for the emergence of life. The “club sandwich” findings suggest otherwise: the first layer on top of the rocky core might be salty water.

"This is good news for Ganymede," said Vance. "Its ocean is huge, with enormous pressures, so it was thought that dense ice had to form at the bottom of the ocean. When we added salts to our models, we came up with liquids dense enough to sink to the sea floor."

…

The results can be applied to exoplanets too, planets that circle stars beyond our sun. Some super-Earths, rocky planets more massive than Earth, have been proposed as “water worlds” covered in oceans. Could they have life? Vance and his team think laboratory experiments and more detailed modeling of exotic oceans might help find answers.

Ganymede is one of five moons in our solar system thought to support vast oceans beneath icy crusts. The other moons are Jupiter’s Europa and Callisto and Saturn’s Titan and Enceladus.

The results support the idea that primitive life might have possibly arisen on the icy moon. Scientists say that places where water and rock interact are important for the development of life; for example, it’s possible life began on Earth in bubbling vents on our sea floor.

Prior to the new study, Ganymede’s rocky sea bottom was thought to be coated with ice, not liquid — a problem for the emergence of life. The “club sandwich” findings suggest otherwise: the first layer on top of the rocky core might be salty water.

"This is good news for Ganymede," said Vance. "Its ocean is huge, with enormous pressures, so it was thought that dense ice had to form at the bottom of the ocean. When we added salts to our models, we came up with liquids dense enough to sink to the sea floor."

The results can be applied to exoplanets too, planets that circle stars beyond our sun. Some super-Earths, rocky planets more massive than Earth, have been proposed as “water worlds” covered in oceans. Could they have life? Vance and his team think laboratory experiments and more detailed modeling of exotic oceans might help find answers.

Ganymede is one of five moons in our solar system thought to support vast oceans beneath icy crusts. The other moons are Jupiter’s Europa and Callisto and Saturn’s Titan and Enceladus.

(Source: spacedaily.com)

permalink fuckyeahdarkextropian:

highlights from Report From Iron Mountain: on the possibility and desirability of peace

When you put it this way Star Trek is damn right utopic. Our continuing mission… to distract the human race from its innate desire for self-destruction. And with some luck, grow up in the process.

fuckyeahdarkextropian:

highlights from Report From Iron Mountain: on the possibility and desirability of peace

When you put it this way Star Trek is damn right utopic.

Our continuing mission… to distract the human race from its innate desire for self-destruction. And with some luck, grow up in the process.

permalink fuckyeahdarkextropian:

Obadiah Stane has some thoughts… of a dark nature. Of the cosmos and ambition.

fuckyeahdarkextropian:

Obadiah Stane has some thoughts… of a dark nature. Of the cosmos and ambition.

permalink Rocket, Meteor, and Milky Way over Thailand 

Rocket, Meteor, and Milky Way over Thailand 

(Source: apod.nasa.gov)