Yes, We Can and Will Terraform Mars…

Candice eetimes… And Maybe The Moon

A recent paper in Nature has declared that there isn’t enough carbon dioxide to terraform Mars.  Well… DUH !!!  We’ve known that for decades.  But the internet and blogosphere has been beating the drum, some of it rather insulting to those of us who have been contemplating such an endeavor for decades.  But this is a strawman.  Locally available CO2 was never thought to be the primary source of an atmosphere.  Instead, those who have been thinking deeply about the real means of creating a second home for earth life has been to use volatiles from further out in the Solar System.

Back in the early ’90s, my good friend Dr. Joy D. Shaffer, did her own “study” of the problem.  She realized that we could move enough volatiles from Saturn’s rings or from comets.  She did the energy calculations of what it would take to move them in sufficient quantities to provide atmospheric pressure suitable for earthlike conditions on both Mars and Luna.  She envisioned embedding boosters that would mine the chunks of ice and frozen nitrogen as reaction mass to move the material into Mars or Luna low velocity intercepting orbits.  She then made a projection of energy mobilization history since the Industrial Revolution into the future and assumed that we could afford to use 2% of that future energy expenditure to terraform Mars and/or Luna.  She calculated that we would reach that point in only 200 years.

Interestingly, she also calculated the economic cost and energy expenditure needed to launch interstellar ships that would travel at low percentages of C (the speed of light) fast enough to reach the stars in the timeframe suitable for human civilization endurance.  She assumed that humans wouldn’t need to reach high percentages of C to reach the stars and colonize them given that human civilizations, indeed individual organizations, have lifetimes on the order of thousands of years (e.g. 1,600 years since the founding of the present Roman Catholic Church / 2,400 years since the founding of Japan’s Yamato dynasty).  Making these assumptions she calculated that a solar system wide economy could afford to launch star colonizing journeys when our economy had grown sufficient such that the same percentage of gross system product as the United States used to reach the moon during the NASA peak in the 1960s.  Interestingly, that time frame was essentially identical to that needed before we could begin terraforming Mars, about 200 years from now.

This formed the basis for my own thinking in developing the economic and political backdrop to my science fiction novels starting with my first All The Stars Are Suns published last fall.

The Moon Only Comes Out At Night

Candice eetimesWhen I was in my early 20s, I worked at a small electronics company on the factory floor.  Most of the employees were hispanic women on the assembly line.  These were good hearted women for the most part of whom I got along well.

One morning, on my way to work, standing in the parking lot, I marvelled at the absolutely cloudless deep blue sky which formed the back drop for a gibbous waning moon.  It was so lovely that I mentioned it to my coworkers.

“You are mistaken.  The moon only comes out at night,” one of the middle-aged women corrected me.

I was taken aback.  I knew what I saw.  Further, I had seen the moon during the day many times in my life (and often have since).  While the moon at night commands attention, being then the brightest object in the sky, it is clearly visible during the day if viewing conditions (clear of clouds in that part of the sky) permit.  If one knows the current phase of the moon and understands that its orbit is along the ecliptic, one can even predict what part of the sky it will be in at a given time of day, even without an ephemeris, with just a moderate amount of mental visualization.  It astounded me that this woman had never simply observed the sky.

“I can show it to you.  It will only take a minute to go out to the parking lot and I can show it to you.”

“The moon only comes out at night!” was her emphatic reply.  Several other women sagely nodded their heads as they all agreed with her and commented upon my lack of knowledge in spanish, as though I couldn’t understand what they were saying.  (No, I can’t converse in spanish.  But one can catch just enough to know what people are talking about.)

It wasn’t just that she was wrong.  It was her and her coworkers’ unwillingness to test their understanding against objective observable reality.  She didn’t need to test her understanding.  She already knew the truth.

“The moon only comes out at night.”  has become my catch phrase for willful ignorance and arrogant self-assurance.  The actual words may be different, but I’ve been hearing it a lot lately.

“The moon only comes out at night.”

Dark Energy Isn’t

Professor Imous Crank was giving a talk on his latest unpublished paper.  It was of course fully available on his Universe City website but no reputable journal would publish it.  Even the Journal of Irreproducable Results wouldn’t.  But that didn’t stop him from giving his talk.  The lecture hall was nearly empty and those that were there were non-human visitors in with amazing good bioengineered avatars.  The aliens were amazed that Prof. Crank hadn’t actually been able to convince some of his colleagues.  They needn’t have been.  The man had lived up to his name in his dotage.  He had too many ideas that had been proven to be so far-fetched that even his own former students had given up on him.

“So, from this equation we can see that space-time will expand due to the prior expansion of the non-gravitationally bound non-local super-groups exhibiting linear frame dragging from the original vector bosons, gluons, created in the first quintillionth of a second of the Big Bang.  One can think of it as simply following Newton’s second law, this created the inflation of the early universe but that doesn’t explain the acceleration of the expansion we have labeled “Dark Energy” for want of a better or more accurate name.  That comes about due to frame dragging from the later luminous vector bosons.  In other words, as this equation shows, the expansion of the universe is being accelerated by photons and gravitons in the form of intergalactic light and gravitational waves and the universe simply has to make more room so that they can go on forever on their massless journey in the vain hope of reaching the end of the universe… and edge that like Tantalus’s grapes, forever receed.”

It was so simple… yet… physicists would never accept it… knowing it was just another Crank idea.