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Forum » SpaceEngine » Science and Astronomy Discussions » Terraforming (Discussion of terraforming in general)
Terraforming
midtskogenDate: Monday, 11.03.2013, 17:29 | Message # 1
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I don't see any thread discussing terraforming in general, so I make one.

Terraforming means to change a planet so that its atmosphere and surface will resemble Earth and make it more habitable for humans. I can see how this works well in science fiction, but I have some problems how people can discuss this seriously for the real world. I mean, we been spewing things into the air and ocean in quantities that don't belong there naturally, we've taken nearly all land on the planet, and still the atmosphere's composition, pressure and temperature have barely budged or not at all. We have had some success in desertifying some areas, but it has taken 7 billion people and many more domesticated animals to do it. How can anyone think it's realistic to change another planet with a few probes and perhaps a few people, not just slightly but fundamentally in timespans less than millions and millions of years?





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DoctorOfSpaceDate: Monday, 11.03.2013, 19:39 | Message # 2
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That is because we haven't actually been trying to change the Earth, what we have done has shown us that if one were to push it to extremes it would drastically change the environment.

The idea is if you did this on a planet like Mars with intent you could do it within a generation or so and make the planet hospitable for life as we know it. Wiki has a page on terraforming Mars.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terraforming_of_Mars





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TimDate: Monday, 11.03.2013, 19:43 | Message # 3
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If we're able of changing our own atmosphere even by little in just some 150 years, just by accident, I'm sure we'll be able to change entire atmospheres within a few thousand years.

It is not an easy task however, and it won't come cheap.
I believe our technology will be way further evolved and it will come much later after we colonized Mars and the Moon and built mines on nearby asteroids.


Edited by Tim - Monday, 11.03.2013, 19:43
 
midtskogenDate: Monday, 11.03.2013, 19:55 | Message # 4
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Quote (DoctorOfSpace)
That is because we haven't actually been trying to change the Earth, what we have done has shown us that if one were to push it to extremes it would drastically change the environment.

The idea is if you did this on a planet like Mars with intent you could do it within a generation or so and make the planet hospitable for life as we know it.


Man has quite intentionally changed Earth, although not fundamentally, and has been successful. If we had 2000 year old satellite images, you would see some obvious differences. For instance, gone are many of the big forests of central Europe and England intentionally replaced by farmland, land in Florida has been "reclaimed", we've dug canals, built dams, etc. But this has taken a lot of effort and resources that wont be available on a different planet.

And where have you been the last 20 years? I would say that there exists a political if not will then intent to change Earth, aiming for changing about 0.01% of the atmosphere and cooling it slightly, and it doesn't seem to go anywhere.

I'm sure there are ways to change the environment drastically, but that's not the point, is it? It's about changing it into something very specific, not just anything new. Big difference.

So, I still wonder.





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Edited by midtskogen - Monday, 11.03.2013, 19:56
 
DoctorOfSpaceDate: Monday, 11.03.2013, 20:10 | Message # 5
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Quote (midtskogen)
Man has quite intentionally changed Earth, although not fundamentally, and has been successful. If we had 2000 year old satellite images, you would see some obvious differences. For instance, gone are many of the big forests of central Europe and England intentionally replaced by farmland, land in Florida has been "reclaimed", we've dug canals, built dams, etc. But this has taken a lot of effort and resources that wont be available on a different planet.


Who said anything about reworking the ground?

It should be obvious to anyone with even basic analytical skills that I was talking about changing the atmosphere.

Quote (midtskogen)
And where have you been the last 20 years? I would say that there exists a political if not will then intent to change Earth, aiming for changing about 0.01% of the atmosphere and cooling it slightly, and it doesn't seem to go anywhere


dry

Quote (midtskogen)
I'm sure there are ways to change the environment drastically, but that's not the point, is it? It's about changing it into something very specific, not just anything new. Big difference.


Read the wiki link I posted or look up videos and articles on how one would terraform Mars. It is not as hard as you might think.
Not directly about terraforming but both talk about it






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HarbingerDawnDate: Monday, 11.03.2013, 20:36 | Message # 6
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Quote (DoctorOfSpace)
The idea is if you did this on a planet like Mars with intent you could do it within a generation or so and make the planet hospitable for life as we know it.

Not within a generation, no. It would take very much longer than that.

Quote (midtskogen)
I would say that there exists a political if not will then intent to change Earth, aiming for changing about 0.01% of the atmosphere and cooling it slightly

I have never heard of anyone with these goals...

Quote (midtskogen)
But this has taken a lot of effort and resources that wont be available on a different planet.

Aside from biology, Earth does not have any resources that Mars does not have. And effort can be exerted anywhere people choose to exert it.

In case anyone is interested in a slightly more technical read, here is a paper I found a long time ago by Robert Zubrin about what would be needed to terraform Mars. In his paper, he posits that modification of the atmosphere to pressures and temperatures tolerable to life on some regions of Mars could technically be done in 50 years (humans would require breathing gear, but not pressure suits; plants could grow in the open during the warm months). More complete terraforming, however, with an oxygenated atmosphere would take thousands of years (~1000 years for minimum tolerable levels). If you want more technical details on the how-to and the math, you'll have to read the paper.





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midtskogenDate: Monday, 11.03.2013, 20:39 | Message # 7
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Quote (DoctorOfSpace)
Who said anything about reworking the ground?

In my second sentence of the original post: "Terraforming means to change a planet so that its atmosphere and surface ...". For instance, on Mars one major rework of the ground would be to cover large parts of it with water.

Quote (DoctorOfSpace)
Read the wiki link I posted or look up videos and articles on how one would terraform Mars. It is not as hard as you might think.

Dreams and some vague hand gesturing about possible mechanisms is easy. I would like to see the math. For instance, how many and much of these asteroids are needed to seed the atmosphere sufficiently, and then how much energy would be required to push them to Mars within, say 100 years. Then we might begin to talk about how practically one is supposed to bring and apply that energy the intended way in vacuum. Etc. The links and videos tend to focus on the dream part.

Quote (midtskogen)
I have never heard of anyone with these goals...

Well, maybe the no one is brave enough to present a goal of reducing a certain gas form 400 to 300 ppm which should take care of any fear, because it's not realistic, but that's my point. Changing something, even the slightest, in a controlled and intended way is hard.





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Edited by midtskogen - Monday, 11.03.2013, 20:43
 
HarbingerDawnDate: Monday, 11.03.2013, 20:42 | Message # 8
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Quote (midtskogen)
Post #7, paragraph 2

Zubrin addresses all of those topics in the paper I linked smile





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DoctorOfSpaceDate: Monday, 11.03.2013, 20:42 | Message # 9
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Not within a generation, no. It would take very much longer than that.


As I said within a generation or so, and by generation I mean along the lines of 100+ years. I tend to think we could do it faster once we have the means of genetically engineering whatever we choose, through nanobots, and through the manufacturing of metamaterials. Once you have those capabilities reworking an environment within the current human lifespan doesn't seem so farfetched.

Quote (midtskogen)
In my second sentence of the original post: "Terraforming means to change a planet so that its atmosphere and surface ...". For instance, on Mars one major rework of the ground would be to cover large parts of it with water.


Once you start to change the atmosphere of Mars and the temperature goes up, any ground water would be released. No reworking would need to be done for that.





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Edited by DoctorOfSpace - Monday, 11.03.2013, 20:47
 
SpyroDate: Monday, 11.03.2013, 20:45 | Message # 10
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I would love to see a terraformed moon before a terraformed mars, the moon is way closer! But terraformation by itself is breathtaking, isn't it?




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HarbingerDawnDate: Monday, 11.03.2013, 20:46 | Message # 11
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by generation I mean along the lines of 100+ years

That is not a generation nor anything near it, that is a century. This discussion would go more smoothly if everyone would either use words by their established definitions, or failing that specify what exactly they mean.

Quote (Spyro)
I would love to see a terraformed moon before a terraformed mars, the moon is way closer!

Two things: 1) terraforming the Moon is not only much more difficult than terraforming Mars, it is actually nearly impossible on account of the fact that the Moon cannot retain a significant atmosphere because it is too small. 2) The Moon being closer is irrelevant, as that does not make it an easier target for terraforming. You should terraform some place that actually has the characteristics and resources to allow you to do it.





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Edited by HarbingerDawn - Monday, 11.03.2013, 20:49
 
DoctorOfSpaceDate: Monday, 11.03.2013, 21:04 | Message # 12
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Quote (HarbingerDawn)
This discussion would go more smoothly if everyone would either use words by their established definitions, or failing that specify what exactly they mean.

Will keep that in mind.

Quote (Spyro)
I would love to see a terraformed moon before a terraformed mars, the moon is way closer! But terraformation by itself is breathtaking, isn't it?


Silly and pointless and would require technology so far advanced that by the time you have it terraforming any planet/moon/planetoid would be a wasteful thing to do as designer worlds like the rings in Halo become a better alternative. Thats assuming humans or other intelligent species don't augment themselves to the point of no longer needing food and atmospheres to survive.





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Edited by DoctorOfSpace - Monday, 11.03.2013, 21:08
 
midtskogenDate: Monday, 11.03.2013, 21:08 | Message # 13
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Zubrin addresses all of those topics in the paper I linked

Thanks. And I think these numbers illustrate a basic problem. A 100 km mirror? Even on Earth a facility capable of mining and processing that requires a lot of infrastructure, and then it should be done in vacuum and nearly 0 G. It goes on: "and as little as 10% of the asteroid will be required for propellant". Again, a lot of infrastructure, and frankly, it sounds as realistic as saying that we could fix global warming on Earth by pushing Earth to a higher orbit arguing that "as little as 10% of Earth will be required for propellant".

Few are very successful in predicting the technology of the future. Who knows, perhaps we will invent what's needed, but it may not be what we now can envision, so lets not waste too much time solving the final parts of the task and suppose that technology will go in the direction that we assumed. One step at a time.

If we want to colonise Mars, I don't think the way to go is to send people there and let them begin the work, since they will basically start with nothing. We need to send stuff there first, a lot, so humans can arrive to something comfortable, key in the door and everything. If we send people to Mars now, it will mostly be for sightseeing.





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Edited by midtskogen - Monday, 11.03.2013, 21:11
 
HarbingerDawnDate: Monday, 11.03.2013, 21:42 | Message # 14
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Quote (midtskogen)
Again, a lot of infrastructure, and frankly, it sounds as realistic as saying that we could fix global warming on Earth by pushing Earth to a higher orbit arguing that "as little as 10% of Earth will be required for propellant".

You're attacking a straw man here; you can not reasonably equate moving a 1013 kg object with moving a 6·1024 kg object, and it is a bit absurd that you would even suggest a similarity there. There are as many orders of magnitude of difference in mass between the Earth and one of those asteroids as there is between that asteroid and a single human.

Quote (midtskogen)
And I think these numbers illustrate a basic problem. A 100 km mirror? Even on Earth a facility capable of mining and processing that requires a lot of infrastructure, and then it should be done in vacuum and nearly 0 G.

No one said terraforming would be easy, obviously it would be a titanic undertaking and would push the limits of technology and engineering. Your argument seems to be that terraforming is inconvenient, not that it is impossible. Well, yeah, but then again most major efforts aimed at advancing the state of humanity were inconvenient at the time. But you don't discredit an idea because it is hard.

Also, as you could see in the paper Zubrin outlined exactly how much effort and energy would be required to produce the materials to construct the mirror...

Quote (midtskogen)
Few are very successful in predicting the technology of the future.

And in almost every case, when people try to predict what technology will be available in a century, the predicted capabilities of that technology usually falls short of what actually will exist, so if we predict that terraforming can be done with 21st century tech, then it is quite likely that it can be.

Quote (midtskogen)
We need to send stuff there first, a lot, so humans can arrive to something comfortable, key in the door and everything.

Again, I don't think that anyone is arguing that, and it also has little to do with terraforming.





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DoctorOfSpaceDate: Monday, 11.03.2013, 22:25 | Message # 15
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And in almost every case, when people try to predict what technology will be available in a century, the predicted capabilities of that technology usually falls short of what actually will exist, so if we predict that terraforming can be done with 21st century tech, then it is quite likely that it can be.


Probably the best example of someone predicting the future and getting it pretty close to reality.





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Edited by DoctorOfSpace - Monday, 11.03.2013, 22:30
 
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