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Forum » SpaceEngine » Science and Astronomy Discussions » Terraforming (Discussion of terraforming in general)
Terraforming
anonymousgamerDate: Monday, 11.03.2013, 22:37 | Message # 16
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Quote (DoctorOfSpace)
Probably the best example of someone predicting the future and getting it pretty close to reality.


This just blew my mind.





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DoctorOfSpaceDate: Monday, 11.03.2013, 22:41 | Message # 17
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This just blew my mind.


It becomes less impressive if you watch the whole thing






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midtskogenDate: Monday, 11.03.2013, 23:10 | Message # 18
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Quote (HarbingerDawn)
You're attacking a straw man here

I was directing the "it's only 10%" argument. It's not really the relative size that will make it hard or easy.

Quote (midtskogen)
But you don't discredit an idea because it is hard.

No. I just think it's too far away and a bit wasteful to figure out how to solve things with technology that doesn't exist, and perhaps will never exist. Unless you're a science fiction writer. Kind of like a stone age man spending time to work out how many pelicans he would have to domesticate and train in order to build an airship. In hindsight we would not discredit the idea of an airship, rather all his efforts involving those pelicans.

Quote (HarbingerDawn)
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

Depends. What we actually have made may be more advanced that what people would think possible a century or half a century ago, but also different. 50 years ago many thought that manned space travel would have become more common and cheaper than it is. But they would hardly imagine how powerful, how cheap and how small computers we would make.





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Edited by midtskogen - Monday, 11.03.2013, 23:16
 
WatsisnameDate: Monday, 11.03.2013, 23:49 | Message # 19
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Quote (midtskogen)

I was directing the "it's only 10%" argument. It's not really the relative size that will make it hard or easy.


Then you should have talked about the difficulty of moving an asteroid, not moving the Earth. As Harbinger noted, there is a factor of ~1011 difference in mass there.





 
HarbingerDawnDate: Tuesday, 12.03.2013, 02:45 | Message # 20
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Quote (midtskogen)
I was directing the "it's only 10%" argument

Note the technical details he gave on how that would be accomplished, and how long it would take. It would be a massive effort, but not impossible.

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

That is CRAZY. Clarke was a visionary. (I won't watch the whole thing because I don't want to be less impressed smile )

Quote (midtskogen)
I just think it's too far away and a bit wasteful to figure out how to solve things with technology that doesn't exist, and perhaps will never exist.

What does it waste, except some dedicated and interested persons' spare time? And what technology would be required that does not exist now or can not reasonably be expected to exist within this century?

Also, I would like to point out that it would have been people like you who would have called the efforts of men like Kepler and Galileo and Eratosthenes "wasteful"; those people who said such things have been shown by history to have been fools.

Quote (midtskogen)
50 years ago many thought that manned space travel would have become more common and cheaper than it is.

It easily could have been, but no one seemed to think it worth their time and effort to make it so; perhaps they thought it would be wasteful...

Quote (midtskogen)
In hindsight we would not discredit the idea of an airship, rather all his efforts involving those pelicans.

And yet in this hypothetical scenario, if he had not inspired people with his ideas and gotten people to think, would real progress have come as swiftly?

I can understand your doubts about whether current terraforming ideas will come to fruition (honestly I don't think they will, for some of the reasons that you've said). Most likely if it ever happens it will be by techniques that we can scarcely imagine. But you seem to be attacking the whole current endeavor as a waste of time and effort, and that is a view I wholeheartedly disagree with. It is something worth looking into, and you can't make plans based on the actual technologies of the future without knowing what they'll be, so you have to use the technologies of the present combined with reasonable projections about future technologies in order to do this kind of work. It is a matter of necessity.





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Edited by HarbingerDawn - Tuesday, 12.03.2013, 02:46
 
midtskogenDate: Tuesday, 12.03.2013, 09:44 | Message # 21
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Quote (HarbingerDawn)
That is CRAZY. Clarke was a visionary. (I won't watch the whole thing because I don't want to be less impressed smile )

It just gets better towards the end. I've been in the videoconferencing industry since 1999, and in that context it's really fantastic to hear what he says.

Quote (HarbingerDawn)
Also, I would like to point out that it would have been people like you who would have called the efforts of men like Kepler and Galileo and Eratosthenes "wasteful"; those people who said such things have been shown by history to have been fools.

I'm not sure how that relates to terraforming or uninvented technology. The main contributions of these men where observations (or in Kepler's case mathematical descriptions) confirming ideas that until then were loosely founded.

Quote (HarbingerDawn)
And yet in this hypothetical scenario, if he had not inspired people with his ideas and gotten people to think, would real progress have come as swiftly?

Hopefully he would inspire, and someone would think and point out to him that the pelicans are probably not the way to go, that what he needs probably hasn't been invented yet. And to flip your statement above somewhat, people like you would be those who call this someone a fool and charge him for being reactionary and hostile to new ideas.

Let me elaborate a bit. I have not said that his vision of airships is wasteful. But if he in order to get closer to this vision spends his life studying pelicans, developing methods how to capture them, train them, feed and breed them, and so on, then someone who told him that it would be wasteful would be quite right. Wouldn't it be more visionary to tell this man that while the available technology if scaled up sufficiently possibly could do what he envisions, it would be totally impractical, and wouldn't it be more visionary to assume that the technology that will build these ships will be different and still unknown? Then the quickest way to the goal would be to solve more mundane problems. For instance, in order to build that airship properly, some kind of engine would have to be invented. To make an engine, or even understand that it could be invented, better tools would be required, etc, and before all this, man must have freed up time and resources to do these things, which he can't if what he has to worry about is the next meal. So, if this stone age man hasn't invented agriculture yet, he must do that first. Then the city must be invented, and so on. Many things that will be hard to understand how could be necessary steps towards the airship.





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HarbingerDawnDate: Tuesday, 12.03.2013, 15:11 | Message # 22
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Quote (midtskogen)
I'm not sure how that relates to terraforming or uninvented technology.

They did not just make observations, they also had dreams related to practical applications. Kepler wrote a story about flying to the Moon, which would have seemed crazy at the time. He thought that in the future man would construct machines which would traverse the spaces between the worlds. What would you think of the people who claimed that he was wasting his time pondering how such things might be done? Or Galileo's investigations of gravitational interactions and helping to establish the heliocentric model. Would people have said to him that it didn't make any difference, and that he should have not done it? Probably so. But how does history view such people? And Eratosthenes going through all that trouble to prove the shape and size of the world. Since little practical use could have come out of his work in his time and subsequent generations, should he have been called wasteful? And would you look upon the many engineering and design efforts of Leonardo with scorn because many of his projects were different from the eventual reality?

Quote (midtskogen)
And to flip your statement above somewhat, people like you would be those who call this someone a fool and charge him for being reactionary and hostile to new ideas.

Absolutely not. I've already said that I suspect that if terraforming ever happens it will be by means quite different than what we're currently planning around. I have no problem with that. That's just how the future works. My criticism of your position is that you're specifically saying that people who even attempt to work on this problem are being wasteful and by implication should probably not be doing it. That is what I take issue with. You're not proposing an alternative. You're just being a naysayer. And in the climate change debate most of your points were along the same lines. You often try to invalidate the works of others without proposing any alternatives. Instead of promoting one something over another something, you seem to promote nothing over something. That is what I take issue with, because that doesn't contribute very much. You criticize the work that others do, but you rarely refute it with sound oppositional argument. You just try to invalidate and cast doubt on their efforts, and then you stop there. That is what I have a problem with. People who criticize the efforts of others without doing anything to contribute in the process.

Quote (midtskogen)
But if he in order to get closer to this vision spends his life studying pelicans, developing methods how to capture them, train them, feed and breed them, and so on, then someone who told him that it would be wasteful would be quite right.

Since no one is doing anything analogous to that with regards to terraforming then it is a pointless comparison.

Quote (midtskogen)
Wouldn't it be more visionary to tell this man that while the available technology if scaled up sufficiently possibly could do what he envisions, it would be totally impractical, and wouldn't it be more visionary to assume that the technology that will build these ships will be different and still unknown?

No, because then you're saying that instead of dreaming and doing something, you should instead do nothing and not think about it since the realization of that dream would be impossible to actually imagine, so just leave it to later generations and only endorse the concept in a very abstract sense. That is not very inspirational.

Quote (midtskogen)
Then the quickest way to the goal would be to solve more mundane problems.

And inspiring people with such goals can motivate them to solve the necessary problems; in the process of pursuing such goals, you need to establish what will be required, and so you will get a list of everything that you are lacking. This clear work list combined with a clear goal provides more motivation than might otherwise exist.





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midtskogenDate: Tuesday, 12.03.2013, 22:33 | Message # 23
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Quote (HarbingerDawn)
Would people have said to him that it didn't make any difference, and that he should have not done it? Probably so. But how does history view such people?

I'm a big fan of observations and that model must yield to observations, so people like Galileo, Brahe, etc did important work. I don't think Galileo was heavily criticised for his observations, more that some people had different ideas, that he was loud about it and things got polarised.

Quote (HarbingerDawn)
And Eratosthenes going through all that trouble to prove the shape and size of the world.

[Digression] It is by the way a common misconception that the shape and the size of the world was little known or debated in antiquity. Rather, knowing that the world is a sphere was what would separate one with a minimum of education from the idiot. Eratosthenes is famous today because he made the best estimate of the size of the world, and also because his method and figure was widely accepted already in antiquity, so few other estimates survived. A notable exception is perhaps Hipparchos, who refuted Eratosthenes arguing that the world was bigger. But the disagreement not significant. If Eratosthenes was off by -1%, Hipparchos was off by +16%. The evidences of the spherical shape were abundant and not much disputed, even from before Eratosthenes. For instance, it was known that the lunar eclipse of 331BC had happened at different times of the day at different places. And the shape of the earth was also visible in lunar eclipses. It was known that ships would gradually disappear under the horizon, that the day was longer when sailing to the east, shorter when sailing to the west. Phoenicians circumnavigated Africa around 600BC and the story tells that the sun was in the north when they rounded south Africa (but, if I recall correctly, Herodot the 5th century BC historian was somewhat sceptical to that part of the story). It was known that the sun didn't set in summer and didn't rise in winter in Thule. Etc. There were also some invalid arguments, like since droplets are round, then the ocean must be too. Eratosthenes' findings weren't new ideas, but his method of measuring the circumference were the best at the time, and was widely recognised in antiquity as accurate.

Quote (HarbingerDawn)
That is what I take issue with. You're not proposing an alternative. You're just being a naysayer. And in the climate change debate most of your points were along the same lines. You often try to invalidate the works of others without proposing any alternatives.

In the case of a scientific question, you don't have to offer an alternative. The burden of proof lies at the one who presents the hypothesis, and that is how it has to be. If you can make something travel faster than light, you can throw Einstein's equations out of the window even if you don't have an alternative explanation.

As for how to realise visionary ideas, I'm not saying don't try. Calculate what it takes, but don't expect to taken too seriously if you say that it's a matter of upscaling current technology several orders of magnitude.





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HarbingerDawnDate: Wednesday, 13.03.2013, 00:12 | Message # 24
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Quote (midtskogen)
In the case of a scientific question

This is not a scientific question.

Quote (midtskogen)
I'm a big fan of observations and that model must yield to observations, so people like Galileo, Brahe, etc did important work. I don't think Galileo was heavily criticised for his observations, more that some people had different ideas, that he was loud about it and things got polarised.

You seem to be intentionally avoiding my point. I brought up and emphasized non-observational works, like those of Leonardo, or Kepler's ruminations about manned spaceflight, and how they were so far off from what actually did happen, technology wise, and asked if you think that they should have not done these things.

Quote (midtskogen)
Eratosthenes' findings weren't new ideas, but his method of measuring the circumference were the best at the time, and was widely recognised in antiquity as accurate.

Never said that they weren't. My point was not that his work was controversial, but that it was "wasteful" in that it had no real practical value, and asking if you thought that he should not have done that.

Quote (midtskogen)
Calculate what it takes, but don't expect to taken too seriously if you say that it's a matter of upscaling current technology several orders of magnitude.

I don't think that they should expect to be dismissed out of hand either...

Quote (midtskogen)
you can throw Einstein's equations out of the window even if you don't have an alternative explanation.

Please read my quote again:
Quote (HarbingerDawn)
You criticize the work that others do, but you rarely refute it with sound oppositional argument.

Proving something wrong counts as sound oppositional argument.

Quote (midtskogen)
The burden of proof lies at the one who presents the hypothesis

So far you've done a very good job of asserting - or at least strongly implying - that terraforming can not be accomplished in the way that current plans outline. That is a hypothesis in itself, with its own burden of proof. You have done little to back it up.

The bottom line is, if you have a problem with something that has been put forth, then address that, say why it is a problem, and do your best to back it up. Don't just use vague points about how it all sounds unlikely. If you think it can't be done, say why. Be specific. Address details. Use math. Etc.





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midtskogenDate: Wednesday, 13.03.2013, 10:16 | Message # 25
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Quote (HarbingerDawn)
Never said that they weren't. My point was not that his work was controversial, but that it was "wasteful" in that it had no real practical value, and asking if you thought that he should not have done that.

First, he was a geographer and mathematician, and both disciplines, in their more advanced form, arose from a very practical need: to measure land. So the "no real practical value" is plain wrong. Was there a need for knowing the size of the world? The most obvious answer is that it has a very practical application in navigation. Likewise, they made maps in antiquity and they had real practical value.

Second, I haven't said that everything must have an immediate application. I was pointing out that people use the wrong or insufficient methods for the solution, and that the viable methods probably aren't invented yet (making it hard to provide the alternative way that you require).

Quote (HarbingerDawn)
So far you've done a very good job of asserting - or at least strongly implying - that terraforming can not be accomplished in the way that current plans outline. That is a hypothesis in itself, with its own burden of proof. You have done little to back it up.

In the case of making a mirror 200-250 km across in space, no method was presented how to construct such a thing in space even if you have the 200.000 tonnes of aluminium sheet available. I don't say it's impossible, since we can probably do it if it's 200-250 meters across, so it's "just" a matter of upscaling. But a million times? He suggests balancing the mirror between the gravity pull from Mars and the solar wind (which would otherwise push the sail a few 100.000 km away in a week or so). Sorry, the solar wind is variable, so there must be a intricate system of controlling reflection to maintain the shape and position. And only the energy need for producing aluminium was discussed. But the power demanding electrolysis is only one part of the process. How should the bauxite be obtained? It must be argued that there likely are sufficient amounts on asteroids or Martian moons. When you suggest that I must prove the opposite, it's like a theist demanding that the agnostic show that there is no god.

Bottomline is, terraforming belongs to science fiction, not science - yet.

Edit: I was going to say applied science, engineering. Doing the math is fine. Detailing how it should be built is science fiction.





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Edited by midtskogen - Wednesday, 13.03.2013, 11:16
 
WatsisnameDate: Wednesday, 13.03.2013, 11:46 | Message # 26
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I'm just going to put in a few words real quick, for whatever they're worth.

Nobody worth taking seriously claims that these ideas on the terraformation of Mars are complete, tested, and ready to set out and accomplish. There's a lot still to work out, a lot we still don't know, and almost certainly a lot we don't even know that we don't know. If we were to actually begin terraforming another planet, I'd bet my last dollar that problems would arise that nobody had even anticipated. It's extremely new territory, both literally and figuratively.

So why do people talk about it? Why study it? Because it is an absolutely fascinating academic question whose solutions require application of physics, astronomy, and engineering. Because if we can show that it is not altogether impossible, then that's an interesting result. And if we can show that it is possible with only an upscaling of technology that exists today, or technology that can be reasonably expected to exist in the very near future, then that's absolutely amazing, and leads to real world implications.

Now let's be very clear. Any ideas that are put forward can and should be critiqued scientifically. In the example of the mirrors, you (midtskogen) raise very legitimate counterpoints. This is good -- by critically thinking about such things, we can advance ideas that have merit, correct those that have flaws, and discard those that are fundamentally wrong. This course of action is far more appropriate than the sweeping dismissal of the whole subject as 'wasteful' or 'science fiction'. smile

No great advancement is made easily. If everyone who ever had big ideas for the future never entertained them, and if nobody else ever took them seriously, then where would we be today?





 
midtskogenDate: Wednesday, 13.03.2013, 12:04 | Message # 27
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Fine, I'll agree with that. I like science fiction. And it's inspiring. But I don't take it seriously in the sense that this is something that will happen somehow when the ideas become very far fetched, like terraforming or wormholes. The advances find their own way when we make one step at a time, and they may be no less impressive. Perhaps a billion people will live on Mars, but it turned out to be far easier to go underground instead and let the surface and atmosphere stay as they were.




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HarbingerDawnDate: Wednesday, 13.03.2013, 16:33 | Message # 28
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Quote (midtskogen)
He suggests balancing the mirror between the gravity pull from Mars and the solar wind (which would otherwise push the sail a few 100.000 km away in a week or so). Sorry, the solar wind is variable, so there must be a intricate system of controlling reflection to maintain the shape and position.

It's not using the solar wind, it's using light pressure. This is much less variable, and you could control the amount of thrust caused by light by changing the albedo of the sail (this has actually already been demonstrated on a real solar sail in interplanetary space).

Quote (midtskogen)
When you suggest that I must prove the opposite, it's like a theist demanding that the agnostic show that there is no god.

Incorrect. An agnostic (which I take you mean as 'weak atheist' in this context) does not say that there is not god. He says that he does not accept the claim that there is a god until the evidence supports it. My point was that you seemed to be saying that this could not be done, not that you were merely skeptical.

Quote (midtskogen)
I was going to say applied science, engineering. Doing the math is fine. Detailing how it should be built is science fiction.

I would agree with this, to an extent. But there are methods using current technology with little to no upscaling that could begin the process of terraforming. It would just take a long time, or course, but terraforming would take a long time regardless. So some methods are speculative, but others could actually be applied with little engineering difficulty if we wanted to do it now.





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midtskogenDate: Wednesday, 13.03.2013, 18:03 | Message # 29
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Quote (HarbingerDawn)
It's not using the solar wind, it's using light pressure.

You're right. Due to the higher eccentricity of Mars, the seasonal variance is ±10.8% (±3.5% for Earth). But the seasons are at least predictable. In any case a way to adjust the reflection will still be needed. The more random variation is more like ±0.2% if I remember correctly.

Quote (HarbingerDawn)
Incorrect. An agnostic (which I take you mean as 'weak atheist' in this context) does not say that there is not god. He says that he does not accept the claim that there is a god until the evidence supports it. My point was that you seemed to be saying that this could not be done, not that you were merely skeptical.

I should have said "scientist" and avoided the minefield of religious classifications. Science has a pretty defined scope. I didn't say that it can't be done, but that we don't know whether it can be done. We don't know whether the surfaces of the Martian moons have sufficient amounts of bauxite (or anything that realistically can be turned into a mirror).





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Edited by midtskogen - Wednesday, 13.03.2013, 18:24
 
HarbingerDawnDate: Wednesday, 13.03.2013, 19:30 | Message # 30
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Quote (midtskogen)
We don't know whether the surfaces of the Martian moons have sufficient amounts of bauxite (or anything that realistically can be turned into a mirror).

Indeed. But by the time we actually get around to making such colossal mirrors we will probably be using technology that doesn't exist yet, so speculating on just how the mirrors would be made does not make very much sense - that might be why Zubrin's paper didn't go into detail on that. Who knows, by that time we may have constructed a space elevator on Mars and can just mine the materials on the planet and export them directly to orbit on the cheap happy

Quote (midtskogen)
I should have said "scientist"

The best possible term would be "skeptic" I think. It covers how the person thinks and assesses claims without reference to a profession.





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