Bubbles

Nick

The successful launch of IBEX (Interstellar Boundary Explorer) came at an auspicious time. It seems that the solar wind flux, the effluence of the Sun that provides a charged bubble around our Solar System to ward off energetic radiation from dramatic, even catastrophic events from deep space that might ravage our small world is at an observed all-time low, though we’ve had just 50 years to measure it…indeed, to be aware of it at all.

 

What does this mean? What is significant about this fluctuation, if anything? We don’t know. We’re trying to find out.

 

There are hints that the fact that we’re here at all is due to a confluence of quite possibly transient physical conditions…mere bubbles in the night, areas of dynamic stability above & beyond the background norm of chaos. The Sun’s protection from cosmic radiation is merely the latest of such noted, and its apparent variability is alarming to our present ignorance. The Sun’s output in terms of total radiation, that which lights and heats our world, is far from constant as we learn enough to examine both geological and historical records for correlation. And, so recently, we’ve accepted the fact that objects ranging in size from dust specks to mountain ranges whiz by us daily…sometimes they hit, with world-changing force…one of the reasons we exist at all is at least in part due to the chaos an destruction wrought by a powerful impactor that swept the dinosaurs from the stage.

 

So many things could happen that could do the same for us. We exist in a bubble, an area of anomalous dynamic stability in a chaotic environment (which perhaps may prove to be the definition of life itself.) Although we would in all likelihood break the bubble and destroy ourselves from stupidity and selfishness, we must acknowledge the fact that the circumstances of our physical surroundings are no less capricious, nor are they indefinitely stable. Things WILL change. Always.

 

At the dawn of the Third Millennium (in the Western tradition), at the dawn of the true enlightenment of Man- once a grubby plains-ape, now an entity that feels, senses, and remembers- at the dawn of a consciousness that embraces and understands, at the dawn of our destiny, the reason that we made the journey in the first place….we cannot let ourselves be wiped out when a random bubble pops. We know enough by now to know that we must diversify our habitat…we have to go elsewhere, and everywhere. We must be resilient enough to withstand the mere pop of a bubble, a bad throw of the dice…we have that much wisdom collectively to know that this is so.

 

Burrow into the hide of the Moon, walk the vast rocky plains of Mars. Traverse the canyons of Ganymede, raise visors, and look at the stars. Humanity gives voice to the Universe, gives hope, gives meaning to the unbearable beauty…

 

….and therefore we must survive.

 

 

Nicholas Previsich
Resident Columnist (Know more about Nick in the Collaborators section)

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    • Nick
    • February 26th, 2009

    Hi, IM, and thanks for reading & commenting! I hope that you’ll stop by frequently and keep us all honest! :))

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems as if you’re focused on finding an Earth-like world as the prime objective of extraterrestrial colonization. As Rui implied, that well may be a goal of the far-distant future if and when science-fiction technologies may exist…but I’d argue that by the time we can even think about doing that, we may not want to.

    Colonization of the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and perhaps even Mercury, Callisto, Ganymede and the major Saturnian satellites is not too far removed from our current state of technology; it’s almost certainly feasible within the next 500 years. Nihilistic as it may sound, WE are our own greatest threat for the foreseeable future, and habitat diversification in this sense means establishing such colonies at a far enough remove from each other that economic/social conflicts are unlikely to arise, providing if you will a number of insulated baskets for our eggs instead of the present solitary one.

    Certainly many people today would not find a “corridor culture” desirable–existence in a purely artificial, enclosed environment, and perhaps that might be another part of your opinion. However, consider the fact that after all these millions of years we still live in artificial caves. We don’t sleep outdoors or exposed in treetops anymore; we associate limited-access enclosures with safety and security (and yes, that also may be the classic Freudian desire to return to the womb painted in broad strokes.)

    In any case, subterranean colonies on the worlds of the Solar System may well produce future generations that thrive in these circumstances; the surface is there if anybody wants to go, of course, but why live out there in the open, all exposed? Our distant ancestors would no doubt be amazed–and perhaps repelled–at how we have already modified our environment to suit our needs rather than vice versa.

    In this light, the people of 5000 AD or so may well be far more interested in an exoTitan then an exoEarth ; their environment will be what they wish it to be, limited only by available resources and the ethos of their civilization.

  1. Hi Imipak, and welcome to BEYOND THE CRADLE, we’ll do our to correspond to your expectations.

    Regarding your comment to Nick’s chronicle, I must say that my current perspective advocates that we, as a species, must find a way out of the cradle, a consistent one.
    I believe that going beyond Earth is, at a same time, an imperative and a natural step for Mankind.
    If I agree with you that, currently, the task seems far from reach due to technological limitations I cannot avoid to think that 65.000 years ago we were leaving Africa with a set of tools that, for the eyes of us, they’re descendents, may look far from ambitious for a group of primates that would colonize an entire planet and, with the passage of time and the lessons learned from that long walk, find a way to raise to the skies and contemplate the whole Earth. That image is, for me, terribly evocative of our quest, after we reached the four corners of the planet, we’ve ascended to space and had conscience of our place in the universe as a species, that is where I believe is the border between the past and the future. If comparisons are permitted, in my view our tomorrow’s journey must be the one that will make us go, not towards the Moon, Mars, or Ganymede, but beyond the Sun. That’s where I believe, things make sense.
    The scouting of the Solar System by Man is the space in between the step, as the journeys that have taken us to different lands and habitats of the Earth were the step taken, eons ago, by individuals like you and me, that liberated us from extinction and leaded us to Gagarin’s first words in Earth’s orbit.
    If the Universe doesn’t conspire against us I believe we will be there.
    There’s no place else to go anyway… 😉

    …And I am sure Nick will come up with his own answer…

    • imipak
    • February 24th, 2009

    “We know enough by now to know that we must diversify our habitat…we have to go elsewhere, and everywhere.”

    Sorry Nick (and everyone else for whom this idea is gospel!), but with enormous respect, I can’t agree with this. You’ve omitted the (implicit) qualifier, “…if we are to survive as a species when the next extinction-level event strikes Earth.”

    I don’t think it’s practical to have self-sufficient human settlements beyond earth, modulo a ginormous breakthrough in physics such as free energy, faster-than-light travel or true AI. I’m thinking I need to work up my thinking on this into some vaguely coherent form and stick it up somewhere so that anyone who cares to can come and lob tomatoes at it, rather than cluttering up other people’s blogs again… :>

    Anyway – best wishes to Ustrax and all involved with this site; I hope it continues great the work begun with SpacEurope!

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