#106 June 1997
Section 126.96.36.199.106.of the Artemis Data Book
by Peter Kokh
• Is casual interstellar travel sufficiently cheap or easy to support the view that intelligent species that don't commit environmental-technological suicide must inevitably spread throughout the galaxy? That we understand the physics of a number of sub-light speed "drives" does not guarantee engineering (or mini-biospheric life-support) practicality.
"Seed & Spore Arks" equipped with robo-wombs- and robo-nannies and robo-parents to swing into action upon chance arrival at a suitably 'fertile' site need much less in the way of in-flight life support and supplies, and is an option not usually mentioned. Such arks, containing no living individuals, can proceed, even drift, one way at low speed. If they find "fertile ground" they switch into "germination mode". If not, then not, and so what - like the scattering of seed. All that is important to the scattering sender (civilization) is that some few arkseeds succeed to germinate in a new location. But not every species may be physiologically or psychologically able to accommodate or realize the robo-assists needed upon arrival.
• The universe is so vast in both time and space that a natural quarantine may work to prevent the rise of sufficiently neighboring and sufficiently contemporary civilizations that would sooner or later come into ongoing or even "two-ships-in-the-night" passing "contact". The "Galactic Club" (*) is not something that we can assume must exist, or from whose nonexistence we can with arrogance dare to presume our uniqueness. (*) "The Galactic Club" by Robert Bracewell .
• Cultural need to expand and the socio-economic-political wherewithal to do it, may be a temporary phenomenon of a species' "child-bearing years". In many species, such as the Octopus, the physiological changes that allow reproduction, also set the stage for the death of the mother shortly thereafter. In like fashion, it is conceivable that the technological-environmental fallout of industrializing to the point where a civilization can reproduce mini-pockets of itself and its womb world's flora and fauna off planet may be tragically fatal to the cradle world. We have only one example and the jury won't be in on that question for a long, long time.
• Is the broadcasting of messages "to all points", continually over centuries, if not millennia, cheap enough that expanding civilizations will devote resources to it indefinitely? In contrast, it will be much, much cheaper and require vastly less effort to send brief narrow beam messages to known waiting audiences, i.e. offspring-alumni pockets of one's own species spread out in some diaspora. "Silence" means only that it makes sense/¢ for everyone to listen, but for no one to speak, a universal mismatch. [See MMM #61 DEC 92 pp. 8-9 "Sending"; "Cheshirecasting"]
• The apparent belief that intra-galactic expansion will proceed smoothly and uniformly in all directions and that there will be no overlooked backwater pockets in less promising areas either implies ignorance of galactic "geography" and/or an unexamined assumption that the nature of the local interstellar 'terrain" will be irrelevant to travel ease. [MMM # 61 DEC '92, p. 6 "Galactic Topography 101"]
• A belief that interstellar "Visitors" will find (would have found) some way to leave relics of their presence on home planets, relics that will (would have) endure(ed) for geological ages, and be readily discovered by adolescent puppy-dog civilizations like ours, is rather puppy-dog brash. - "Visitors" happening by through the eons (there is nothing cosmically special about our fleeting contemporary era!) are more likely to look (have looked) for geologically enduring safe repositories like lunar lava tubes that offer the further advantage of not being discoverable or explorable except by maturing spacefaring civilizations that have already reached an appreciable level of post-adolescent planet wide cooperation - and we are not at that point, not yet. [See Selenology, (Quarterly of the American Lunar Society) March 93 Vol. 12, No. 1, "The Moon as an Attractor of Alien Artifacts" by Alexei Arkhipov]
• That colonizing species will covet worlds where life has begun to evolve and has the chance to flower on its own, presumes that such imperial predation is the only logical option. A more conscientious civilization will be well aware of the sufficiently attractive expansive option of looking for suitable life-friendly worlds around shorter lived slightly hotter yellow-white "F" spectral class suns (our home star, "The Sun", is a yellow "G" spectrum star). Around such suns, life can begin only to be almost certainly nipped in the bud well before it can/could enjoy the billions of years (that, at least in our case, have proven necessary to allow impact-punctuated otherwise rut-prone evolution to culminate in the rise of sapients). "F" stars are faster aging, typically dying in the 2-4 billion year age bracket, stable for less than half the main sequence lifetime of our own sun. In such cases, where life cannot be fulfilled without colonizing intervention, colonization by starfaring visitors must be an ethical plus. Races which understand this would be strongly motivated to steer clear of longer-living "G" type solar systems like ours, leaving them/us to seek an indigenous fulfillment à la "Prime Directive" of Star Trek culture. [see MMM # 45 MAY '91, pp. 5-6 "Welcome Mat Worlds"]
• Certainly we have as yet no grounds to assume that every life-cradle planet will be blessed with a sizable alluring moon and/or alluring neighboring planets (like our too-easy-to-romanticize Mars and our previously misenvisioned Venus). For us, the presence of these inner solar system assets and "destinations" has served to strongly incentivize exploration and travel beyond low planetary orbits.
• On broadcasts from Earth: only the carrier waves of the "I love Lucy" [Hitler's speech at the opening of the '36 Olympics in Munich was actually the front-wave salvo telecast.] or similar shows will be detectable several light years out. Of course, such waves could be construed as "evidence", but not evidence packed with a lot of gossip fodder about the sender.
• Bob Zubrin gave a fascinating talk at a recent MSDC on the detectability of starships using various forms of propulsion. Some would not be detectable beyond a few light-months out (e.g. approaching or leaving our system, or using our sun for a gravitational billiard-ball assist in change of direction). But other theoretically possible "star drives" would leave signatures detectable hundreds of light years out. Given the vastness of both time and space, there could well be a number of starfaring species in the galaxy but the likelihood of one that is both near enough and contemporary enough is not something that can be presumed. In fact, it would be a lucky throw of the dice, against all probabilities.
• Because of Earth's substantially deeper gravity well (Earth has ten times Mars' mass), it would be much more difficult for Earth rocks to be catapulted into escape velocity so as to have a chance of landing up on Mars, than vice versa. That there are terrestrial microorganisms that could have survived such a trip is not the question. It cannot be assumed that there is a "50-50" chance that the alleged Martian microorganisms have a lineage that began on Earth. Nor is there any evidence that these alleged Martian organisms, only tracks and/or excreta of which we think we have detected in these rocks found in Antarctica, had arrived here in a form "ready and able" to propagate, and thus to contaminate. All the evidence so far is in the negative.
• Some writers and investigators betray a thinly veiled personal psychological need to "find", and hold as an article of Faith that "we are alone". It is not necessary to have a "finding" or "conclusion" that humankind is a one-of-a-kind phenomenon in all the universe to motivate us to defend our cradle world against global biological-environmental disaster by impacting asteroidal debris. (Indeed such uniqueness could as reasonably be interpreted to mean we are some cruel Sisyphean cosmic joke than some God-cherished super-special creation!) Our collective moral responsibility to seek survival of our species and of our host Gaian Biota, would be no less awesome a burden if we found instead the universe to be generally populated with billions of indigenous intelligent cultures. Whether or not other civilizations out there exist, does not condition the fact that we are unique, and worth saving.
In our own species, the fact that there are nearly six billion other living humans beside our own personal selves does not make our individual lives any less precious or worth saving and bringing to maximum fulfillment of personal potential. The answer to Fermi's half-baked Paradox has no bearing on the value-rating of the goal of species and biotal self-preservation. Nor has it any bearing on the value of exploring, developing, and settling our own Solar System at large, and of someday perhaps moving starward, "ad astra". We need to be a well-developed space-faring species both to insure that the home world is protected and to insure that if (as it does the best hockey goalies) "one gets by us" (meaning a killer asteroid or comet), viable pockets of humanity beyond the cradle world would remain to carry on our civilization, its cultures, vast rich heritage and boundless aspirations. "Others" or not, this is some thing we must do "to be true to ourselves".
[See also the discussion of how human spiritual sensitivity might be affected by the establishment of permanent presence beyond Earth in MMM # 97 JUL '96, pp. 8-11 "SPIRITUALITY: Effects of the Lunar Environment on Spirituality and on the Reinforcement of Personal Religious Sensitivities", P. Kokh.]
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