Monday, June 19, 2006

George Will, of all people, pointed out the other day that on April 20 the Iraq war became as long as the Korean War. On June 15, the war was as long, 1,185 days, as U.S. involvement in World War II was when U.S. troops captured the Ludendorff railway bridge at Remagen and became the first foreign troops to cross the Rhine since Napoleon's in 1805.

Meanwhile, we've got Stephen Hawking stating that humans must establish a base on another planet if we're to avoid extinction from global warming or another catastrophe.

"It is important for the human race to spread out into space for the survival of the species," Hawking said at a news conference in Hong Kong. "Life on Earth is at the ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as sudden global warming, nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus or other dangers we have not yet thought of."

Some believe that Hawking's vision is achievable. "We're pretty sure that everything we need to live is on Mars. There's plenty of water and there's a little bit of an atmosphere," said Dr. David Robertson, director of the Center for Space Physiology and Medicine at Vanderbilt University. Humans would probably live in a pressurized, temperature-controlled biosphere that could hold up in the frigid nighttime temperatures and thin, dusty atmosphere. "There's no way you'd live without a space suit, even just to visit," said Louis Friedman, executive director of the Planetary Society.

It would be easy to leave the idea of large scale colonization of the Moon to sci-fi writers were it not for two considerations. First, this fantasy is linked with the quite real problem of global warming, and can only serve to discredit it. Second, this plays to neocon plans for shifting space research efforts from robotic to manned flights. The neocons desperately need an authoritative voice to promote their plans to move funds from highly successful programs like Hubble to the doomed Moon/Mars effort. Unfortunately, now they've got exactly what they wanted.


GreenSmile said...

Wow, Shokai. I let the Hawking sound bite slide by and never put it in the context you did...and that context of manning space is indeed likely to use any justification it can as its case is emotionally appealing far more than logically compelling.

And turning yet more resources away from fixing the problems Hawking claims we have here and now is a dumb prospect. The "logic" of the neocons allows one to leap from denying that there even is such a thing as global warming straight to saying the problem is so bad, perhaps insoluble, that we need to man the lifeboats.

I hope it doesn't go down that way.

NickSab said...

While I'd like to think we can "fix" some of the global environmental problems, my gut tells me it truly is too late on some of them. The Mother Ship is very large, and she's not likely to have a nimble response to course corrections.

My hunch is that if we're at the point where we can see things like melting polar caps, a major wave of change is already rolling along and won't be stopped by adding a few wind turbines or by a mad rush on hybrid cars.

I'd love to be proven wrong. At the same time, I think it's practical to have a Plan B in our collective back pockets.