Book Review: Human Migration to Space

Have you wondered just how likely some of those futuristic science fiction movies might be? Can you imagine armies of drones or a cyborg/human? What do they have to do with today’s space endeavours? Well, actually lots, according to Elizabeth Song Lockard as she writes in her thesis / book “Human Migration to Space – Alternative Technological Approaches for Long-Term Adaptation to Extraterrestrial Environments”. In it, the presumption is that traveling and living in space is possible, indeed necessary. But if we become successful, we may no longer be the same humans that we are today.

For those who’ve been involved with academic theses, there’s usually little expectation in offering it to the general public. Usually the subject matter is too definite and the prose too particular to be of much use to the ordinary reader. However, in this instance, while the prose can be challenging at times, it is definitely a worthwhile read. This book goes through the standard steps of developing background and objective. Then, it’s as if you step off a cliff and you take flight into possibilities. The main subject is the posthuman. This is what humans must become in order to successfully transition into occupants beyond Earth. With this, the book has much discussion on which type of occupation is best: domination, integration or other.

And, of course, there’s lots of discussion of technology. Yet, perhaps atypical to most space books, the discussion relates more to types of technology rather than details of any particular technology. You’ll read about empathetic artilects, symbiogenesis and astrosociology. That is, the book deals very heavily with the human element during space exploration rather than the technical element. Now you may wonder why this would be an issue now? Society hasn’t been an issue for the months long stays in the International Space Station. But perhaps this is because the Earth is just outside the window and friends and family are instantly available over audio or Internet channels. For the months and possibly years of travel to Mars, with no sign of Earth and potentially intermittent and delayed communications, then the social aspect will be of a much greater concern. This same challenge of separation will occur with any colonists on Mars, the Moon or deep space. Given this perspective, this fresh view makes the read of this book very worthwhile.

While social implications for space travelers are interesting, the book also covers the deeper issue about human existence itself. Effectively, it argues that humans are at the end of their genetic development. We have no expectation of a natural mutation to something better. Equally, we have no fundamental need to change our society and social interaction. That is, we are as good as we will get. Thus, according to the book, humans must travel into space and settle upon other worlds so as to restart our evolutionary advance. Otherwise, we will face the ignominy that other flat-lined species have experienced. So, from this perspective as well, this book is definitely a good read.

Yet, don’t forget that this book is an academic thesis. It has many references, which is wonderful. The references can be somewhat terse, so it helps if you’ve read fairly broadly already. It doesn’t have an index, which is frustrating. And probably most of all, it isn’t very clear on how best to use the information within it. It will be up to each reader to decide if cyborgs are essential and if our expansion into space should only be by integrating with animate and inanimate entities that we find along the way. And what about its newness? Well, yes, we’ve seen many of these ideas and theories sprout up in the science fiction movies that continually grace our screens. But in this book / thesis, the reader can treat the contents of the wide screen entertainment as a posited precursor to humanity and thus use it for their personal divination of what may come.

While no one knows the future, there is one thing that’s certain. As we push our species into functional space-farers, we will certainly change. We can’t predefine how we will change. But, according to Elizabeth Song Lockard in her book “Human Migration to Space – Alternative Technological Approaches for Long-Term Adaptation to Extraterrestrial Environments”, there are some reasonable choices from which we can pick or even fall in to. Some maybe nice, like “E.T.”. Some maybe not so nice, like “Battlestar Galactica.” Which do you want to work towards?

This book is available through Springer. You can find out more about the author at her website.

Book Review: Space Architecture

Have you ever had one of those days when you just couldn’t complete another Fourier Transform no matter how many chocolate covered cacao nibs you consumed? You need to perk yourself up, maybe imagine something a little more exotic than a Volkswagen diesel scooting down a gravel road. Well then, pull up a chair and grab a copy of the last Architectural Design issue of 2014 entitled “Space Architecture – The New Frontier for Design Research”. Sure it’s got some pretty involved speculative prose, but the graphics are stupendous and will knock you right back into a can-do mindset.

This compilation by Architectural Design is its third strictly related to space architecture; the other two being in 1967 and 2000. In this one, Neil Leach is both editor and an occasional writer. The book’s contents give the impression that Leach had free reign in choosing authors and content with its broad range and scope. As with most general publications on current space activity, it includes some fairly well known content. For instance, it’s got articles from both Robert Zubrin on colonizing Mars and Buzz Aldrin on a mission to Mars. While the articles add little to what the authors regularly say in public, some of the attached images look relatively fresh.

As well, in keeping with the book’s title on architecture, some articles have a bit more of an industrial viewpoint. An instructive article details the design methodology used for the International Space Station while another plants some forward thinking utility of 3D printing for lunar load bearing walls. These may perk the interest of practicing architects but for real fun you need take a look at the more whimsical selections. In one, architecture combines research of the human vertebrae together with Italian city-scapes to establish spatial qualities and shapes for extraterrestrial platforms.

In another, a pulled-together assembly of orbiting space junk seeded with a soft interior fabric of artificial soils resembles a cassis fly shell which is then to metamorphose into a functional space environment. Is this a little too far out for you? Well come back closer to today with a plan for a MoonCapital, a habitation for people on the Moon. Or, there’s a spacecraft with a tethered outrigger that provides artificial gravity for long term voyages. These demonstrate the expanse of the collection of articles brought together in this book. Yet, it’s the detail, especially of the imagery, that gives spice to the reader’s imagination. True, most of the images are architect’s computer generated graphics but sometimes you feel, or at least hope, that you can simply reach out and touch them.

While this book is a great collection of things space related, it does suffer from this. That is, it is just a collection. Also, as with anything speculative, it doesn’t really have a purpose. Its goal is to “cast its eye on the [time] horizon for what may be happening next culturally, socially and technologically”. This broad scope makes relevant almost anything space related. Fortunately the editor, David Leach, doesn’t let this mandate get too vague as the topics are usually pertinent and somewhat current. In the end, a reader may be left with a feeling that too much was attempted which thus left too many gaps. Or, they may get the inspiration to fill in some of the spaces. Certainly no one would suffer if the later was the result.

Perhaps inspiration is the intent of the speculative architecture in this wonderfully illustrated book “Space Architecture – The New Frontier for Design Research”. With a fine collection of topical pieces, the editor David Leach lets architectural considerations come to bear upon humanity’s current and hoped for activities in space. The reader can appreciate the skills of these professionals and get a glimpse of what may just be over the horizon for our civilization.

This book is available on Amazon.

Book Review and Giveaway: Know It All: 132 Head-Scratching Questions About the Science All Around Us

“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”
Benjamin Franklin

One of the greatest qualities we possess as humans is our ability to ask questions. Our quest for knowledge and answers about the world carries us beyond our everyday borders and attitudes. Curiosity may not have been good for the cat, but it is an essential growth tool for the human mind.

Know It All: 132 Head-Scratching Questions About the Science All Around Us, is a fun and educational collection of thought provoking questions and answers. Although the collection is edited by Mick O’Hare from New Scientist magazine, the contributors are drawn from the scientific community and amateur experts found around the world. Taken directly from the “Last Word” column at New Scientist, this assemblage is a diverse assortment of Q&As ranging in scope from the microscopic to the hypothetical.

Find out how you can win a copy of this book, below.

The most appealing part of the book is its global spirit of science and thirst for knowledge. One gentleman out of South Africa provides many insightful answers to questions originating from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Australia. Have you ever wondered why your legs may feel wobbly when standing at a cliff top? J. Richfield from South Africa gives an adept explanation.

On pg. 223 a New Scientist reader from North Carolina, USA brings up the Costa Concordia disaster and asks why there was concern about being ‘sucked under’ if the boat sank. The two cited answers are from the well versed contributor in South Africa and from a gentleman in the UK.

Among my wanderings within the book I have gained insight into the value of regularly using mouthwash and what medicines may last longer than their expiration date and why. I am thankful to the correspondent who asked why trick birthday candles can’t be blown out; now I know that the wick has magnesium powder in it and the accompanying science that goes along with it.

Hungry for answers to a wide assortment of questions? Dive into this book and find a treasure of answers.

Thanks to The Experiment Publishing, Universe Today has one copy of this book to give away to our readers. The publisher has specified that for this contest, winners need to be from the US or Canada.

In order to be entered into the giveaway drawing, just put your email address into the box at the bottom of this post (where it says “Enter the Giveaway”) before Monday, February 23, 2015. We’ll send you a confirmation email, so you’ll need to click that to be entered into the drawing. If you’ve entered our giveaways before you should also receive an email with a link on how to enter.

We’re only going to use these email addresses for Universe Today giveaways/contests and announcements. We won’t be using them for any other purpose, and we definitely won’t be selling the addresses to anyone else. Once you’re on the giveaway notification list, you’ll be able to unsubscribe any time you like.

Book Review: Vistas of Many Worlds

While many astronomy books are based around images that show us how the Universe appears to us right now, as seen through the sensitive electronic eyes of powerful space telescopes and observatories around the world, Erik Anderson’s Vistas of Many Worlds: a Journey Through Space and Time takes a different, but no less fascinating, approach and shows us what the night sky used to look like, will one day look like, and how it may look from other much more distant worlds.

The nearby orange dwarf star Epsilon Eridani reveals its circumstellar debris disks in this close-up perspective. (Pages 14-15)
The nearby orange dwarf star Epsilon Eridani reveals its circumstellar
debris disks in this close-up perspective. (Pages 14-15)

Written and illustrated by Erik Anderson of the Ashland Astronomy Studio in Ashland, Oregon, Vistas of Many Worlds first takes us on a tour of our local region of the galaxy, introducing us to some of our Sun’s closest neighbors in space. From Alpha Centauri to Altair, we get scientifically-based renderings of several nearby stars as they’d appear close up, along with a detailed description of each — as well as an accurate depiction of the background stars (including the Sun) as they’d appear from such slightly different vantage points. We soon find out there’s an amazing amount of variety in our own stellar neighborhood alone!

Next we get a tour through time itself with images and detailed descriptions of the night sky as it appeared at various points in Earth’s history. Based on the actual movements of the stars across the galaxy, Anderson is able to accurately show the star-filled sky as it looked when the ocean cascaded over the Strait of Gibraltar to fill in the Mediterranean 5.3 million years ago, when the ancestors of modern humans were first learning to use fire 1.5 million years ago… and also what it will look like when the Solar System eventually dips back down into the galactic plane 25 million years from now — a time when nearly all the stars in the sky will be strangers, unfamiliar to us today.

After that Anderson takes us on a hunt for exoplanets, both known and imagined. We first visit the star systems that have been recently discovered to host planets — some a little like Earth, some a little like Jupiter, and some like nothing we’ve ever seen before. Then it’s off to look for truly Earthlike worlds by looking back at how our own planet became so favorable for life in the first place. From a stable parent star like the Sun to the chance birth of a large, stabilizing moon, from the delivery of life-sustaining liquid water (that stays liquid!) to having a protective “big brother” gas giant ready to take the heavy hits, and eventually what first drew organisms up from the sea onto dry land, Anderson speculates about Earth’s distant exoplanetary twins by reflecting on our planet itself.

The Earth's ancient past is depicted as it looked 4.4 million years ago when an ancient ape, "Ardi" the Ardipithecus, roamed Africa. (Pages 36-37)
The Earth’s ancient past is depicted as it looked 4.4 million years ago
when an ancient ape, “Ardi” the Ardipithecus, roamed Africa. (Pages 36-37)

And all the while showing what stars are where in the sky.

Vistas of Many Worlds is a true gem… it inspires imagination with the turn of each page. Anderson’s photorealistic computer-generated illustrations are lush and intriguing, and he does an excellent job combining speculation with scientific knowledge. It’s science as envisioned by an artist as well as art created by a scientist — truly the best of both many worlds.

The 123-page 9″ x 12″ hardcover book can be purchased on the Ashland Astronomy Studio’s website here, as well as on Amazon.com.

An iBook edition is soon to be announced.

A primordial ocean-world orbited by two moons is depicted in Ptolemy's Cluster (star cluster M7). The scene parallels Earth's own natural history, commemorating the origins of watery oceans out of volcanic steam and infalling comets. (Pages 96-97)
A primordial ocean-world orbited by two moons is depicted in Ptolemy’s
Cluster (star cluster M7). The scene parallels Earth’s own natural history,
commemorating the origins of watery oceans out of volcanic steam and
infalling comets. (Pages 96-97)

All images ©Erik Anderson/Ashland Astronomy Studio. All rights reserved. Used with permission.