Communion Of Dreams

Well, we know the *real* reason . . .
November 1, 2008, 8:32 am
Filed under: Astronomy, NASA, National Geographic, Science, Science Fiction, Space, Titan

I’m still playing catch-up, so just found this news item of interest on the National Geographic site – an excerpt:

But a new study reports faint signs of a natural electric field in Titan’s thick cloud cover that are similar to the energy radiated by lightning on Earth.

Lightning is thought to have sparked the chemical reactions that led to the origin of life on our planet.

“As of now, lightning activity has not been observed in Titan’s atmosphere,” said lead author Juan Antonio Morente of the University of Granada in Spain.

But, he said, the signals that have been detected “are an irrefutable proof for the existence of electric activity.”

OK, the piece is actually about how Titan is known to have all the necessary “prebiotic” conditions needed for the beginning of life as we know it, and how electrical activity from lightning on the moon could provide the spark to initiate life.

But I thought it a bit fun to speculate that the electric field detected is actually evidence of the tholin superconducting gel at the heart of Communion of Dreams.

Another travelogue from my recent trip later today, if things come together as I hope.

Jim Downey

A bit of fun.
September 19, 2008, 8:31 am
Filed under: Art, National Geographic

Think you know geography?

Well, National Geographic is a great resource for expanding your Earth-based horizons a bit.  No surprise there.  But one thing my wife has been playing recently, and which has also sucked me in, are the puzzles that they have using maps.  You can set the difficulty level, making them appropriate for about any skill level.  And you might actually learn a bit more about our world.  A bit of fun – enjoy!

Jim Downey

Remember, it *always* pays to back-up your data.

Pretty much everyone has had the experience of having your computer crash and take out data you hadn’t backed-up properly. Whether it is some kind of hardware failure, or a virus, or a lighting strike, or even a malicious employee/spouse/whomever, at some point we have all lost stuff on a computer we thought was secure. If you’re *really* lucky, you don’t lose much, and you learn the painful lesson about keeping important information properly backed-up on recoverable media. If you’re not really lucky, you learn the hard way that you can lose years of hard work in just an instant, with no recovery possible.

And that’s the basic idea behind building a secure storage facility for the bulk of human knowledge, and perhaps even humanity itself, off-planet. The people behind the newly formed Alliance to Rescue Civilization want to do just that:

‘Lunar Ark’ Proposed in Case of Deadly Impact on Earth

The founders of the group Alliance to Rescue Civilization (ARC) agreed that extending the Internet from the Earth to the moon could help avert a technological dark age following “nuclear war, acts of terrorism, plague, or asteroid collisions.” (Read: “Killer Asteroids: A Real But Remote Risk?” [June 19, 2003].)

But the group also advocates creating a moon-based repository of Earth’s life, complete with human-staffed facilities to “preserve backups of scientific and cultural achievements and of the species important to our civilization,” saidARC’s Robert Shapiro, a biochemist at New York University.

“In the event of a global catastrophe, the ARC facilities will be prepared to reintroduce lost technology, art, history, crops, livestock, and, if necessary, even human beings to the Earth,” Shapiro said.

This idea is not new. Not at all – it’s been a staple of SF for decades in one form or another, and is even somewhat cliche. The previous version of Communion of Dreams had the impact of a .3 km meteorite in central China about 2026 as being the primary motivating force to pushing humankind to fully develop space-faring capability as a survival strategy. But the feedback I got from a limited group of readers was that such a second global catastrophe was a little hard to swallow, so I tweaked that in the current version to just be a limited nuclear war in that part of the world. I’m still somewhat ambivalent about this change, and would discuss with an editor whether or not to go back to the previous version.

Anyway, to the best of my knowledge, this is the first real effort to take this kind of precaution in even a preliminary form. It is based on the idea that a viable Moon base in the coming decades would allow for this kind of repository to be constructed almost as an afterthought to the other facilities. By tying it into whatever form of Internet develops in the future, it would be possible to keep it continually updated with minimal effort, meaning that the vast majority of knowledge could be archived for future access. Add in a proper seed bank, frozen embryos, and perhaps advanced storage of DNA/RNA samples, and you’d be able to repopulate & rehabilitate the earth even after a major catastrophe.

Let’s hope that we don’t as a species have to learn the lesson the hard way that it pays to back-up our data, even ourselves.

Jim Downey