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From: Stewart Brand
Subject: [Speakers] Starship destiny (Peter Schwartz talk)

“We now know, Schwartz began, that nearly all of the billions of stars in our galaxy have planets. If we can master interstellar travel, “there’s someplace to go.” Our own solar system is pretty boring—one planet is habitable, the rest are “like Antarctica without ice” or worse.

“So this last year a number of researchers and visionaries have begun formal investigation into the practicalities of getting beyond our own solar system. It is an extremely hard problem, for two primary reasons— the enormous energy required to drive far and fast, and the vast amount of time it takes to get anywhere even at high speed.

“The energy required can be thought of in three ways. 1) Impossible—what most scientists think. 2) Slow. 3) Faster than light (FTL). Chemical rockets won’t do at all. Nuclear fission rockets may suffice for visiting local planets, but it would take at least fusion to get to the planets of other stars. Schwartz showed Adam Crowl’s scheme for a Bussard Ramjet using interstellar ions for a fusion drive. James Benford (co-author of the book on all this, Starship Century) makes the case for sail ships powered by lasers based in our Solar System.

“As for faster-than-light, that requires ‘reinventing physics.” Physics does keep doing that (as with the recent discovery of “dark energy). NASA has one researcher, John Cramer, investigating the potential of microscopic wormholes for superluminar travel.

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