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space (spās) n. 1. space beyond the atmosphere of the earth.

prag·ma·tism (prgm-tzm) n. A way of approaching situations or solving problems that emphasizes practical applications and consequences.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Why we need to get off this rock

You know, you hear a lot about why we need to go to space. President Bush mentions the human need for exploration in his Vision for Exploration speech, in January 2004. Others talk about utilizing the resources of other bodies such as Sam Dinkin's article about beaming power from the Moon in this weeks Space Review. Of course there is just the shear coolness of it that all space "geeks" understand.

These are all good reasons to explore space, but there is a much more important and pressing need to get people off this sphere of rock we call Earth. Odds.

In an article by Guy Gugliotta in today's Washington Post, asteroid "2004 MN4" is discussed at some length. You may remember ol' 2004 MN4 as the big scare last December with a 1 in 38 chance of crashing into our beloved homeworld in 2029. Then, after some more extensive tracking it was found that it would miss us. By a whopping 15,000 to 25,000 miles. Wait, that seems like a lot but is it really? That is 1/10th the distance to the moon.

"You don't know what the gravitational effect of the Earth will be," said Brian G. Marsden, who oversees the hunt for near-Earth objects as director of the Minor Planet Center at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
"In 2029, the [close encounter with] Earth will increase the size of the orbit, and the object could get into a resonance with the Earth," he added. "You could get orbit matchups every five years or nine years, or something in between." In fact, 2004 MN4 could come close again in 2034, 2035, 2036, 2037, 2038 or later.
I don't know about you, but this makes me a little uneasy.

An it isn't just this asteroid, although it certainly puts a face and a name to our rocky enemy. Any one of many disasters could send us back to the stone age, if not to oblivion. A super nova just a bit too close, comets, even environmental problems of our own making (or not) could cause our Eden to become a living hell.

The solution? Spread out. Chickens, baskets, everyone get my drift? I highly recommend reading the Kardashvev Scale. (the original paper is translated into English here) Dr. Kardashvev was a Russian science who in 1964 proposed a scale of civilization based on power usage. It has implications on survival as well. See the exert from Wikipedia below:

A common speculation suggests that the transition from Type 0 to Type I might carry a strong risk of self-destruction since there would no longer be room for further expansion on the civilization's home planet.
So, what is the best reason to get off this rock? To keep humanity going.

1 comment:

David said...