Foresight Update 23.30: Space travel: utter bilge? - July 23, 2009
It is, today, just 40 years since I sat glued to a grainy black-and-white TV set and watched the Apollo astronauts land on, and then step out on, the moon. If you had asked me then, I would have assured you that by the year 2000, much less 2009, I'd have my own spaceship, or at least own a flying car and be able to buy tickets on a spaceship whenever I wanted.
It didn't work out that way. Indeed, not only am I not going to be celebrating on the moon, nobody is going there for any purpose whatsoever. We don't even have flying cars. How can we futurists be so blithe about the wonders of technology to come when there has been, so far from progress in this most visible of technological applications, an evident regress?
With space travel, there's a pretty straightforward answer…
From Open Source Sensing:
In the last post we suggested that finding the appropriate starting point was one of the critical items to address in forming a Feynman Path roadmap, and that is true. A thorough survey of available techniques should be made, and recent advances in machining, nanomanipulation, and so forth taken advantage of.
However, as a point of reference, at least one experiment has been made, in a sense, which suggests that a 1/1000-scale system might be achievable (as compared to the desktop-scale prototype with finger-size parts)…
There hasn't been a lot of work on self-replicating workcells. There's been plenty on robotic workcells that don't replicate, but almost all of this falls into the "more complex than what it makes" category. The basic idea goes back to Waldo: imitate a machine shop and the person servicing the machines / assembling the parts…
It's the 20th anniversary of the first Foresight Conference this year. Over the intervening two decades, one of the most common questions of Foresight members and supporters has been, "What can I do to help with the development of nanotech?" Foresight has had many useful programs, and encouraged development in many ways (notably with the Feynman Prizes, in the spirit of the prizes Feynman himself offered for developments leading along his pathway). But we have never taken a hand in the direct development of nanotech per se.
I feel to some extent that this may have contributed to the lack of focus the field of nanotech has had in its course of development. But that can change. The Feynman Path initiative is a specific, concrete proposal — but more, it's one that can be done in an open-source way, for at least the first, roadmap, phase…
Let's look at what nanotech could do — could be doing now if Feynman's path had been taken — to make space travel more achievable and affordable — and therefore useful. It's widely understood how lighter, stronger structures can make rockets more efficient, but that's of limited use. The rocket equation is still a huge stumbling block.
One way around it is not to use rockets at all. Nanotech would be easily able to build a space pier…
—Nanodot posts by J. Storrs Hall
From Open Source Sensing:
Charles Nevin writes in Intelligent Life, a culture magazine published by The Economist, comparing progress toward the surveillance state in the UK, Germany, and Romania. The Brits are 'winning'…
Roger Clarke has a paper titled The Covert Implementation of Mass Vehicle Surveillance in Australia which looks at Automated Number Plate Recognition (ANPR), which he finds being done two different ways…
—Open Source Sensing posts by Christine Peterson
For those readers wishing to have a single list of links to the first ten installments of Foresight President J. Storrs Hall's series on the Feynman path to molecular nanotechnology:
August 20-22, 2009
Advancements in technologies such as nanotech, robotics, and biotech are promising to make major differences in our lives in the not-too-distant future, as the Industrial Revolution did to the agrarian world — to do for the physical world what the computer and Internet have done to the world of information.
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