Quote notes (#50)

Some painful comparisons at the Real Clear World blog:

China has officially joined the “Moon Landing Club,” which, until Saturday, was the exclusive domain of the United States and the former Soviet Union. China’s rover will now putter around, doing what such missions are typically designed to do: taking lots of pictures and analyzing lunar dirt, more scientifically referred to as regolith.

It may be tempting for Americans to think, “Been there, done that.” However, China is now envisioning the very same sort of ambitious megaprojects that the U.S. once dreamt of more than 50 years ago, when President John F. Kennedy urged America to “commit itself to achieving the goal … of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” For instance, China hopes to mine the moon for natural resources and to use it as a staging ground for further space exploration, although some believe the former goal is unrealistic because the cost is likely to exceed the value of the materials.

Still, China’s wild-eyed aspirations are inspiring. It should make us yearn for the days when we, too, thought we could do anything. But those days now seem so long ago. Indeed, the latest Rasmussen poll finds that 52 percent of Americans think that our best days are behind us. What happened?

(This happened.)

ADDED: Glenn Reynolds on the potential for lunar property stakes (the 1967 Outer Space Treaty shouldn’t be much of a problem). “If, like me, you’d like to see a gold rush on the moon — or, at least, a Helium-3 rush — then a Chinese claim might be just the thing to get it started.”

December 17, 2013admin 23 Comments »
FILED UNDER :World

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23 Responses to this entry

  • Lesser Bull Says:

    Moon exploration, the way we went about it–a colossal gtovernment program with no real intent to exploit and settle–was a colossal waste of money and a harbinger of the decline.

    Sinophobes should welcome this move.

    [Reply]

    pseudo-chrysostom Reply:

    in other news, getting out of bed in the morning requires burning some calories.

    [Reply]

    Lesser Bull Reply:

    If we can put a man on the moon, we can figure out a way so that the average, hardworking American family can get out of bed in the morning without being forced to burn some calories.

    [Reply]

    pseudo-chrysostom Reply:

    but my friend, how do you plan (or even plan) on outfoxing entropy, if you are categorically opposed to advancing it in any way?

    Lesser Bull Reply:

    You just have to believe hard enough. Yes, we can!

    Posted on December 17th, 2013 at 5:18 pm Reply | Quote
  • Manjusri Says:

    This is a bigger step than a lot of people realize. Neither the US or the Soviet Union has done this in decades- it can’t just be reverse-engineered from old plans and equipment. Shenzhou and Tiangong were Soviet knockoffs, but this is an original accomplishment.

    This is China’s “Sputnik Moment”. Will we realize it and wake up, or are we too far gone to see?

    [Reply]

    Manjusri Reply:

    (Well, of course the Soviet Union hasn’t done it in decades, as it hasn’t existed in decades. The greater point is that Russia hasn’t gone either, so this took original work on the part of China. Which proves that their space program can innovate and is truly now a force to be reckoned with.)

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    First moon landing for 37 years (!).

    [Reply]

    nyan_sandwich Reply:

    Send this comment back in time to 1969, compare reality to the dreams.

    [Reply]

    Posted on December 17th, 2013 at 10:54 pm Reply | Quote
  • VXXC Says:

    Asteroid mining is a good or better bet than moon mining, I actually support both.

    Never mind the “cost”. The New World I’m typing from didn’t pay off for decades.

    http://www.planetaryresources.com/mission/ — asteroid mining

    And our private sector is not exactly slouching because NASA dropped the ball..

    http://www.spacenews.com/

    [Reply]

    Posted on December 18th, 2013 at 3:29 am Reply | Quote
  • DEPhysicist Says:

    Interestingly, VXXC, my own research into the topic indicates we’re not actually all that far from having the technological capability to do a lot more than just mine asteroids. By “lot more” I’m referring to the ability to start disassembling rocky planets like Mercury, with full reduction to rubble and industrial metals over a period measured in decades. The key is the combination of rapidly developing industrial process automation with advanced robotics and AI-assisted teleoperation. Of course, there’s still a tremendous amount of engineering to be done (and money to be spent) to make that intersection a practical reality but it isn’t some pie-in-the-sky dream for future centuries.

    I’ll also point out that the “seed” mass from which you construct your extraplanetary industrial empire (for which the on-site presence of humans is not required) can be as low as a few hundred tons and is very unlikely to exceed a thousand. That’s assuming a 50% equipment failure rate. The idea is to construct not individual machines that can reproduce in the manner Von Neumann suggested, but an industrial eco-system that is collectively self-reproducing an occasionally receives “reinforcements” from Earth. Secondary industrial branches are attached to the core self-replicating trunk to produce the desired outputs.

    The traditional concept of space industry/colonization is in most ways a case of fallacious analogy. Many people, even those who should know better, simply assume that we’ll colonize space like we colonized the Americas. Small groups of people will build little self-sustaining settlements that will then grow over time into a rough copy of the home country. But space isn’t 17th century Massachusetts; on Earth colonists don’t start from nothing but build only a relatively shallow substrate on top of a mass of interconnected self-replicating biomachinery. For space colonization, we must send machines before us to build all this. The colonists will not be hacking a difficult existence out of a harsh new world, they’ll be tearing the shrinkwrap off robotically constructed colonies.

    The biggest challenge is, of course, getting the money and engineering/science expertise together to solve those problems. On that front we’re in a race between civilizational disintegration and some nation or other powerful group recognizing that for a paltry few trillion in investment they can own the future Solar Empire. This model raises a lot of questions, as well, such as what the role human colonists play (maybe stretching the tele-operation window further into the outer solar system?). Of course in addition to technical/economic reasons, people(s) will go for all the old reasons they leave home.

    [Reply]

    VXXC Reply:

    Dear DEPhysicist,

    Thank you for your response.

    I agree, and this part is brilliant. Someone should sell it that way…

    ” For space colonization, we must send machines before us to build all this. The colonists will not be hacking a difficult existence out of a harsh new world, they’ll be tearing the shrinkwrap off robotically constructed colonies.”

    Works for me. We need to branch out, this is becoming necrotic. And by becoming I mean since the American Frontier closed 123 years ago. Colonies are an ancient practice of man at least since the Phoenicians. It’s also core to the American pysche, as Admin pointed out in Lure of the Void.

    Pardon me if I freely plagarize your conclusions above.

    ADMIN I hope you heard the good Doctor.

    I agree above all philosophically, and wouldn’t question such benevolent technical expertise.

    [Reply]

    Thales Reply:

    Indeed, this is all true. QFE:

    “The biggest challenge is, of course, getting the money and engineering/science expertise together to solve those problems. On that front we’re in a race between civilizational disintegration and some nation or other powerful group recognizing that for a paltry few trillion in investment they can own the future Solar Empire.”

    Score one more for Monarchy or facsimile thereof.

    [Reply]

    VXXC Reply:

    I can live with Space King. As long as he’s American.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    I agree with VXXC — this is great stuff.

    [Reply]

    VXXC Reply:

    MORE

    [Reply]

    Posted on December 18th, 2013 at 5:20 am Reply | Quote
  • Igitur Says:

    I know Stross is gauche now by these pastures, but allow me —

    “NASA are idiots. They want to send _canned primates_ to Mars!” Manfred swallows a mouthful of beer, aggressively plonks his glass on the table: “Mars is just dumb mass at the bottom of a gravity well; there isn’t even a biosphere there. They should be working on uploading and solving the nanoassembly conformational problem instead. Then we could turn all the available dumb matter into computronium and use it for processing our thoughts. Long-term, it’s the only way to go. The solar system is a dead loss right now – dumb all over! Just measure the MIPS per milligram. If it isn’t thinking, it isn’t working. We need to start with the low-mass bodies, reconfigure them for our own use. Dismantle the moon! Dismantle Mars! Build masses of free-flying nanocomputing processor nodes exchanging data via laser link, each layer running off the waste heat of the next one in. Matrioshka brains, Russian doll Dyson spheres the size of solar systems. Teach dumb matter to do the Turing boogie!”

    [Reply]

    VXXC Reply:

    All who agree please assemble your own bio-mass recoverters and march in.

    You first.

    Right behind you. Honest Injun.

    There is a faction of AI etc that is right out of Gozer Worshippers. Even the actual Alistair Crowley was benevolent by comparison. Gozer worship in Ghostbusters was in fact auto-biographical.

    http://takimag.com/article/comedy_for_the_devil_kathy_shaidle/#axzz2nq23JsBM

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    I like that side of Stross, but unfortunately it’s intended as parody (as his ‘first order’ blogging makes clear).

    [Reply]

    Posted on December 18th, 2013 at 11:11 am Reply | Quote
  • Igitur Says:

    I understand now how middle-of-the-road (generally speaking; he probably listens to Chicago as he writes) Stross is through his blog and even some personal correspondence.

    I think there’s something to cheer about some notion of omnicomputationalism to the tune of “teach dumb matter”. I’m thinking, for example, of Manuel de Landa’s homilies on how rivers are sorting machines on pebbles and how soap bubbles are conditional energy minimizers. And I’m trying to stay this side of Gozer, not appealing to ideas of digital physics and mathematical realism and such; Stephenson’s “right pinky of God” that types fundamental constants into a command line and instantiates an universe is fundamentally Gozerian, but the notion that local structure-formation implies morphogenesis-computation requires only some simple monism, some kind of omnia-ex-machina.

    Cladistics à la Moldbug misses this. Not only race, but the space race, the grand historical curve of China; all of this is thought of as distinctly finalistic, missing the hows for the whys. Do whys even exist? (Isn’t the lesswrongian basilisk a pathological outcome of a post-historical speculative idealism of the whys?)

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Insofar as cladistics picks up real blocks of inheritance, doesn’t it include the ‘how’ to some extent? Modern biology claims to have dispensed entirely with ‘why’, but it’s more cladistic than ever.

    [Reply]

    Igitur Reply:

    Apparently my communication skills are at a low point. I’d like point blame the blame at current life circumstances and stresses, but this is a better (instinctually more meritocratic) forum. Not in my defense, my english may be sub-par simply because I’ve never lived anywhere where english was a common everyday language.

    What I meant was precisely the opposite: that moldbugged cladistics is overtly finalistic (the whys) at the expense of the mechanics (the hows). The very structure of cladistics induces that to an end — it _is_ a directed acyclic graph –but moldbugged cladistics have a distinct linnaean flavor to them as well. I could be wrong. UR is one of the blogs I stopped reading in the wake of the financial meltdown of late 2008 — i.e. prior to the Cathedral and such.

    Present Moldbug is still too much of a system for me to take, I guess. I was taught from much too young to “make rhizome, not trees, never plant!”. But there are _fangs_ in the Dark Enlightenment that are worth following. (I think we can conclude that Radish is not a werewolf!)

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    No need to beat yourself up — it’s a fascinating topic, and some things are just difficult. I could use some further clarification on this line of criticism, though.

    Posted on December 19th, 2013 at 1:59 am Reply | Quote

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