"Consider the postage stamp: its usefulness consists in the ability to stick to one thing til it gets there." -- Josh Billings
"Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal." -- Henry Ford
"...To boldly go and stay, where none have stayed before." -- adapted from Charles Longway at Mars Society Annual Con #12
"The path of least resistance is what makes rivers run crooked." -- Elbert Hubbard
"We don't know who it was that discovered water, but we're pretty sure that it wasn't a fish." -- Marshall McLuhan
"...The innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions." -- N. Machiavelli
"Think globally, act locally." -- old hippie saying.
I've made Adra as a tree of nodes in the usual unix style. Adra's core topic is the urgent need for not more wars nor more faith-based ignorance; but for human settlements and a culture far off our local Terra. This file you are reading is my Adra's root node. -- Martha Adams
Working in today's html environment, so loaded with complexification, Adra seeks the plain utility of a typewritten research paper's monospace text on unelaborated pages. Thus content stands out and format is relegated to its appropriate place: far-backstage. That corrects a severe handicap built into today's fancified (plus vendor lockin) wordprocessors, which inextricably combine these two different text elements. Here in Adra, content not flashy formatting, is central.
(Beware of tools that make hard things easy. They come at a cost. We become less able to undertake things that are hard.)
[---Adra's natural text width = 78 characters. This line is 78 characters.---]
A friend met at Boskone 2012 (Feb) observes that Adra is very text dense. I agree. I chose to make it so. I make Adra dense because this isn't a TV or a comic book, or some other easy-reading production to complement the reader's ease while smoking or sipping ...something. This Adra is made in hope to encourage a few of our best young people to a difficult career. To choose to work against natural and against faith-based, senseless human obstacles. To do that because us humans, being apparently alone in space, must build a future far beyond this local Terra. (Else, have no future.) Which option today's America in its crazed spasms of wars and religious faith; of militarism; of political corruption, toys with and discards.[amer]
Thus I make my Adra minimalist for topic and environment I believe need it. Minimalism works! Today's computer based elaborations amount to great eye candy. (And force immense but empty traffic expansion in cyberspace.) But where there is serious work to do, i.e., space settlement, elaboration distracts and the work to make it answers no need. To avoid it, frees the mind for the work at hand. That is why I've made Adra -- as I chose to make it.
I made Adra for those who question: Where is best to settle on Luna? How would you do that, a robust settlement far off this local Terra, good across centuries like a large Terran city? And it would seed settlements farther out? Can you imagine watching a sunset across Gusev Crater? Might yourself or your children and a whole new American culture, live Out There someday? Might your grandchild choose her home where Jupiter fills her sky and it's nice to watch Jupiter's moons coming by?
I believe anyone who can't cope with a little info density, isn't one of this class of people. Isn't who I'm writing to nor has use for it.
The rest of this universe begins nearby -- directly outside your door -- and it is big. It goes on from there, astronomers and cosmologists believe, nearly fourteen billion lightyears. Today's technology can reach out to it. (Which is good to do, because one of these days, that astronomical Out There is going to reach In Here, to powerful and deadly effect.) But we see today, that who thinks of a human future in space must be a social outlier of some sort from mundane society.
(Most American society finds these people disturbing: they ask questions. Here is a good one: If intelligent life has been possible in this universe for some 12 billion years, then why do we find no sign of it? What rational models might that point to? Etc etc....)
Adra is about human settlements off-Terra, and I want to see those set Out There from America. Not from China nor India nor Russia nor wherever else. That will be hard to do, for today's degraded and failing America. Which it challenges twice over: Adra challenges objectives a degraded Washington sets as American needs and priorities. ("Best government money can buy.") And it challenges temporary science and and engineering limits which us Americans could exceed by fact-based work and research.
Recent history shows (some of) us Americans certainly have the stuff to get out into space, but that a critical part of our right stuff is too weak or polluted. Ignorance and religion; militarism and political corruption; all work among us to compelling effect against the hope and possibility that await us -- Out There.
What can myself alone do in face of this reality? At least, I can avoid pointless decoration. Thus here in Adra, I say what I say and as I write, I work to avoid distracting and empty complexification.
For example. Today, we see HTML5 encroaching into cyberspace. It might be that HTML5 has, somehow, some productive advantage over simplicity. If that's there, I don't see it. If you do, then I'd like to hear from you about that utility, which I'd apply to improve Adra's style. In the mean time, I'm moving along with my personal choice for Adra's style: to emulate monospace font on paper.
All Adra is my own belief and work, except where clearly labelled otherwise.
To move among Adra's nodes, use the links you'll find along the way (like immediately below); and your browser's resources. See links options throughout Adra to link back to 'Top'. Those return to here.
See also, more local topics below this list.
A topic area in Adra may be a single topic in a single node. It may be several topics in a node that starts a small sub-tree. For example, the node 'Culture, Economics, and Politics' is a local top node, and if you go there, you'll find an options list to link down to subtree nodes there.
Adra is not an archive or a record. It reflects some of today's reality, within my topic, as I see it from here, more or less now. But that reality changes: its variations reflect emergence and chaos as much as any rational progression (which seems scarce these days). Thus Adra changes. And as I write here, tracking reality change and my own responses to it, I set my thinking into this linked collection of computer files (mostly ascii) around Adra's central topic,
Colonize, settle, and develop off-Terra -- Now! Because: that's a superior alternative to more military; to more intrusive and innovation-killing "security;" to yet more wars. Which activities amount to a no-return black hole for human and irreplaceable natural resources. And: Our local Terran geology; our solar system where our Terra orbits; our universe generally, are not our friends. One of these days something totally destructive is going to arrive here (or perhaps, some faith-based few of us will Do It to all of us); and if we are not widely distributed across our local space when that comes, then we're gone.
If you feel my topic of human life, settlements, and culture, new and far off Terra, is an unfamiliar or difficult topic, Wikipedia offers a starting point for you.[wik] Be reminded this Wiki piece is useful but incomplete: it begins a large topic with a long history that brings in many related subtopics. (I recall my own perceptions when I first came to mining technology as a space travel and settlements topic.)
Adra is files in cyberspace: these files are malleable. Reality changes; the news changes; my perception of things changes; Adra changes. I don't make new editions of Adra. Rather, at need as I see or find it, I update, develop, and add new.
Namely: Nothing here is Final; Finished For All Time. All here is what I saw to do, when I did it. I've placed my latest Adra activity date in the top lines of this node.
As you read this Adra, expect to come across work in progress: labels, outlining, notes, and unfinished paragraphs.
In fact, all Adra, seen here as static files published, is also discussion and work in progress. Reality changes; it might even improve (but I see no sign of that down in today's Washington). Meanwhile, what you find here today is ...what you find here today. It was the best I saw to do when I wrote it.
If you have been watching the American space program across recent decades and wondered at its starts and stops; its hiccups and restarts; its inappropriate or bad engineering choices that sometimes turn up in the news; at the peculiar sensitivity of space workers to the apparently irrelevant "4-year Presidential cycle," well, there's a reason for that and Gary Harris sums it up nicely.
I direct this Harris quote to whoever asks, "If America can do better than we see these days, then why this pattern of frequent restart/restop failure?" I direct it to warn whoever thinks of a lifetime career or of a large part in the work, to place human settlements Out There in our local Solar System. I direct it to those who see Robert Zubrin's decades of speaking truth vs ignorance and who ask, "Zubrin has it right, why does Washington prefer wars?" There is, of course, reason for this consistent badness and you can find a very good book about its roots.[wbrg] The book is out of print but if you search used-books suppliers, you can find a copy of it. (In its time, the book appeared in several versions.)
This Harris quote, originally published in 2001 and well supported by events since then, outlines another root of America's failure to do space. (But see also, my Golden Tripod piece in Adra's Brass Tacks section.) Space is the objective we most need as a country and as a species to reach today. Space is a hard social, science, and engineering challenge, but why we aren't there now is not because it's hard. Rather, the stopping force is some thing of us and by us. It's about America, sliding down its national ladder of life.[ldr] We let an isolated few among us, choose for all of us, more wars at any cost. We listen to those who promise return to a simple, idealized, and comfortable past that in fact never existed. And about space, well, see Gary Harris (2001):
"For starters, you have to understand that there never really was a space program. The term "program" denotes a sense of direction, a long-term plan if you will. There never was a long-term plan. If Congress gives you money on a yearly basis and presidents and administrators use you for whatever political gain they can garner from your existence, then long-term technical evolution is not possible. Decisions that NASA administrators make are often the direct result of political expediencies.* The shuttle is an excellent example. It was what is called a sustainer program, something that will keep the troops employed. Of course we thought the shuttle would live up to its expectations; nevertheless, the decision to build it had as much to do with politics as space exploration."
(* As in, the loss in 1999 of the Mars Climate Orbiter? The "international" Shuttle engineered English not metric? See Adra's Brass Tacks, English or Metric? This footnote to the above quote is my own doing, not part of the Harris quote. -- mha)
I have this quote from Gary Harris, The Origins and Technology of the Advanced Extravehicular Space Suit, its Page 3. AAS History Series, Volume 24. By the American Astronomical Society, 2001. (Note that date.)
I mention space suits design early in Adra for central reasons: A space suit is a tiny space station, complete with energy production, life support, and heat disposal systems (vs thermos-bottle effect). Further, just for the perspective it brings to you to do this, think about doing human space exploration and settlement, without space suits. For which reasons, among others, your personal library wants this very rich book. It is available from Univelt, along with other major resources there. See http://www.univelt.com/.
That above quote, ugly reality, amounts to a serious warning to any bright young person who might undertake space research and settlements work as a life career. It points to a much too close connection in America between space work and walking papers for those who might attempt a needed contribution to our America -- and to our species long term survival.
See what happened to participants in the SETI, the Superconducting Supercollider, the Apollo, the Shuttle, and the Constellation programs. (An incomplete list of American debacles across recent decades, apart from the wars.) Those were world caliber leading-edge programs, looking forward to the future. Any of them, even the Shuttle program, returned science and engineering riches to America. (And had immense potential, unlike any military operations or wars, to rebuild America's degraded World standing.)
But Congress seems to have no foresight, or perhaps its agenda is not what we might think and hope. (And need!) At a whim, it switches off such programs like you'd turn off an unwanted room light.* For those young and able workers who dedicated their futures to those programs, "best" was irrelevant. (Beware the American four-year Presidential cycle!) Thus whoever undertakes a space oriented career in America, risks that through no personal failing, just because they are there, they are hit by mindless and catastrophic career ending change to their economic and work environments.
(* For all its compromises, faults, and inappropriate economies imposed upon it 'to save money,' the Space Shuttle program built a large industrial base including exceptionally able people who developed their knowhow and hands-on skills to a point not seen before in human enterprise. The value of such a resource cannot be overestimated -- but it can be ignored by the American Congress. See, Mike Schneider, 'Former space workers struggle a year after last shuttle,' about 2012 July 16 from Associated Press in '2012 USA Today'.)
For anyone beginning from zero to think about the practical engineering required to live off-Terra, Harris is the place to start. After all, a space suit is an autonomous and complete space station, made in miniature. (List basic engineering objectives for these two things. space stations vs space suits, that seem at first so unlike each other. The parallels will surprise you, and improve your awareness of a common element: the space environment.) But also, space suits are on the critical path for settlements in space: no space suits, no settlements.
Which makes the design, construction, and operating costs of space suits as central to space settlements as building and powering the lifespaces and the industrial base each lifespace requires. Being present among engineers doing the work is a powerful resource to understand a topic, but we can't all do that. A good alternative exists: Study Harris! Read his words directly out of the war zone, I mean out of the engineering laboratory, of the stumbles and surprises a real engineer faces daily. And Harris includes useful observations about the (usually unwelcome) political and bureaucratic processes often found in work the uninformed outsider thinks is all engineering and clean science. As discussed elsewhere in Adra, your library wants a copy of Gary Harris on space suits.
America today is a technologically retarded nation. America is overtaken by a military so pricey that its immense annual budget, reduced by two-thirds, would be the world's largest.[ptt] And overtaken also, by a growing security establishment whose costs approach a hundred billions per year and which must widely advertise its small successes because there are so very few of them. (The TSA, across its past decade of compelling air travelers to submissions and humiliations, has yet to find its first terrorist boarding an American aircraft. Its contributions to the porn industry are not relevant here.)
(Of course I touch this theme at several points here and throughout Adra. I repeat because I think this is central. Back in the 1960's, America was starting to become a space-faring nation. However, a war (Vietnam, back then) competed for our national (governmental) attention. Doing the war won, and that was a direct step to today's America.[amer]. America does not fail through some Big Daddy's ire or other supernatural process; nor through any relentless quirk of physics or mathematics or social process. It fails thru natural aspects of our human character; of faith-based process. And whoever faces fact-based reality, can see that in social research and in today's world.)
America has lost by choice, its place as a world technology and research leader. Religious ideologies are central to this degradation. For example, stem cells research, a potentially large public good, is senselessly delayed and damaged by intrusive religious ideologies.[ido] And most of today's TV programming reflects a simple and repetitive, cops and robbers view of reality, spiced with gratuitous brutality. Which reaches and damages our next generation coming up. American children rarely experience any informed presentation of technology.[tek] There is good programming out there, but you must patiently search it out. Do catch PBS's science programs, which are most of all out there worth time to watch it. (And N.DeG. Tyson and James Gates are very good to watch.)
Much glittering (imported) hardware in the markets serves to hide this growing American failure. Which failure has career consequences for individual people, but larger consequences too. Knowledgeable people all around Terra can see past American military "might" and PR to the unfortunate reality, which is well described by Grant, among others.[rlty] Academics looking ahead and working at topics of our developing American future, write books that are much too convincing about what our American future may be coming to.[bks]
I placed the Harris quote near Adra's top because what Harris writes is basic both to human life off Terra and to why we aren't there today. And also, to warn and advise whoever seeks a career in space work. The American socioeconomic climate for that is hostile. My Harris quote near the top of this page serves directly or indirectly at several points thru Adra's content.
During the better Apollo years, a half century past, knowledgeable people expected humans would walk on Mars in the 1980's. At that time, Mars was an easy and accessible objective beyond Luna. It could have been done, and by choice it was not done. Somebody wanted war in Vietnam, more than that. We got the war, and its consequences. The then touted "domino theory" of national collapses has long since faded away but social consequences of that war have not: a center for homeless veterans stands today in downtown Boston.
I think I see a repeating cycle here, the Vietnam war with variations. The invasion of Iraq was marked in its beginning by generously applied flash and dazzle;[fdaz] and today we experience the consequences of that choice and of that war. (Update: those choices; those wars.)
Of which, one consequence is that nobody lives on Mars now; nobody has even visited for a first up-close look at it. Apollo did near-zero to Luna in less than ten years. Look at us today and at how remarkably, we have moved down from what we once could do. Recently published estimates place Americans on Mars -- just to checkout the tech to do it -- vaguely around 10 to 100 years from now, maybe.[when] This is political and cultural decay. For all its hugely expensive military and "security" institutions, today's America is diminished. How does our America fail so?
(Those military and "security" institutions?)
Today's American reality is its failing world rank in culture and in technology.[rnk] (Having much the biggest military on all Terra contributes largely to this change.) Today's reality is that we haven't settlements in space now, owing to severe and destructive political and ideological failings. Namely: political corruption and religion based ignorance. And to powerful competition in Washington by the American military to grab up tax dollars which might otherwise be turned to good service.
That sort of thing is terribly hard to set right. Might America do that -- someday? See Machiavelli for thinking on the topic.[mcv]
Further, many Americans (a majority, apparently) believe some supernatural Power administers and guarantees our national welfare. (Certain American budget policies out of Washington seem, in fact, to require this.) For which reason, these people imagine, looking out to space isn't necessary and may in fact, risk some authoritarian Big Daddy's displeasure. Who responds, they believe, with earthquakes, comets, new diseases, and the like.
(Which is, of course, not rationally believable. But it's in today's Presidential politics. It's an "authoritative" pronouncement by Michelle Bachman. Who hopefully, has no chance whatever to reach the President's chair; but what she said, she certainly believes; and she estimates that very many other Americans believe it too.)
The reality is, Big Daddy isn't out there. Big Daddy ...isn't. Us humans must care for ourselves in a hostile universe. Our recent appearance here did not change the fundamental workings of it -- all fourteen billion lightyears of it. That we have been relatively lucky across the recent millennia is statistical chance, not Big Daddy clearing the way for us. Our science shows us we can expect change at any time, and in fact, some of that change seems visible now. (Climate change or even climate snap; super volcanoes like Yellowstone, among others.) What we do in preparation for any such future, is wholly up to us. What our future amounts to over the long run is up to us. Solely.
You're in my privately operated Web project named Adra. The work here is by myself alone, except where clearly attributed to someone else. This Adra's tap-root is my frustration and disbelieving anger, beginning decades ago, as I saw Washington strangling Apollo to "save" money for the then Vietnam war. Today, Adra runs on my time and my dollar solely. When Adra reflects thinking and opinion, it reflects my own thinking and opinion. Here in Adra, I am nobody else's spokesperson.
And so I am writing here for the future that I see coming at us. Nobody knows what that future will be -- as a simple experiment, recall this world ten years ago and from that base, try to see today. You can't, whatever PR specialists, politicians, and others may say. Our human society is chaotic and emergent. We can guess and plan ahead, but upon our arrival in tomorrow's reality, we will always find large surprises. (Always! And deadly, sometimes.) Which basic does not relieve us of thinking about what might be out there -- or about what certainly is out there.
Adra is about us positioning our human species against what some of those surprises might turn out to be. Adra proposes starting several permanent Settlements, far off Terra, with large social, industrial, and economic networks interconnecting them. The objective would be a self supporting human presence in this local solar system. I believe that of the many things we might do in space today, what we must do in space today, if we respond appropriately to the social and science realities we know today, is begin those permanent Settlements now.
(Note for emphasis: not robot machines, however pricey and sophisticated; not expeditions to swing by a place to look at it and return without actually doing anything). Not bases, even. Settlements: permanent settlements. Now!)
One very good reason to start this work is the focus it would bring to our American culture, which has had no focus nor objective, except wars, in recent decades. (We'd look very much better to thinking people around our Terra, too.) Today's America seems largely focussed on wars, social conflict, and an elitist economic stratification. (Maybe you've asked why the topic 'corruption' is scarce in today's news? Think about that, recalling the old dictum "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence," and look around you.)
Further, today's America seems riddled with ignorance based religious and political forces. Our today's American culture won't survive over the long run. It can't. 'Left Behind' the more reality based and dynamic cultures in this world is the unlikely best we can hope for, if this goes on. But I believe today's America has options yet to begin reality based education and growth objectives. To escape from today's deadly social ills; to choose a new and constructive direction. ...How do we see that?
Our powerful visionary resource is History. This knowledge base we call "History" is a sequential record over time of how things happened and how they turned out. Much can be made of History's errors and imperfections. Much can be made of History as product saved by those who survived it. (By luck, usually; but the History they've saved may attribute that survival to something else. "Divine guidance and favor" may be mentioned.) Thus the History generally lacks critical and accurate detail. But the record we call "History" connects to our human realities; and after all, it's what we have. (Some mention "prophecy." Not me.) Much can be made of this History, if it's rationally applied.
History researchers and students see structure in history. They use that structure in their work, with loose and overlapping labels for parts of it as they see it. For instance: "Middle Ages," "Victorian age," "Post-industrial age." The American frontier is such a part of history. The American frontier runs from before 1600 to about 1890 AD. In 1893, Frederick Turner published his first paper[fjt] on the importance of the frontier to American character and social structure.
It's usual in the American culture to devalue history. Some writers point strongly to that wrong. See a well known (in some circles) observation by Heinlein.[rah]
Among academics, Turner outlines a developmental stage scheme for settlement progression from wilderness to stable and productive culture. For the imaginative reader, Turner's work translates remarkably into an outline for how the future settlement of space might be done. We need that outline because space is hard, and I'm not hearing anything better from anyone else. (This topic calls for long term thinking, and in fact, I'm hearing none of that.) For which reason Turner gets several mentions here in Adra, and he appears central to Zubrin's thinking in his Case for Mars book.[rzw]
I think this space settlements topic is very urgent business today. Why do we want to think about it? Of the very many good reasons for opening Settlements far off Terra, four reasons stand out especially. These are,
1) Mental health issues, or cranks. Take your choice. Up to about a century ago, nobody could kill Civilization. Today, look what happened as modern technologies reached into countries whose social systems relied upon faith-based ideologies. Today, a crank in his kitchen, not noticed until too late, might kill our human world.
2) Population. Our human population here on Terra has exploded beyond anything needed or longterm realizable, yet its uncontrolled growth goes on. For various reasons among various peoples, to cool this growth is not (today) an option. But resources returned from space, most particularly electric energy, might enable us to continue a little farther along this course. Which gives us some time to correct this population growth before it crashes "naturally."[pop]
3) Super volcanoes. There are a few of those around Terra, and one or another could erupt at any time and drop a thousand-year ice age on us. What would that do to our business and industrial systems around Terra? How would our human world respond to that? In fact, we have one of Terra's largest super volcanoes right here in America: we call it Yellowstone Park. Which has been erupting over far time, about every 600,000 years. Today we are 640,000 years past its last eruption.
4) Astronomical reality. Today's human-comfortable Terra comes with termination date attached, like an expectable bill for very big money. Researchers are finding records out of our Terran past of comparable termination dates: ask the dinosaurs; ask the people who built the various disappeared civilizations around Terra. That astronomical reality is not knocking on our door today seems generally construed as meaning it doesn't exist in fact. True, in a sense -- but someday, that's going to change.
The foreseeable consequences to us of ignoring these above possibilities, and all the others, would seem to preclude anyone making that mistake. If you believe that's reality, think again. It's a powerful warning to us that, in decades of work, SETI has found nobody else in our galactic local space out to several light years. We know of just ourselves alone. It's not the expectable result. We don't know why we see it, but we don't need a lot of detail to read a clear warning in it. It's merely rational to believe our future includes a day when something comes in and here on Terra we must say either "Our settlements Out There will survive this," or, speaking to all our ancestors and to all our history, "Sorry about that."
The rational response to such possibility is simply to do something reality-based about it. Options exist, and are discussed in engineering and in science fiction literatures.[skl]
At several points in Adra, I mention why I personally believe what I say in Adra. There are those among us who advocate for more wars and indefinitely more people here. Some among us work to return us, by force of religion, politics, rhetoric, ignorance and law, to one or another nostalgic and clean past that in fact, never existed. Some among us would distract us to games, competitions, and wars locally as if these had some meaning to our Universe at large.[dst] Some among us of darkest premedieval outlook say a supernatural Daddy made our world recently and that humans in space amounts to a terrible wrong against His natural order.
All these noisy (and authoritarian) people make a serious fundamental error. That error, if this goes on, can kill all our past, all we do, all our hope and future. I think we have yet a choice today, still accessible to us. If we ignore that choice (more wars, for example), then we risk that all our history and our ancestors best work, comes to less than chaotic and silent rubble. But if we choose reality-based rational action, if we care for ourselves appropriately in a dangerous and uncertain Universe, we may do very much better than that. We're grownups now, responsible to ourselves only. There are no supernatural guarantees; also no others. It's up to us.
That's what I believe, and here in my Adra, you can learn why I believe it. Here I speak of a few options of the many I see Out There for appropriate constructive change. Adra is about what I think we can and should be doing -- now.
In today's world of multiple browsers running in operating systems based upon diametrically opposed philosophies (Linux vs Microsoft), simplicity is hard to do. It turns out, different browsers render my pages source a little differently. For best Adra readability, you may want to tinker with your browser parameters. Here are some suggestions:
Browser = Firefox 3: Click 'View', check 'Zoom' --> 'Zoom Text Only'; try 'Ctrl +' x4 for larger text.
Since I last wrote here about Firefox, it's into new versions. The current version treats my Adra very badly. On 2010 Dec 05, I've been looking for an appropriate fix but I have not found it yet. I don't want to get into doing Adra thru *.css files (Cascading Style Sheets) because if I do that, then I lose the structural simplicity I want in Adra. At this writing I have some vague ideas but not yet the needed success to get a good Firefox display.
Browser = Internet Explorer: Click 'View', click 'Text Size'; try 'Larger' or 'Largest'.
Browser = Opera: If you install it in your machine, it wants to own the place. I was about a half hour after 'installation' unhooking all its tentacles. It serves in my workspace to see what my Adra looks like thru this software.
Re Opera font. If you think Opera's font for Adra's text is too small. Click on Tools, goto Preferences, goto Advanced, goto Fonts. See 'Minimum font size (pixels)'. My default was 12, I changed it to 16 and that works here.
Adra's pages may read easier, if after you have a text size you like, you set the page width on your screen to about the width of the bar above the title at the top of this page.
Until I find out some practical details, Adra won't take emails. I hope to have this caught up "real soon now," namely, when I deduce from my host's "support" information, what I have to do to make emails work here. This emails topic is not transparent for a semi-techie like myself. For now,
Be reminded: emails are useful in their place when directed to getting something needed, done. Brief messages to effect that, Hi, I'm here, fill an important role in communication -- to see this, review stories and legends out of early short-wave communications, especially between isolated outposts. Like "small talk" between people. Today, brief communications are usually best communications.
You are welcome to respond back to me concerning what you see here. Email ascii only to mhada snail verizon point net. Ascii. Namely, plain generic ascii text, please.
Your message may appear here, somewhat edited and responded to. If I do this with your email and you don't like the result, email to me and expect appropriate changes shortly. However, I do not promise to reply to every single email that comes in here, nor even to read it.
The following is written with an eye to good scholarly practice ...what is good scholarly practice? I've looked into that. I found no brief concise "...for Dummies" introduction, but interesting history. Used to be, if you wanted a book you hired a scribe to copy one by hand for you. From someone else's existing copy. After a few such copy cycles, one authoritative copy of a work could be strikingly different from another authoritative copy of it. Hence, detailed attribution was a common practice. Thus we begin a whole new topic, this matter of scholarly practice; but that's too far from what Adra is about. Rather, at my age, I'd best tend to my work so I say,
You may take out and use blocks of my work from Adra that you place into your own hardcopy or Web publication, subject to the following conditions which I believe are simple common-sense and courtesy:
Attribution. Tell your reader where my material that you use came from. Such that the reader can go there easily to see what context I set mine into. That information should include my Web site's name, "Adra"; its author's name, "Martha Adams"; its URL, "http://www.mhada.info"; and (remembering Adra's content is malleable and I change it over time) the date when you acquired it into your own work.
Accuracy. Don't tinker with my words. I've tried to get them right. If you think I failed, let's talk by email about it. But in the mean time, my text is my text and let's leave it that way.
Top and end. Mark clearly where my original material that you use begins and ends in your use of it.
Courtesy. I'd like to know what my work meant to you and what you did with it. Email to me about it, with your own accessible address, ascii only to mhada snail verizon dot net.
Thanks! -- Martha Adams
[amer] Characterizing Today's America.
Today's Republicans ignore basic accounting and socioeconomics, loudly asserting "My way or no way!" (Which serves them also to define their "Fair and balanced" and as a complete principle for their style of legislation.) Which policies as I write, are today generating profound consequences that I believe illustrate America's downgrading itself to a third-world country.
Today's Democrats seem to find little wrong in this Republican generated political gridlock and socioeconomic hurt, and articulate trivial opposition to it. (Obama's silence on these topics when he came into office will surely be recalled by historians to come as one of the more significant non-events of this early 21st Century.)
Today's Independents, Greens, Occupys, and others, are our great hope today for tomorrow. These are people whose reading and thinking rest outside the rigid Democrat/Republican framework that covers over and hides the realities of our government process. I see hope in those people and I would like to live long enough to see it become real.
Today's America is largely what we taught our children yesterday, since those children then are us now. Our American children are raised with little understanding of technology, but with exposure in their most formative years, to teachers who do not work in the fields they ..."teach" (children finger this fakeness instantly, and incorporate it into their learning); to useless faith-based creationism and "intelligent design" thinking as some sort of absolute and total truth. And their parents, who are among the 50% or more of Americans who hold such beliefs, think they see good in this.
And America's resources are turned to wars which, after serving no national need, finally dissipate without beneficial consequence to anyone (except inner-circle "golden triangle" members). According to a Wikipedia piece on the arms industry, if America's military budget (the part of it that is visible to people like you and me), were reduced by two-thirds, it would be the world's largest. This has consequences: political (what is going on there, actually?); the challenge to society to absorb the many distorted and broken people the military returns; early preparation for more wars. Iraq is -- at last -- winding down by the American military's recent night-time exit from there, so like the end of the Vietnam war but this time, more quietly done. Now what will those people find to do?
Having discarded multi trillions of dollars into recent wars, America today refuses the much smaller costs of the needed strong NASA space program to complement and lead private industry. The Shuttle program, which could have started a program of incremental engineering development, is shut down amid loud public-relations noise, having at last been pushed to failure. Today, America relies upon (purchased) Russian support to reach the ISS.
The above too-well resembles a litany and a rant. It's time now to move on.
Some academics question the usefulness of Wikipedia. Others have tested it and find it compares favorably with the Encyclopedia Brittanica. Its online presence makes it a valuable resource and if you're working in cyberspace, you'll use this resource frequently. (Keeping a notebook is good practice.)
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_colonization, and its end resources.
(Be reminded, anything in cyberspace is vulnerable to corruption and censorship. As I write, the Chinese seem ...seem to be world leaders in such doings. This is why you will find reminders here in Adra, concerning the relevance of epistemology to space settlement.)
A reminder about today's resources. Wikipedia does not obsolete Encyclopedia Brittanica. It didn't, and it won't: it complements it. And today's Wikipedia does not replace the immense collection of scholarly works found in older editions of the Brittanica. There comes to mind another related resource:
Namely, http://www.gutenberg.org. Today's Gutenberg offers many thousands of classics and ebooks. Times change, but those materials don't, and there's much good to be found there. For example, see Francis Bacon's Essays, from our early 1500's. And Gutenberg provides an opening to the topic of "public domain" materials. Which is centrally important to those of us who try to question and plan for the future.
"Public domain" refers to materials which were placed there by writer's intent; and to whose associated ownerships are lapsed thru time (or accident). Public domain materials may be possessed, copied, given to friends, even published for money, freely. But public domain status interferes with several very large organizations who define 'rights' to their particular interest with an eye to maximizing their short-term profits at any social price. These organizations hire lawyers to more than aggressively force those 'rights' onto a general public. It is a very very bad situation, it has done much damage (the music industry is shooting itself in the foot) and it is far off Adra's topic. So I won't say more here on that topic, beyond "Public domain is good. Use it -- and support it as it needs."
Epistemology. Search on string 'wiki epistemology' to get a page of Wiki epistemology topics. Mind my warning a little earlier here. For a quick trip now, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistemology.
Metrology is central to science and its history. (Metrology complements dimensional analysis; and appears frequently in the history of science.) For an opener see Appendix C in Donald Kingsbury, Psychohistorical Crisis (2001). His talk on metrology at a Readercon a few years back, was the first I'd heard of it. For more on this interesting topic of immense practical utility, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metrology. And many related topics there.
History of science. The large volumes by Sarton at Harvard come immediately to mind, of course, but a smaller work suffices. See, John Gribbin, The Fellowship (2007). This book is a history from the 1600's of how study of fact-based reality (partly) displaced faith-based theology to make today's world possible.
I refer whoever wants to look deeply into this history (which is remarkably unfinished today: see current news out of Washington) to three of its core principles: the Principle of Empirical Disproof; Occam's Razor; Hume's Guillotine. These principles underlie all today's technologies, and wherever 'faith-based' is forced into the reckoning, it does severe damage. (Lysenkoism in Russia; the Bush Administration in America, come particularly to mind.)
(Roots to these principles appeared in the 1500's in Giordano Bruno's essays and in what remains of Michaelangelo's notebooks, of which we have today about one in four of those pages Michaelangelo originally wrote.)
 Robert Winter-Berger, The Washington Payoff (Dell, 1972). Which was a time not so different from now as one would wish. This book describes real politics as in America's Washington; and making sausages is nothing to that. The book is long out of print but there are copies around.
If you intend serious political action, it's worth what it takes to add this book to your library. When you have a copy in hand, study it closely. More than once. The Washington realities it outlines are since grown deeper, darker, and more hurtful to America's future. As you think about space settlements, you need to think much upon Winter-Berger's Payoff. A search on its title will turn up further resources, but I've not seen another book of such immediate relevance to American politics, and indirectly, to accomplishing human settlements Out There.
"The ladder of life is full of splinters, but they hurt the most when you're sliding down." Looking at today's news, one sees this homely wisdom applies on a large scale, too. Of particular interest is China with its population about 1,325 million people under a totalitarian government. Vs us, an American population of about 307 million people under a government which seems completely gridlocked by corruptions and religious ideologies.
(Today's Chinese government seems like E.E. Smith's bureaucracy on Ploor. Key detail: it's goal-directed.)
Those are telling numbers, but what they tell is open to question. How many subsistence farmers who can barely read, equal one practicing engineer? Equal one observant and critical writer? One science PhD? One Oppenheimer or Einstein? Which technologies does a country particularly need? Is indefinitely growing population a long-term good for a country? What changed realities will just one year or one decade, bring others to? Bring ourselves to?
Lots of questions, but one basic seems clear enough. That a socially and technologically healthy America would see this Chinese reality as a mild threat worth attending to. But today's America fears it, appropriately, as a change it cannot respond to. Today's China is the nitrogen iodide of world affairs, as Washington relentlessly continues its politics that brought America today to where we see it today.
Today's American military and "security" efforts fit a pattern. A convincing demonstration of such a pattern's natural development exists today, in complete and convincing (ugly) detail. See, North Korea, for one example among several similar ones in 2012 Spring.
It's curious and impressive, an exercise in social awareness, that people who couldn't tell you what water or table salt are made of intrude themselves destructively into valuable science research. And remarkably, they dictate what (centuries obsolete) basics we teach to our children. This is anti-science, and if you're serious about space settlement then anti-science is one of those senseless but severe disruptions that block the work. Fact based rationality has no place in this anti-science obstacle, although some of its advocates emulate something of the sort. To face this block, you must know something about it. A place to start is John Grant, Corrupted Science (2007). Or in cyberspace, see http://www.religioustolerance.org/res_stem.htm.
See other news about the vicissitudes of stem cells research today in America. You can find this easily. See also, the efforts of religious ideologists to inflict creationism and "intelligent design" upon vulnerable young minds.
Whatever else may lie at the core of today's American troubles and failing, (and more generally around Terra), ignorance and its Siamese twin religious ideology are near the center of it. Where, religious ideology is an elephant theory topic.
Elephant theory. A concept useful to deal with complexity beyond complete understanding at the time. Its origin is this. Imagine three blind men examine an elephant: head; middle; tail. Their reports seem incompatible, but a sighted person gets the picture easily. In fact, all we know features elephant theory to some extent.
Elephant theory serves in your work to remind you, don't accept certainty absolutely. It helps you deal with cranks topics like 'cold fusion;' the 'Dean drive;' 'off-world aliens among us;' with loud (fascism tinged) rants and laws out of "inerrant" religious ideology; and etc etc. True Believers will seize any opportunity to walk you in to such topics (young adults are particularly at risk for this) but once there, if you make no binding and foolish commitments, you can reason yourself out by reading and study. The central lesson from life experience and elephant theory is, always seek word on your topic -- any topic -- from multiple points of view. And teach yourself to recognize Absolute Certainty as a sure and serious error signal.
This elephant theory topic is explored by many science and philosophy workers. If you intend useful accomplishment toward space settlements, then you must wade into it and into its much larger connected topics -- just a little. Careful! Those topics are interesting and seductive, you can fall in to one of those and spend your life there -- which won't help with settling space. I suggest survey and reading of epistemology, of metrology, and of history of science. These in quantity of about one book each -- then stop.
A quick review of today's popular television illustrates this. (Such a review is well worth some of your time, and when you do it, keep notes.) In fact, the American TV viewer rarely sees into any technology at all. (But a variety of mysterious 'powerful' gadgets appear there.) The result of this could look trivial, and isn't.
Look again at your notes from your television review. Do our children see plausible futures there? (See Max Headroom videos.) Constructive politics? (See West Wing videos.) Living and working Out There, off-Terra? (See Babylon 5 videos.) As vs egregious crime and brutality presented as "entertainment?" But our children today are developing the style, attitudes, knowhow and intellectual bases to become tomorrow's adults. And in today's world, they get much of that from same-age peer groups and from ...television programming.
Switch your TV on today, and examine what comes along directly. (Note that toward the end of its run a good TV series will be bowdlerized, made mundane; and then it disappears.) All this bears intensely on child development today and the adults they become tomorrow. What will our children learn from this mundane and "popular" television programming? What is omitted, distorted, and left-out there? And if our children don't find healthy life-building resources there, then where will they find what they need?
(An apparently relevant example is found by Googling 'Steven Spader New Hampshire.' There is certainly pathology here, and where might he have learned it? But remember Freud's observation that nobody does anything for just one reason. The plant needs soil to grow.)
For instance, see John Grant, Corrupted Science (2007). About Bush's America, starting p.289 there. In his book, Grant places Bush in the company of Hitler and Stalin over issues of censoring and falsifying news about science.
This reality illustrates a deeper element of the American character. It is, having been elected to two terms as President, Bush reflects many Americans thinking. You reach this deeper reality when you ask yourself, "Is America really a space-going culture?" And, "How do we reach space out of this today's America?"
This is not a private perception. See Cullen Murphy, Are We Rome? (2007). Paperback, Houghton Mifflin. See also, Jim Collins, How the Mighty Fall (2009). Harper Collins Publishers. Collins' book focusses principally on large institutions such as IBM or Walmart or Circuit City. However, see his page 2.
[fdaz] Flash and dazzle.
Wars in retrospect are a sorry topic, but I believe this needs pointing to. "Shock and awe," indeed. See the PR flash and dazzle that accompanied America's invasion of Iraq. This PR provoked a brief national mania. Striking features of that response included the remarkable "Hummer" so that impressionable, gun-loving Americans could emulate their military. Also notable was then-President George Bush on a very military aircraft carrier announcing, "Mission accomplished" -- as the war transitioned from acute to chronic in its slow, costly, and unrewarding progression to ...today.
[when] When on Mars? When?
A knowledgeable young person thinking about a career in space work, was queried in an NPR interview (summer 2011) about humans on Mars. He responded, "Not in my lifetime." In 2012 spring, President Obama seems to be cutting-back on space exploration and Mars travel work. ...To save money. And a major Republican candidate, speaking in 2012 summer for his election as President (Santorum) says his program would include economy by cutting back education. ...To save money.
Over recent years, and especially since the Bush II Presidency began its two terms, the science and technology news has increasingly carried reports of industrial successes and new research completed outside American shores. Some of this research was moved overseas from America after restrictive legislation from Washington. In today's Washington, anti science is American policy. For example, see http://climateprogress.org/.
See again the Machiavelli quote at the top of this page. That quote is,
"...The innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions." -- N. Machiavelli
Frederick Jackson Turner, about 1893. Here are two options among many to find his seminal paper about the frontier in American history:
I think you can begin a basic grounding on topics of space settlements; of America's failure concerning space settlements; and compelling social realities concerning America's urgent need for space settlements, by reading only three books. See above: N. Machiavelli (Works of); F.J. Turner (initial paper or his later book); are two of these. The third is Robert Zubrin, The Case for Mars (2011 edition).
Robert Anson Heinlein's personal background includes strong military and engineering elements. What he says reflects this, for which reason, some people don't like what he says. But that same background helps Heinlein avoid the weak and fuzzy: if you disagree with him, at least you can make out what you're disagreeing with. My favorite Heinlein quote is, "Those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it." Which seems to refine a comment by philosopher George Santayana. (Concerning which, detail is hard to find. I'm still looking definitive detail concerning that quote.)
Robert Zubrin with Richard Wagner, The Case For Mars. Paperback. Simon & Schuster Touchstone, 1996. ISBN 0-684-83550-9. LC QB641.Z83. This is the basic book about space settlement. Where you come across discussion of it that includes such words as "obsolete," "visionary," and etc, deprecate that discussion. Case will gravitate naturally to the class of significant history books -- if by work or good fortune, there are future generations to reflect upon today's opportunity blindly denied.
Climate change and perhaps even climate snap appear as challenges to humanity that are rooted in nature. This is not so in an immediate, causal sense. For practical purposes, all resources and climate challenges today grow from us, from today's longterm, unsupportable, growing population.
Gregory Benford and George Zebrowski, eds., Skylife. Harcourt Inc., 2000. The several stories collected here offer a brief survey of rich possibilities for humans in space. Be reminded the literature of science fiction is visionary and speculative, not predictive.
See also, for a really long view, Olaf Stapledon, Last and First Men (1930). Of course, we can't see the future. But as a rational and useful application for a few hours of your time, what future do you project and how might your work fit into it?
See an old hippie parody from Vietnam time: "War is good business. Invest your son." (Update today: "...your child.") As the Vietnam war collapsed and some of the worms crawled out (Pentagon Papers, and ringers, for instance), one easily believed we'd learned our lesson and we wouldn't get into another one of those. Isn't it remarkable how hard earned wisdom is so easily lost?
I don't see how today's character and economics of America emerged from the past. It looks to me like social illness, mental health issues embedded into the culture. With powerful mechanisms for their transmission to the next generation: "social diseases," indeed. As these infections develop, hard consequences follow. Where is the focus, the hot core of this? One must ask of our Ship of State, who is at the wheel? Is anyone at the wheel, and if so, to what purpose?
In early 2011 a new phase of this American Troubles appeared: it was the actions of a group who called themselves "Westboro Baptist Church," followed by failure of our American society to muster any healthy correction to that abuse. ("For the success of evil, it is sufficient that good men do nothing.") In 2011 March an example was published in the television news: a rant by Margie Phelps of that Church.
It surprised me. I never thought to see anything like that in public, this side of some deeply disturbed person running dangerously out of control. I thought this rant was wholly faith-based (and illustrated a very ugly faith). How does a nation where such exhibition is defined as "free speech" (ref. Supreme Court) hope to face those challenges the future will certainly bring to bear upon us? Calling for rational, reality based, long term planning and action? By all of us?
I feel no optimism concerning America's future, whether space settlements nor any other developmental improvement. My downbeat assessment of today's America is not particular to myself alone.
See: Fareed Zakaria in www.time.com on 2011 Mar 03, "Are America's best days behind us?" But if you observe today's noisy political rabble at their, well, work; news control as outlined by Wikileaks; our chaotic socioeconomics and depreciating currency, how is that a question? ??