Friday, July 09, 2010

Random thoughts: Matrioshka brains and analogies for outer space

Well, I've spent the last week in an intense frenzy of activity - finishing my paper for the Australian Space Development Conference, attending the conference and socialising perhaps just a little too much for the good health of my liver, and then falling back to Earth to prepare an Australian Archaeological Association submission about proposed mining in the Burra State Heritage Precinct ....  but let's not go there or I shall just get angry at the utter ineffectualness of those in South Australia who are supposed to be looking after our heritage.

So today, I'm catching up on four lost days of work and, and looking over the copious notes I wrote during the conference, about all sorts of things.

While researching for my paper, I was reflecting on the analogies we use to understand space (also inspired by Peterson 1997, see below), such as sea and sky, and how these might translate into heritage principles.  A talk by Mark Dankberg, CEO of ViaSat, on the first day of the conference, led me to ponder this further.  In my notes I have written "return to the idea of noosphere + the Matrioshka brain = new ways of conceiving space".

The noosphere was proposed by the intriguing and enigmatic Teilhard de Chardin, archaeologist and theologian, and as I recall it from a meagre high school study, it was about evolutionary development from the lithosphere to the biosphere to the noosphere, as the conscious thought characterising humanity grew with the population.  The noosphere extends into space, where our thought also now extends with cultural and technological developments.

The Matrioshka brain is a set of nested Dyson spheres, which form a nano-engineered computer around a star, only attainable by a level of technological development far beyond ours.  So I see it as kind of similar in some ways - it is a sort of hardware equivalent of the noosphere.  (I suspect how I visualise this owes something to the writings of Charles Stross).  Of course this is simplifying the idea radically, but I think the conjunction of the two in my own brain is worth further contemplation in terms of how I want to re-conceptualise space.

References:
Peterson, M.J.  1997  The use of analogies in developing outer space law.  International Organization 51(2):245-274

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Orbital cemeteries, state jurisdictions and debris

I'm hard at work on a beautiful sunny Saturday morning, trying to complete my paper for the 11th Australian Space Development Conference in Adelaide, which starts on Monday.  Oh the luxury of reading!  (And the pressures of time - aaarrrgh).

I came across this story (unfortunately unreferenced), which has little to do with my current topic but which I like a lot:

There is the anecdote of the proposal to launch an orbiting cemetery with ten thousand vials containing the ashes of deceased people with a guaranteed lifetime of a million years.  As the story goes, it met with refusal because Florida law requires that every cemetery has an access road and there are, evidently, no access roads to orbits. (Perek 1994:196)

This is in the context of not creating space missions which could equally be accomplished on Earth, thus diminishing the potential contribution to the orbital debris problem.

Perek, Lubos  1994  Management  of Outer Space.  Space Policy 10(3):189-198