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Weekend Assignment: Strange New Worlds, New Civilizations…

October 5, 2010

It’s that time again.  You know what time I mean, class.  That’s right.  Weekend Assignment time.

In case you hadn’t been following the news on all things astronomical, Astronomers did something cool last week.  They found a planet in another solar system in the sweet-spot (not too hot, not too cold) to maintain liquid water, and thus to probably support life.  They call it Gliese 581-g, a “Goldilocks” planet.  Now, if only we had interstellar, physics-breaking FTL drives, we’d be in business. And that gets us to the Weekend Assignment:

Even as astronomers discover planets that may be capable of supporting life, such destinations remain out of reach of would-be human colonists, even if the world is “only” twenty light years away. But if some science fictional technology were discovered in the next year or two (warp drive, matter transmission or whatever) that made it possible to leave Earth behind and go live on another planet, would you be tempted to do so? If you choose not to relocate, would you be interested in just visiting the place instead?

Extra Credit: If you did go, whether on vacation or as a colonist, and you were only allowed to bring one small suitcase with you, what would be in it?

Would I move to another, habitable planet, were it technically feasible and possible?  Well, in a word: no.

Yeah, I’m a huge sci-fi nerd, and I’m a huge proponent of actual space exploration and all that jazz.  But I’m also terribly, personally, risk-averse.  And I like being alive.  I figure, the chances of survival for those first few colonists on this brave new world are… somewhat less than my chances of survival on my native rock.

Plus, there’s so much to see and do right here that I won’t even be able to see and do in this lifetime… why would I shove off, permanently for the great unknown when there’s plenty of unknown (to me, at least) right here?

But would I visit – if the trip were temporary, and a return trip were also feasible?  Sure!  The chance to say I’ve been to another world (and lived to return and tell about it) would be pretty priceless.  That would be, without question, the trip of a lifetime.

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. October 5, 2010 11:57 am

    I have enough anxiety getting onto a plane. I imagine getting onto a spaceship would be far worse. My answer is pretty much like yours. We hardly understand our own planet. There’s so many places and things to see. No one has even seen the deepest parts of our oceans. I think I’d rather stay here. 🙂

  2. October 5, 2010 1:17 pm

    “Would I move to another, habitable planet, were it technically feasible and possible?”

    you know, I probably would. but my definition of technically feasible means the space ship/shuttle/transport actually works (and doesn’t blow up on the platform) AND there is already some kind of habitat on the planet, AND it’s reasonable to believe that I’d survive the trip there and at least the first few weeks on planet.

    I think it’s far more feasible to get people someplace if you don’t have to worry about fuel and water to get them home.

    • October 5, 2010 1:37 pm

      It’s what comes after those first few weeks that I’m worried about! I’d like to live to be old enough to spoil my grandchildren, if at all possible.

      • October 5, 2010 3:41 pm

        eh, i guess it helps that i have no children, and have plans to have no children, so no grandchildren to worry about.

        and if after a few weeks of living on an alien planet and something horrible happens? I would have done and seen things I never could have done or seen on Earth. I’m gonna die eventually, it might as be on a totally awesome alien planet!

      • October 5, 2010 3:51 pm

        Ah, touche.

  3. October 6, 2010 9:20 am

    Um, no way I’m shipping myself away from life as I know it to stay on a planet on the edge of the universe!!! That would be like dying! But a vacation may be feasible.

    • October 6, 2010 9:24 am

      To me… it’s not that it might be like dying… but that there’s a good chance it might be dying… like for real.

      • October 9, 2010 10:29 pm

        He he…veritas, veritas…Can you imagine, for instance, getting shipped off, away from all your friends, away from your coworkers, away from your family…you’d never get to see the Eiffel Tower, Red Square, New York City, Tokyo…all of that would be left behind. 😦 It would be like leaving this life! Which is okay, as long as I’m going to the next destination on my itinerary (Heaven), but “Goldilocks” is not on my itinerary!

        But now…I ramble!

      • October 9, 2010 10:40 pm

        All places on my very real list of places I want to see before I die. And, sadly, all places that I have yet to check off of said list. I’m not opposed to paying a visit to Goldilocks… but I don’t want to miss out on everything else as a result.

      • October 10, 2010 8:30 am

        Sounds like we’re in agreement then. 🙂

  4. October 7, 2010 12:15 am

    Good point about there being more than a lifetime’s worth of stuff to see and do here on Earth. I once said I could spend the rest of my life just exploring Arizona. And that’s just a tiny fraction of the places I’d like to visit if I could.

    And good for you, admitting that you wouldn’t be the brave pioneer. We can’t all be Zefram Cochrane!

    • October 7, 2010 9:01 am

      True enough, we can’t… But hey… I wouldn’t mind the trip out if it came back, as Cochrane made in ST:FC.

  5. October 7, 2010 1:14 am

    I can understand your viewpoint. Personally, mine would all be about the writing. I’m sure seeing someplace like that would inspire interesting stories. HOWEVER, it would have to be one fast journey so as not to waste too much of my life traveling and the colony would have to need storytellers.

    However, if the journey is fast I think that if the “colony” turned out more dangerous than we expected, we’d be able to return.

    • October 7, 2010 9:10 am

      I thought about the story/inspiration angle… like what amazing stories I could tell once I’d seen something amazing. I didn’t think about the opposite, telling stories to the colonists. I guess someone needs to bring along all the old stories and myths and pop-culture references for the next generation of the colonists.

      • October 7, 2010 12:10 pm

        I don’t know that I’d bring along that much mythos (other than what crops up in _my_ stories (and I do like referencing other things). However, I know I have almost nil audience now; but I wouldn’t want to place artificial limits on my audience increasing 🙂

      • October 7, 2010 1:12 pm

        Well, I guess on the colony, you’d have a captive audience, at least. Enjoying stories is kind of a basic human need… so they’d have to come to you for that.

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