what is relevant to building on a new world?

Re: How to (re)build a world from scratch. Chs 5 and 6

Postby Roger_Dymock » Sat Aug 16, 2014 10:49 am

For those of you who may not be aware of my shameless stealing, as with the other chapters I am basing this one on the same numbered chapters in 'The Knowledge'. There is little reason to doubt that the chemical elements to be found on exoplanets similar to Earth will be any different to those found here. The universe appears to be pretty much the same wherever you look and it is quite likely that star and planet formation also proceeded along similar lines to our Solar System. So if we take a Sun-like star and find an Earth-like planet in its habitable zone it is more than likely that its chemical make-up will be similar. As mentioned in Appendix A we may need a robotic sample return mission followed by a manned mission to confirm that. Chemists will thus be high on the list of personnel for the early missions.

As on Earth thermal energy needs could be met from a variety of sources. As we would be starting from scratch and with our current knowledge of the effects various fuels have had on our health and the planet should help us make the right choices.

In The Knowledge these two chapters list various substances and materials required to rebuild Earth I and therefore most likely necessary to build Earth II. These comments and all others are based on what we know today and therefore may or may not be relevant at some future date. Extrapolation and speculation will have to wait a while.

We know what we need but how would we find those substances and materials on Earth II ? What can we determine from;
- Earth I or Earth I orbiting satellites
- Earth II orbiting satellites (and how do we get that data back to Earth I ?)
- Earth II ground exploration by robots or humans (ditto)

As far as fossil fuels are concerned we need to find them before we can extract and process them - assuming they exist on Earth II. Geologists to the fore. We may be lucky enough to find for example tar pits or oil rising to the surface of the sea but magnetic or seismic surveys are the more likely method. Interesting website outlining the various forms of energy can be found at http://www.energyquest.ca.gov/story/index.html

Can be found on the surface where seams have been exposed by rivers cutting valleys or where the overlying strata have been eroded or by drilling. Under the right conditions, peat transforms into coal through a process called carbonization. Carbonization takes place under incredible heat and pressure. About 3 meters (10 feet) of layered vegetation eventually compresses into a third of a meter (1 foot) of coal. So if you can find peat you can perhaps find coal.

Oil and gas
Generally speaking, oil and gas are formed from the organic remains of marine organisms which become entrained within sea-floor sediments. Finding oil and gas is complicated as an extract from http://www.ilo.org/oshenc/part-xi/oil-e ... atural-gas shows;

The search for oil and gas requires a knowledge of geography, geology and geophysics. Crude oil is usually found in certain types of geological structures, such as anticlines, fault traps and salt domes, which lie under various terrains and in a wide range of climates. After selecting an area of interest, many different types of geophysical surveys are conducted and measurements performed in order to obtain a precise evaluation of the subsurface formations, including:

Magnetometric surveys. Magnetometers hung from airplanes measure variations in the earth’s magnetic field in order to locate sedimentary rock formations which generally have low magnetic properties when compared to other rocks.
Aerial photogrammetric surveys. Photographs taken with special cameras in airplanes, provide three-dimensional views of the earth which are used to determine land formations with potential oil and gas deposits.
Gravimetric surveys. Because large masses of dense rock increase the pull of gravity, gravimeters are used to provide information regarding underlying formations by measuring minute differences in gravity.
Seismic surveys. Seismic studies provide information on the general characteristics of the subsurface structure (see figure 5). Measurements are obtained from shock waves generated by setting off explosive charges in small-diameter holes, from the use of vibrating or percussion devices on both land and in water, and from underwater blasts of compressed air. The elapsed time between the beginning of the shock wave and the return of the echo is used to determine the depth of the reflecting substrata. The recent use of super-computers to generate three-dimensional images greatly improves evaluation of seismic test results.

Radiographic surveys. Radiography is the use of radio waves to provide information similar to that obtained from seismic surveys.
Stratigraphic surveys. Stratigraphic sampling is the analysis of cores of subsurface rock strata for traces of gas and oil. A cylindrical length of rock, called a core, is cut by a hollow bit and pushed up into a tube (core barrel) attached to the bit. The core barrel is brought to the surface and the core is removed for analysis.

When the surveys and measurements indicate the presence of formations or strata which may contain petroleum, exploratory wells are drilled to determine whether or not oil or gas is actually present and, if so, whether it is available and obtainable in commercially viable quantities.

Wood has been used as a source of fuel for centuries and, unlike fossil fuels, is a renewable resource. It also has other uses as has been mentioned in other chapters e.g. building houses, boats, domestic utensils and furniture and thus a well forested planet is a necessity.

Chapters 5 an 6 of The Knowledge list other substances which would be required to rebuild Earth and therefore most likely needed to build Earth II e.g.
- calcium carbonate which can be obtained from coral, seashells and chalk. Therefore another good reason for establishing early settlements close to the ocean
- soap is obtained by hydrolising lard with an alkali. Lard we get from animal fat so making use of farm animals for something other than food
- alkalis; potassium carbonate is obtainable from burning wood which is mentioned elsewhere as a key resource and is renewable, sodium carbonate is obtanable from burning dried seaweed (the ocean again)
- ammonia; we can all produce urine which, with the help of bacteria, will produce it (need to identify the right bacteria of course so step forward the microbiologists)
- from wood we can obtain e.g. charcoal, acetic acid, methanol, turpentine, creosote, pitch. However before we can proceed we need to build a device for pyrolising wood. Such a device is described in Chapter 5 of The Knowledge and includes sealed metal compartment so we first need that metal. We can take the pyroliser with u s, construct one from our lander or find the necessary ores locally. One thing leads to another and again demonstrates just how difficult this whole operation will be.
- acids; sulphuric acid can be obtained from pyrite rocks (iron, lead, tin and but you have to find them first, geologist please or perhaps by robotic landers plus sample return missions) plus chlorine gas from brine. Electrolysis and distillation is needed therefore more kit to take or build. Sulphuric acid can then lead to the production of Hydrochloric and Nitric acid
- clay can be used to make pottery and bricks and is found in lakes, ponds or by the seashore.
- limestone is a sedimentary rock formed on the sea bed and blocks of it can be used as a building material. Lime is made from limestone and can be used to make mortar (to bond building blocks together) and cement which is used to make concrete. I suspect that finding the raw materials may prove as difficult, if not more so, than processing them.

To be continued
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Re: what is relevant to building on a new world?

Postby Strongbow » Sat Aug 16, 2014 7:30 pm

Roger_Dymock wrote:One that comes to mind that hasn't been pursued as far as I know is usng a satellite to focus the suns rays onto photocell arrays on Earth. This is quite advanced stuff so might take a while to set this up on Earth II.
Pretty advanced stuff - i've never even heard of this. Something that would maybe be put in place in the beginning, as habitation was about to start….
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Re: what is relevant to building on a new world?

Postby Strongbow » Sat Aug 16, 2014 7:33 pm

Also, coal, oil and gas? If we were to start again elsewhere, would we really want to start with these after all we know now? Whilst not being an eco-warrior or someone especially green, would we not be better off learning from our past lessons and use/develop something that won't pollute or run out? :geek:
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Re: what is relevant to building on a new world?

Postby Roger_Dymock » Mon Aug 18, 2014 3:19 pm

Hi Strongbow,

A web search on Space Based Solar Power suggests that quite a few people are interested in that concept.

You are right in that we should try and keep Earth II as clean as possible. By the time we have to seriously think about it we ought to have found a way of using fossil fuels very cleanly or not at all but I guess we have to keep all options open. A search on Clean Fossil Fuels suggests there are ways of doing this but I haven't delved into the topic to see exactly where we are on this.

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Re: what is relevant to building on a new world?

Postby Strongbow » Sun Aug 31, 2014 7:17 am

Yes, interesting point. I will have a look.Interesting stuff! :ugeek:
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Postby Roger_Dymock » Sat Nov 01, 2014 2:50 pm

Seems to me that we can't sensibly entertain the idea of journeying to and colonising a distant planet using today's technology (going to the Moon on a sailing ship was never really on). We might list what we need without necessarily knowing how we are going to achieve it. Rocket scientists won't like it but generational starships, any form of reaction propulsion and suspended animation just don't cut the mustard.

For example we should look at a transit time of months rather than hundreds if not thousands of years. Why months - well that is how long it used to take to travel to any destination on Earth using sailing ships so it is as good as anywhere to start. That takes us into the realm of time travel and wormholes. Professor Kip Thorne thinks using wormholes is a possibility (the film 'Interstellar' uses this concept - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/spac ... ellar.html). Science fiction leads and science fact follows.

We see further than we can reach by which I mean we often know what we want to do - settle an exoplanet in this case - but don't yet have the means to achieve that goal. Interstellar travel is probably at the stage when journeying to our Moon by the most advanced mode of travel then available was the sailing ship - not really practical. I hadn't much liked the idea of mixing science fact with science fiction as some books on interstellar travel have done but that may well be what we need to do. Science fiction stretches our minds and takes us to places we cannot yet reach.

Even if we could get to an exoplanet in months we wouldn't want to spend too much time and money visiting unsuitable ones. Therefore we need to be able to fully characterise a possible home from Earth in terms of; orbital and spin axis stability, climate, resources, flora and fauna, how advanced is any resident population, how stable is its parent star?

I invented a 'fusion factory' only to be told by Lewis that Star Trek thought of the 'replicator' idea first - ah well. My idea was a facility which would accept any material as input, break it down into protons, neutrons and electrons, and rebuild those into any element required. The search for and processing of raw materials into something useful would be greatly simplified.

Before any human set foot on an exoplanet fully autonomous robotic explorers might be sent first on a 'sample return' mission. The ability to transmit information at faster than light speed would mean that we could get to know an exoplanet without waiting for such explorers to return to Earth.

On a slightly macabre note - the numbers that could be sent to colonise an exoplanet would most likely be a very small percentage of Earth's population and the fate of those left behind concerned me. However suppose no more children were born from this moment on then there would be nobody left alive on Earth in a little over a hundred years so no billions to suffer whatever fate was about to be thrown at us.
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How to (re)build a world from scratch. Ch 10

Postby Roger_Dymock » Sun Nov 09, 2014 10:32 am


One of the biggest challenges facing any attempt to settle on a distant planet would would be transferring the sum total of human knowledge from here to there (at least all that was relevant to building a civilisation from scratch).

An extract from 'A Direct Brain-to-Brain Interface in Humans' published in the journal Public Library of Science One at http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi ... ne.0111332 may provide us with an answer.

Many of the greatest contemporary technological developments have centered on advancing human communication. From the telegraph to the Internet, the primary utility of these game-changing innovations has been to increase the range of audiences that an individual can reach.

However, most current methods for communicating are still limited by the words and symbols available to the sender and understood by the receiver. Even when they include non-verbal content (as in the case of visual and auditory information), communication constraints can be severe. A great deal of the information that is available to our brain is not introspectively available to our consciousness, and thus cannot be voluntarily put in linguistic form. For instance, knowledge about one’s own fine motor control is completely opaque to the subject [1], and thus cannot be verbalized. As a consequence, a trained surgeon or a skilled violinist cannot simply “tell” a novice how to exactly position and move the fingers during the execution of critical hand movements. But even knowledge that is introspectively available can be difficult to verbalize. Brilliant teachers may struggle to express abstract scientific concepts in language [2], and everyone is familiar with the difficulty of putting one’s own feelings into words. Even when knowledge can be expressed in words, one might face the hurdle of translating between the many existing spoken human languages. Can information that is available in the brain be transferred directly in the form of the neural code, bypassing language altogether? We explore this idea in the rest of this article.

To be continued
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Re: How to (re)build a world from scratch. Ch 7

Postby Roger_Dymock » Sat Nov 22, 2014 4:13 pm


Of all the chapters in Lewis's book this has to be the one I know least about. On Earth we might have retained the knowledge as to, for example, which plants might be useful but on an exoplanet who knows what might be beneficial or downright poisonous? Would an expert in natural healing and/or a botanist know where to start? How long would it take to produce many of the medicines, drugs and equipment which we use today? Would we be prone to being infected by plants, airbourne diseases, insect bites, etc all of which would be unknown to us?

Somewhere in all of this how mankind might develope has to be considered. Can we be made disease free for example? Can our bones be made stronger and thus less prone to breakages, How 'bionic' can we become with our body parts easily replaceable by electromechanal parts? Can we, as some crreatures do, grow replacement limbs and organs? In the (what I thought was rubbish) film Elysium the inhabitants of the spacestation all had medibeds which diagnosed all health problems immediately and, I assume, fixed them as well. Who knows we might have achieved such a facility in the distant future.

A small colony would be very prone to being wiped out by a single infection so it might be advantageous to split the new arrivals into a few groups. This has its problems as, knowing how we behave today, all sorts of differencies and rivalries might soon arise. Which leads me to believe we need a chapter on government - what works (or doesn't depending on your point of view) on Earth today is probably not suitable for the newly arrived inhabitants of some distant exoplanet.

To be continued
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Re: How to (re)build a world from scratch. Ch 14

Postby Roger_Dymock » Sun Dec 07, 2014 11:43 am

There isn't actually a chapter 14 in The Knowledge but I thought the form of government and the future evolution of mankind was worth thinking about.

The big question is 'What would work best in the early years of settling an exoplanet ?' e.g.
- democracy
- dictatorship
- military
- commercial

The second big question is 'Has any form of Earthly government worked well enough to transfer it to an exoplanet settlement?'
We just couldn't afford to have any form of organisation that was divisive in any way - the survival of a relatively small number of people would surely suffer if differences of opinion could not be fairly quickly reconciled. Could the first settlers cope with different forms of government (e.g.capitalism, socialism) and different religious views (e.g. Christianity, Islam, Judaism).

Future evolution of mankind
By how much, if at all, will our form and thinking change? Two possible sources of useful information;

'Man After Man: An Anthropology of the Future (1990)' is a speculative book written by Scottish geologist Dougal Dixon and illustrated by Philip Hood. The theme of the book is a hypothetical exploration of the possibilities of the future evolution of humans - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man_After_ ... the_Future

'Man - 5000000 years from now' by H. L. Shapiro,a scientific attempt to forecast what may occur in the future evolution of man at http://www.naturalhistorymag.com/picks- ... s-from-now

To be continued
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