Interstellar Ark

“There are three strategies to travel 10.5 light-years from Earth to Epsilon Eridani and bring humanity into a new stellar system : 1) Wait for future discovery of Star Trek physics and go there almost instantaneously, 2) Build a relativistic rocket powered by antimatter and go there in 22 years by accelerating constantly at 1g, provided that you master stellar amounts of energy (so, nothing realistic until now), but what about 3): go there by classical means, by building a gigantic Ark of several miles in radius, propulsed by nuclear fusion and featuring artificial gravity, oceans and cities, for a travel of seven centuries — where many generations of men and women would live ? This new speculation uses some actual physics and math to figure out how far are our fantasies of space travel from their actual implementation.”

Interstellar Ark :: Strange Paths

I saw this on Slashdot. It was a very intriguing read. In fact, the whole Strange Paths blog is going to be fun to read through. I, like many people, wonder if building an ark and spending over 700 years traveling to a destination is a good use of money. (However, I forgot the technical economic term, but this scale of government spending would probably give an absolutely huge stimulus to the economy!) With how far science and physics have advanced in the past 300 years, one would think that our future selves could build a machine that would beat the “old” design ark to Epsilon Eridani even with a 300 year late start. All in all, I think that technologically, we could build this ark now or at least once we establish a permanent base on the Moon or Mars. Psychosocial aspects would likely be the ark’s downfall. It sort of reminds me of the movie and book Contact. It is interesting to think about, nonetheless.

An insightful comment on the Slashdot post:

Any group of people so large together for so long would have one over-riding problem, that of humanities prediliction to segment itself by beleif or role.

There has not yet been a succesful attempt to produce a ‘perfect’ society, with the first attempt being by Plato.

What if the military ship model is used then? Well then you have centuries of one group being in charge, with either hereditary succession or selection by ability (democratic methods have never worked in the military model). Either way you end up with a perception of the controllers and controlled, partition is a natural result of the militaristic method, a caste system emerges.

Then what about the choice of the people who are born to the ship? They may realise that they have no choice, but humans have rarely prospered and worked at their best when their destiny is completelly laid out. The potential for unrest is quite pronounced. Ghandi demonstrated clearly that even non violent protest can be highly disruptive.

And at the end of the journey? Well you have a society which is partitioned already, and the people who were in charge are likely (human nature) to weant to stay in charge, even though the members of the expedition who were not in the ruling class (of whatever form) are now in the position of being able to say they no longer need that control, indeed of demanding it.

War is the most likely result in that circumstance, or at the very least dissent resulting in societal disruption. That’s not something a colony could survive, even if it found somewhere to stay when it arrived at the destination.

A bit bleak I know. I think we’d be better off waiting until the participants in the journey could, in whole or majority, or in shifts, sit out the travel time in hibernation. That way they are not born to a society which has experienced centuries of partition.

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