WorldCon 2013 Report: Day Three — Planning a Starship

Saturday, August 31, 2013

starshipPanel: Laura Burns (M), David Brin, Gregory Benford, Joe Haldeman, Albert Jackson

An interesting panel that raised some good points, particularly if you want to write a story based on current knowledge and technology

My Notes

  • Non-excluded magic — something that happens we didn't foresee
  • A lot of science fiction is moving back into the solar system, so why don't we?
  • Starting points:
  • Experiments that are being done now by putting people in a tin can and seeing what they need to survive and how they adapt
  • What do you need to end up with when you reach your destination
  • The first starships will probably carry an AI
  • We can get within a few % of light with technologies we know--we just have to build them big
  • One other SLT (slower-than-light) technology is fusion
  • Generation ships where stations become so self-sustaining that they just leave
  • Comets, but you need a different species of human to live there
  • Suspended animation: enabling technology is developing
  • AI: goes to the asteroids, makes copies of itself and moves outward; it could fill the galaxy with copies of itself—within three million years (an eyeblink in astronomical time)
  • How difficult it is to create a micro kilogram starship that can flash by a sun and collect data, wave a flag—very expensive, but a fraction of the cost of a full-blown human mission
  • Exploring our own solar system should put us in better shape for interstellar flight
  • The past two centuries really didn't start until their 14th year—that's next year
  • What are we looking for?
  • G-type stars with Earth-like planets
  • What about the weird exceptions?
  • The second-closet star to us (a brown dwarf) was discovered just last year
  • Habitable worlds around brown dwarfs might be the largest population of habitable planets in our area
  • Energy beamed from your home solar system
  • Microwaves would be more effective than lasers
  • If you can sustain acceleration, then a living person can see the stars
  • 1g acceleration and you can reach Andromeda in 26 years, but the sweetheart you kissed goodbye—and it was good-bye
  • Fusion is just another rocket—and you still have to carry the fuel
  • Beings that live on the "roof" of the world
  • The reason to think about starships now is to look at what steps we need to take in the next century
  • You have to wonder, "Where the heck is everybody?"
  • The closest it is we get to the stars, the weirder it is