September 2007

It happened again damn it!  I was so into the “important stuff” that I forgot about the weird bird thingy. As always dedicated to the committed pacifists and antiwar activists John and Susan who started weird bird friday. They blog about all things Denver and their link is to the right somewhere on this page.

Whats so weird about this Bird you might ask (probably not)?


Well for one, the boys are prettier than the girls (these are gold finches).


For another, they eat upside down…you can barely make out the one at the bottom of the feeder (because I am so lousy with the camera) indeed upside down. Thank God we are human.!?


Design, materials contribute to couple’s energy efficiency goal



As Sangamon State University students in the 1970s, Harv Koplo and his future wife, Annette, had a deep interest in eco-friendly design.

Some 30 years later, after their son gradu­ated from Northwestern University, the Ko-plos decided to put that interest into practice.

The couple chose sustainable materials and “green” design techniques to build a sprawling, ranch-style home on Spaulding Orchard Road near Chatham. After years of discussion and planning, the Koplos are now

settling into their new home.

According to Jim Johnston of Sustainable Springfield Inc., the Koplos’ house is one of the first locally to include building materials and practices that have been successfully used in other parts of the country.

It wasn’t an easy process, but Harv Koplo said that with research, a little creativity and determination, an efficient, environmentally friendly home is within reach of nearly any­one.

Koplo used a photo slideshow to describe the building process from start to finish Monday night during a presentation spon­sored by Sustainable Springfield Inc., a non­profit organization that promotes environ­mental advocacy and education. More than 30 people attended the event at the Dove Conference Center in the Prairie Heart Insti­tute.

“Plan in advance so you know what you want instead of realizing what you want later

on,” Koplo advised, noting that one of the couple’s biggest goals was energy efficiency.

“We wanted to create a tight envelope so we could control the environment (inside the house) instead of leaving it up to the ele­ments,” he said.

Besides insulating the home’s foundation with 2-inch-thick extruded polystyrene, they used 2-by-6-foot studs for the frame instead of the traditional 2-by-4s to accommodate thicker insulation.

And instead of using blown fiberglass — which air passes through, Koplo said — dense wet cellulose (recycled newspaper) was put into the walls and dry cellulose in the ceilings.

For heating and cooling, they chose a pas­sive solar design. Koplo recommended the book “The Solar House” by Daniel D. Chiras for tips.

The home is oriented with large windows on the southeast, south and southwest sides

to draw in heat from the morning and after­noon sun. To avoid overheating, Koplo said, he had a cement thermal mass wall built in­side the home that assumes the temperature of the air around it, soaking up the heat and giving it off when the surrounding air be­comes cool.

There also is an open floor plan to keep air circulating.

Koplo further explained how 2-kilowatt photovoltaic panels were installed on the roof to generate the home’s electricity.

A natural gas stove/convection oven bakes food in 80 percent of the time called for in recipes, while the Koplos opted for a high-ef­ficiency heat pump heating/cooling system, ceiling fans throughout the house and an air exchanger to refresh air inside the home, among other techniques.

For hot water, a recirculation pump on the line provides it in­stantly and saves on the amount used, Koplo said. A solar hot water heater was installed on the roof, and the home’s downspouts run water into special roof wash­ers, which filter the water and run it into a cistern that already exist­ed on the property.

Some of the building materials included Lyptus wood, which grows in about 15 years and is used to replant the rain forests, for the main floor. The porch decking is made out of a wood look-a-like composed of recycled plastic bags and soda bottles.

While the floor of Harv Koplo’s in-home computer shop is made of recycled tires, the couple found a countertop made of recycled cardboard known as ShetkaStone for their master bathroom.

Koplo noted that while some techniques and materials are more expensive initially, they should pay for themselves in time.

“(Both) sustainable and afford­able can be hard to find” when se­lecting certain building materials, he admitted, adding that most contractors and subcontractors favor more traditional building methods as opposed to the less-utilized green techniques.

“Many will tell you there are a lot of things they don’t do. If they don’t, find someone else who will,” he said.

Amanda Reavy can be reached at 788-1525 or amanda. reavy @s/-r. com.


CES IS NOT ALLOWED TO ENDORSE POLITICAL CANDIDATES. THIS IS NOT AN ENDORSEMENT! But these are the best energy policies we have seen in the Presidentail race and we want to show you where he stands. 

What Follows is directly from Bill Richardson’s website:

We must “Act Boldly and Act Now” in order to make America a Clean Energy Nation like I made New Mexico a Clean Energy State. Consider this a call to action, for Congress, the energy industry, and the public. I am calling for a New American Revolution — an energy and climate revolution.

Cut Oil Demand: 50% by 2020

That means reducing oil imports from around 65% to 10-15%. We can do this in part by getting the 100 mile per gallon (mpg) car into the marketplace. We must work to double the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, or CAFE, to 50 mpg by 2020. And we will set a life-cycle low-carbon fuel standard that reduces the carbon impact of our liquid fuels by 30% by 2020.

Create New Efficiencies And Energy Sources in the Electrical Sector: 50% by 2040

I am calling for a national renewable portfolio standard of 30% by 2020 that will rise to 50% by 2040. This is aggressive, but necessary as we start using more electricity for automobiles. I will push for an energy productivity law requiring a 20% improvement in energy productivity by 2020. We could save customers $21 billion a year by 2020.

Dramatically Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions: 90% by 2050

20% by 2020, 80% by 2040 — ten years faster than scientists say is necessary because we must lead the world, and we can’t afford the possibility of backsliding and inaction. We will start with a market-based cap and trade system for greenhouse gas emissions to create incentives for the electric and industrial sectors to make significant reductions in their carbon emissions. Economists say the world can protect itself from drastic climate change at a cost of 1-3% of our economic activity. We can afford to protect the climate. Given the risks of catastrophic climate change, we can’t afford not to do it.

Lead By Example and Restore America as the World’s Leader

We must return to the international negotiating table and support mandatory world-wide limits on global warming pollution. We will work closely with fast-growing nations.  I will cooperate with the European Union, the World Bank, and other allies to help finance the incremental cost of “doing it right.” I will create a North American Energy Council with Mexico and Canada, which supply about 20% of our oil, and make sure our relations with these neighbors are firm and friendly. As we reduce our demand for foreign oil, we should work with the Persian Gulf nations, and our partners at the UN, to create a multilateral system for protecting the Persian Gulf so that within ten years, the U.S. presence there could be sharply and safely reduced.

Get It All Done Without Breaking the Bank

We will raise some revenue, from the sales of carbon permits, for example. Further, I will get out the “green scissors” to cut back on wrongly-placed tax subsidies. Over time, this program will yield huge productivity increases in our economy, as well as significant budget savings and revenues. We will create more than ten times as much value in the American economy by reducing our oil imports as we spend to make this program happen.

Invite the Oil Companies to Become Energy Companies

I know people love to hate the oil companies. They have been raking in huge profits. But I want to invite them to become energy companies, and invest in our thriving new energy economy. They are invited to the table, but they aren’t going to run the table the way they have for the last six years.

The Bottom Line

Americans need energy to get to work, we need heat and electricity in our homes, schools and workplaces. We are hurt by unpredictable energy price cycles, and by our nation’s energy policy failures. The way out of the cycle is to create competition, to support energy productivity, new technologies and alternative fuels. And everyone — every American — must make an effort to make us energy independent and combat global warming. Our national security and our planet depend on it. It’s about creating a new energy economy here in the United States, and doing it quickly, with broad, bold strokes. It’s the way to a bright, strong, prosperous future for the United States — and for the world. I called for an energy revolution — and now, today, I call on you to join it.


more speeches »


more news »

more news » 

The film deals with the history of the electric car, its development and commercialization, mostly focusing on the General Motors EV1, which was made available for lease in Southern California, after the California Air Resources Board passed the ZEV mandate in 1990, as well as the implications of the events depicted for air pollution, environmentalism, Middle East politics, and global warming.

The film details the California Air Resources Board‘s reversal of the mandate after suits from automobile manufacturers, the oil industry, and the George W. Bush administration. It points out that Bush’s chief influences, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, and Andrew Card, are all former executives and board members of oil and auto companies.

EV1s crushed by General Motors shortly after production

EV1s crushed by General Motors shortly after production

A large part of the film accounts for GM’s efforts to demonstrate to California that there was no demand for their product, and then to take back every EV1 and dispose of them. A few were disabled and given to museums and universities, but almost all were found to have been crushed; GM never responded to the EV drivers’ offer to pay the residual lease value ($1.9 million was offered for the remaining 78 cars in Burbank before they were crushed). Several activists are shown being arrested in the protest that attempted to block the GM car carriers taking the remaining EV1s off to be crushed.

The film explores some of the reasons that the auto and oil industries worked to kill off the electric car. Wally Rippel is shown explaining that the oil companies were afraid of losing out on trillions in potential profit from their transportation fuel monopoly over the coming decades, while the auto companies were afraid of losses over the next six months of EV production. Others explained the killing differently. GM spokesman Dave Barthmuss argued it was lack of consumer interest due to the maximum range of 80–100 miles per charge, and the relatively high price.

The film also explores the future of automobile technologies including a deeply critical look at hydrogen vehicles and an upbeat discussion of plug-in hybrid electric vehicle technologies. Similarly to and in conjunction with films such as An Inconvenient Truth, the cinematic value of the film is rapidly becoming eclipsed by its motivational effect on a diverse group of newly activist, environmentally minded supporters.

[edit] Interviews

The film features interviews with celebrities who drove the electric car, such as Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks, Alexandra Paul, Peter Horton, Phyllis Diller, and Ed Begley, Jr., a bi-partisan selection of prominent political figures including Ralph Nader, Frank Gaffney, Alan Lloyd, Jim Boyd, Alan Lowenthal, S. David Freeman, and ex-CIA head James Woolsey, as well as news footage from the development, launch and marketing of EV’s.

The film also features interviews with some of the engineers and technicians who led the development of modern electric vehicles and related technologies such as Wally Rippel, Chelsea Sexton, Alan Cocconi and Stan and Iris Ovshinsky and other experts, such as Joseph J. Romm (author of Hell and High Water and The Hype about Hydrogen). Romm gives a presentation intended to show that the government’s “hydrogen car initiative” is a bad policy choice and a distraction that is delaying the exploitation of more promising technologies, like electric and hybrid cars that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase America’s energy security. Also featured in the film are spokesmen for the automakers, such as GM’s Dave Barthmuss, a vocal opponent of the film and the EV1, and Bill Reinert from Toyota.

[edit] Production

The film was written and directed by Chris Paine, and produced by Jessie Deeter, and executive produced by Tavin Marin Titus, Richard D. Titus of Plinyminor and Dean Devlin, Kearie Peak, Mark Roskin, and Rachel Olshan of Electric Entertainment. The documentary was featured at the Sundance, San Francisco, Tribeca, Los Angeles, Berlin, Deauville, and Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festivals and was released in theaters worldwide in June of 2006. The film features a score composed by Michael Brook and also features music by Joe Walsh, DJ Harry and Meeky Rosie. Jeff Steele, Kathy Weiss, Natalie Artin and Alex Gibney were also part of the producing team.

So this Blog at least documents that another Electric Car could be forthcoming. We can’t let them Kill Electric Cars AGAIN!

Invention suggests car

-energy revolution



AUSTIN, Texas — Millions of inventions pass quietly through the U.S. patent office each

year. Patent No. 7,033,406 did, too, until energy insiders spotted six words in the filing

that sounded like a death knell for the internal combustion engine.An Austin-based

startup called EEStor promised “tech­nologies for replacement of electrochemical

batteries,” meaning a motorist could plug in a car for five minutes and drive 500 miles

roundtrip be­tween Dallas and Houston without gasoline.

“THE ACHILLES’ HEEL to the electric car industry has

 been energy storage. By all rights, this would make

internal combustion engines unnecessary.”





By contrast, some plug-in hybrids on the horizon would require motorists to

charge their cars in a wall outlet overnight and promise only 50 miles of

gasoline-free com­mute. And the popular hybrids on the road today still depend

heavily on fossil fuels. “It’s a paradigm shift,” said Ian Clifford,

chief executive of Toronto-based ZENN Motor Co., which has licensed EEStor’s

invention. “The Achilles’ heel to the electric car industry has been energy

 stor­age. By all rights, this would make internal combustion en­gines unnecessary.”

Clifford’s company bought rights to EEStor’s technology in August 2005

and expects EEStor to start shipping the battery replacement later this

year for use in ZENN Motor’s short-range, low-speed vehi­cles. The technology

also could help invigorate the renewable-energy sector by providing

ef­ficient, lightning-fast storage for solar power, or, on a small scale, a flash-charge

 for cell phones and laptops. Skeptics, though, fear the claims stretch

 the bounds of existing technology to the point of alchemy. “We’ve been

trying to make this type of thing for 20 years, and no one has

been able to do it,” said Robert Hebner, direc­tor of the University of

Texas Center for Electromechanics. “Depending on who you be­lieve, they’re

at or beyond the limit of what is possible. “EEStor’s secret ingredient is

a material sandwiched be­tween thousands of wafer-thin metal sheets,

like a series of foil-and-paper gum wrappers stacked on top of each other.


• From page 47

Charged particles stick to the metal sheets and move quickly across EEStor’s

proprietary materi­al. The result is an ultracapacitor, a battery-like device that

stores and releases energy quickly. Batteries rely on chemical reac­tions to store

energy but can take hours to charge and release energy. The simplest

capacitors found in computers and radios hold less en­ergy but can charge or

 discharge in­stantly. Ultracapacitors take the best of both, stacking capacitors

to increase capacity while maintaining the speed of simple capacitors. Hebner said

vehicles require bursts of energy to accelerate, a task better suited for

capacitors than batteries. But Hebner said nothing close to EEStor’s claim

exists today. For years, EEStor has tried to fly beneath the radar in the competitive

industry for alternative energy, con­tent with a phone-book listing and a handful of

cryptic press releases. Yet the speculation and skepti­cism have

continued, fueled by the company’s original assertion of making batteries obsolete

 — a claim that still resonates loudly for a com­pany that rarely speaks,

including declining an interview with The As­sociated Press.

The deal with ZENN Motor and a $3 million investment by the ven­ture capital

group Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, which made big-payoff early bets

on companies like Google Inc. and Inc., hint that EEStor may be

on the edge of a breakthrough technology, a “game changer” as Clifford put it.

ZENN Motor’s public reports show that it so far has invested $3.8 million and

 has promised another $1.2 million if the ultracapacitor company meets

a third-party testing standard and delivers a product Clifford said his

company con­sulted experts and did a “tremen­dous amount of due diligence” on

EEStor’s innovation. EEStor’s founders have a track record. Richard D. Weir

and Carl Nelson worked on disk-storage technology at IBM Corp. in the

1990s before forming EEStor in 2001. The two have acquired dozens of

patents in two decades. Neil Dikeman of Jane Capital Partners, an investor in

clean tech­nologies, said the nearly $7 million investment in EEStor pales

com­pared with other energy storage en­deavors, where investment has av­eraged

$50 million to $100 million. Yet curiosity is unusually high, Dikeman said, thanks

to the invest­ment by a prominent venture capi­tal group and EEStor’s

secretive na­ture. “The EEStor claims are around a process that would be

quite revolu­tionary if they can make it work,” Dikeman said. Previous attempts to

improve ultracapacitors have focused on im­proving the metal sheets by increas­ing

the surface area where charges can attach. EEStor is instead creating better nonconductive

material for use be­tween the metal sheets, using a chemical compound called barium

titanate. The question  is whether the company can mass-produce it. ZENN Motor

pays EEStor for passing milestones in the produc­tion process, and chemical

re­searchers say the strength and func­tionality of this material is the only thing

standing between EEStor and the holy grail of energy-storage technology.

Joseph Perry and the other re­searchers he oversees at Georgia Tech say

 EEstor seems to be claim­ing a 400-fold improvement of a ca­pacitor’s retention

ability, yet in­creasing that ability often results in decreased strength of the materials.

“They’re not saying a lot about how they’re making these things,” Perry said. 


Yes it is true sometimes I am a jerk. BUT I am not an unrepentant jerk. I apologize to the brilliant journalist minds at State Journal Register! Not only did they win 9 awards in competition against other State of Illinois newspapers. They also ran my letter in toto even though it went over their 300 word limit. (hangs head and toes the dirt) I was wrong about youse guys. Sorry.

Well maybe that is an over reaction but I sent them the following Letter to the Editor, and the conservative twirps did not even acknowledge that they received it. Since the new owners took over they have started running op eds by Walter “the madman” Williams from George Mason (alleged) University, that is about as right wing as you can get.


State Journal Register

One Copley Plaza

Springfield, IL 62701


Emailed – 9/17/07

Dear Editor:

Your Stanford Levin op-ed piece was incredibly deceptive and disingenuous. He says, “Let the Markets decide” about whether we burn ethanol or foreign produced oil as gasoline. Those self same markets are killing us and killing our country. The reason for this is that the markets are wedded to the internal combustion engine that simply BURNS up resources. We have done just about all the burning that we can do in this country.


How nice it would have been, if during his tenure on the ICC from 1984-86, he had advocated a move away from burning coal in power plants and increased efficiency trucks. Instead he continued the passive dependence on coal and gasoline, which has led us to global warming. If he had shown courage 23 years ago and demanded stringent efficiencies in the coal fired power plants that he regulated and a shift to power plants that burn natural gas he may have done some good. If he insisted that those utility companies invest in wind and solar portfolios then Illinois would lead the United States in those power sources but instead we have broken down, and leaking Nuclear power plants.


Yet Dr. Levin wants to trot out the old Ronald Reagan saw one more time and say, “Let the markets decide”. Deregulation has been nothing short of an economic disaster for the middle and lower classes. But, that is nothing compared to the environmental disaster that this country has been exposed to as a result. The North Pole is melting and Dr. Levin wants to make some telling point about which fuel source we should burn, biodiesal or gasoline. BAAAA (wrong answer) The answer is we should not be burning either and the MARKET will never give us that answer. Are we to wait another 23 years, while the captains of industry are driving huge ocean going vessels through their “Northwest Passage” and Russia is drilling on the artic floor before we blow the whistle and end the play?


Sorry Dr. Levin, but as you should have realized in 1984 the markets require hard regulation before they ever respond. The internal combustion engine is obsolete and you could have helped us move away from it. You did not. Join us at or call 629-7031. Community Energy Systems plans on helping Illinois move to a non-Burning future.


Doug Nicodemus

948 e. adams st.

riverton, IL  62561


No its not, yes it is, no its not. Believe it or not THIS is art. Photographed at the Illinois State Museum.


How much would you pay for this lovely piece? Art is such a powerful expression of human needs and desires. Which is it need or desire? I shall never tell.

Why was Asimov so mad?


The thing that always impressed me about the essay that I can’t find (see previous blogs) was its tone. I have read many Asimov works (which I am assuming was a condensation of a longer essay in the book, The Relativity of Wrong, see previous blog) and he never ever appeared angry. In this essay he was angry, accusatory and attackive! How did he go from a 1984 essay discussed earlier where he blithely dismissed both time travel and faster than light interstellar travel (as impossible) as mere conventions to seeing those same concepts as dangerous?


Was it because he was ill with AIDS and knew he would soon die? That would explain animus in anyone I suppose. Asimov had discussed death before though and he seemed comfortable with it.


I think it was more than that. I think he thought space travel would die and that he was in part responsible for that death. Paraphrase begins {: He concludes the essay by saying that he fears that when NASA fails to come up with even routine planetary travel in the next 30 or 40 years that NASA which is expensive will be abandoned.:} paraphrase ends. But I think it was bit more emotional for him then that because he probably asked himself some tough questions and saw what the real answers were for both his craft (science fiction writing), human space exploration, and maybe even how we treat the planet.


What would Science Fiction have looked like without interstellar space travel? One of his firm beliefs was that early science fiction always stuck pretty much to the possible. The writers were keen on new technology and knew what was possible. THAT was the magic of it really? Artie Clark would write about satellites and BOOM 10 or 20 years later they were circling the globe. Many writers talked about travel to the moon and 60 or 70 years after the first story we were there. At some point that became too restrictive to the writers of the 60’s. They yearned to do more. They wanted to make science fiction “real” literature. To bring grand stories to the silver screen.



So you say, “So What”? Well imagine what the cultural world would be like if every science fiction work had begun with the disclaimer (imagine the Star Wars intro screen “rolling out” this way) The story you are about to see is IMPOSSIBLE. Humans will never be able to travel between the Stars and even planetary travel will be really really expensive and dangerous. Planetary travel may not even be routinely possible 400 years from now! Then IN A GLAXAY A LONG WAYS FROM HERE IN THE DISTANT FUTURE THERE WAS A BAND WARRIORS FIGHTING AGAINST TYRANNY. Or whatever the Star Wars intro was. I think that that might have slowed down our mindless rush into space. But lets take it a step farther. Lets say to be a science fiction writer you had to take a Pledge. “I Doug Nicodemus promised to write science fiction that uses technology available to humans only in the next 60 or 70 years” And what if you were thrown out of science fiction writing if you violated that pledge! No publisher would publish you.


Well first off the idea of Aliens would be radically altered. Not disappearing mind you because you could posit “foreign worlds” as long as you gave star coordinates for it. They could have all kinds of weird characteristics and they could even be zipping around their very different solar system. But no more than that.


Second there would be no aliens visiting the earth. There would be no UFO’s and every science fiction writer would laugh at people who claimed to have seen them as the lunatics that they probably are. Aliens can’t get here…end of story.


Some people have even told me that Science Fiction would have simply died out. I don’t think so. It most certainly would have had to get a lot cleverer. And might have made science a bit cleverer as well. Just as an example I could imagine a story in which we could use things that go the speed of light like really bright lights or radio wave to try to communicate with other planets. Just AIM and Fire. I mean really, SETI is nice and all but it doesn’t make much sense for us to just sit around and listen to broad frequencies for some “sound”. Under a premise like that you could weave an Evangeline like story where this guy and this gal establish contact fall in love but they will never be able to touch each other. There are tons of stories that could have been written about conquering Mars and the other planets. Which would have led to more and open discussions about different technologies that could have got us there. What our living quarters would look like and why we were there in the first place. Gold? Platinum? Fuels? I am no science fiction writer, buts it the people in the story that any good writing is about.


 Neil deGrasse Tyson has a thought or two on the matter. When I pause and reflect on our expanding universe, with its galaxies hurtling away from one another, embedded within the ever-stretching, four-dimensional fabric of space and time, sometimes I forget that uncounted people walk this Earth without food or shelter, and that children are disproportionately represented among them.

What has the impact of this “impossible dream” of interstellar space travel been on Environmentalism? Well if we are going to get a NEW planet then we don’t have to take care of this one. If we really are inhabitants of this little tiny cosmic island, isolated from the universe, except for what we can observe of it, as Tyson has said. And that had been rammed home over and over again, then maybe we would treat our ONLY planet EVER a whole lot better. Did Asimov realize that? I doubt it but it is a burden that we who are opposed to burning will have to over come. And soon.


ON the other hand maybe there was a reason GOD set the speed limit for those with so little understanding at 186,000 miles a second. So we cannot do to the universe what we have done to the Earth and may do to the solar system.

In “The Relativety of Wrong” he argues in one essay that it’s easy to see that there are DEGREES of being wrong. He uses a very simple example to make his point. There are two historical views of the Earth. One is that it is flat, and one is that it is round. Neither is right. The Earth is a spheroid. Kinda bulgey in the middle and tapered at the top. But which one is less wrong? Obviously, that the Earth is round is, “pretty nearly true”.

Apparently, in the same volume of essays he had pretty much come to the same conclusion about space travel as depicted in much of science fiction, that faster than light travel was as wrong as the flat Earth explanation of the shape of the planet. In other words there are people who say we should not be messing around with manned space travel because it produces no useful results. They argue that we should be using sophisticated and cheap probes to explore the solar system and beyond. That we as a people should be concentrating on making life better on this planet instead.

The science fiction oriented people argue that we must continued with manned exploration. Moving us further out in the colonization of the solar system, while developing ever new and new space craft. In the process many believe we will find away around the “Speed of Light” problem and launch for the stars. Their first goal is to replace the Space Shuttle, set up building operations on the moon and get ready for a try at Mars.

Asimov flatly asserts in an article in 1987 that we must spend 100 years developing a space infrastructure and space travelers who are aclimated to zero G’s on the moon.

Their most ambitious project? A manned mission to Mars with a two-nation crew, a collaboratively built ship, and the goal of planting both the Stars and Stripes and the Hammer and Sickle on the surface of the Red Planet.

Understandably, the idea had imme­diate appeal. Who could argue with an undertaking that would double the talent pool of both nations’ space programs, halve the costs, and, not incidentally, speed the recent thaw between Moscow and Washington?

But hold on. The proposal does have a flaw. It’s possible that the first people on Mars should be neither Americans nor Soviets. Indeed, it’s possible they shouldn’t be people from Earth at all. Rather they should be moon people. Let me explain.


What is needed instead is not a one­time sprint to a nearby planet, but a slow, patient expansion away from Earth; a long-term program—perhaps taking a century to complete—that would equip us not just for a single interplanetaryjoyride but for the coordinated explore-‘ tion of the deep solar system.

The first thing a long-term Soviet-American space program would need, of course, would be a base from which to launch its vessels. We have any number of sites on Earth, but our planet is nol truly satisfactory. Escape velocity from Earth is 7 miles per second; that makes lift-off difficult. There are only foui bodies in the solar system—the sun. Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune—with a tighter gravitational grip and a highei escape velocity. Then, too, Earth has an atmosphere and weather. Storms in­hibit launches, and even clear air offers resistance.

What we need is a place that is alto­gether otherworldly, a celestial bodi that,  though sizable,  is  lighter thai Earth, with a lower escape velocity, ll would also be convenient if that bod\ had no atmosphere. As a kindly fate has it, our closest astronomical neighbor ii ideally suited for this. It is the moon which has a diameter of 2,160 miles, at escape velocity of but 1.5 miles pa second, and barely a wisp of atmo sphere.   Less  than a quarter-milliot miles away, it can be reached

with pres ent rockets in just three days. It’s asi we’d spent decades launching our ship from some stormy, rock-strewn pon only to discover that all along there: been a smooth-as-glass harbor just a fev miles down the cosmic coast.

Fine. So let’s dust off the old moot ships, fly our engineers to the Sea t Tranquility, and build ourselves a luw Canaveral.


Once we reached the moon, there would be no limit to the ways in which we could use its resources. The moon is a world with a surface area equal to that of North and South America put together. From its raw materials we can get a large variety of metals, concrete, glass, and oxygen. In fact, a moon base that in­cluded mining stations would supply everything we would need for construc­tion except water and the light elements: carbon, nitrogen, and hydrogen. These would come from Earth.

Using the moon as our source of raw materials and Earth as a reservoir of talent and technology, the space be­tween Earth and the moon could be filled with any number of support structures —solar energy stations, nuclear energy stations, observatories, and laborato­ries. Even some of Earth’s industrial plants could be put into orbit, to take advantage of the unusual properties of space (vacuum, microgravity, extreme temperatures) that facilitate manufac-

20     DISCOVER • JANUARY • 1988

 turing. What’s more, the waste products the factories put out could be much better disposed of in the vastness of space than in Earth’s fragile and finite biosphere. To service and populate all these facilities, space settlements— each holding thousands of people— could be built, designed to mirror Earth’s environment as closely as possible.

Ideally this extension of the human range should be global, operated not just by the United States and the Soviet Union but by the world at large. In fact, as the moon and the space settlements became more populous, international control could be loosened, and the new worlds could become regional self-gov­erning units of an Earth-Space Union.

It may take five generations or more to flesh out such a system, but only then would we be ready to make the most of the next major step: a trip to Mars.

When that project finally did get un­der way, the best thing for the Earth people to do would be to step back and leave it to the space people to make the journey. Space settlers would be much more accustomed to the idea of space flight, much more accustomed to low and varying gravity, much more accus­tomed to living inside a world rather then on it.

The moon couldbecome o new Canaveral, a spring board to the planets.

They would be much more aware of the need for resource control and tight recycling of such necessities as air and water. When the colonists reached Mars, they would find it rich in the light ele­ments. Using these along with the re­sources available from the moon, the Mars settlers, moon settlers, and space settlers could soon become independent of Earth for raw materials. Such economic independence would help speed the next phase of expansion —out to the asteroid belt where hun­dreds of thousands of small worlds exist, many of which could be carved into settlements or used for further mining operations. And these asteroid settle­ments—once equipped with advanced propulsive mechanisms operating like giant outboard motors—might them­selves be steered into the vast expanses of the outer solar system or beyond the solar system altogether. No one making these long trips would be conscious of. having left home, for they would be taking home along with them. The process of migration and settlement could stretch out over millennia, but what’s the rush? Rather than racing into a symbolic, onetime visit to Mars! We should perhaps contemplate this  slow exploration of the galaxy, by a process very much like the dispersal of  dandelion seeds by a helpful wind.


So he is basically saying that both the stay-at-homers and the go-far-and-fast crowds are both wrong. But in that telling essay that I can not find he believes the far-and-fast crowd are wrong and fraudulant as well. In other words really really wrong. More on that in the last blog on the subject I hope.

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