Author Archives: Wayne Robert Smith
Project Onion was a clandestine attempt to subvert news by injecting a satirical parody website into the interwebby thing all the kids keep raving on about and make it appear like a real sensationalist lie infested rag such as the Murdoch Press. No… wait. That’s the Onion. What were we supposed to be talking about here? Oh yeah. Project Orion was a nuclear spaceship proposal from the 1950’s back when American presidents routinely used plutonium on their peanut butter sandwiches and Ford’s car the Nucleon sat waiting on the production floor for a reactor small enough to fit in its engine compartment. It is still there but the tires have flattened.
Orion was named after the astronomical constellation also known as the hunter. Probably because from the get go the Orioneers were hunting for funding to maintain their research. For some crazy reason nobody from the airforce to the newly formed NASA wanted anything to do with a rocketship that fired atomic bombs out of its ass. The concept was simple enough in principle. It spat out nukes like an atomic bomb machine gun in its wake. These bombs would then drive a pusher plate nailed onto the back of the vehicle. Using a conventional rocket chamber to try and “contain” a nuclear detonation had been dismissed as impossible. Physicist Professor Ulam summed up the engineering challenges of containing a nuclear blast quite succinctly in his letter to the team leader Freeman Dyson in august of 1954 with the eloquent words “ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR FUCKING MINDS???”. The force of the shockwave against the big ass pusher plate would then have been softened by a shock absorber system slightly bigger than a blue whale. This in turn would push the vehicle proper carrying its crew of praying astronauts to space in a single stage. Either that or blow up in spectacular fashion scattering hot radioactive metal across the central united states.
Watching an orion launch
Watching an Orion launch from its proposed site in Nevada would have been an amazing event except for the minor inconvenience of having ones eyes burned out of their sockets and body riddled with cancer inducing heavy particles of radiation. If it was possible to witness such a lift-off (say from a nuclear bunker 1000 miles away with darkened glass coated with 3 inches of tar) you would see a 10,000 ton behemoth rising off the desert floor creating its own aurora. A beautiful spectacular vision, just prior to radioactive fallout burying you forever.
Orion compared to conventional rockets
The lift capacity and travel time of an Orion compared to ordinary big firecrackers like a Titan rocket is compelling. Science writer Jerry Pournelle once said that an Orion could reach Pluto and back inside of a year. Something that takes todays slowpoke rockets decades. Why the vehicle would come back he didn’t explain. Seeing as the crew would be dead from radiation exposure and the trail back full of exploded bomb schrapnel with no pilot to swerve around the debris it would probably be much more fun to crash it into Pluto and see what happens. Hey, we’ve messed up our own planet. Time we started on the rest.
Would it have worked?
How the fuck would I know?
Well, the pseudoscientific supernatural lovers who foretold the end of the world in 2012 were wrong(snigger). But lets take a look at a few nasties which definitely could bring down the curtain on Homo Sapiens Sapiens. From hypervelocity stars, rogue black holes and asteroids to galactic cannibalism, vacuum metastability events, cosmic radiation, gamma ray bursts and magnetars. The universe is a jungle.
Savvy guys. With a name like ‘Firefly’ you have already ensured the worldwide backing of the scifi community forever. Now if you could just persuade those producers to bring back the Firefly series…..
Private industry is going where no conglomerate has gone before. Into their wallets to pool enough money for a space program of their own. The earth has been depleted of resources but other rocks out there are untouched. True, its only research and design so far but projects are expected in earth orbit by as early as 2015.
Asteroids are especially rich in elements that are rare here on earth. The Eros asteroid alone contains trillions of dollars worth of gold, platinum and berrylium. A single iron asteroid could supply enough iron ore to meet the annual needs of the United States.
The early solar system was a chaotic place. Asteroids are leftover rubble from the creation of our solar system. They never clumped together and formed into planets like the earth. Asteroids have remained relatively small and unchanged for billions of years. Large rocky bodies like the earth gathered enough material to become very hot. The earth then acted like a spherical furnace. Gravity drawing the heavier elements towards the core and forever out of reach for humans. Asteroids having never gone through all this have similar elements to the earth but those elements are more evenly distributed. Asteroids are gold mines!
So the rich are going to get vastly richer as usual and the gap between rich and poor continues to grow. Robots will do the bulk of the work out there so don’t go applying for an asteroid miners license just yet.
Well I’ll be a monkeys uncle! Some clever egghead professor of genetics has declared he can now finally create a Neanderthal baby. This is great news for fans of movies such as Jurassic Park where dinosaurs were recreated from ancient DNA. Especially those people who still think cavemen lived at the same time as dinosaurs. According to surveys a lot of people do.
The Neanderthal died much more recently than the Dinosaurs. They lived 40,000 years ago during the ice age. The Dinosaurs disapeared 65 million years ago. This means Neanderthal DNA is much fresher than dinosaur DNA and less ravaged by time. Mammoths will probably be next.
Neanderthals were a sturdy species of hominid that shared ice age europe with our ancestor Cro-magnon man. Neanderthals had bones twice the thickness of ours. They were about ten times stronger than the Cro-magnon and us.
I hope Professor Church has thought all this through. The world once had many different hominid species. Other branches of the human tree which all became dead ends. Then our ancestors diverged into two species for the last time, to date. Only one of them survived. But just because we won last time thats no guarantee of success this time around.
If Neanderthal people were returned from extinction they shouldn’t have any trouble finding work. Imagine a soldier capable of lobbing a grenade over a kilometre. A soldier who can easily carry weapons and ammo usually fitted to vehicles or planes.
What if instead of a grenade it was a baseball. Expect many sports involving strength to be taken over by Neanderthals. Boxing most certainly. Punching a Neanderthal would be pointless. Him punching you would likely result in death. Wrestling, shotput, power lifting, tree chopping. It would be like a chimpanzee facing a gorilla. Chimpanzees are only six times stronger than humans but could still easily rip your arm off. But a gorilla could rip a chimps arm off.
What about labouring work. A guy who can juggle bags of cement might find construction work a breeze. Unless ofcourse he spends all day juggling bags of cement. We have rather strict health and safety legislation nowadays. So it wouldn’t be as exciting as chasing mammoths but he’d never remember ever hunting in the ice age. Cloned Neanderthal’s would grow up like any other baby and probably wouldn’t even stand out in a crowd.
There are laws against cloning human beings in many countries but technically a Neanderthal isn’t human. I’d love to sit in on the court that decides whether to define Neanderthal cloned babies as human. Do we grant them regular human rights if they aren’t judged to be human? Dare we treat a Neanderthal community living among us as second class citizens just because they happen to be a different species much stronger than us?
But what about intelligence? We have those backward cavemen licked there right? Wrong. They actually had larger brain cases than us. Forget about Planet of the Apes. This world may one day become Planet of the Neanderthals. Eek!
The stars may be more common than grains of sand on a beach but thanks to the new Keck telescope sky survey we now know that planets are even more common than stars.
Makes sense. Dust particles outnumber pebbles. Pebbles outnumber asteroids. Asteroids outnumber planets. So why shouldn’t planets outnumber stars? It’s all just different scales of matter after all.
The big question this ofcourse raises in peoples minds is what this all means for the possibility of alien life out there. Mathematically it now seems rather unlikely that we are alone in the universe. So maybe its a good thing the stars are so difficult to reach. Otherwise we might have already had visits from strange neighbours. History has taught us that cultural clashes between indigenous populations and more advanced nations rarely go well.