Leaving the Solar System: Introduction to the Outward Bound Series

 
For the entire earth is but a point, and the place of your own habitation but a minute corner in it.
— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Overview

Hello everyone, this article will essentially be a foreword to the next five articles which build upon the ideas that we discussed in our video on Shkadov thrusters and our article, Orbital Rings and Planet Building. All of these articles, collectively, shall discuss humanities colonization of the multiverse. Discussing how such an endeavor would be reified and executed over the coming eons, however lofty and mysterious and fanciful it may seem, can in fact be viewed as a very mundane discussion of known theories in science and engineering and applying those theories. For the most part, with only a few exceptions (i.e. gravitational radiation within wormholes), we won’t require any new theoretical breakthroughs—merely, the theories from science and engineering that we already know. To echo the sentiments of some of histories most remarkable thinkers including the philosopher Marcus Aurelius and the astronomer Carl Sagan, the true vastness of space and time exceeds human comprehensibility: we humans occupy but the tiniest and most indistinguishable slither of this vastness. And yet, it is here on our tiny home the Earth at this very moment in time when we shall decide the fate or destiny of our descendants who would go on to colonize the stars, and the galaxies, and perhaps even other universes.


Looking a Little Farther Ahead Into Human Behavior

Quote by Sam Harris, author of the book,  The Moral Landscape .

Quote by Sam Harris, author of the book, The Moral Landscape.

(To go on a little tangent, I was referring to Marcus Aurelius’ and Carl Sagan’s speculations in their works Meditations and Pale Blue Dot, respectively. They speculated on the tininess of the Earth and the utter insignificance of our lives in the vast scheme of things in a universe which, as Feynman once noted, appears to be entirely devoid of purpose and meaning. But, to do the honor of paraphrasing these works, they do essentially imply that we humans can, in a certain sense, derive our own purpose and values from this cosmic perspective of our true place and bearings in this cosmos. As both books imply, the fact that our existence is so fragile, our planet so miniscule and vulnerable, and our very existence finite (at least for now) and nascent, instills within us a sense of urgency to live out each of our lives to the fullest and, also, to take care of our planet and one another. As a general principle, anything that is finite, beautiful, and is unique in the sense that it only occurs once (for all practical purposes this is true, though, in a subsequent article, we shall discuss the Poincare recurrence time) instills within the human mind the compulsion to hold such a thing to high regard. And although it might seem that such speculation and discussion ought to be relegated to the topics of philosophy or religion, it is in fact not at all unscientific to make these claims and we don’t even need to delve into the complex minutia of technical scientific and empirical facts discussed in books by like The Moral Landscape or Behave (authored by the two researchers Sam Harris and Robert Sapolsky, respectively) to appreciate this.

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But, in our reference to such books, we can be brief by summarizing some of their key points: namely, that the values that we humans adopt are shaped by factors of the environment (such as what we learn and discover about our place in this cosmos) and that certain values are objectively better than others. It is, therefore, not at all unscientific to claim that this new “cosmic perspective” of our planet and ourselves has, to a large extent, instilled within many of us (though not all of us) the compulsion and desirability to preserve our planet and biosphere and to deal more kindly to one another. How we humans could preserve our planet and biosphere is a topic which we have already discussed in tremendous detail and is one which we’ll continue to discuss in the next five articles. And, after we get through those next five articles, we’ll begin to answer the question as to how we can treat one another better. The first part of answering that second question starts, of course, with further advancing our technology—specifically, automation, AI and robotics, life extension technologies, technology to reclaim our environment which we have loused up over the previous few centuries, clean and renewable energy infrastructure, safer transportation, cities which are better harmonized with nature as opposed to segregated from it. How advancing that list of technologies could vastly improve the human condition is something that we all already know and agree upon. But there is a second part to answering the question of how to better get along with each other which isn’t talked about as much and which, quite frankly, is poorly understood. And that is how to create a socioeconomic system which is fair and just, and which works with the environment and not against it. Such an understanding as to how to solve such issues can only be understood by using the same methods of science which we use to advance our technology: those “methods of science” are usually just called the scientific method. We’ll save that discussion for the article, Post Scarcity Economics: Introduction to a Resource Based Economy.)


Forward on Traveling Across the Multiverse

This video was produced by Greg School.

In the next 5 articles, we’ll be expanding on the ideas that we covered in the article, Orbital Rings and Planet Building. Our video on shkadov thrusters, the article, Orbital Rings and Planet Building, and the next five articles all, collectively, build upon the ideas of the previous. If one were to merge everyone of the works together into a continuous series, then you’d likely say that all of these works, collectively, describe how humanity could gradually move outwards and colonize space. I’ll therefore call this the Outward Bound series.

Much of the topics that we’ll be discussing in this series and in the next several months will be dedicated to the popular YouTube channel, Science and Futurism with Isaac Arthur, which I have collaborated in in many of their episodes. But speaking more specifically about the next five articles in the Outward Bound series, for the most part the primary topic that we’ll cover is how orbital rings can be used as a launch system to send celestial vehicles to other worlds and suns in the galaxy, and beyond. Indeed, we have even gone so far as to note that such a system could, perhaps, in the far-off future, be used as a gigantic particle supercollider which could open up a traversable wormhole that leads to another universe. As the physicist Kip Thorne of Caltech has shown, if Einstein’s theory of gravity is correct then such a wormhole would, in fact, be a portal to another universe. There is now compelling theoretical evidence that this isn’t the only universe and is in fact one of many in a much grander multi-verse and that these wormholes do in fact bridge adjacent universes and that some could be traversed at speeds lower than that of light. What we do not know is whether or not anyone would survive the trip through the wormhole. Whether or not anyone or anything could actually survive the trip is a question that can only be answered by solving a presently outstanding question in string theory. The question is simply whether or not the gravitational waves occurring within the interior of the wormhole would be sufficiently violent and intense to destroy anything passing through it. This is essentially a math problem that string theorists are currently trying to crack.


Reimagining What is Possible

The Wright brothers on the steps of their boyhood home at 7 Hawthorn St. in Dayton.\(^{[1]}\)

Carillon Historical Park

Our present scientific understanding of traveling across hyperspace to other universes is still incomplete and, therefore, the prospects of being able to escape this universe’s fate in its eventual heat death is uncertain. Such a discussion is, at least at the moment, purely hypothetical since not only is the theory of traversing hyperspace through wormholes unfinished, but even string theory itself cannot—using present-day technology—be tested through experimentation and observation. In spite of this present day shortcoming of our understanding of the interplay between gravity and the very small, we can, however, colonize the stars and the galaxies. Such an endeavor, however lofty it may seem, is absolutely possible according to known science and using current methods of engineering. The fact that our nomadic and inquisitive species has not yet colonized other planets and have not yet sent the first celestial ships on voyages to other suns is not due to a failure of the intellect, but rather a failure of the imagination. Or, as Neil deGrasse Tyson put it in a open speech to congress, we as a people and as a species stopped dreaming.

Some of the most remarkable breakthroughs in science and engineering were, in their earliest stages of conceptual development, confined purely to the realms of fantasy and fictions. The most famous examples of this fact is the airplane first conceived by the Wright brothers and, ironically enough, spaceships themselves which were first considered seriously in a scientific and engineering approach by Konstantin Tsiolkovsky and Robert Goddard. In their respective times, none of their contemporaries believed the implementations of these ideas and these dreams (which is all that they were back then) to even be remotely feasible or possible. And yet, in the successive decades these lofty ambitions were eventually reified.

As many have noted, the science fiction of the early 20th-century had a profound influence on shaping the science that was done in the latter part of that century. Unlike the Wright brothers and much of 20th-century science fiction, we have an advantage and a kind of “head start” in that, from a purely scientific and engineering perspective, the research has already been done which proves the possibility and feasibility of interstellar and intergalactic space travel and colonization. Thus, the ideas that we discuss in the next five articles won’t be merely idle speculation, but rather a discussion of applications which are currently doable. Such applications include everything from orbital rings, to artificial planets, star lifting, arc ships, and many others.

The key technologies which will enable our biosphere to expand across the galaxy and beyond are orbital rings and star lifters. Star lifters are what allows you to get enough materials to build billions of arc ships and to provide fuel to those ships. But orbital rings are the things that one must use to move those materials away from the star and are important for refueling ships with fuel for propulsion and also materials for ship repairs and sustenance for the crew and biosphere. We’ll discuss in greater detail in these articles how these two key technologies will play essential roles in interstellar and intergalactic space travel and colonization.


Challenges of Space Travel

In our first article on orbital rings, we discussed how orbital rings could enable us to colonize the entire solar system by building shell worlds around the planets and possibly the Sun as well. But in the next couple of articles, we’ll discuss why orbital rings would also be useful for traveling to other stars and galaxies. If that first article on orbital rings emphasized discussing how orbital rings could be used to colonize space, then this next article will put an emphasis on describing how orbital rings would be useful if you wanted to travel across space.

If we were only talking about K1 and K2 civilizations which would primarily be concerned with interplanetary and interstellar travel, then orbital rings would be very useful though not absolutely necessary. It is worth emphasizing (for reasons which we have mentioned many times in other articles) that a K1 or a K2 civilization would not merely be very concerned with interplanetary and interstellar travel; behavior is entirely deterministic (as we shall discuss in greater detail in our article, Post-Scarcity Economics, where we’ll introduce the notion of a resource-based economy) and, in a very sort of deterministic way, they would have to be concerned with interplanetary and interstellar travel. Let me give a brief rundown and explain why they would have to do this as a consequence of evolution and biology.

Our behavior is entirely determined by external influences from our environment which trace back millions of years throughout the evolutionary history of life on this planet. The effect of the environment on human behavior—which includes not only what you ate for breakfast or some experience from childhood, but which also includes what the conditions were like inside of your mother’s womb as well as millions of years of evolutionary adaptation which occurred long before your inception—was described in great rigor and tremendous depth, in the Stanford neuroscientist's Robert Sapolsky's New York Best Time Seller, Behave—a monumental contribution to our understanding of social systems and human behavior and, as we shall discuss later on in our article on post-scarcity economics, will largely comprise the foundation of how future generations will organize societies based, not on the merits of one’s wealth or power or accumulation of assets, but rather on what is actually best for improving the general wellbeing and prosperity of all the world’s peoples.

Now, that book discussed the determinism of behavior in astounding detail; but, to keep things brief, let’s just say that a large portion of Sapolsky's work demonstrated that we have inherited certain innate and indeed immutable behaviors and propensities which we gradually adopted through the process of evolution by natural selection. One of those propensities and behaviors which we adopted was curiosity and a craving for exploration which we evolved, in the words of Carl Sagan, “as an essential element for our survival and prosperity.” Indeed, in the first article on orbital rings, I told you that there was once a time in our species history when the total number of humans was estimated to be less than 1,000.\(^{[2]}\) We were, during this time of peril, an endangered species. Fortunately for us, our ancestors evolved an exploratory capacity which compelled them to gradually meander outwards across the continents, from pole to pole and to the remotest of islands. It was this critical decision which allowed us to avert extinction. To put all of that succinctly in a single sentence: by meandering outwards to find refuge in new, hitherto unexplored and undiscovered places, we averted the demise of our own species.

This innate propensity to explore to see what else is out there is still deeply ingrained and interwoven into the genetic language which describes the diverse range of behaviors and tendencies of every being on Earth and, perhaps, elsewhere in the cosmos. And after an only very brief and partially successful experiment of living sedentary lives within villages and cities, we are ready, at last, to return to our nomadic ways. Only this time, those new places that we travel to won’t be separated by the immensity of the oceans and the continents but, rather, by the vastness of space and time. Our ancestors escaped extinction by leaving Africa and venturing to new continents and other lands; but we, our children, our grandchildren, and all of our future descendants will escape extinction by emancipating beyond the Earth and traveling to the stars and the galaxies.

In order for our K1 and K2 descendants to avoid extinction due to say an asteroid impact, a rogue black hole, or a nearby supernovae, they will—in a way totally analogous to our hunter-gatherer ancestors—hop from world to world, and from one star system to another. For them, orbital rings would not only be useful for colonizing such worlds and star systems (since, as we discussed in the article Orbital Rings and Planet Building, they would allow you to englobe entire planets and stars with shell worlds to live on), but they’d also be very useful for actually getting your spaceships to other planets and stars. This is because an orbital ring could be used as a launch system. Now, the physicist Jerome in his 1971 paper calculated that even just a space elevator built on worlds with an appropriate mass and angular velocity, could be extremely useful as launch systems by allowing you to impart the rotational energy (of the world which the space elevator is connected to) into the spaceship giving it an amount of kinetic energy which would be adequate for interplanetary and, in some cases, even interstellar travel. Similarly, by using an orbital ring, spacecraft could be electromagnetically accelerated within the interior of an orbital ring until it achieved a satisfactory velocity; after that, the spacecraft could be ejected from the orbital rings along a trajectory to a moon, planet, or space habitat within the solar system. This is why orbital rings would be very useful for interplanetary voyages.

Interstellar Travel

“Today we look at the subject of Interstellar Colonization, from the ship concepts and propulsion methods all the way to intergalactic colonization.” This video was produced by Isaac Arthur.

Interstellar voyages are a little bit trickier and, when it comes to interstellar travel, you’d have to deal with challenges which you don’t have to really worry about with interplanetary travel. One of these challenges is the rocket equation which implies that you’ll need an astounding amount of fuel to successfully reach another star system; furthermore, the equation also indicates that if you carry all of the fuel on the spaceships themselves, this would be a huge burden because you’d have to accelerate not only the spaceship but the fuel as well. This means that it would take a very long time to accelerate your ships up to relativistic speeds for the interstellar journey. And, this same burdon and challenge is also encountered with intergalactic travel. Fortunately, orbital rings proffer such K2 and K3 civilizations a straightforward solution to the problem: the total fuel required for the voyage would not be stored in the ship, but rather in a stream of myriad small pellets. The helium-3 and deuterium fuel necessary for the voyage could be sequestered from a jovian’s atmosphere using tethers and the type of gas giant refineries that we discussed in the article, Orbital Rings and Planet Building; those elements could then be encapsulated into pellets and, using orbital rings, could be electromagnetically launched into space as a stream of pellets liberally strewn across space. Those pellets, containing the helium-3 and deuterium fuel as payloads, would eventually rendezvous with interstellar spacecraft which are enroute to other star systems.

A point that I’d like to make is that, despite being very useful, orbital rings would not be 100% necessary for using small spaceships (meaning, much smaller than a star or a planet) for interplanetary or interstellar travel. If you merely wanted to send spaceships (no bigger than the biggest arc ships like a Model 3 O’Neil cylinder)  to another star system, then there are certain approaches that one could employ to reach those stars which do not require the use of orbital rings as launch systems. This is something that we discuss in greater detail in the Starship Compendium and Generationship Compendium. We discuss in those articles various different ways in which a space colony could reach the stars and how there is more than one way of transporting the Earth’s biosphere to exoplanets, exomoons, or artificial space habitats in other star systems. One way of doing this - which would not require the use of orbital rings - would involve sending out vanguard ships to another star system; once they arrived, using AI and robots, artificial space habitats and human infrastructure could be built. Indeed, even terraforming entire worlds could perhaps be fully automated. Part of that infrastructure could include antennas which could collect information transmitted by radio stations from our solar system. Such information could contain the genomes of all living creatures on Earth and be fed into gene laboratories which 3d-print synthetic versions of their DNA. From there, we could use such DNA to create vat-grown versions of each species of life comprising the biosphere. Or, another option which we’ll discuss in more detail in the article Seeding the Universe with Life, would involve creating a biosphere the plain-old fashion way (which is to say, through evolution by natural selection).

Intergalactic Travel

“We often discuss the notion of settling the galaxy but do we need to stop there? This episode will examine the additional difficulties with traveling between galaxies and ask just how far we might be able to journey even without faster than light travel.” This video was produced by Isaac Arthur.

But when it comes to intergalactic travel, not only would orbital rings be useful, but you’d probably require them (unless you sent planet-sized or star-sized ships to another galaxy). This is because there is an additional challenge with intergalactic travel which you don’t have to worry about with interplanetary and interstellar travel. This problem is the half-life of atoms which are a measure of how many years it would take for an object comprised of a particular type of atom to lose half of its mass due to the spontaneous radioactive decay of such atoms. The half-life for such atoms is so long that you wouldn’t really have to worry about your ship losing much mass at all due to radioactive decay when talking about interplanetary or even interstellar missions. But to travel to the nearest satellite galaxies which orbit the Milky Way (our home galaxy) would take hundreds of thousands of years; and it would take millions of years for a ship to reach the Andromeda galaxy. When it comes to traveling to other galaxies, you’ll usually be looking at voyage times which last for millions of years. And over such immense intervals of time, the arcships that you use for intergalactic voyages will lose considerable amounts of material due to radioactive decay.

Luckily for our K3 descendants, there is a solution to this problem. The solution is twofold. The first part of this solution is something that we describe in great length in subsequent articles. But, to paraphrase and summarize those solutions, we could identify rogue planets and rogue stars which drift in between the galaxies and build orbital rings around those intergalactic bodies. Intergalactic rogue stars would be the most useful (containing orders of magnitude more mass and materials than planets) and the orbital rings encompassing such intergalactic rogue stars could be used as both star lifters and launch systems. We discuss in the article, Star Lifting: Colonizing the Stars and the Galaxies, how a star lifter is a ring surrounding a star (which could either be a Dyson swarm meaning that it is just a bunch of individual, separate satellites distributed across space in the shape of a ring or multiple rings with the star at its center or the star lifter could be a solid and continuous ring or series of rings); solar power collectors (which comprise the ring/star lifter) extract energy from the star and use this energy to power an ultra-powerful current throughout the ring/star lifter. As a consequence of Maxwell’s equations, the ring current generates an extremely powerful toroidal magnetic field which “pumps” atoms out of the star’s atmosphere. Those atoms get collected by magnetic rocket nozzles and, as Criswell once argued, could be stored as giant spheres of mass—that is to say, planets that we created.

Now, we would go about creating these planets by, to the best of our abilities, simulating the same series of natural events and processes which lead to the creation of the planets within our solar system—with the only difference being that we’d want to speed up this process a little bit. We discuss in subsequent articles, how these worlds that we created (using star lifted materials) would get shell worlds, atlas towers, and orbital rings thrown around them. After doing that, you would then have the infrastructure necessary to extract the elements from those planets and then electromagnetically launch them across intergalactic space (using the orbital rings as launch systems of course) along paths which eventually rendezvous with intergalactic arcships. That material would be used for ship repairs; that’s to say, for replacing the mass that the ship lost due to radioactive decay. At any rate, the basic picture is this: find a line of intergalactic rogue moons, planets, and stars which connect the galaxy that you are leaving to the galaxy which you want to arrive at; then, build things like gas giant refineries and star lifters to extract materials from such bodies; then, you could use orbital rings to launch a stream of pellets containing fuel and materials for ship repair which intersect with the orbits of the interstellar arcships. And, of course, you’d do the same thing to keep on refueling the ships.

With this approach, you now have a way to send arcships to another galaxy and to refuel and repair the ship along the way. Indeed, even if you did not have a line of such intergalactic rogue bodies, you could move entire stars and star systems (using Shkadov thrusters) out into intergalactic space and, subsequently, use them for these purposes. Of course, other alternatives would be to just use either a gas giant or a star system as an intergalactic spaceship and use that to complete your voyage to another galaxy. These are all things that we’ll discuss in greater detail in the article, Star Lifting. And, in another article called String Theory and Colonizing the Multiverse, we'll even investigate the possibility of using orbital rings to create bridges (called Einstein-Rosen bridges or wormholes) across hyperspace which connect to other universes.


Super Telescopes and Planning Interstellar Missions

A gravitational lens telescope, as envisioned by Claudio Maccone in his 2009 book Deep Space Flight and Communications. (Claudio Maccone)

I’d like to add some closure to this discussion by mentioning that, if our remotest descendants retain the same goal as their hunter gatherer ancestors (namely, to stay alive), then it will be desirable for them to endeavor to journey to other planets, stars, galaxies, and, eventually, to even other universes. But long before they travel to even other exoplanets in distant star systems, their ancestors of the 21st century (which is to say, us!) will have had to build the infrastructure necessary for determining which exoplanets and star systems are the most promising and interesting ones to go to. To accomplish this, they will have to build an immense Dyson swarm at a raddi of roughly 550-1,000 AUs which uses the Sun as a gravitational lens. This is just a fancy way of saying: they’d use the Sun as a kind of giant cosmic telescope. Indeed, shortly after Einstein developed his general theory of relativity and speculated on the use of very massive heavenly bodies as “lenses” capable of concentrating light and magnifying images, it wasn’t too long after when astronomers and astrophysicists started to put Einstein’s ideas into practice by using things like galaxies and distant stars as “cosmic telescopes.”

But those first preliminary interstellar missions which set out to send a modest telescope to the region of space 550-1,000 AUs away from the Sun (and, eventually, have many satellites and telescopes out there to create a modest Dyson swarm) will revolutionize the fields of astrobiology and exoplanet exploration. Using spectroscopy, we’ll be able to determine the chemical compositions and land features of exoplanets out to a distance 100 light years away. It is, in this way, we’ll be able to find which planets are most Earth-like, which ones are the most likely to support life, which ones have materials that could be used as fuel and sustenance, and, therefore, which ones would be the most interesting to visit. So it is in this way that such preliminary interstellar missions (which would eventually lead to the complete construction of a Dyson swarm located within the region of space 550-1,000 AUs away from the Sun) would largely predetermine which other star systems and exoplanets we actually set out to visit. This technique, will, hence, give us a good idea of how we’ll actually go about spreading outwards to the other stars and exoplanets in our galaxy. It’ll also have enormous implications for Project Genesis and any endeavors for that matter to seed the galaxy with life by “kickstarting” and in fact accelerating the evolutionary processes occurring on other worlds. It is for this reason that I thought that it would be a good idea to begin this series by discussing such preliminary interstellar missions at great length. And that will be the purpose of the next article which I’ll publish next week. Until then, see you all next time.


References

1. DeLuca, Leo. “How Dayton, And The Wright Brothers, Have Cincinnati Roots.” WVXU,

24 Apr. 2018, www.wvxu.org/post/how-dayton-and-wright-brothers-have-cincinnati-

roots#stream/0.

2. Krulwich, Robert. “How Human Beings Almost Vanished From Earth In 70,000 B.C.”

NPR, NPR, 22 Oct. 2012, www.npr.org/sections/krulwich/2012/10/22/163397584/

how-human-beings-almost-vanished-from-earth-in-70-000-b-c.

Thumbnail Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/news/784/nasas-voyager-2-probe-enters-interstellar-space/