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Dr. Lewis Dartnell, Friday, 8-21-15 August 22, 2015

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Dr. Lewis Dartnell, Friday, 8-21-15


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Guest: Dr. Lewis Dartnell. Topics: Rebooting civilization after a cataclysmic event & extrapolating to starting a space settlement. Please direct all comments and questions regarding Space Show programs/guest(s) to the Space Show blog, https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com. Comments and questions should be relevant to the specific Space Show program. Written Transcripts of Space Show programs are a violation of our copyright and are not permitted without prior written consent, even if for your own use. We do not permit the commercial use of Space Show programs or any part thereof, nor do we permit editing, YouTube clips, or clips placed on other private channels & websites. Space Show programs can be quoted, but the quote must be cited or referenced using the proper citation format. Contact The Space Show for further information. In addition, please remember that your Amazon purchases can help support The Space Show/OGLF. See www.onegiantleapfoundation.org/amazon.htm. For those listening to archives using live365.com and rating the programs, please email me as to why you assign a specific rating to the show. This will help me bring better programming to the audience.

We welcomed Dr. Lewis Dartnell to discuss his book, “The Knowledge: How To Rebuild Civilization In The Aftermath Of A Cataclysm,” then applying it to starting up a space settlement regardless of where the settlement might be located. During our 68 minute discussion, Dr. Dartnell started out by giving us the background to his having written the book, some of the applicable constraints for the book, and that it was written for terrestrial events though there were ways to extrapolate some of it to space settlement issues. Dr. Dartnell explained what it would take to reboot civilization depending on why it was destroyed. He listed three possible sources of destruction. One was a viral epidemic or pandemic, another was nuclear war, and another was being hit by a large asteroid or something similar. He also said it might be easier to reboot after a pandemic because infrastructure would still be standing and largely available for use whereas with the other two, destruction would be overwhelming. We talked about skill sets needed to reboot, then we talked about the minimum size for a new community to start over. Here we extrapolated to space, exploring what it would take to start a space settlement. The initial numbers were high but not as high as what would be needed later on. The need for genetic diversity was also high. Several times he referred to needing more women than men for breeding to seed the new settlement, but without genetic diversity and in light of possible in-breeding to get the early numbers up, generations of humans might be born that were genetically weak and that could be a problem. Genetic diversity, needing more women than men, microgravity and radiation issues were just a few of the challenges for the new space settlement. Past the initial number to get the settlement going, to sustain it there would be a need for thousands in the community. You don’t want to miss this discussion as it was an eye opener. Don’t miss why he said he would rather start a new Earth settlement even after a horrific cataclysm than a Martian settlement. He said the Earth settlement would be far easier no matter what the challenges than the Mars settlement. Dr. Dartnell then talked about the possibility that someday an Earth-like exoplanet would be discovered so we compared starting a settlement there as opposed to Mars. To make this comparison, we zeroed out all issues relating to space transportation. You might be surprised by what Dr. Dartnell concluded. Later we compared a lunar settlement with the other two. Much of our discussion revolved around the fact that Earth was and is habitable and even after the horrific event, would remain habitable. Mars is not habitable nor is the Moon. That fact alone is a huge contributor to complexity and challenges. Listeners emailed and called to ask Dr. Dartnell questions ranging from the number of skilled people needed to start a space colony to having sperm banks in space for the genetic diversity required for the new settlement to how free floating habitats might be different in their requirements as compared to planetary settlements. Questions were asked about the problems resulting from human exposure to unfamiliar biology, human contamination of the planet, and the planet contaminating the humans. These were all interesting discussions so you definitely want to hear the full 68 minute program.

Please post your comments/questions on The Space Show blog above. You can contact Dr. Dartnell through me or The Knowledge website, http://the-knowledge.org/en-gb.




1. J Fincannon - August 25, 2015

The guest was game enough to talk about living on Mars, Venus, the Moon, exoplanets, and in space in general, but that diverged significantly from his very interesting sounding book.

Did he give a definition of apocalypse? How much is too much to recover from? (Nuclear war?) How much is easy to recover from? (EMP?) I hear that the loss of the Internet and electric grid would kill millions (90% of US population).

I was expecting lots of MacGyver type talk (he DID talk a little about glass making which was pretty good). I wanted to hear what he thought the necessary things were in the order they were needed. Like do we need metal first, then glass? There must be some order. Metal helps to make plows, axes, shovels. Do we even need to know math? Do we need writing or can everything be done with spoken language?

We got too much talk about the size of the group needed and genetic diversity. He said had no published data he could find on the minimum viable group size (he suggested 10000). I have seen some published data on this. http://mbe.oxfordjournals.org/content/17/1/2.long
They say perhaps ~1000. Anyway, I think that if the population on Earth got to below these levels, then perhaps its just game over.

What I wanted to know was how to avoid having to take 1000 years to get a civilization rebuilt. Was there any historic evidence for rebuilt civilizations? The Black Death wiped out 30-60% of Europe, but it came back. How is language, math, science, engineering preserved? Was his book about survivalism? I wasn’t clear on the timetable he thought it was possible to rebuild civilization.

I liked his pointing out that humans will contaminate Mars with our biota, it can’t be avoided, so we need to make the moral/ethical decision of going there based on that.

I didn’t like his assumption of how viruses/organisms would NOT infect/harm human exoplanet visitors. 1) We have no idea what the life forms are like and what they do and even if “virus” is what we can call it. We might not even be able to detect it. Think prions. 2) We have no idea if panspermia is correct thus all these exoplanet organisms might be related already to us enough to pose a problem. 3) We have no idea if purposely designed organisms exist in the environments that are hard to detect and have malicious intent.

I think I will need to get the book to see what he has to say.

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