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Foresight Update 23.30: Space travel: utter bilge? - July 23, 2009

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Space travel: utter bilge?

It is, today, just 40 years since I sat glued to a grainy black-and-white TV set and watched the Apollo astronauts land on, and then step out on, the moon. If you had asked me then, I would have assured you that by the year 2000, much less 2009, I'd have my own spaceship, or at least own a flying car and be able to buy tickets on a spaceship whenever I wanted.

It didn't work out that way. Indeed, not only am I not going to be celebrating on the moon, nobody is going there for any purpose whatsoever. We don't even have flying cars. How can we futurists be so blithe about the wonders of technology to come when there has been, so far from progress in this most visible of technological applications, an evident regress?

With space travel, there's a pretty straightforward answer…

In this issue:

From Open Source Sensing:

Feynman's Path to Nanotech – Summary
Foresight Events – Lectures
Foreseeing Future Technologies - Join Foresight
More Events
Contact Foresight

Feynman's Path to Nanotech (part 8) - Where to Start?

In the last post we suggested that finding the appropriate starting point was one of the critical items to address in forming a Feynman Path roadmap, and that is true. A thorough survey of available techniques should be made, and recent advances in machining, nanomanipulation, and so forth taken advantage of.

However, as a point of reference, at least one experiment has been made, in a sense, which suggests that a 1/1000-scale system might be achievable (as compared to the desktop-scale prototype with finger-size parts)…

Feynman's Path to Nanotech (part 9) - Scaling Design Considerations

There hasn't been a lot of work on self-replicating workcells. There's been plenty on robotic workcells that don't replicate, but almost all of this falls into the "more complex than what it makes" category. The basic idea goes back to Waldo: imitate a machine shop and the person servicing the machines / assembling the parts…

Feynman's Path to Nanotech (part 10) - Just Do It

It's the 20th anniversary of the first Foresight Conference this year. Over the intervening two decades, one of the most common questions of Foresight members and supporters has been, "What can I do to help with the development of nanotech?" Foresight has had many useful programs, and encouraged development in many ways (notably with the Feynman Prizes, in the spirit of the prizes Feynman himself offered for developments leading along his pathway). But we have never taken a hand in the direct development of nanotech per se.

I feel to some extent that this may have contributed to the lack of focus the field of nanotech has had in its course of development. But that can change. The Feynman Path initiative is a specific, concrete proposal — but more, it's one that can be done in an open-source way, for at least the first, roadmap, phase…

Nanotech and space travel

Let's look at what nanotech could do — could be doing now if Feynman's path had been taken — to make space travel more achievable and affordable — and therefore useful. It's widely understood how lighter, stronger structures can make rockets more efficient, but that's of limited use. The rocket equation is still a huge stumbling block.

One way around it is not to use rockets at all. Nanotech would be easily able to build a space pier…

—Nanodot posts by J. Storrs Hall

From Open Source Sensing:

EU document celebrates surveillance state

Charles Nevin writes in Intelligent Life, a culture magazine published by The Economist, comparing progress toward the surveillance state in the UK, Germany, and Romania. The Brits are 'winning'…

Mass vehicle surveillance: the wrong way and the less-wrong way

Roger Clarke has a paper titled The Covert Implementation of Mass Vehicle Surveillance in Australia which looks at Automated Number Plate Recognition (ANPR), which he finds being done two different ways…

—Open Source Sensing posts by Christine Peterson

Feynman's Path to Nanotech – Summary

For those readers wishing to have a single list of links to the first ten installments of Foresight President J. Storrs Hall's series on the Feynman path to molecular nanotechnology:

Foresight Events – Lectures

Foresight Lectures

August 20-22, 2009
Gnomedex: a technology conference of inspiration and influence
Seattle, Washington
Christine Peterson will speak on life extension.
Click here for conference details

Foreseeing Future Technologies

Advancements in technologies such as nanotech, robotics, and biotech are promising to make major differences in our lives in the not-too-distant future, as the Industrial Revolution did to the agrarian world — to do for the physical world what the computer and Internet have done to the world of information.

Since 1986, the Foresight Institute has been in the forefront of a worldwide community of visionaries who work to help shape these possibilities into a positive, beneficial reality. If you would like to help us understand the potential of these technologies, and influence their direction, please consider becoming a member of the Foresight community. With your support, Foresight will continue to educate the general public on these technologies and what they will mean to our society.

To join:

More Events

Converging Technologies for 21st Century Security
Organized by the Institute of Nanotechnology
November 25, 2009
The Royal College of Physicians, London, UK

Organised crime, terrorism, civil conflict, and natural disasters are sadly commonplace in global society and have developed increasingly complex dimensions. To counter such threats, civil security and emergency response teams are looking towards new technologies that offer more sensitive, rapid, and accurate detection methods; that provide the means to neutralise or effectively deal with the outcomes of such incidents; and that provide greater protection to personnel.

Contact Foresight

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