Tag Archives: jerry pournelle

Why we have not gone into space, & why we will.

Summary: In the 1960s many bright people, from scientists to science fiction writers, predicted that we would have a large presence in space by now. They correctly predicted we would have the technology. Why do we have nothing but a few small robot explorers? What will eventually draw us into space? This is a follow-up to Men in space: an expensive trip to nowhere. {1st of 2 posts today.}

Robert Heinlein predicts the future.

Robert Heinlein wrote “Where To” in 1952, giving predictions about the year 2000. He was bullish about space.

By 2000 AD we could have O’Neil colonies, self-supporting and exporting power to Earth, at both Lagrange-4 and Lagrange-5, transfer stations in orbit about Earth and around Luna, a permanent base on Luna equipped with an electric catapult — and a geriatrics retirement home.

… If you’re willing to settle today for a constant-boost on the close order of magnitude of 1/1000 G we can start the project later this afternoon, as there are several known ways of building constant-boost jobs with that tiny acceleration  — even light-sail ships.

{Total time for a constant boost roundtrip to Mars and to Pluto at two low rates of acceleration:}

  • 1/100 G………………50 days………………50 weeks
  • 1/1000 G……………150 days……………150 weeks

I prefer to talk about light-sail ship (or rather ships that sail in the “Solar wind”) because the above table shows that we have the entire Solar System available to us right now; it is not necessary to wait for the year 2000 and new breakthroughs.

Ten weeks to Mars, a round trip to Pluto in 2 years and 9 months. Ten weeks — it took the Pilgrims in the Mayflower nine weeks and 3 days to cross the Atlantic. … England, Holland, Spain, and Portugal all created worldwide empires with ships that took as long to get anywhere and back as would a 1/1000 G spaceship. … Even the tiniest constant boost turns sailing the Solar System into a money-making commercial venture.

In 1980 he updated that article, writing “By the end of this century mankind will have explored this solar system and the first ship intended to reach the nearest star will be building.”

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Too many “takers”? Look to science fiction for the hard-Right answer!

Summary:  People’s favorite fantasies don’t reveal what they’ll do, but provides a window into their thinking. Conservatives talk about the problem of the “takers” (ie, the “47%”). A famous science fiction author describes one solution in his best-selling books.  Read and applaud!

These are the bad guys

These are the bad guys

A comment by Graydon at Brad DeLong’s website:

Jerry Pournelle’s Codominium stories from the early seventies used this idea as an explanation for social breakdown: economically parasitic non-working citizens, paid for by ever-shrinking numbers of taxpayers.  It’s been around a long time as a just-so story.

Totally impervious to facts, too; neither pointing out that money is the creation of the state nor demonstrating just how brutally hard poor people tend to work will put a dent in it.

My take is that it’s not really economic at all; it’s an attempt to de-legitimize democracy as a political process, because democracy keeps getting the wrong answers.

Jerry Pournelle’s science fiction novels about Falkenberg’s Legion describe not just the problem of too many “takers” (the 47%, a shiftless amoral idle mob) but also a solution: mass murder. Millions read Pournelle’s  stories and smile at the “happy” endings. And not just Pournelle. Apocalypse porn is popular on the Right, with mega-deaths leaving behind a purified world of the righteous, such as Larry Burkett’s Chirstian sci-fi novel Solar Flare (1997).

This should worry the rest of us, as evidence of the real polarization in American.  More important and deeper than differences in economics or who gets to screw who.  Here are excerpts from two examples by Pournelle that illustrate the two Americas that uneasily coexist today.

(1)  The opening to “The Mercenary” (Analog, July 1972; later reprinted in his books) describing a world (“Hadley”) being ruined by the takers. It’s an obvious analogy to the USA of today.

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