Friday, January 18, 2013

Scurvy and solar radiation

The show Fringe is ending tonight. It's been a five year run, so starting about two weeks ago Kate and I have been watching from the beginning again. We're near the end of season two, and Walter Bishop made a comment about how most of Magellan's crew died circumnavigating the planet. Of course, many died from scurvy.

Scurvy is pretty easy to fix of course - it's just caused by a nutritional deficiency. But that wasn't decisively known until over two hundred years after Magellan.

In the meantime long voyages continued. And they continued to be dangerous. And eventually we figured it out. This made me think about complaints about interplanetary travel because of things like solar radiation. Yes, this is a problem. And yes, space exploration is probably going to be a lot more dangerous than the extreme safety consciousness of exploration to date. More people are going to die, perhaps terribly. But the idea that it's going to keep us Earth-bound or that it will always be a problem seems to me to be incredibly myopic.

1 comment:

  1. I think the issue is that The People Who Run Things (businessmen, bankers, bureaucrats, bloggers, etc.) view manned space flight as having absolutely no benefits and many extraordinary costs.

    An example: A successful lunar colony, one which is self supporting, requires some sort of local industry, implying some sort of usage of local materials and some sort of economy. I/e/, mines, manufacturing, and markets. This doesn't fit well with the Outer Space Treaty or the Moon Treaty of the 1960s, but we're stuck with them because third world nations in the United Nations have long standing memories of their natural resources being exploited by Yankees and European capitalists and what to make that impossible in outer space. And the US goes along with this because it needs the votes of 3rd world nations in the UN to get approval of its foreign policy -- oddly enough, wars in the 1960s and wars in the 2000's.

    Short version: the US State Department will NEVER support a US moon colony. It's possible, without too much imagination, to conceive of reasons why OMB and people overseeing the Defense Department would oppose expanding into space. Maybe a hundred years from now, maybe a thousand, some other country or some other sort of political entity will have more success.


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