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« Adapting to Abundance | Main | Why the slow acceptance? »

September 09, 2006


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Phillip Huggan

Good essay. I found for assessing kinetic impacters, Jay Melosh's calculator is a good tool: http://www.lpl.arizona.edu/impacteffects/

A fast projectile is needed (if you wanna blow up the world) to avoid countermeasures, but at the actual point of impact mass is the key variable. I'm thinking a solar sail wouldn't work (too lightweight) but a ion engine or something more exotic like a Bussard ramjet or a nuclear pulse spacecraft, would make a good doomsday device.

Tom Craver

Only in nations that care about their people will civilians be a really useful target for an enemy to attack. Which probably won't protect them in the slightest, should war come.

But many people will be at even greater risk from their own 'leader', if that leader comes to see the masses as useless (due to no longer needing them to produce things of value) and potentially a threat to his power.

Initially, such leaders may not have access to nanoweapons - but it likey won't be long before they get them, and initiate programs of genocide.

Is there anything that can be done, to prevent this dismal future? It might be better for those nations to fragment into tribal patterns, where at least each tribe has self-preservation in mind, to help limit their wars.

The only other solution would appear to be establishment of a global empire, imposing a "Pax Universalis" on the entire world, by force. And maybe that wouldn't be such a bad idea, if done by a nation or nations that at least have some intention of treating people right.

Brian Wang

I wrote an update on my future military and nanotech essay which discussed using space rocks as kinetic weapons.

I point to the calculator that Philip mentioned. Thanks. I also merge in the fact that someone who has the space travel ability also probably has advanced metamaterials. Therefore, they can find suitable rocks, set up camp and the means to steer the rocks (even it is slow multi-year steering) and make their rock invisible with a metamaterial shell. (at least adjust the albedo to make it harder to spot).

The rocks become almost impossible to find. They are incredibly difficult to stop.
They are incredibly destructive.

Usable for a very messy first strike.
Very good for second (retribution) strikes for assured destruction of enemies. The second strike would be good for rational powers to use to deter rational opponents.

Nathan Lamont

The Rand Corporation has an excellent study on using suitable meteroids as weapons and why it may stay in the realm of science fiction. It can be found here;


Chris Phoenix, CRN

Tom, be careful what you ask for. The Pax Universalis would also see people as a threat...

Sigh... Remember the good old days when governments were supposed to be in service to their people?


Chris Phoenix

Remember the good old days when governments were supposed to be in service to their people?

I'm not sure there ever were any such good old days. Governments (like institutionalized religions) basically are ways to organize and control people's actions on a larger scale than can be done in a tribe or clan. Those doing the organizing are, naturally, inclined to make things work to their own benefit as much as possible (although if they are smart they will try to create the impression that they are "in service to their people"). Human society has always functioned that way -- at least since the introduction of settled living and civilization -- and perhaps it always will.

Brian Wang

Thanks for pointing out the Rand analysis. The Rand analysis assumes that the bigger rocks are not of strategic interest. They limit the consideration of destruction to roughly nuclear equivalent. I think that is an incorrect assumption.

It also does not consider that a significant space travel capability could be developed from advanced technologies. MNT and some other potential technologies could provide far superior travel capabilities which would alter the analysis of whether it is worth it to develop those weapons.

MNT and other new tech will up the ante from the current nuclear status quo. Thus more unstoppable destructive capability will be considered.

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