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with depravity / i break lots of gravity
February 14, 2011 6:30 PM   Subscribe

Our solar system may have a ninth planet -- or a tenth, if you're a Pluto sentimentalist. Tyche, which astronomers suspect lurks in the Oort cloud, fifteen thousand times farther away from the sun than the Earth, is thought to be a gas giant four times the size of Jupiter. We may know for sure in April.
posted by eugenen (99 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
NEMESIS
posted by The Whelk at 6:33 PM on February 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


Crap. How many astrolabes does a man have to buy in one lifetime?
posted by Hardcore Poser at 6:34 PM on February 14, 2011 [51 favorites]


Whether it would become the new ninth planet would be decided by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). The main argument against is that Tyche probably formed around another star and was later captured by the Sun's gravitational field. The IAU may choose to create a whole new category for Tyche, Professor Matese said.

This seems a rather odd distinction. If it exists, it was clearly a planet when it was formed, the fact that it changed solar systems doesn't make it any less of a planet. We don't distinguish between moons that were captured and those that were formed with the planet.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 6:34 PM on February 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


Would this be the single most awesome astronomical discovery of my lifetime? I have to say yes.
posted by Zozo at 6:34 PM on February 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


So.. beyond cold hell, there is still luck.

I wonder if she's green? Good chance that far out.
posted by bonehead at 6:39 PM on February 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


I thought Jupiter was scary, but the notion of a giant-ass gas giant hovering creepily out in the Oort cloud sends shivers down my spine.
posted by invitapriore at 6:39 PM on February 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


Oo RT @tyche Jupiter can suck it!!
posted by defenestration at 6:39 PM on February 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Even if they don't find Tyche, it's so cool that this article is about a potentially major, wonderful, awesome discovery and not some bullshitty little story with a splashy headline. Wow!
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:39 PM on February 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's the 3rd Death Star, you fools! Everyone to the Space Shuttles, we'll be able to take off and land safely in them!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:40 PM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sound likes some damn Cthulhu elder gods deal to me.
posted by marxchivist at 6:42 PM on February 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


It must be nine. To rule them all.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:43 PM on February 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well now we will have a place to build our very own Ragnar Anchorage.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 6:43 PM on February 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wow. That is amazing. But exactly how far away is this thing? The edge of the Oort Cloud? And does it actually orbit around the sun, a long, long orbit?
posted by zardoz at 6:45 PM on February 14, 2011


Oort Cloud (?)
posted by clearly at 6:46 PM on February 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


My very excellent mother just served us nine... tacos?
posted by pemberkins at 6:48 PM on February 14, 2011 [21 favorites]


Not that it does any good, but they really ought to call it George. William Herschel wanted to name the planet Uranus after King George III once he had discovered it, but he was overruled in favor of what was apparently considered a more dignified appellation. Ever since I found that out, I have felt that our solar system needed a George.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:49 PM on February 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also if you want to count Pluto you'd also have to count all of the other Trans-Neptunian objects.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 6:50 PM on February 14, 2011


We should name it Pluto 2: The Revenge. NOW who's not a planet anymore, hmmm??
posted by ORthey at 6:50 PM on February 14, 2011 [9 favorites]


My very excellent mother

Was she not educated?
posted by jeremy b at 6:53 PM on February 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


NEMESIS

Indeed.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 6:53 PM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's an obscure, distant "gas giant" in this horrifying mindfuck of a novel.
posted by grobstein at 6:56 PM on February 14, 2011 [12 favorites]


We should admit all 1000+ of the Trans-Neptunian Objects as planets, name each of them, and then have a long, cumbersome mnemonic that's just a long speech about the speaker's inability to remember the name and number of all the Trans-Neptunian Objects.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:56 PM on February 14, 2011 [14 favorites]


I have felt that our solar system needed a George.

Move to Bellonna.
posted by Meatbomb at 6:59 PM on February 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Its temperature [is] predicted to be around -73C, four or five times warmer than Pluto. "The heat is left over from its formation," Professor Whitmire said. "It takes an object this size a long time to cool off."

That is SO AWESOME.
posted by incessant at 6:59 PM on February 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is so cool - and yet, the typo in the PDF overrides the coolness receptors in my brain with petty annoyance.
posted by Paragon at 7:02 PM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not an astronomer, but I was under the impression that the Oort Cloud surrounded the solar system but was not technically a part of it.
posted by lekvar at 7:03 PM on February 14, 2011


To be accurate it should be noted that at this point the Oort cloud, not to be confused with the Kupier belt, is just a hypothesis.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:04 PM on February 14, 2011


You there! In the back!
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:09 PM on February 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yes, clearly this is Yuggoth.
posted by hattifattener at 7:09 PM on February 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Its temperature [is] predicted to be around -73C, four or five times warmer than Pluto. "The heat is left over from its formation," Professor Whitmire said. "It takes an object this size a long time to cool off."

So basically there's a big cast iron frying pan out there in orbit. BFD. Astronomy is the most boring science.
posted by Keith Talent at 7:19 PM on February 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Fickle harlot.
posted by unliteral at 7:22 PM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


it could be that I've been drinking, but it seems unfair that some gas giant out in the Oort cloud could be the "ninth planet" while Pluto gets demoted just for being a little STUMPY.
posted by daisystomper at 7:23 PM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


A planet has emerged from the Warp!

Who knows how long it has been swallowed up in the foul energy of that other place!

We must be wary of the taint of Chaos.
posted by kbanas at 7:23 PM on February 14, 2011 [10 favorites]


For folks like myself who seldom look up, so to speak, this shit gets more confusing every time you turn around... it's from some other system but somehow escaped it? And 15,000 times farther from the sun than Earth, but still considered part of our solar system? Why? Sounds more like a hitchhiker. And despite the mind-bending things about the visible universe that the Deep Field pix give us, somehow this newb has escaped man's attention? And even with Pluto having tenure, they wanna strip it down to 'toid status and recognize Tyche?
posted by rahnefan at 7:26 PM on February 14, 2011


Alpha Centauri, at 277,600 astronomical units, is not even nineteen times further away than Tyche. It takes about eight and a half minutes for a photon which might have spent a million years struggling from the core of the Sun to its surface to burst forth and race to the Earth. From the Sun to Tyche would be about eighty-eight days for that weary photon's unfortunate twin. With Kepler's third law, Tyche's orbital period would be about 1.8 megayears. Species on Earth come and go during its year; humanity's tenure is not even a season.

Humans can hear the miniscule energies of a fly crawling on a curtain. The insolation at the surface of Tyche's atmosphere would be 0.0000060711 watts per square meter, as compared with the Earth's 1.366 kilowatts per square meter; the raw hotness of the sun, converted to pure sound energy, is only 67 decibels at that distance, versus the 150 decibel jet engine roar from which we would flinch on our planet.
"Are — are you-they from Alpha Centauri?" he said hesitantly.

"Yes, we hear the twin radiocles, that show there beyond the gift-orifices. We-they pitched that the being-Garrard with most adoration these twins and had mind to them, soft and loud alike. How do you hear?"

This time the being-Garrard understood the question. "I hear Earth," he said. "But that is very soft, and does not show."
At such length, we would not make a showing, if we ever could.
posted by adipocere at 7:29 PM on February 14, 2011 [18 favorites]


I will be so happy when, in five decades or so, everybody has forgotten that Pluto was ever considered a friggin' planet.
posted by kyrademon at 7:40 PM on February 14, 2011 [8 favorites]


For a little bit of grounding (BadAstronomy link with some info on just what the press release means)
posted by Phantomx at 7:41 PM on February 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


Wow, it'd be cool if Tyche existed. It also makes me think about the possibilities of moons, and waystations...
posted by jiawen at 7:51 PM on February 14, 2011


The edge of the Oort Cloud?
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:01 PM on February 14, 2011


As an astronomer, I'm so glad for Bad Astronomer.

Now, back to important work (drunkenly singing to old Phi Collins songs).
posted by dirigibleman at 8:07 PM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


My very excellent mother just served us nine... tacos?

Mary's vibrant eyes makes John set up nights pondering Tsomething (anything but twittering/texting, please)
posted by Tuesday After Lunch at 8:33 PM on February 14, 2011


Would this be the single most awesome astronomical discovery of my lifetime? I have to say yes.

Lifetime? I can't agree. It's a really cool result, and if it confirms, it's a huge advance in how we think of stellar planetary systems, but lifetime? No.

So far (since I'm not dead), WMAP's results stand as the winner. I'll present it the first way I saw it -- and I didn't understand what I was seeing until someone pointed out that T is the shorthand way to write "Age of the Universe." This was sent to me in an email on 17 Feb 2003 -- hmm, just about eight years ago.

Ho=71
T=13.7 Gyr
Omega=1.00
Omega_baryon=0.04
Omega_dm=0.23
Omega_lambda=0.73

First stars at z~16

What they are. Ho (properly, H0) is Hubble's Constant. T is the age of the universe. Omesga (Ω) is the total density of the universe. Omega Baryon (Ωbh2) is what percentage of density in the universe is normal matter. The last two Ω are percent dark matter, and percentage dark energy. The last is at what redshift (z) that the first stars in the universe appear.

Later data releases have refined these numbers, but to me, WMAP, so far, is the clear winner in awesome. WMAP is defining the universe.
posted by eriko at 8:41 PM on February 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Hey, you, get Oort of my cloud!
posted by Abiezer at 8:43 PM on February 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


No, there's no proof of a gas giant planet in the outer Solar System.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:44 PM on February 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


In a realistic sense, here's what I want before I die: Identification of too many extrasolar systems to count, many containing confirmed Earth-like planets in habitable zones, and all of those planets given focused spectrographic analysis to determine if their atmospheres are conducive to (or the result of) life. Maybe even industrialized life.

But before that, I want a slow build-up of crazy things as our gaze expands ever outward. Manmade objects in our helioshock? Eris? Makemake? Excellent starts.

Roll on Tyche.
posted by greenland at 8:45 PM on February 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Regarding the idea of 'habitable planets': Learning about faraway planets is useless, because we will never be able to get to them and even if we could, once we were there we probably be rather disappointed.

The only planet that we will have, as humanity, for all time, is Earth. People need to get used to this, that there will never be some great scientific leap forward that will help us colonize space.
posted by dunkadunc at 8:55 PM on February 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hey, you, get Oort of my cloud!

Don't hang around 'cause nine planets are a crowd!
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:12 PM on February 14, 2011


Solar System Fuck Yeah!
posted by Jeremy at 9:12 PM on February 14, 2011


dunkadunc: Well, and maybe Mars. And maybe some other places, once we figure out how to make a proper sealed environment with Sol as the only input.

But yeah, you're probably right. There's probably no point in pursuing a better understanding of the universe. The knowledge that environments conducive to organic chemistry are commonplace couldn't possibly have any interesting ramifications.
posted by pts at 9:14 PM on February 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


Learning about faraway planets is useless, because we will never be able to get to them and even if we could, once we were there we probably be rather disappointed.

I agree that colonization of other worlds, even in-system, is a dream more distant than the coming decades, but I disagree that finding extrasolar life is useless. I would personally take a ridiculous amount of comfort in the certainty of such proof, and probably go to my deathbed content in the knowledge that the universe favors somewhere, somewhen, something Getting It Right.
posted by greenland at 9:25 PM on February 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


It is pointless to look for a second basket when all our eggs fit just fine in this one, then?

Any relocations of explorers/settlers to another planet is a long ways off -- at fortysomething now, I doubt I will live to see the first ship leave -- but at the grand level, it is what we do next.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:43 PM on February 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


NEMESIS

Actually, the (hypothetical) planet is named Tyche because that's the name of the sister (or something) of Nemesis in Greek mythology.
posted by delmoi at 9:47 PM on February 14, 2011


To the Greeks, Tyche was the goddess responsible for the destiny of cities. Her name was provisionally chosen in reference to an earlier hypothesis, now largely abandoned, that the Sun might be part of a binary star system with a dim companion, tentatively called Nemesis, that was thought responsible for mass extinctions on Earth. In myth, Tyche was the good sister of Nemesis.

And don't forget the famous Danish astronomer Tyche Braho.
posted by sour cream at 9:49 PM on February 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


People need to get used to this, that there will never be some great scientific leap forward that will help us colonize space.

There will never be a great scientific leap forward that will help us...

- be able to understand the structure or interior of stars
- achieve heavier than air powered flight
- exceed the speed of sound
- extract energy from atomic nuclei
- have superconductivity above 30 Kelvin


Have you learned nothing from the last hundred and fifty years of science?
posted by chimaera at 9:54 PM on February 14, 2011 [14 favorites]


People need to get used to this, that there will never be some great scientific leap forward that will help us colonize space.

There will never be a great scientific leap forward that will help us...

- be able to understand the structure or interior of stars
- achieve heavier than air powered flight
- exceed the speed of sound
- extract energy from atomic nuclei
- have superconductivity above 30 Kelvin


Have you learned nothing from the last hundred and fifty years of science?


There are some things that we will never achieve. The fact that we've in the past been wrong about exactly what those things are is unavailing.
posted by grobstein at 10:05 PM on February 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


There are some things that we will never achieve. The fact that we've in the past been wrong about exactly what those things are is unavailing.

I think you made my point for me. "...in the past [we've] been wrong about exactly what those things are..."

I think it too soon to write off space colonization as an impossibility. It wouldn't even take FTL travel to make it possible: a couple gestalt-shaking breakthroughs in Ecology (a viable closed ecosystem), Physiology (and/or hibernation), and a Space Elevator or two would get us there just as well, though not as quickly.
posted by chimaera at 10:19 PM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would bet every dollar I own that humanity will never colonize space in any meaningful way...but I definitely won't be around to pay out or collect. Maybe I'll have the prediction carved onto my tombstone. I'm wrong they can cart it to Earth 2 one day and use it as the cornerstone of Earth 2 HQ. If I'm right, future generations can wander past my gravesite and wonder what was up with that weird old crank.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:24 PM on February 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


The only planet that we will have, as humanity, for all time, is Earth. People need to get used to this, that there will never be some great scientific leap forward that will help us colonize space.

So closed minded.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand. ~Carl Sagan (emphasis mine)

I prefer to keep wondering instead of declaring that anything is absolutely impossible.
posted by IvoShandor at 10:48 PM on February 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


So, a planet or potential planet is possibly being named after a man with a silver nose?

Fascinating.
posted by motown missile at 10:49 PM on February 14, 2011


No. His name was Tycho Brahe. Not Tyche Braho. Someone's either trying to be funny or just wrong.
posted by IvoShandor at 10:50 PM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't believe that the wack jobs aren't jumping up and down with glee thinking that this may very well be Planet X (AKA Niburu) and it's on its way to destroy us all in 2012!!
posted by empatterson at 11:17 PM on February 14, 2011


Just let bloody Pluto go, already. If Pluto is a planet - as opposed to dwarf planet - then so are Eris (which is bigger than Pluto), Ceres, Haumea and Makemake. And probably others too in the Kuiper belt that we haven't found yet.

If we're going to start including Oort cloud objects as planets too - and there's no reason why we shouldn't; the Oort cloud (probably) orbits our star, just quite a bit further out than Neptune or the Kuiper belt - then having Pluto sized rocks count as planets mean that there are not 13 planets (plus Tyche) but thousands.
posted by ArkhanJG at 12:00 AM on February 15, 2011


How can there be both an Oort Cloud and a gas giant of a planet orbiting out there within it? These things are mutually exclusive, by any reasoning I've ever heard. The planet would suck up the comets, like popcorn at a movie. Unless by 'gas giant' you mean gaseous cloud of low density and little gravity. That would work.
posted by Goofyy at 2:49 AM on February 15, 2011


How can there be both an Oort Cloud and a gas giant of a planet orbiting out there within it? These things are mutually exclusive, by any reasoning I've ever heard. The planet would suck up the comets, like popcorn at a movie.

The Oort Cloud, as I understand it is hypothetical cloud that is supposed to occupy the vast reaches of space between 2000 AU and 5000AU, as far as 50,000 AU from the Sun, no one knows for sure as it's never been directly observed. But that vast amount of space suggests that any hypothetical gas giant would no more clear the Oort Cloud than Jupiter has cleared the main Asteroid Belt.
posted by IvoShandor at 3:16 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


No. His name was Tycho Brahe. Not Tyche Braho. Someone's either trying to be funny or just wrong.
posted by IvoShandor at 6:50 AM on February 15 [+] [!]


Actually born 'Tyge'.
posted by Catfry at 4:08 AM on February 15, 2011


If Pluto is a planet - as opposed to dwarf planet - then so are Eris (which is bigger than Pluto), Ceres, Haumea and Makemake.

No, those are just other satellites of our sun. There is a special class of satellites called "planets". These are the ones that received the name before we realised that there is no clear dividing line between Solar satellites as large as Jupiter and Solar satellites the size of a grain of dust. It's a conventional term, not one that makes scientific sense.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:13 AM on February 15, 2011


"It's a conventional term, not one that makes scientific sense."

This is incorrect.
posted by kyrademon at 4:48 AM on February 15, 2011


"My very excellent mother just served us nine... tacos"

"His name was Tycho Brahe. Not Tyche Braho."

My very excellent mother just served us nine Tychos.
posted by bwg at 5:00 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Did anyone else already chime in to say this is overhyped bullshit?

Okay.

This is overhyped bullshit.

The paper is just a very vague idea of something that we can't rule out being out there. There is absolutely 0 evidence that it exists and no reason to believe it does.
posted by empath at 5:33 AM on February 15, 2011


My very easy method: just set up nine planets. Ten!
posted by wenestvedt at 5:40 AM on February 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


grobstein: "There's an obscure, distant "gas giant" in this horrifying mindfuck of a novel."

I just read enough about it to fully grasp its thesis. How utterly horrible... and yet how utterly plausible. It's like the liberal arts version of "Division by Zero" -- the very quality that gives life value and meaning ends up being nothing more than an illusion, a sham. Except this premise doesn't invalidate math, it invalidates the soul. Just awful. And there's no reason it couldn't be true, as far as we know. Makes space seem just a little more menacing.
posted by Rhaomi at 6:08 AM on February 15, 2011


"Did anyone else already chime in to say this is overhyped bullshit?"

KokuRyu at 6:44 AM: No, there’s no proof of a giant planet in the outer solar system


but it seems he was not heard.
posted by ts;dr at 6:30 AM on February 15, 2011


"It's a conventional term, not one that makes scientific sense."

This is incorrect.


In the absence of theoretically-derived hypotheses that can be tested if Pluto is not a planet but are untestable if Pluto is a planet, its classification as one or not is scientifically irrelevant. And even then, the operationalization of "planet" can easily be left to the needs of individual researchers so long as they're clear about what they mean.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:40 AM on February 15, 2011


I don't wanna have this conversation again, ROU_Xenophobe. I feel like I keep having it over and over (not always, of course, with you.) Can we just agree to disagree and let it go?
posted by kyrademon at 7:12 AM on February 15, 2011


By Oort this is amazing!
posted by Mister_A at 8:05 AM on February 15, 2011


And Blindsight looks really good, thanks for mentioning it.
posted by Mister_A at 8:17 AM on February 15, 2011


then having Pluto sized rocks count as planets mean that there are not 13 planets (plus Tyche) but thousands.

That's a rather weak argument for discounting Pluto as a planet. "There'd be too MANY" isn't exactly based on any empirical property of the object in question.
posted by chimaera at 9:48 AM on February 15, 2011


Fascinating
posted by joecacti at 10:10 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


kyrademon, it takes some chutzpah to state your claims as bluntly, directly, and in-your-face as you did and then ask to agree to disagree.

I have two objections to the IAU's decision to reclassify Pluto. Neither of them have the slightest thing to do with whether the IAU's classification is sensible or better than the common usage.

The first objection is that it's fundamentally not the place of any scientific or academic organization to issue statements about how particular concepts are truly defined. The IAU shouldn't be in the business of voting on whether or not Pluto is a planet any more than the MLA should be voting on whether comic books are literature, the American Musicological Society should be voting on whether rap is really music, or APSA should be voting on whether the Isle of Man is a country or not.

The second is that what amounts to legislating operationalizations of concepts is fundamentally silly, doesn't make doing science any easier, and takes time and space away from actual science. I mean, I'd be willing to accept evidence that it does, but it's inconceivable to me that this definition assists the actual production or process of scientific inquiry in any way. Primarily because even if there were no official ruling that Pluto is not a planet, astronomers would or should be free to operationalize "planet" or "planetary" in a way that excluded Pluto if that was a sensible decision within their study. And if it's not itself scientific inquiry, and doesn't assist in getting scientific inquiry done, then the IAU ought not be doing it.

After this, though, fine -- I'll guarantee you will never see me bring it up before you.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:34 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Oort cloud itself is still a hypothesis! It has no known members! And now it has giant, lurking planets?

When scientists think about announcing such ideas, they 'oort' to think twice.
posted by Twang at 10:34 AM on February 15, 2011


ROU_Xenophobe -- I apologize for my chutzpah. I'm just ... frustrated, that's all.
posted by kyrademon at 11:04 AM on February 15, 2011


I can understand how it would be frustrating since the original usage is more-or-less obviously a historical accident, and sincerely meant that I wouldn't be bringing it up again.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:23 AM on February 15, 2011


Regarding the idea of 'habitable planets': Learning about faraway planets is useless, because we will never be able to get to them and even if we could, once we were there we probably be rather disappointed.

Translation:

MOTHERFUCKIN' LONG-TERM COMETS! HOW DO THEY EVEN WORK, YO!

Hope you have your clown-makeup on, you'll need it as you and your kind do their best to drive us back into an age of barbarism, ignorance, and burning people in wicker men to ensure good harvests.
posted by happyroach at 11:51 AM on February 15, 2011


Hope you have your clown-makeup on

> implying I didn't tattoo myself a permanent clown face years ago
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:00 PM on February 15, 2011


Hope you have your clown-makeup on, you'll need it as you and your kind do their best to drive us back into an age of barbarism, ignorance, and burning people in wicker men to ensure good harvests.

Manned space exploration sounds neat, but don't you think we humans ought to do a better job of taking care of our own planet first before leaving it behind in order to start an off-world mining colony someplace else?
posted by KokuRyu at 4:00 PM on February 15, 2011


Manned space exploration sounds neat, but don't you think we humans ought to do a better job of taking care of our own planet first before leaving it behind in order to start an off-world mining colony someplace else?

It's not an either/or. Most of the big accomplishments of the US space program were done in the 60s, when America was really going through late stage puberty. Cutting those programs wouldn't have done much, other than deny America and the world something positive to marvel at and respond to.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:08 PM on February 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: A gas giant lurking in the Oort Cloud
posted by storybored at 8:14 PM on February 15, 2011


When scientists think about announcing such ideas, they 'oort' to think twice.

That's not really how science works.
posted by IvoShandor at 8:20 PM on February 15, 2011


What? Scientists, especially physicists, in my experience, love bad puns.
posted by bonehead at 8:34 PM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


happyroach: "Hope you have your clown-makeup on, you'll need it as you and your kind do their best to drive us back into an age of barbarism, ignorance, and burning people in wicker men to ensure good harvests."

You didn't really give what I wrote much thought, did you?

Sure, at the current rate, we might develop manned space travel. If we had, like, fifty more planets' worth of fossil fuels and some magical way to get rid of all the pollution. Thing is, science isn't something that can keep on marching forward, consistently surmounting the insurmountable as we stand back in awe. There are hard limits.
In our case, we've gotten this far because of the vast amounts of fossil fuels we've leveraged: effectively, an enormous amount of free labor. We're not going to bootstrap ourselves to a spacegoing civilization, not in a true sense, because we've already blown it. We've squandered our fossil fuels on cheap junk and driving an hour to work each way, instead of building a renewable energy infrastructure that can maintain itself without carbon inputs. This 'free labor' is going to run out in a few decades, maybe more, and billions of people are going to starve to death and humanity will have to go back to living on real time, from the real-time inputs of the sun. And never again will we have such a boon of free energy to bootstrap ourselves to the sometimes-dubious 'greatness' we've achieved in the past 150 years.

So screw that noise.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:01 PM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


*interstellar travel. agh.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:02 PM on February 15, 2011


This thread is starting to depress me. I'd make a joke about the gravity of the situation, but... meh.

Wall-E and Metafilter, you can both suck it. I believe that humans have a bright future. I hope.
posted by Night_owl at 12:06 AM on February 16, 2011


The only planet that we will have, as humanity, for all time, is Earth. People need to get used to this, that there will never be some great scientific leap forward that will help us colonize space.

This is one of the most short sighted, blind and stunningly ignorant things I've ever read on this site.

Step back a hundred years. Just a hundred years, which is just a blink in terms of human existence, let alone the universe. A hundred years humans reached the North Pole for the first time after thousands of years of being on the planet. A hundred years ago the electric starter was first patented. A hundred years ago a plane landed on a ship for the first time. A hundred years ago we figured out the radiation now known as cosmic rays wasn't coming from the planet.

In the last hundred years the technological breakthroughs have been astonishing. If you brought someone from a hundred years ago into the present, they'd probably think we are wizards for all the incredible things we seem capable of, things we take for granted as every day.

So I reject your lazily sputtered and sophomorically arrogant comment about great scientific leaps not helping humans colonize space, as it displays a jaw dropping lack of knowledge about history and frankly anyone who can't grok some basic history shouldn't be making sweeping statements about the future.

You should be sent to your room with no electricity or weather insulation.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:58 AM on February 16, 2011


cool
posted by daveg02 at 8:31 AM on February 16, 2011


And I'm saying that a hundred years from now, Western civilization will likely no longer be able to support a manned space effort, certainly an interstellar one.

Don't talk down to me like that.
posted by dunkadunc at 9:32 AM on February 16, 2011


dunkadunc is right
posted by Catfry at 9:44 AM on February 16, 2011


Here is how some of you are treating dunkadunc and similar voices: 1) you are skeptical that human civilization will attain a particular technological / social advance (interstellar colonization), therefore 2) you are ignorant of the power of science, and so 3) you don't deserve the benefits of existing technology.

This is both epistemically and morally insane. The argument for 2) has been basically "HEY LOOK we got to the moon, we got to the North Pole, therefore we're definitely going to get to Alpha Centauri." That's it. That's the substance.

But that's far from the most disgusting thing going on here. People can disagree about the odds of human interstellar spaceflight. If you think it's unlikely we will get there, you don't deserve to enjoy electricity or weather insulation. If you think we need to protect the Earth before we dream of waltzing beyond the stars, you are a contemptible barbarian in a crusade against science.

So you read a story where humans rode cometary orbits to lush extrasolar Edens? What a man of science you are, what a great rationalist dreamer. Sleep child, do not fear, and you will awaken in the promised land.
posted by grobstein at 10:08 AM on February 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Especially ironic is the fact that I lived without electricity for 20 years and spent a summer living in a burned-out house, followed by spending a winter in an uninsulated shell of a house with plastic over the holes where the windows should have gone.
It's not funny.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:33 AM on February 16, 2011


My apologies dunkadunc for going that far. I stand by the passion behind the statement and still think you're quite wrong to be sure on what'll be possible in the next hundred years, but I didn't need to get up on my own high horse and act so dismissively to another human being.

Again, my sincere apologies.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:26 AM on February 16, 2011


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