Asteroids and the Human Near Future in Space

If news reports from earlier this year are to be believed, aster­oids are high on the list of celes­tial bod­ies to be explored - and manip­u­lated. On May 13th, The Tele­graph revealed that Brit­ish astro­naut Tim Peake was going to be trained by NASA for an aster­oid sur­face mis­sion. Only weeks earlier, on April 24th, the Amer­ican com­pany Plan­et­ary Resources announced its plans to invest in aster­oid min­ing tech­no­logy. In the back­ground the impress­ive explor­a­tion data from NASA’s Dawn mis­sion to the aster­oid belt trickles in, mainly con­cern­ing pro­to­plan­ets Vesta and Ceres. […Read more…]

Magic and Technology

A state­ment often re­peat­ed in dis­cus­sions of tech­nolo­gy, whether within the realm of sci­ence fic­tion (and lite­rary criti­cism of the genre) or with­out, is Arthur C. Clarke’s so-called “Third Law”, which states that “any suffi­cient­ly ad­vanced tech­nolo­gy is in­dis­tin­guish­able from magic”. The reader may refer to Wiki­pedia for a bit of back­ground surroun­ding Clarke’s three laws and pos­sible pre­ce­dents for the third one men­tioned here. While the law obvious­ly makes pre­dic­tions about the per­cep­tion of tech­nology in real life, it is equally rele­vant to fic­tion, par­ticu­larly sci­ence fic­tion and fantasy, where magic and/or tech­nology occupy pro­mi­nent places as plot devices, motifs, etc. […] What inte­rests me in par­ticu­lar are the assump­tions lying behind Clarke’s third law, and how the law and its assump­tions can help (or hinder) us to under­stand the inter­play between tech­nology and magic as con­cepts of acti­vity […Read more…]