Terraforming bleg

Who are the best people working on terraforming and what are they doing?

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No idea, but when I saw the subject line my reaction was "where is Tyler traveling to this time?"

Clearly, inner space.

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The best people working on "terraforming" do not exist, and if they did exist, they would tell you, publicly, that no such people exist.

We should all be humble about our gifts, and even more humble about our inability to understand what others understand about the world;
there is faith (which is inimical to terraforming theorizing in the absence of real experts)
there is hope (which waits patiently for real results, the results people who know what they are doing are able to show)
and there is charity, and charity is the best of all these three, because ...

well, you figure it out

I can't figure it out for you
believe that you can figure it out
hope that you can figure it out
and when you have figured it out
say thank you to someone.

also, spend lots of time thinking up recreations in number theory, and learning several different languages, including the languages of the noble animals, of which there are many. God loves us all, you too, without a doubt, I know that because I care.

and some practical advice ....
show gratitude

thanks for reading

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There are no "best" people working on terraforming. As to who are the most qualified working on terraforming, we don't know because it's a well kept secret.

Just take the headline, "Trump to Attend Bush Funeral, but Won’t Deliver Eulogy." It goes again to show the ownership has a fundamental misunderstanding of how the American political system works. In America, the president has no jurisdiction in a funeral. "Trump" is not the subject. If I were Jewish, I would be mortally wounded.

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I know of one company working on related topics, Deep Space Ecology (https://www.deepspaceecology.com/). But they are pretty nascent, and more aimed at agriculture in harsh environments (in space and on Earth) for now. I don't know any commercial ventures targeted towards more serious things (giant reflectors in Mars orbit, hurling comets at the Martian polar cap, genetically engineered extremophile plants/animals/bacteria capable of modifying the Martian atmosphere, etc).

The closest you can come is probably people interested in geoengineering in response to climate change. At least there's money in that.

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American and Chinese factories and car drivers? Their emissions are the most effective part of what is "forming" our climate right now isn't it?

I do not think American factories are a substantial fraction of US emissions much less global emissions.

Fun fact: Chinese coal power plants sector alone emit more Co2 than the European Union.

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This would have been my line, but thought someone would beat me to it.

Yes: Chinese Coal Power Plant managers.

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The good folks at Disney.

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I think it’s not so easy to terraform Mars because it has no plate tectonics and a weak magnetosphere. It makes it hard to accumulate a CO2 atmosphere necessary to increase the surface temperature. Also the weak magnetosphere means the solar wind tends to blast away to space the atmosphere over time.
Perhaps these problems are solvable.

This is a common misconception - the solar wind will strip off the atmosphere over geological timescales (millions - billions of years), and human run terraforming project will presumably take thousands of years at most.

Solar wind may the explanation on why there's such a small atmosphere today but it doesn't block its recreation.

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Even without a magnetosphere, it would take a very long time - hundreds of millions of years - for Mars to lose an Earth-like atmosphere added to it (although you might have to dump a lot of oxygen into the air at first, since the rocks will oxidize a lot of it out).

The whole core of Mars is ice!

No, it's not. Mars has a mostly nickel-iron core, and the mantle around it is basically silica rocks. There are other elements like sulfur in lower quantities.

"Douglas Quaid" is quoting from his line from the movie _Total Recall_.

But perhaps you know that and are engaging in a ritual correction? If so, carry on.

During the course of the Korean War, 100 Rangers were killed in action and 296 were wounded in action.

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I have previously read that the issue with terraforming Mars is not lack of water but lack of nitrogen. Is this true?

There was a recent hullabaloo about that. It mostly stopped when people pointed out that organizations that can contemplate terraforming can just import the nitrogen.

Which is moot, since there are no organizations contemplating terraforming. One of the reasons would be that 'importing' nitrogen would be so costly in terms of energy and money that it seems (at least for now) to be wildly impractical. And if we start populating Mars now and it has people scattered all over it, are you just going to bombard the planet with Oort cloud comets? Or do we have to get these large bodies into Marian orbit where we can dismantle them carefully? And how exactly do yoh slow a billion ton object quickly enough to go into orbit without the waste heat vaporizing it? What kind of engines do we use? Where does the fuel come from?

Doing this isn't physically impossible, as in being against the laws of nature. But it is such a difficult engineering problem that we don't even know how to begin. I doubt if we will have the capacity for such large scale feats for hundreds of years, if ever.

I'm not exactly sure where your misunderstanding starts.

If it's not clear, organizations contemplating terraforming are necessarily in the future, probably at least a hundred years. In fact, downthread you can see I'm quite skeptical it will occur at all because the incremental alternatives are much more attractive unless you have truly magical technology available.

But, if its 2218, you have 100 million people on Mars and an active spacefaring civilization, the idea of firing in a ton of frozen Titan atmosphere or chopped up comet every second strikes me as entirely trivial. Relatively speaking anyway. Could we do it tomorrow? Of course not. But we can't terraform tomorrow either. I'm not sure if your other concerns are sincere or you're just riffing, but obviously you wouldn't slam a big comet into an occupied planet. You'd process the volatiles in situ and ship them back in reasonable pieces. If you wanted to ship things from that far out you'd have to use nuclear power or deliver the energy by laser or something like that from the inner solar system. You could conceivably recover some of the energy used in shipping in receipt of the packets, if you weren't so awash in energy in that age as to make it irrelevant. Or you could just reenter them a ton at a time,. Maybe fragmented - you want to vaporize the nitrogen anyway and part of the process of terraforming is adding heat to the system.

Suffice it to say, importing nitrogen strikes me as trivial compared to some of the other challenges talked about in this context. You also have to find a way to ship in the nitrogen anyway for many bodies (notably including the Moon and Mars) even if you aren't doing the terraforming, because you need it for your habitats.

More precisely, the nitrogen deficit paper struck me as concern trolling, which frankly is how your comment struck me. I might be misreading you, and I apologize if I am, but I don't think I'm misreading them. It's a silly and trivial objection.

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The difficulty is related to the amount we are talking about.

For example, let's say you sent your ton of nitrogen per second from the Oort cloud to Mars, and processed it instantly there. How long would it take to bring Mars up to Earth style pressure? The answer: Roughly 10^13 seconds. Off the top of my head that's about 3 X 10^6 years, or 3000 centuries.

But let's be generous and only pressurize Mars to a third of Earth's pressure, which is right near the limit of human survivability. Processing a ton of new atmosphere every second, we'll have Mars ready to go in a thousand centuries from now.

This is why the only proposals I've seen for importing nitrogen involve simply redirecting comets and crashing them into the planet. For importation to work in any reasonable human time frame, you'd have to import billions of tons at a time. And you'd still need huge numbers of them. Millions.

I may have dropped a decimal point in there along the way as I did this fast, but at these scales it hardly matters. 300 centuries, 3000 centuries, 30,000 centuries... All are numbers so vast compared to human time frames that we simply can't fathom planning such a thing.

Not exactly a trivial problem.

Let's do it in 1000 ton chunks then. Your problem appears to be that the scale is large relative to present human capability and you assume no or negligible economic growth between now and then. That's unreasonable. When people think about terraforming they are thinking about a great work that is likely to require millennia. Shipping in the nitrogen is no different from other parts of the process.

Now, to be sure, I state throughout that I think the whole idea of embarking on something with such a long term payoff is unnecessary when we have incremental approaches that work just fine. But the fact that it's a big project, and that nitrogen import is commensurate with the rest of a big project, is not a reasonable objection.

Just how are you going to rapidly slow down a 1000 ton object and get it into Martian orbit? And you ate going to do this every second? For centuries?

If that's your idea of trivial, I am very curious to know what you think the hard problems are.

So are you okay now? It's trivial in the sense that landing an airliner every second is trivial, or parking a thousand cars every second is trivial. It's a big operation, but there's little difficult about it other than scale, and as I mentioned, getting power in the appropriate locations.

No, not ok. I was assuming we were talking about something that could a least be extrapolated from known principles and which could be started in maybe a century or two with a feasible plan. You are talking pure science fiction. The process you are describing is so far away from our capabilities in any reasonable extrapolation of our future that you might as well say all we need to do is invent a matter transporter like in Star Trek.

But what really got me was your assertion that this was the ‘trivial’ part of the process. You still haven’t said which part will be so much harder that providing an entire planet with an atmosphere is trivial in comparison.

If you had said that getting the nitrogen is stupendously hard, but other things are even harder, we probably would have been in agreement from the start.

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"What kind of engines do we use? Where does the fuel come from?"

Since you're shipping from a literal volatiles mines, you'd presumably use the volatiles as propellant. Unless you had something more advanced. A couple of hundred years from now, I don't think I'd confidently rule out a fusion rocket tanker. Without fusion, you'd use fission power or beamed power and some type of thermal propulsion.

Again, I don't think you have a feel for the quantities involved. Even Mars' wispy little 600 Pascal atmosphere weighs 25 terratonnes. To get to shirt sleeve pressure levels, you would need about 50 times that amount. Quantities of this scale are so far above our abilities that we might as well just say we'll move it through magic. Far from being trivial, it's an absolute show stopper until and if we invent a technology we can't even imagine today. Nuclear fusion rockets would be hopelessly inadequate.

I assure you, I am the numerate one here. You are saying this is hard because the numbers are large, which isn't a reasonable objection.

Then feel free to run the numbers. And please show your work. I know the math. And it's crazy to say that scale doesn't matter, especially at the scales we are talking about.

If we are capable of generating the kind of energy we would need to move a planet's entire atmosphere, we will be so different as a civilization that we have no idea what our needs and goals then might be. If we are takking about what might feasibly be done in a century or two, it's an absolute show stopper.

Google is your friend. This is something other people have already thought out.

While I don't agree with everything here, this is a decent popular treatment: http://www.thespacereview.com/article/3551/1

You are the one who thinks this needs to be done by 2118, by the way. I've argued it will never be done, but if it is, I think starting in 2200 and ending in 2700 is more what we're talking about.

That article has an error in the math. He says you would need 1.493 trillion metric tons of nitrogen. In fact, it's 1493 trillion metric tons - someone misplaced a comma for a decimal, I think.

He makes the assumption that we will learn how to build massive scale fusion drives that can move 100 million tons in a single load, then fire 1000 ton cubes of nitrogen at oblique angles into the martian atmosphere, where they will disintigrate and become part of the atmosphere. He then hand-waves away the energy being dissipated as simply helping to heat the planet. Given that the energy released from one cube hitting the atmosphere of Mars would be equivalent to about a 30 kiloton nuclear explosion, and each load would dump 100,000 such chunks into the atmosphere, that seems problematic. But lets go with it. We've now dumped 100 million tons of nitrogen into the atmosphere along with the energy equivalent of 150,000 Hiroshima bombs.

If we do that 10,000 times, we will have delivered a full trillion tons of nitrogen to Mars, and the energy of 1.5 billion Hiroshima bombs And now we have to repeat that 1492 more times.

Since you say this effort would be 'trivial' compared to other problems with terraforming, I am really curious what you think those would be.

Exporting the biosphere is going to be a lot harder than bulk transport of materials. Anything macroscopic and subject to automation will be pretty much free in a couple of hundred years, whereas exporting the biosphere requires solving a tremendous number of unique problems. Importing construction material mostly requires solving the problem of getting enough energy out to where we're sourcing things. So we need to either domesticate fusion or we need to be able to beam power at a large scale. Fission probably isn't sufficient at the scale we're discussing.

I suppose, though, that exporting the biosphere is a problem for large habitats as well as for terraforming, although for habitats you have more control over things like day/night cycle, seasonality, and gravity. Will insect pollination work in 40%g? Will animals breed properly with wacky seasons? There are a million problems like that and they aren't just a matter of having the robot factories build more robot factories.

I agree with all your concerns, but I still think the Nitrogen problem is the show stopper.

We aren't even sure if we CAN export a biosphere, however. Our biosphere is one gigantic complex system made up of other complex systems. It's complexity all the way down. Trying to maintain an Earth-like biosphere on another planet is probably a non-starter. Everything from difference in seasons to temperatures to mineral content in the soil will be different.

But I don't see why you need to do that. So ling as you can feed people, you can just let the biosphere evolve. Some plants with thrive, others will die. Adaptations will happen. Whatever thr biosphere is on another planet, it will not be like Earth's very soon even if it startd out identically.

This is all the more reason to begin colonization somewhere like a lunar lava tube. If we can't build a sustainable ecology starting from a pristine environment with a fully controlled atmosphere, it's hard to imagine pulling it off on Mars.

The reason I am so pessimistic about importing nitrogen to Mars is that I recently did some extensive math to figure out if we could import the nitrogen we'd need just to fill a smallish lava tube, and even that was well beyond our current capability. Even a 50km X 500m by 70m lava tube would need more nitrogen than we could feasibly deliver even with a giant fleet of rockets the size of our largest ones.

That's a 1 billion cubic meter lava tube. With one kilogram of nitrogen needed per cubic meter that's only 1 million tonnes. You can get that amount of nitrogen from Mar's atmosphere. It's 2.7% nitrogen. Yes, it's very tenuous and represents a vast amount of martian atmosphere, but it's there. The atmosphere is also 1.6% argon if you want to substitute that. Of course you can use a higher oxygen and lower nitrogen mix than on earth as well, but I presume you figured that.

Yeah, the moon is still outgassing argon as a decay product, and in what looks like fairly large amounts. We could breathe an oxygen/argon atmosphere, but we would still need nitrogen for the plant cycle.

But younhaveva point aboutnthe nitrogen on Mars. It's not enough for terraforming, bu there might be enough for us to extract for use in pressurized domes or lava tubes on Mars.

I'm still holding out hope for pockets of nitrogen or ammonia on the moon in permanently shadowed craters or underground from the remnants of billions of years of comets and asteroids hitting the moon.

I definitely expect water ice but nitrogen compounds aren't likely to hang around. I expect them to be next to non-existent.

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It would be helpful if you could point to a specific concern with the import of nitrogen, other than that it's a big operation. Give us a couple of hundred years of economic growth and technical progress, and scaling up something we could in principle do doesn't seem that hard.

I have no doubt we'll also explore the moon, although lava tubes in particular seem like a solution in search of a problem.

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I searched "terraforming" in Google Scholar, and didn't find any predominant recent authors of terraforming papers. Much of the work is still the stuff from the 1990s done by Martin Fogg and a few others.

Most of that stuff is still useful, though. The biggest changes are that Mars has more water ice than we thought, and that you have to do something about the perchlorates in the soil if you're terraforming Mars.

+1

Nobody is "working on terraforming." At the most you'll get an occasional paper by an interested scholar who's primarily working on something else. Funding is extremely thin on the ground for much more near term humans-in-space stuff, lest people start to think it's realistic and demand real dollars.

Which is not to say it's not an interesting idea. But today, it's more the province of science fiction authors than engineers.

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Rats! I just lost the MR game. For the first time in awhile I did not correctly predict the author from the post. I was positive that was Alex.

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The Dutch.

Je was sneller dan ik. (You were faster than me.)

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+1

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2017/09/holland-agriculture-sustainable-farming/

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He may not be a NASA scientist, but few know more about it than Kim Stanley Robinson.

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Jacob and Isaac Fryxelius.

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Jacob Fryxelius

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I would ask Elon Musk

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"Who are the best people working on terraforming and what are they doing?"

Well the most effective are the coal plants.

Thread winner!

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+1, but alas, someone beat you too it above, Rat.

Not according to the time stamps.

People do actually look at time stamps, don't they?

I do:

"Yo" posted above at 4:40 PM 3rd Dec with functionally the same quip.

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If you are specifically looking for info on terraforming Mars, check out the material from the Mars Society.

Here's a 2018 article from NASA that is not encouraging: https://mars.nasa.gov/news/8358/mars-terraforming-not-possible-using-present-day-technology/

That work examines only the most naive terraforming, assuming you can't import anything (like, say, nitrogen from the Oort Cloud).

It seems like a silly and trivial objection.

The difficulty in moving billions of tons of nitrogen from the Oort cloud to the atmosphere of Mars is a 'trivial' objection'? We have absolutely zero capability for doing that, and nothing that's currently remotely feasible is even in the planning stages.

These are the kinds of things that are easy to hand-wave away, but which are extremely difficult. Gerard K. O'Neil's orbital habitats looked easy from a distance as well - put a nuclear reactor on the moinl power a big magnetic catapult, and you can shoot almost unlimited amounts of mass into orbit for next to nothing. The just shape them into a hollow tube, and Bob's yer uncle.

Of course, the devil lives in the details. And boy, are there a lot of details.

You're point is that I'm not providing you with engineering diagrams for something a couple of hundred years in the future? Importing volatiles is trivial and straightforward. We could almost do it today, whereas we're a long way off on other parts of this operation. The only odd things about volatile import are the necessary scale of the operation (so we'd need to be a lot wealthier as a civilization) and that we'd need a lot of energy somewhere out past Jupiter's orbit where sunlight is weak. So we'd either need to ship out nuclear power or beam out solar power.

I'm not sure what you're point is about O'Neil habitats. If you're arguing that using lunar resources in earth orbit is a long way off, I'd agree.

I can't believe I got your/you're wrong twice in the same comment...

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I don't need engineering diagrams. How about just a back of the envelope calculation for how many volatiles you think Mars,will need? You are awfully sure that importing an entire atmosphere for a planet is 'trivial' compared to other, unspecified problems. If that is true, Mars will never be terraformed, because importing the atmosphere is such a big problem that a civilization which can do it would be so alien to us, and so far in the future that we might as well be talking about a different star system. This isn't a project that can be done in years or decades or even centuries, but which would take millennia. If a hundred massive ships a day dropped off a hundred tons of atmosphere each, that's 10,000 tons per day. Sounds like a lot, until you realize that you need about 30,000,000,000,000 tons. So we should be good after about 3 million days....

Oh, and for a hundred ships to arrive each day from the Oort cloud, you would need many thousands of ships, as it's a really long trip.

Yes, when people talk about terraforming they are usually talking about a project that will take somewhere between a large fraction of a millennia to a few millennia. Is that your problem with the idea?

My argument is that that makes it unattractive you can incrementally grow your habitable space, and that's better than slowly transforming a whole planet where, when you're a quarter of the way done, it's really of little value to you.

But you need the nitrogen either way, so it's not something particularly attached to terraforming.

You throw about statements like "many thousands of ships" like that's supposed to be hard for a civilization that can consider terraforming. If it ever happens, it's going to happen a few hundred years from now, at a time when many thousands of interplanetary ships amounts to less than a percent of GDP. Scale is not the issue.

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When Earth politics become too treacherous somebody shout "Mars!"

Are you sure he is asking about Mars?

While some thinking has been done on terraforming other places, like Venus, it's generally accepted that the other candidates are a lot harder.

My own bet is that you'll see a lot of people living in space habitats and large paraterraformed sections of Mars and the Moon before you see anything like traditional terraforming.

The advantage of paraterraforming is that it's amenable to incremental solutions.

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Incidentally, the easiest place in the solar system to terraform would be the inside of Lava Tubes on the Moon. There are lava tubes on the moon big enough to house cities and millions of people. We have already mapped one that is 500 meters to a kilometer wide, tens of kilometers in length,and with a ceiling height ranging from 70 meters to about a kilometer. Seal that up and pressurize it, and you have a habitat big enough for a large colony. It would be incredibly difficult, but child's play compared to terraforming an entire planet.

There are likely hundreds of tubes similar to that. the GRAIL misdion showed us that the moon's crust is about 12% void space. That is a LOT of living area.

Living in one would not be at all like living in a cave. An underground dome with a ceiling a kilometer overhead and five kilometers in radius would almost feel like the outdoors. It would be large enough to have its own weather, and could even be engineered to have blue skies, lakes, etc. And you would be completely protected from solar radiation, cosmic rays, meteorites, and temperature swings. These tubes are at a constant -10C to -20C naturally. Normal industrial activity and waste heat could make them very pleasant to live in.

If you want to find a place off Earth for millions of people, that's really the only game in town. Terraforming a planet, if feasible at all, is likely a multi-thousand year project.

Okay that sounds like fun, including low gravity swimming pools.

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Yeah, but the problem is the same basic one with all colonize-the-Moon plans; how are you going to grow plants? There's massive infrastructure issues with light, even after you import all the necessary elements and if gravity turns out not to be an issue.

On Mars, while it might be difficult to carve out living space that doesn't feel like living in a cave or bunker, it's reasonably easy to grow plants under a pressurized transparent dome. The major elements are all readily available and the sunlight intensity and periods of duration are reasonable. The gravity is at least closer than the Moon, too.

If there ever was a perfect application for nuclear power, the Moon is it. Nuclear reactors on the surface with power cables running through holes drilled through the crust into the lava tube could provide nearly unlimited power. With that power you can light hydroponic farms, you can power all the systems required to regulate the environment, etc.

These are all near-term engineering possibilities. You could actually device a program now that could take well-defined steps towards that end. Start with a robotic mission to an open lava tube, with a robot going inside and mapping the interior and doing science along the way. These tubes have been untouched by the bath of radiatiion and other beatings the surface has taken over billions of years. They are places that have not seen light in three billion years. It's worth going just to see them.

Anyway, there is a real problem, and that is lack of nitrogen. Nitrogen is needed in large quantities for atmosphere and fertilizer for plants. We would need billions of tons of it, and so far the moon looks to be fairly depleted in nitrogen. However, the moon has been bombarded with asteroids and comets which carry nitrogen compounds, and there is no reason why some of it may be available in pockets, permanently dark craters, etc. Nitrogen exploration might be big business on the moon.

You are thinking much too small. Kurzweil, a.k.a. Uncle Ray, says that by 2099 the moon will be one big ol' supercomputer.

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Dude, you just said the temperature underground is a constant -10 to -20 degrees. That's a temperature difference with the surface of around 130 degrees in the day and 160 degrees at night. Why would you use nuclear power when there is already a heat gradient about half of what many nuclear plants currently operate at? It seems kind of pointless.

That's an interesting idea.

It's an old idea. It has the problem that power drops off when the temperature differential is low but thermal storage is not very complex and can be used, as can the opposite. Lunar rock could be heated to high temperatures during the day and used as a heat source early in the night until the surface is cold enough to act as an effective heat sink. After sunrise a shaded area could remain cool enough for use as a heat sink. Of course, once the sun is up solar PV can be used to supplement power and that is likely to be pretty cheap.

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DARPA?

https://futurism.com/darpa-we-are-engineering-the-organisms-that-will-terraform-mars

https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/ae3pee/darpa-we-are-engineering-the-organisms-that-will-terraform-mars

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Snow
Powder
Open trails
94/187
Open lifts
16/34
Snow depth
38"
Base
38"
Summit

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12/374
0.502673797 0.032085561 0.470588235
0.032085561

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The maximum determinant of an 11 by 11 matrix of zeroes and ones is 1458.

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Video gamers.

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After coal power plants, the Haida Nation in Candinavia:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haida_Salmon_Restoration_Corporation

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"Who are the best people working on terraforming?"

The Tyrell Corporation.

[You do realise you're setting yourself up, again, as you did with 3D Printing]

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There was an excellent documentary on the progress that scientists had made on terraforming by the early 80s called "Star Trek III: The Search For Spock" but since then because of greed and corruption, we have barely advanced the science at all. Sad!

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Tyler: my startup, EarthSense, is creating terraforming technology- we’re practicing on Earth.

(In response to ithe comments - Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy simulates what happens when we go to mars without appropriate terraforming tech. Iain M Banks’ Culture universe simulates some scenarios in a galaxy with successful habitat-forming tech.)

The Culture famously eschews terraforming.

Alastair Reynolds has a nifty concept for incrementally terraforming Mars appear in one of his novels, walling off a section and walking the walls out as more terrain is processed. The walls are, obviously, fairly large.

Indeed - which is why I said "habitat-forming", i.e. orbitals and arguably GSVs! More generally ending up in Malthusian traps (loosely stated) seems far more likely for civilizations rely only on human intelligence , relative to those that solve intelligence scarcity at some point in their evolution.

(Thanks for the Alastair Reynolds tip. Greatly enjoyed House of Suns for the simulation of human-only Galactic colonization (avoiding spoilers). Was turned off by the post-apocalyptic noir of Terminal World… gave up a third of the way into it…)

- Chinmay
--
www.earthsense.co

I'm not a huge Reynolds fan either. But in the Revelation Space series discusses The Great Wall of Mars in a few places.

[SPOILERS] The idea that Greenfly ate the Inhibitors is a stupid piece of Deus Ex Machina to finish out that series. Nothing like Greenfly had ever occurred in the observable universe - it's visible at vast distances - and we're supposed to believe people up and invented it a couple of hundred years into their spaceflight experience? Basic observation of the universe shows either we're the first civilization (not the premise of the story) or simple replicators cannot get that out of control without limit. We'd see the effects if they could.

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"Who are the best people working on terraforming and what are they doing?"

Robert Heinlein...working on earthquake-proof heat shields and nuclear rock crushers. (I may be misremembering this second item, but I think the power source for the rock crushers was fission):

https://www.amazon.com/Farmer-Sky-Robert-Heinlein/dp/1439132771

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Well, the reclamation of Loess Plateau in China is perhaps the largest scale "terraforming" project on earth.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loess_Plateau

I was also thinking about this. A great chunk of our home the Earth needs to be "Terraformed" in order to be productive. I'd start with the people working on this instead of the quacks talking about Mars.

Australian farmers working to make their land more drought resistance are a smaller scale example of this. Since global warming appears to be drying out the southern half of Australia it is helping to preserve the earth as it was. It's terraforming as in making the earth more earthlike.

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Christopher Voigt at MTI. Although he doesn't know it.

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This must be a male dominated field (Men are from......)

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The Wall builders. The Great Green Wall Builders against the African Sahara and the Chinese Gobi desert.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/great-green-wall-stop-desertification-not-so-much-180960171/

"""The plan: plant a Great Green Wall of trees 10 miles wide and 4,350 miles long (~ 1.6x Ireland), bisecting a dozen countries from Senegal in the west to Djibouti in the east. The problem: the creeping desertification across Africa. Slowly, the idea of a Great Green Wall has changed into a program centered around indigenous land use techniques, not planting a forest on the edge of a desert."""

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/04/china-great-green-wall-gobi-tengger-desertification/

"""In a big move to address the problem, in 1978, the Chinese government implemented the Three-North Shelterbelt Project, a national ecological engineering effort that called for the planting of millions of trees along the 2,800-mile border of northern China’s encroaching desert, while increasing the world’s forest by 10 percent. Also known as the “Great Green Wall,” the project’s end date isn’t until 2050; so far, more than 66 billion trees have been planted."""

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/02/china-army-soldiers-plant-trees/

"""The project is a big one. China plans to grow 6.66 million hectares (~ 0.95x Ireland) of new forest this year, having already created 33.8 million hectares (338,000 square kilometres) (~ 4.8x Ireland, ~ 0.009x Moon surface) of forest in the past five years, says Zhang Jianlong, head of the State Forestry Administration, in a report from Reuters. The country wants to increase the area of land covered by woodlands from 21.7% in 2016 to 23% by 2020, according to China Daily."""

I vaguely remember that being a 1970s project. It all unwinded when people started chopping down the trees all the time, and wasn't that effective in Sahel soil anyway. Hard for trees to form good roots that keep them from getting blown down, and hard to Keep them watered.
The makor takeway from this probably is, forget photogenic & fancy infrastructure projects in poor countries unless you have the funding for long term maintenance and the security figured out. Security concerns should be directed mostly against the governments, who seem to have structural incentives to keep fringe desert dwellers from minorities within the country poor.

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Oliver Morton has written an outstanding book - The Planet Remade - about geo-engineering - not quite the same thing, of course, but related, and he knows a lot about it. You should have a conversation with him. He is a brilliant person

And seconding Kim Stanley Robinson

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People is already working on terraforming even if the label is not used. I think about producing food with less resources and harsh environmental conditions. Some examples come to mind, they are not thinking about Mars but the experience these people develop will be quite handy in the future:

a) the first article google result for "plant science gmos for harsh environment". perhaps it's more interesting to modify plants to adapt to a new environment than adapting the environment to plants. tinker the already existing organism into using less water, more salt, lower/higher temps, etc. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4560252/

b) developments in geothermal energy. here on Earth, the use of heat energy from the subsoil is economical for a few cases and locations. However, the geothermal experience may be useful for other planets.

c) as people mentioned above: nuclear energy. I think a lot of people is already working on it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_in_space

d) GMO bacteria, fungi, protozoa which can thrive in very harsh environment conditions. http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/crux/2015/12/18/how-gmos-will-let-astronauts-live-on-mars/#.XAZWv-Io-Uk I'd also look at the work of biologists exploring for extremophiles deep in the ocean, near to lava, in "toxic" gas environments. the extremophiles may contain very valuable DNA.

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References in this article might be worth trying to contact
https://phys.org/news/2017-03-nasa-magnetic-shield-mars-atmosphere.html

"Dr. Jim Green – the Director of NASA's Planetary Science Division – and a panel of researchers presented an ambitious idea. In essence, they suggested that by positioning a magnetic dipole shield at the Mars L1 Lagrange Point, an artificial magnetosphere could be formed that would encompass the entire planet, thus shielding it from solar wind and radiation."

Also, here's a link to a free interactive demo done for JPL of a Mars base. I downloaded it a few days ago and found it an interesting imagining:
https://store.steampowered.com/app/224000/Project_Eagle_A_3D_Interactive_Mars_Base/

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Found this. Many links https://www.google.ca/amp/s/www.nextbigfuture.com/2014/10/brute-force-terraforming-of-mars-moons.html/amp

That was interesting but a bit odd. They start off talking about building large bubbles and they understand the massive amount of energy required to give Mars an earthlike atmosphere, but never put two and two together and point out you can massively decrease the energy requirements by putting a roof or potentially a membrane over Mars. This approach lets you terraform bits of mars at a time. Multiple layers could even be stacked on top of each other. Of course, it may be even easier to make living space in space with artificial habitats.

Google paraterraforming or worldhouse.

Functionally the same as terraforming, but without the upfront cost or big delay before you see the benefit. The advantage of doing it over space habitats is that ample materials are close at hand, and at small scales being on a planetary surface offers certain advantages in terms of protection from radiation and meteors etc. The disadvantage is you're stuck with attributes of the planet like gravity, atmosphere, and location.

Presumably one day we'll almost all be in habitats, but planetary surfaces will be useful in getting us to that future. We probably have to terraform Mars before we get to building Banks Orbitals or McKendree Cylinders.

Not to sound like a broken record, but if you want large habitats they already exist on the moon and Mars in the form of lava tubes. Whybwould you build giant bubble habitats on the surface when they already exist in abundance judt below the ground?

Our future off Earth for at least the next few hundred years will either be small habitats for at most a few dozen people on the surface, or larger habitats underground.

Well, we have some evidence they exist. I wouldn't want to bet a space program on them. Besides, on Mars at least, living underground seems like overkill and takes away some of the advantages of the planet. On the Moon it will be necessary for a while, but even then, you'd just bury habitats until the scale got really large.

Lava tubes, assuming they exist in desirable locations etc, are useful if we have a lot of people on the Moon, but for some reason don't make advances in radiation protection, either material or electromagnetic. So maybe in the mid-term future, but I wouldn't bet on it.

Mars, I think, will just get paved over with progressively larger habs. For a while your bedroom and office will have a nice thick roof, but the plants don't need that.

We have more than 'some evidence they exist.' We have mapped over 200 open skylights to lava tubes on the Moon. The Marius Hills lava tube was mapped by radar from the Kuyuga and GRAIL missions. It is 50km in length, 500m or so in width, and up to 1 km deep.

Heck we can see the floor of the lava tube through the skylight, and at that point it is about 80m from floor to ceiling.

There are hundreds of such skylights on both the Moon and Mars. And no doubt many more lava tubes without skylights.

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Lord Action, if you are going to put humans 1.0 on Mars they will either need to be underground or you will need to put the equivalent of a meter or more of ground above them because the radiation environment is terrible. It's not like people will be able to walk around in space suits on the surface or anything. Not if they want to have children. They are either going to have to live their lives indoors and either underground or its equivalent or severely change what the outdoors is like.

Not to mention that Mars' soil is full of perchlorates which are toxic to humans.

So we can add a hazmat cleanup of an entire planet to the list of things to be done before we live there.

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Having a meter of earth above them doesn't mean living underground. It means having a thick roof on your dwelling. There are designs out there for skyscrapers that achieve this. Compared to interplanetary space, it's a benign radiation environment.

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Whoever is currently managing BioSphere 2, probably.
I think some ecologists at the University of Arizona.

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I realize that you who are reading this, if you are human (as opposed to an AI) have no reason for thinking I know what I am talking about (but check out anonymous 161 on a similarly intractable subject on Steve Sailer's blog, in early December 2018, to cross-check whether I know anything about technical subjects) and I understand why my mystical ideas were deleted (either by an intern or by one of the bloggers, it is ok in either case ... but I do know what I am talking about ....) ....

Sheffield and Pournelle are your go to guys for terraforming, just dip into Sheffields books or Pournelles weblog for really good ideas on the subject, circa a few years ago.
When I took tax law with Marty Ginsburg, in addition to being interesting form the first to the last moment of each class, he also had good advice, including, for example if you want to understand the Internal Revenue Code (26 U.S.C.) of today, you really ought to know the Internal Revenue Code of the early days (Phellis v. Commissioner, verb. sat. sufficit - which is Latingfor the word suffices to sat. - I will let you figure out what sat. means, but it is an abbreviation for a plural noun in the dative case, in case you were wondering).

Why do I bother? What does it matter to me if people think I am a religious maniac (when I say God loves us the way we are but loves us too much to let us stay that way, I understand people might think I am not aware of their atheist reality) or an animal-rights fanatic (it is no small thing to be a friend to a creature who never had a friend in this world, props to the guy who wrote 76 Trombones) or some kind of phony mystic (cor ad cor loquitur - but there is nothing phony about it when you know how much I appreciate the friends I have been blessed to spend time in this world with, not to mention those great poets, even the humble ones, who have spoken to me and my friends with their art, even the poets who were not artists). The funny thing is, when I say Kant was not that good of a philosopher, I understand what he was trying to say, and I am not saying he was not technically a one in a million talent, but he simply was sort of simple-minded, you don't need to think I am a lunatic, I am only saying that the truth is simple, the truth is, God loves you, God loves me, and if I know that "Terraforming" is a joke, an ugly fiction beyond our capacities, Sarumanesque at its most likely current best, then I know that, and if you want to listen to me saying that, good, if you want to delete my comments, that is ok too, I don't take those things personally.

Seriously, though, I will never win a Nobel Prize, but I do know what I am talking about.

There are 5 billion people in the world, one in a billion might want to know this:

When I hear someone talking about terraforming, I think, oh that is a science thing, and I think of the good scientists I have known, and I think

not a single one of them knows, as well as I know
that they have no idea of how terraforming would work
without introducing trillions of small sentient animals to a world that is foreign to them, a world that they are only living in because others want to use them, to make them into commodities
and I want to warn my science pals
Don't do that
be a friend to the small creatures, do not use them as tools for some purpose, some good end that you KNOW they will never profit from, they will die their small lives, a trillion times over, as you

"Terraform" some planet

trust me.

Also, the Pleasanton comments are not about my days in Pleasanton, they are about your days in the towns that were to you what Pleasanton would have been to me if I were luckier, maybe I have to wait for some AI to scoop up my thousands of comments, my millions of words, to get a good idea of what i say when I say pleasanton, the sense of a long-lost town talking to itself, or better yet a decent person remembering a long gone place

one more thing before I go

the Marty Ginsburg reference was not to make you think I am a tax partner at some London firm

it was just a call out to you

maybe you are not as smart as you think, maybe you are: I knew Marty Ginsburg and he was smart, but not as smart as you might think (Otherwise why would i have mentioned him just in passing - trust me, a great cook, but....)
trust me
the truth is simple
the truth is simple
God loves you
God loves me
there are not many of us humans
almost infinite numbers of angels, but not that many humans

God loves you, you are one of the chosen ones
wake up, and avoid selfishness and arrogance
wake up, cor ad cor loquitur

I remembered, in Pleasanton, in 1974, on those roads
small cool streams, with Western weeds
those eucalyptus trees,filtering the sun
the hills, the poppies in spring

and the realization that

I was not afraid of dying
Death was afraid of me
because I know God loves me
Death did not know that
poor little fellow
let us all pray for each other
Nada te turbe

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as always, the typos were on purpose.

I think I am just going to stop helping people understand the world and I am going to spend five minutes a day quoting Don Colacho (instead of the 10 minutes a day I have spent heretofore writing these long comments which take me less long to write than a short telephone conversation with the same amount of words, trust me) or take those 10 minutes and write those poems which your great-grandchildren will look at and wonder if they were any good

(no they were not as good as the experiences that inspired them, like those long walks along the sidewalks and along the roads without sidewalks in Pleasanton in 1974).

Thanks for reading. (if you want to look up the anonymous 161 comment on sailer, try the key words crabby and hypomanic, or God and gifted).

Why do I bother?

Because I care.

So do you I hope

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"When the philosopher renounces leadership the journalist puts himself in charge"

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How about terraforming the earth? Reforestation, a more efficient use of land for growing food, etc., and other carbon-negative activities could solve a lot of problems without moving to another planet that is freezing cold, is full of radiation, and has no oxygen.

I see there are several more detailed posts on the same theme above.

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No such thing as "terraforming" exists as applied science to my knowledge. It's all earth science and engineering in details though, so I'd imagine agriculturual and forest engineers and urban planning architects would probably be good at it. Also hydroengineers who worked on big-scale projects like the Itaipu. That is tho, when it comes to Earth. If we go sci-fi and start talking about the terraforming of other planets, then... who knows.

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its only the matter of time, you shine now, someday i'll.
https://www.hsmarking.com/

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