Thoughts on Asteroid Mining
When Eric Anderson and Peter Diamandis announced their founding of Planetary Resources in 2012 – with the goal of conducting industrial scale asteroid mining – many people, myself included, dismissed it as a near-insane pipe dream. Even now, a year later and after the founding of a second asteroid mining company, Deep Space Industries, and a NASA proposal to capture an asteroid into lunar orbit the idea still sounds just as kooky as it did on first impression. Indeed, with the retirement of the space shuttle and the dates for a manned Mars mission slipping further and further back, the idea of something as ambitious as asteroid mining sounds increasingly implausible. But it has been a year, and those of us with curious minds and a genuine belief in humanity’s limitless potential owe the idea a fair examination.
There are three significant barriers to development of an industrial-scale asteroid mining capability: technical, economic, and political. Each barrier is equally significant in its own way, and each poses its own unique challenges. In order to achieve success, the budding asteroid mining is approaching each of them with a separate understanding of the distinct timelines, tools, and professionals required to solve them. To help limit the scope of this article though, the primary focus will be on the approach that Planetary Resources is taking (No offense to Deep Space Industries, there’s just more info out there from Planetary Resources to dig into).
Book Preview: “Tesla Prime and the Regulus Event”
There’s something about receiving a preview copy of a scifi book from an @jpl.nasa.gov email address that lends it a sort of instant credibility. While the author might not carry the same scientific gravity as von Braun, or the writing talents of Asimov, the end product is proof enough that a dash of each talent is more than sufficient to produce a good novel.
I was initially turned onto Tesla Prime and the Regulus Event by the novel’s website, where the first 10 chapters can be read entirely free. In fact, Douglas, the author, plans to release the entire book for free eventually. But ultimately, the words “free” and “science fiction” alone aren’t what held my attention. Only one chapter into the novel and it became obvious that I had stumbled on a real gem: a captivating, well-polished novel from a first time author.
Book Review: “Aeternum Ray”
Without even reading a word of Tracy Atkins’s novel, Aeternum Ray, you have to start by giving him a pat on the back for courage. In everything from its form to its substance, Aeternum Ray is a challenging novel. Going well against the grain of most futurist and transhumanist fiction – with their dystopian and gritty elements – Atkins attempts to explore the idea of a post-Singularity future from a genuinely optimistic viewpoint. By its very nature a post-Singularity future is effectively impossible to speculate on, and yet, that is exactly what Aeternum Ray attempts to do.
The novel takes the form of the memoirs of William Babington, a man born of our our time who lives to see a technological singularity and than catalog the course of the future. In the opening chapters of the novel, Babington writes of his experiences growing up in the 80′s and 90′s and slowly moves onto the earth-shaking events of his later natural life. Although there is hardly anything revolutionary expressed in these chapters, they do offer an insightful, almost-anthropological look at our modern era, and the predictions of the near future are both exciting and well-conceived. Although Atkins does place an almost narrow-minded focus on the development of future AIs, to the exclusive of other technological progress, it is easy to offer some literary liberties given the expansive goal of covering four decades in as many chapters.
Book Review: “Altered Carbon”
Bottom line, up front: Altered Carbon is a good book. Not just kinda good or good-for-a-debut-novel good, but “Holy shit, I can’t put this thing down!” good.
Despite being a big fan of futurist and transhuman fiction, I initially avoided Altered Carbon due to my disinclination for mystery novels. It was only after one particularly long stretch of limited Internet access that I finally gave the loneliest novel in my Kindle library a chance, and I was quickly hooked. If Philip K. Dick can be said to have pioneered the merger between pulp noir and science fiction in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Richard Morgan has shown just how much further the genre can go with Altered Carbon.