The Starship is still about 100 years away, but we will begin building it this century. This was the message that Gregory Benford and his mirror-twin, James Benford, were proclaiming together, with the help of notables of both science and science fiction.
Futurist Peter Schwarz covered three basic scenarios, though many more can be generated. The full details can be found in the “Starship Century” anthology, but in essence three ideologies could launch us to the stars.
1. “God’s Galaxy”, which implies a future Earth dominated by religion, sending forth missionaries to the unconverted of the Galaxy.
2. “The Dying Earth”, in which we’re seeking a second home, basically the back-story of “Firefly” and countless other SF treatments.
3. “Interstellar Trillionaires”, in which the ultra-rich of a fully developed interplanetary economy launch forth for adventure or curiosity’s sake.
Jim Benford covered the concept of Microwave Sail-Ships, giving a fascinating look into his experimental work in the late 1990s, with twin-brother Greg, using carbon-sails in vacuum chambers, made to do amazing things via concentrated beams of polarized microwaves. Jim, like Greg, is a physicist, an alumnus of UCSD, but an applied physicist who has literally written the book on high-power microwave systems, like the million-watt RADAR regularly used by the world’s armed forces. Thus he is well able to discuss the practicalities of propelling sails to interstellar speeds via beams of microwaves and has written several papers covering the economics of micro-wave starships. An elementary conclusion of the Benfords’ experiments is that a conical sail can very effectively ride a polarised microwave beam and be spun so it is self-stabilising. A less encouraging finding is that the cost of energy will dominate interstellar missions at high speeds. Before we can reach the stars we will need to create abundant energy supplies.
Adam Crowl covered slide-after-slide of starship concepts – most of which are covered in the anthology. One gratifying aspect was being able to point out several starship designers in the audience – Freeman Dyson nodded approvingly when I discussed his Interstellar Orion from 1968, and I covered Al Jackson’s role in the development of the Laser-Powered Ramjet. As a parting note I mentioned the “Ultimate Starship” – my personal suggestion, based on the late Robert Forward’s idea of a neutrino-rocket, to use electroweak unification physics to convert ram-scooped mass directly into a neutrino-jet.
SOURCE - crowlspace, Youtube
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