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(io9)   Should we terraform Venus first?   (io9.com) divider line 114
    More: Interesting, greenhouse effect, magnetosphere, positive feedback, sulfur dioxide, James Oberg, runaway greenhouse effect, reflecting telescopes, GMO  
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4530 clicks; posted to Geek » on 12 Oct 2012 at 11:00 AM (1 year ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2012-10-13 06:59:21 AM

RedVentrue: way south: RedVentrue: way south: RedVentrue: way south: Skyfrog: Ha. We can't even keep our own planet habitable.

Because there's too many people who take the biosphere we live in for granted.
There are also too many interests that either want to have things their own way or will attempt to milk humanities fears for quick cash.

The great thing about terraformation of another world is that it will both establish that man made change is possible and define how much change is required to see a result. If nothing else, its a great thought experiment for coming to terms with our present situation.
I think we should attempt to terraform a large area just to help set peoples minds right about what we should do with Earth.

/My personal pick would have been to try and create a geofront on the moon before attempting a whole planet.
/Ambitious as hell, but still within the realm of present day technology.

Von Neumann machines.

We don't have self assembling machines, but we've got the next best thing: Bacteria.
Problem is finding a niche where they can grow in massive numbers and do their alchemy.

I'm thinking bacteria would have a hard time on the moon, and they could not build a habitat for us.

Hence the geofront idea. Find a soft spot in the ground, set off a few nukes, and you get a container for your atmosphere.

If we could land enough manpower and machinery on the moon, we could just build a continually expanding outpost without special robots. It wouldn't be much different from any other city.
The point here is to use life as the basis for a self sustaining habitat. So that it functions with minimal human interference.

Once we've got that down pat, terraforming is just a matter of scale.

I agree with you, but economies of scale are much easier to achieve with a workforce of machines. Especially in the Lunar vacuum. We have them build it, then just move in when it's done. They don't even really need to be self replicating, but it would help if they could live ...


I wont dispute the fact that machines make things alot easier, and if we had them in hand I'd be right there with you on that suggestion.
The problem is we've still got a gap between what we know about robotics and where these machines need to be for this kind of mission.

Similarly, we've got a gap in our understanding of biology.
What the Biosphere project showed us is that little things can cause big problems. They built a bottle to contain life, threw in everything they thought it would take to create a balance, and got surprised that it couldn't maintain its oxygen levels. They forgot the bottle itself, the curing concrete, was also a factor.
Its these kinds of lessons that we need to understand before striking out on any new project. Because even with the machines you need to know how the chemistry of your destination will react to change, or the result would only be a temporary habitat that works just as long as the robots do.

Assuming we do get robots and have a massive fleet of them on our side, the kinds of changes we can make on a planetary scale will still be tiny. They'll have to get nature working on their side if we want to see a place like Venus become a garden world.
 
2012-10-13 07:51:57 AM

Smoking GNU: RedVentrue: theorellior: Bubbageegee: You would also need to generate a global magnetic field on Mars, not so simple.

That's why I gave the terraformed Mars 2 Earth atmospheres of air. The lesser gravity would keep the surface pressure manageable, and the extra air would shield better against solar radiation.

You have to have a robust magnetic field.

Because the solar winds WILL strip away ANY atmo you manage to generate on mars in any case.


Sure, but on the scale of millions of years. It's not like it would happen overnight, giving plenty of time to keep producing more atmosphere.
 
2012-10-13 08:06:00 AM
"Should carbon emissions continue to increase at the current rate, they warn, we may hit a critical tipping point after which a positive feedback loop will be created between the surface of the Earth and the increasingly thick and opaque atmosphere above it. Hypothetically, the effect would instigate a rapid and progressively escalating rise in temperature that would eventually result in the extermination of all life on the planet and the evaporation of the oceans.

No one knows for sure if this will be the ultimate climax of human-caused global warming, but it's a possibility that clearly needs to be taken seriously. It's a genuine existential risk.

To say that Venus has a lot of CO2 in its atmosphere would be a gross understatement. Over 96% of its atmosphere consists of CO2
"

So we have a genuine risk of making our air contain 96% co2?

bad article is bad and it should feel bad
 
2012-10-13 09:29:37 AM

dready zim: So we have a genuine risk of making our air contain 96% co2?

bad article is bad and it should feel bad



Well, if all of the water in our oceans boiled off and the heat grew to the point where all of the oxygen in water molecules separated from the hydrogen, the hydrogen escaped into space and the oxygen molecules recombined over millions of years with carbon molecules, then yeah, I could see it happening.

I don't know if that's possible on Earth, but I can name one planet where that did happen.
 
2012-10-13 11:14:40 AM

Erix: Sure, but on the scale of millions of years. It's not like it would happen overnight, giving plenty of time to keep producing more atmosphere.


Which is why I mentioned setting up a daisy-chain of ice asteroids that would impact every 50,000 years to keep things going. : )
 
2012-10-13 11:21:13 AM

theorellior: Erix: Sure, but on the scale of millions of years. It's not like it would happen overnight, giving plenty of time to keep producing more atmosphere.

Which is why I mentioned setting up a daisy-chain of ice asteroids that would impact every 50,000 years to keep things going. : )


Hah.. sounds great, but you'd have to evacuate the planet every 50,000 years as well, and would have no hope for a stable biosphere.

I've said it before, but if anyone is actually interested in the terraforming of Mars, read Red Mars (and the rest of the series). Some people hate how slow they can be, but I think the books are absolutely brilliant. Sure there are flaws, but the depth of many of the ideas makes it well worth it.
 
2012-10-13 01:42:10 PM

Erix: Because the solar winds WILL strip away ANY atmo you manage to generate on mars in any case.

Sure, but on the scale of millions of years. It's not like it would happen overnight, giving plenty of time to keep producing more atmosphere.


This is the one people have a really hard time grasping, for some reason. The rate of atmosphere loss over time is miniscule. The reason Mars has so little left is because it's been going on for 4 billion years.

The idea is to have a lifeboat for the human race on the scale of a thousand to ten thousand years, which ought to be plenty of time to work out a solution to more permanent terraforming issues, even if we had society collapse back to a Dark Ages level of subsistence for a while.

Having an atmosphere with no magnetic field to protect it is like driving on a tire that's had a small nail stuck through it. Yes, it will eventually go flat, but you've got more than enough time to make it to a service station and either refill the tire or patch the hole.
 
2012-10-13 02:15:12 PM

Cthulhu_is_my_homeboy: Erix: Because the solar winds WILL strip away ANY atmo you manage to generate on mars in any case.

Sure, but on the scale of millions of years. It's not like it would happen overnight, giving plenty of time to keep producing more atmosphere.

This is the one people have a really hard time grasping, for some reason. The rate of atmosphere loss over time is miniscule. The reason Mars has so little left is because it's been going on for 4 billion years.

The idea is to have a lifeboat for the human race on the scale of a thousand to ten thousand years, which ought to be plenty of time to work out a solution to more permanent terraforming issues, even if we had society collapse back to a Dark Ages level of subsistence for a while.

Having an atmosphere with no magnetic field to protect it is like driving on a tire that's had a small nail stuck through it. Yes, it will eventually go flat, but you've got more than enough time to make it to a service station and either refill the tire or patch the hole.


Exactly. On a slightly longer time scale, the Earth is also unsuitable for life, since the expanding sun will eventually boil off the oceans and turn the planet into Venus 2.0.
 
2012-10-13 02:25:22 PM

dready zim: "Should carbon emissions continue to increase at the current rate, they warn, we may hit a critical tipping point after which a positive feedback loop will be created between the surface of the Earth and the increasingly thick and opaque atmosphere above it. Hypothetically, the effect would instigate a rapid and progressively escalating rise in temperature that would eventually result in the extermination of all life on the planet and the evaporation of the oceans.

No one knows for sure if this will be the ultimate climax of human-caused global warming, but it's a possibility that clearly needs to be taken seriously. It's a genuine existential risk.

To say that Venus has a lot of CO2 in its atmosphere would be a gross understatement. Over 96% of its atmosphere consists of CO2"

So we have a genuine risk of making our air contain 96% co2?

bad article is bad and it should feel bad


Over extrapolation leads to model breakdown, then thinking breakdown.
 
2012-10-14 12:08:01 AM

Erix: I've said it before, but if anyone is actually interested in the terraforming of Mars, read Red Mars (and the rest of the series).


Great books. If I had a billion dollars to spare, I'd make three ten-part miniseries, one for each book.
 
2012-10-14 07:07:52 AM

Handsome B. Wonderful: Why create this dichotomy?


I love this thinking!!! Ima try this at work today, see to just how far I can get it to work....

/slowly broadening maniacal grin
 
2012-10-14 01:00:20 PM

theorellior: Bubbageegee: You would also need to generate a global magnetic field on Mars, not so simple.

That's why I gave the terraformed Mars 2 Earth atmospheres of air. The lesser gravity would keep the surface pressure manageable, and the extra air would shield better against solar radiation.


The magnetosphere also deflects the solar wids which is stripping off the atmosphere of Mars. A thick atmosphere will not compensate for what the field does in its entirety. Having a functional one is really, really important.
 
2012-10-14 01:07:50 PM
Given the time and costs of terraforming Mars and/or Venus, how about we stop ruining this place first?

We can't amass the political will to implement an efficient national healthcare system to save costs and improve care, you think we can amass e willpower to improve another planet?
 
2012-10-14 01:31:28 PM

lohphat: theorellior: Bubbageegee: You would also need to generate a global magnetic field on Mars, not so simple.

That's why I gave the terraformed Mars 2 Earth atmospheres of air. The lesser gravity would keep the surface pressure manageable, and the extra air would shield better against solar radiation.

The magnetosphere also deflects the solar wids which is stripping off the atmosphere of Mars. A thick atmosphere will not compensate for what the field does in its entirety. Having a functional one is really, really important.


See above: the atmospheric loss is extremely slow, and is better measured on the million year timescale than the human lifespan timescale.

Given the time and costs of terraforming Mars and/or Venus, how about we stop ruining this place first?

Good idea, but it doesn't have to be an either/or situation.
 
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