Sunday, February 04, 2007

Frame the political debate

Claire Evans writes
What's so elegant about the space elevator, to me, is that it draws a clean line of connection between our centuries-old conception of "down here" and the newly approachable "up there," or, as Bucky would have it, "in" and "out," respectively. While space shuttles, rockets, and satellites retain a certain abstract quality -- off they blast, in a florid burst of flame and noise, the mechanics of the whole thing still pretty mystical -- the space elevator is concrete, as though humankind were reaching its own tentative arm into the great beyond, an unknown which will, of course, quickly normalize.

Despite its seemingly implausible nature, the space elevator is totally pragmatic, ultimately much cheaper and more economical than the high-energy rigamarole we're currently faced with every time we need to wrest something from the grips of our planet's escape gravity. The method is simple, like most good ideas are: a tether held taut by the inertia of the planet's rotation, spanning from the surface of the Earth to a point beyond geosynchronous orbit, serving as a sort of cosmic freeway, shuttling "lifters" out of the planet's gravity and into orbit.
Beyond all that she gets where the real sticky bits lie
As James Gardner, complexity theorist and author of The Intelligent Universe: AI, ET, and the Emerging Mind of the Cosmos, more elegantly put it, "framing the political debate in a way that will lead to a sustainable political consensus will be as important a determinant of success as the capacity to overcome the formidable technical challenges that confront would-be space elevator builder."
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