Monday, October 8, 2007


Page 59 of Gaiome says that SpaceShipOne burned "solid rubber in liquid oxygen." Actually, it burned hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene (a synthetic rubber) in nitrous oxide (N2O).

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Gaiome Cut-Away

Here's a screen shot from the book, just to give you an idea of what a gaiome might look like.

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Thursday, October 4, 2007

Gaiome Spreadsheet Available

Ever want to design your own rocket or space habitat? Now's your chance! I did all the calculations for Gaiome in Ruby, but to check them I also wrote a spreadsheet. It's in Open Office, a free alternative to MS-Office, and it includes:

  • Commercial passenger rocket designs
  • Asteroid and comet compositions
  • Space habitat designs—both spherical and ring-shaped
  • Population models

Warning! This is for serious nerds only! I'm offering it free, without warantee of any kind and I know of at least two minor undocumented errors that I may correct on my next slow day. For technical support and customization, please leave a comment with contact info and project details and I'll get back to you with a quote at my standard aerospace rate.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Review Copy to Slashdot

ATTENTION REVIEWERS: if you're with a publication or blog that has 10,000+ unique visitors per month, just leave a comment here with your contact url and I'll be happy to send you a copy of Gaiome (please specify soft cover or PDF). Here's a copy of the cover letter I sent to Slashdot. –KSP

Dear Slashdot,

Three decades have passed since Gerard K. O'Neill's The High Frontier, yet space travel remains as dangerous and expensive as ever. What will it take to achieve what Blue Origin calls "an enduring human presence in space?"

My new book Gaiome addresses this question directly. It updates O'Neill's work, names what his colonies were trying to be, and describes what our civilization must become in order to build them.

If you are looking for a shortcut to space—perhaps a clever invention or a business plan—you will not find it here. And brace yourself if you ever believed in the High Frontier: Gaiome reveals how space lacks every promise the frontier once had while posing challenges far deeper than technology. Yet the book still suggests that space habitation is worth the effort, albeit of a new and different kind.

I've noticed that many Slashdot participants have voiced frustration in recent years, not just with our lack of progress in space travel, but also the lack of anything new to say about it. I wrote Gaiome to pump as much fresh air into the discussion as possible. Please read, enjoy, and consider it for review.

Kevin Scott Polk

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Why species plural?

People have been asking if there's a typo in the title of my book Gaiome: Notes on Ecology, Space Travel and Becoming Cosmic Species. Nope, no typo here. I chose "cosmic species" (plural) not "a cosmic species" (singular) for two reasons:

First, if we become cosmic, we won't do it alone as a single species. Among Earth's biomes, only groups of species spanning multiple kindoms have mastered life support. So it will be in space.

Second, when people start living permanently in space, they won't remain one species for very long. In millions of isolated little worlds, each with new and unpredictable selection pressures, humans will evolve away from our current form. In time, our distant descendants will include an enormous range of beings, each as different from us and each other as bats and whales are today.

Humans cannot become cosmic species alone, nor can we avoid becoming many species as we come to live in the wider cosmos.

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Thursday, September 6, 2007

Where's the wiki?

If you're looking for the wiki mentioned in my book, please accept my apologies for now. I posted a wiki a year ago and vandals got to it several times. The maintenance took more time than I have, so I took it down.

However, the administrative chores may not be so bad when shared by an active wiki community. If 10 or more people with regenerative living projects are willing to help maintain a gaiome wiki, I'll restore it. Just leave a comment that you're willing to help.

But before you hit the "comments" link, consider whether other media could do the job better. I find the interface at blogspot very easy and will be using it for my family's house journal. Over time, I'll be linking to other regenerative blogs and wikis from this blog. If you know of one, please leave a comment with a link.

Finally, consider contributing to an existing permaculture wiki such as

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Monday, July 23, 2007

What's a Gaiome?

It's a word I coined for what Gerard K. O'Neill and other would-be space colonists were trying to invent 30 years ago: a self-sustaining mini-Gaia in space. It's also the title of my new book.

What will it really take for large numbers of people to travel and live in space? I've been pondering this for decades. But four years ago, when I began to examine the question methodically with the tools from my work in astrophysics, astronautics, business and ecology, I had no idea what a shock I was in for.

After all, the first thing I remember seeing on TV was the Apollo 8 Christmas Broadcast. When I was learning to read, everybody knew that space was our future.

Imagine my surprise when, nearly 40 years later, the evidence forced me to conclude that space isn't a frontier at all. Worse, technology alone won't get us there.

The famous physicist Stephen Hawking has made the news a lot lately by saying that we're making such a mess of the world that we should begin building space arks. I beg to differ. We are absolutely certain to fail at building space colonies until such time as we are no longer insecure about our survival as a species. Gaiome explores this in great detail, but here's the short of it: if we're damaging our own life support systems on this world, where we and millions of other species have long evolved to sustain each other, what are the odds that we will be any more skilled at life support, let alone building whole new worlds, alone in a radioactive vacuum?

Now let's be fair to Stephen Hawking. Virtually the entire space establishment agrees with him, at least in private. For over a century now, legions of science fiction fans (yes, including me) have dreamed of conquering space and escaping our mundane problems. But in so doing, we subscribed to a persistent fallacy: that life support can be mastered by one species.

The world's leading ecologists say it can't. They've been saying it for decades—not that we've been listening.

We can't conquer space because conquest is exactly what has brought us to the point of fearing for our survival. The main point of my book is that if we want to become a cosmic species, we must give up conquest. Not just space conquest. I mean conquest as a way of life.

But look, the book is 296 pages long. I'm not going to rewrite it here. I've put the introduction online to give you a taste of it. You'll notice there that the tone is more rigorous than a blog would allow. It has to be: this conversation is more than a century overdue.

But this blog is about what comes next: the day-to-day effort to transition from a global consumer economy to the regenerative local ecologies required of cosmic species.

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