July 26th, 2005

[SHWI] The Soviet O'Neill Habitats

The O'Neill cylinder, a sort of space colony developed by Princeton physicist Gerard K. O'Neill in the 1970s, has left. A sort of continuation of the earlier Bernal Sphere, the O'Neill cylinder was imagined as a vast cylinder kilometers--even tens of kilometers--in length, constructed using lunar and perhaps asteroidal materials.

The O'Neill cylinder would be hollow, containing a very pleasantly Earth-like environment: a breathable atmosphere, hills, cities, rivers and lakes, forests, picnic territories.

The L5 Society, named after L5, one of the five Lagrange points in the Earth-Moon system, favoured by O'Neill as a stable location for his great stations, was founded in the 1970s to propagandize for a government-funded construction campaign. Energy independence was the key for the L5 society--solar-cell arrays assembled by the colonies would be transported to varius geosynchronous orbits and beam the power that they generated down to Earth in the form of microwaves. Providing both an impressive presence in space and the key to a world running on cheap clean energy, this grand projet would be one for the ages. The decade's space colony artwork portrayed an archipelago of many small worlds, all of them Earth-like, all of them eminently comfortable in the best High Modernist fashion.

Slashdot reports that someone writing in a United States military journal favours a preemptive seizure of the Lagrange points (thanks, Will), to prevent these regions from being occupied by aggressive foreign powers. That bit of preemptive astropolitics, alas, seems to be the only survival of the O'Neill-L5 grand projet to the present. Back in the 1970s, it was thought that space travel could be cheap and that it was a trivial task to establish a viable self-contained biosphere. Both of these assumptions turned out to be quite false. The United States just wasn't interested in space travel after Apollo, and space colonization was much too costly.

And yet. Last Thursday I wrote about the resettlement of northern Bohemia after the expulsion of the Sudeten Germans in 1945, and how this resettlement was used to create a region strongly attached to production for production's own sake, and that this sort of tendency was common to Communist and non-Communist states. So, I posted a WI on SHWI: WI Soviet O'Neill colonies?.

[BRIEF NOTE] Mormonism Fights Back?

I admit to a certain fondness for the Church of Latter-Day Saints. Mormonism is the only major branch of Christianity formed in the United States. Much about the Book of Mormon reminds me, quite honestly, of Conan the Barbarian, what with the undiscovered savage ancient civilizations and all. Perhaps unfortunately for the Mormons, the historical veracity of the Book of Mormon is being undermined by archeological and other discoveries which call into question the idea of any pre-Columbian American civilization being influenced by Old World migrants. John Sorenson's "Digging into the Book of Mormon" articles from Ensign magazine in the mid-1980s (1, 2, 3) make interesting reading as they attempt to recuperate the lost ground, but only that.

I was waiting to see how the Church of Latter-Day Saints would react to DNA evidence contradicting their central text.

A molecular biologist with the CSIRO is facing possible ex-communication from the Mormon Church after writing a book challenging its central teachings.

Simon Southerton was raised a believer but abandoned the church in 1998 when he could not reconcile his faith with scientific research.

Last year he published a rebuttal of the Book of Mormon teachings that Native American and Polynesian ancestors came from ancient Israelite tribes who had migrated to the Americas centuries before Christ.

Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA and the Mormon Church, Dr Southerton challenged the church to declare the Mormon scriptural text an "inspired fictional story".

"The DNA evidence we have today clearly shows that Native Americans and Polynesians are both descended from Asian ancestors," he said.

"Greater than 7000 Native Americans have been DNA tested and greater than 99 per cent of their DNA came from Asia."

The Skeptic's Annotated Book of Mormon makes for an interesting read.
  • Current Mood
    pityingly anti-clerical

[LINK] Have Women Won the War of the Sexes in Australasia?

Antipodean correspondent Errol Cavit reports that women are starting to outnumber men in the Antipodes. Sue Allen writes for Staff.co.nz.

If you're a 32-year-old woman finding it hard to meet a mate, it seems there is a good reason.

It's not your dress sense, the sparkle of your after-dinner talk or size of your rump but the New Zealand "man drought", according to this year's KPMG population report.

Since 1991, the shortfall of New Zealand men in their 30s compared to women has ballooned from 7600 to 23,000 last year.

That means a 32-year old Kiwi woman now has as much chance of finding a male partner of the same age as an 82-year-old woman, said KPMG partner Bernard Salt.

[. . .]

With "mother nature" keeping birth rates equal, Mr Salt believed the main man drain was the Kiwi OE which sucked young men overseas where they fell in love and stayed.

"New Zealand girls might go backpacking and have a fling, but they haven't done anything as silly as getting married, and they come back."

The fun would start, he said, when society got used to the imbalance and women starting taking time-shares on men.

Writing for the New Zealand Herald, Greg Ansley reports that Australia is beginning to face the same problem.

It will also get worse as larger, richer, skill-hungry countries in the Northern Hemisphere target bright young men trained and educated at the expense of New Zealand and Australian taxpayers.

In a new study of transtasman populations, Mr Salt, a partner in KPMG's risk advisory services practice and one of Australia's best-known demographers, warns of a growing "man drought".

In 1991 there were 8000 more 30-something women than men in New Zealand. By last year this had soared to a surplus of 24,000 women.

"If you are a 34-year-old heterosexual woman in New Zealand you have as much chance of finding a male partner your own age as does an 85-year-old woman," Salt said. "This aligns precisely with what's happening in Australia.

"New Zealand is like a miners' canary for Australia - it's further down this track because it's a smaller, more volatile economy that has evolved this culture of overseas experience."

In Australia, the gender imbalance has swung from a surplus of 54,000 30-something men in 1976 to a deficit of 20,000 last year.

Mr Salt said that in New Zealand this imbalance had led to a highly matriarchal society marked by a female Prime Minister, Governor-General, Chief Justice and several other high-profile positions.

"Not that there's a problem with that - it's just an observation that this is different to a community where the gender balance is more closely aligned ... "Bridget Jones and Sex and the City must have been absolute hits in New Zealand."