Archives For warfare

shadow seal

After years of on again, off again rewrites, edits, and revisions, Shadow Nation is now available as an ebook for Kindle devices on as promised yesterday. Not only does it have aliens, cyborgs, massive space battles, conspiracies, and a draft of the first part still not all that far from the new version available for your review (one, two, three), but it’s also just $3.99 per flexible, lend-able, copy you can read on any device that supports Kindle apps. And I’ll throw the references to the Cthluhu mythos, the dark Lovecraftian undertones, and the transhumanist riff on politics as a bonus. Ever since part one made it online, I’ve been getting requests to publish more of the book or finally release it so after a long and hard battle with InDesign and Kindle’s publishing preview tools, I’m happy to be putting the book out there for everyone interested in a good, old fashioned space opera with a couple of modern twists.

Our story officially begins in the year 3507 when Earth is visited by alien insectoids scouting the planet’s defenses for the massive fleet that brought them there. As the Earth’s military prepares for a fight it knows it can’t win, the planet is rescued in the nick of time by an immensely powerful and enigmatic civilization that calls itself the Shadow Nation. But oddly enough, the Nation isn’t just aware of humanity, it’s populated by humans who though experiments with alien technology became space faring cyborgs once in the service of the galaxy’s dominant species. Now, they’re on the verge of war with the former benefactors and Earth is caught in the crossfire. And as the Nation introduces itself to humans, questions begin to arise. How exactly did the cyborgs got to their lofty perch in the galaxy? Why were they chosen? Why are their creators so anxious to go to war with them? And finally, why is the Nation suddenly so interested in Earth?

In the meantime, Earth’s most influential politicians, Howard Grey and Andrew Newman, involve the Nation’s top commander and his team into a political battle that will determine the future of the planet. As humans begin trading with the Nation’s companies, Newman starts to worry that the mysterious empire might have some rather sinister plans for the Earth while Grey becomes hell bent on using the Nation to secure an epic legacy for himself as he gets ready to retire and cash in on all his political capital. The only thing they manage to agree on is to send two special agents to live with the Nation and find out what makes it tick. And what these agents discover is beyond anything either either Grey or Newman could ever imagine: a web of lies, secrets and bad blood which can only be untangled if either the Nation’s cyborgs or their creators fall. And since a defeat means near-certain extinction, the stakes are very, very high…

So take a look at the Kindle sample, feel free to persue the previews (although chapter three underwent some extensive resivion in the final version), check out the Shadow Nation wiki, give the book a try, and share your thoughts here and on Amazon. If you like this blog’s main topics and takes on alien contact, transhumanism, and futurism, I don’t think you’ll be dissapointed in what you’ll find. And for the price of a fancy coffee, doesn’t it seem worth the risk?

x47b takeoff

Human Rights Watch has seen the future of warfare and they don’t like it, not one bit. It’s pretty much inevitable that machines will be doing more and more fighting because they’re cheap and when one of them is destroyed by enemy fire, no one has to lose a father or a mother. Another one will be rolled off the assembly line and thrown into the fray. But the problem, according to a lengthy report by HRW, is that robots couldn’t tell civilians from enemy combatants during a war, and so humans should be the ones deciding who gets killed and who doesn’t. Today being able to distinguish civilians from hostiles is absolutely crucial because most wars being fought today are asymmetric and often involve complex, loosely affiliated groups which move through a civilian population and recruit civilians or so-called "non-state actors" to join them. How do you tell the difference, especially when you’re just a collection of circuits running code?

Just as HRW warns in its grandly titled report, robots left to make all the decisions could easily turn into indiscriminate killers, butchering everyone in sight and no human would be accountable for their actions because one could always blame a bug or lack of testing in real world situations on what could all too easily become a war crime. But considering that humans have a hard time telling who is on whose side in Afghanistan and faced the same problem in Iraq by keeping the country together until the population decided to come down hard on the worst of the sectarian militias, how well would a robot fare? HRW may be asking for an impossible goal here: to make a robot better at telling civilians apart from combatants than humans who spend years learning to do that. Of course as a computer person, I’m intrigued by the idea, but the only viable possibility that I see is to keep the entire population under constant surveillance, log their every movement, word, key stroke, and nervous tick, and parse the resulting oceans of data for patterns.

But how would that look? Excuse us, mind if we’d wire your building as if we’re shooting a reality show, install spyware on your computer, and tap your phones to record everything you say and do so our supercomputer doesn’t tell a drone to lob a 1,000 pound warhead through your living room window? Something tells me that’s not a viable plan, and even then, mistakes could easily be made by both humans and robots since our intra-cultural interactions are very complex and hard to interpret with certainty. And again, we already spy on people and still mistakes are made so it’s doubtful this technique would help, especially when we consider just how much data would come pouring in. Really, it all comes down to the fact that war is terrible and people get killed in armed conflicts. Mistakes can and will inevitably be made, robots or no robots, and asking that a nation looking to automate its mechanized infantry and air force keep on risking humans is like yelling into the wind. The only way civilians will be spared is if wars are prevented but preventing wars is a task at which we’ve been spectacularly failing for thousands of years…

When XKCD managed to outdo itself yet again with an article about what would happen if you tried to play a very simple game of baseball at relativistic velocities, I remembered about an interesting weapon from sci- fi novels, a relativistic impactor. Basically, it’s the same thing as a kinetic kill vehicle, or KKV, a weapon which would be a necessity for any combat operation in deep space due to the laws of physics, but traveling at a terrifying 99% of the speed of light. Not only would a mere 100 kilogram metal slug level an entire metropolis, it would do it in an instant. Fired from geosynchronous orbit, it would take less than 160 milliseconds to slam into the surface, faster than any alert about the incoming round can be received and understood by a human, even a very highly trained one. As soon as you know it’s coming, it already arrived, and as detailed by XKCD, it would actually trigger nuclear fusion as it compresses air molecules around it as it plows through the air. Add the output of that to its already immense kinetic energy and we’re talking about a genuine doomsday weapon, one that could strike at any time and kill tens of millions of people in an instant. Good thing that it’s not really a good option for any commander of a space armada and it couldn’t actually strike a planet even if it tried.

If you’ve read enough popular physics posts, you probably know what the first problem with relativistic KKVs is getting them up to speed. Going from zero to 663,910,830 miles per hour would take a lot of fuel. In fact, you’d need to burn through the equivalent of over 7.3 billion barrels of oil to make it happen, or if you’re a member of one extremely advanced species, the equivalent of 455 kilograms of antimatter. Now, this is not a completely insurmountable challenge if you’re ready to fire your RKV and wait for years until it gets to its target, just attach it to a mobile black hole reactor, or a slowly burning antimatter engine and let years of slow and steady acceleration do the job for you. Considering that any war requiring you to fire off relativistic KKVs using space stations would drag for years on end due to the sheer distances involved in space travel and hence the amount of time it takes to actually get to the battlefield, this may even be a decent way to deal a blow to enemy forces before you arrive. Think of it as an interplanetary or even interstellar ICBM with a warhead that’s a solid piece of something heavy and dense. But how are you going to guide it? How will you make that the tiniest of rounding error in your calculations magnified by trillions of miles causes it to miss the target?

But this may actually be a secondary concern since there’s no way your RKV will even reach the target without some sort of anti-friction force field. True, the interstellar medium is sparse, but flying through it at 0.99c is no easy task and ordinarily insignificant impacts with a stray particle here or there come very quick and add up to some very significant friction that can push the relativistic KKV off course. When it actually approaches a target in a solar system, friction with the much denser planetary medium would vaporize anything traveling over 0.1c so your KKV would be sandblasted away in an instant. It would be like firing a bullet only to watch it vanish into thin air with a bright flash, never hitting your opponent. If you’re perched somewhere in the Oort Cloud and set your sights on Earth, the relativistic round would vaporize around on the outer reaches of the Kupier Belt. You would need to open a wormhole between the space-time coordinate when your RKV would reach its intended velocity and the atmosphere of your target planet, but the physics of that are daunting, and the energy such a feat would require is more than enough to destroy a small solar system, making the payoff seem dinky by comparison. After all, if you can destroy a solar system in one blast, why even bother with an RKV?

All that said, however, there is a loophole. If instead of taking the relativistic impactor literally, we just say that any kinetic vehicle traveling at a distinguishable percentage of the speed of light fits the bill. This way, we can launch a much more controllable, manageable, and slower KKV at say, 0.05c. It will still be devastating when smashing into a target, generating over 2.1 gigatons of energy, but how relativistic it is will be open to debate, since even at 0.05c it can still be fairly accurately described using Newtonian laws of motion and the standard formula for calculating kinetic energy rather than the equations modified with a Lorenz factor to capture its relativistic properties. Regardless since it would be moving at 32.4 million miles per hour and arrive within 8 seconds or so after being fired from Earth’s geosynchronous orbit, it would still retain some element of surprise. Having a window of just 8 seconds from detection to impact doesn’t leave much time to do anything to counter it and by the time a laser intended to hit this pseudo-RKV can even be aimed, the target would be long-gone. Even if a special anti-RKV laser just so happened to be right in the middle of the target zone, aiming right at the kinetic round coming down from above, and was perfectly linked with a detector so it could fire in 300 milliseconds of detection, by the time the beam is intense enough to have a measurable effect on the KKV, it’s far too close to the target to be stopped. And when you have something this effective, do you really need a true RKV?

One rather popular theory among foreign relations pundits about American attitudes towards war is that we’re ready and willing to fight because more than 99% of us don’t have any skin in the game. Since the draft ended and the military became an all volunteer force, they continue, the burdens of conducting warfare switched to a small group of people who are increasingly growing detached from the rest of the country and are being used by chicken hawks as a threat to other nations. What’s the solution to the problem? To abandon the AVF and to reinstate the draft so more Americans share the burdens of war and have a real appreciation for what the military goes through every time their leaders vote in favor of combat. Surely, if millions of Americans went to fight in Iraq and went through the extremes of deployment and the angst of having a family member risking his or her life in a war zone, they would take a lot more time to think about military interventions and focus a lot more on the problems at home than on being the world’s policeman. Hey, all those draftees could go to work as well, updating infrastructure, doing research and participating in various swords to ploughshares projects, constantly reinvesting billions into the economic fabric of the U.S. But will anyone really want to try this idea?

First off, it’s important to point out that no one is saying that the AVF is doing a bad job because despite all the flaws you can find in any large bureaucracy, it proved itself to be highly resilient and extremely potent. The kind of long, drawn out, low intensity, precision, high-stakes wars with shadowy components it fights could only be fought by a small handful of other militaries though probably not as effectively. When political expediency said it should take a back seat in Libya, it couldn’t because it was the only military capable of supporting bombers, drones, and precision weapons needed for the mission. Decades of investment went into creating it and the long years of the Cold War enabled it to defend a long stretch of Europe and Asia, which is part of the reason why the U.S. spends more than all the countries in Europe and Southeast Asia combined. But all that buildup with few enemies to fight has turned it into a bludgeon to be used by lawmakers and activists with a very itchy trigger finger who know that the public at large won’t mind a war in which the only necessary support is vocal, usually made in the form of a magnet on the back of their car. Sure, the public wasn’t happy with the Iraq War, and it has deeply soured on Afghanistan because both became tedious and expensive quagmires. But, says a chorus of pundits, the war in Afghanistan could have ended much, much sooner, and the Iraq War may have never started if millions of Americans had some skin in the game and would have to go and fight.

While I can see their point, this seems like a case of Monday morning quarterbacking. We know today that the vague allusions to WMDs made by Saddam Hussein were a bluff, and while we knew fairly well that evidence for their existence was extremely shaky and came from questionable sources, the fury over the events of 9/11 was still very much in the air. Thousands were signing up for the AVF to fight as a result, and it’s likely that the people who would’ve supposedly stopped the war from starting would’ve reported to the local MEPS ready for basic training or officer school. A more pervasive argument might have been that much more attention would have been paid to the war effort and mismanagement would be met with far louder and swifter howls from all the families whose sons and daughters were drafted, a climate which would’ve pressured the administration to actually listen to sound advice and discredited Dick Cheney’s seething because so many would be quick to point out his deferments and his eagerness to advocate sending drafted soldiers into battle after dodging his call to do his duty. So perhaps the war wouldn’t have been stopped but it would’ve been ran better, with quick changes in strategy and heeding expert advice. Would the draft have been extremely unpopular? Yes. But this is the point. Wars aren’t supposed to be like a game you’d watch on TV. They’re serious business and they’re to be treated as such, and it’s unfair when those who refuse to fight wars, promote them.

So would reinstating the draft stop wars? Very unlikely. Will it be tough to institute? Absolutely. But at the same time, the diagnosis that the military is drifting away from the civilians and the AVF has been shouldering much of the burden for wars of whim and unfairly so, seems to make a lot of sense and has been echoed by Robert Gates when he was the Secretary of Defense during his speeches urging college students and graduates to consider military service. It’s understood that those who volunteer to do so make a choice and can endure the stress placed on them. But at the same time, it’s one thing to volunteer to defend one’s country and protect its allies and interests abroad, and end up fighting for a decade because the government feels free to send you to war and the public more or less tunes out the fact that you and your fellow soldiers are fighting wars started because they could be, with vague plans that don’t define when your mission is over, and largely ignored by a disturbing majority of the public you volunteered to protect. And maybe that public should contribute their time and effort to the defense of its own nation, seeing firsthand what war is, and thinking very carefully about what will happen when another one is declared and whether it’s really a good idea to fight that particular war…

Defense Secretary Robert Gates had plenty of good press lavished on him over the years, much of that press focused on his campaign against wasteful spending to prepare for wars that might never be fought. And when you take down multi-billion dollar projects typically described as absurdly over budget, totally unnecessary, or plagued with delays, it’s hard not to win some well-deserved praise for reigning in Pentagon’s excesses. But while cost-cutting might make you popular with many, there will be those who use that cost-cutting as ammo for a shot across the bow, as in the case of retired general Charlie Dunlap, who fired off a public missive that criticized Gates for everything from his personal income, to a lack of long-term vision, asserting that with an emphasis on cost-cutting and responding only to immediate military needs, the Pentagon could find itself unprepared for a potential threat from China. The former general, it seems, sees it as a sleeping dragon…

Judging by some media coverage, Dunlap isn’t the only one afraid of what could happen if China decided that it wants to flex its muscle in the Pacific. With articles alleging quantum communication breakthroughs slated for military purposes, rumors of a missile capable of taking out a U.S. naval carrier, and reports of many of South Asia’s militaries shelling out billions for high tech weapons as an insurance policy certainly seem to indicate that China is being recognized as not only a major world power, but a big player in the world’s military and economic stages, a superpower ascendant. And so you might see the logic espoused by Dunlap, that all the counterinsurgency operations being undertaken by the military are immensely important, but not at a cost that would leave the nation ill prepared for another conventional war at some point in the future. We should be keeping in mind that the Pentagon spent over half a century focused on the long term, fighting wars with guns and aircraft designed to be used primarily against the USSR and its proxies, and then anyone who decides to start a war, of course. Having a potentially militarily aggressive China on the horizon follows the old blueprints of getting ready for the wars of tomorrow today.

But is Dunlap right? Is China a potential USSR 2.0 and will the U.S. need to be ready for an attack? Well, while the China we know today has a long history with the USSR and Russia, it’s not a redux of the Soviet Union. It’s a very different nation and one that’s far more interested in keeping its economy revving than building empires for the sake of ideology. Militarily, it can, and certainly would, pose a major challenge to any country, but it also relies on foreign investment to keep its people fed, employed, and happy. Scare away the major corporations’ buyers, and all that economic growth might come screeching to a halt. Likewise, it’s surrounded by neighbors which aren’t too happy about letting it have its way around the Pacific, and which can call on the U.S. for help if they feel threatened, a nation which just happens to be a key trading partner, debtor, and customer. Why go to war with your biggest source of income rather than settle whatever the dispute may be and go back to making money? During the Cold War, the U.S. wasn’t tied at the hip with the USSR and so both nations could pursue grand plans for world wars and terrifying doctrines like M.A.D. This time around, things are different.

While China and America are highly interdependent, it’s more than likely that a display of saber-rattling will be just that, a show to remind the world that China is becoming a superpower, an economic, military and political force to be reckoned with. An actual war, or an outright attack on American commercial interests in Taiwan, or any other South Asian nation, might cost China more than just buying the resources it needs. It’s crucial for all countries to stay vigilant and be prepared to defend themselves and their allies, but we need to recognize that a world defined by commerce and intertwined by the internet, is a world in which conventional wars require a complex political calculus to plan and carry out, and our degree of vigilance could certainly vary when it comes to China, especially since its military spending is still behind that of the U.S…

Zombies are an immensely popular horror movie mainstay. Nay, they’re a horror movie institution, a genre all to themselves. They’re not complex characters but they really don’t have to be. Zombies are pure hunger in an eerily familiar yet hideously warped form. They don’t want world conquest or secret codes to bank vaults. They just want to feast on your innards before moving on to their next victim, driven only by bloodlust. So after entire decades of watching the undead in our popular culture, one would think that any story mentioning military and anything even remotely related to cheating death spells trouble just waiting to happen as the grusome zombie outbreaks engulf secret army labs and spread like a scourge across the planet in true horror movie style.

dead space

Scared yet? Well if you are, you’ll be happy to know that despite Danger Room’s post about Pentagon’s eerie research into “zombie pigs,” the project itself has nothing to do with the undead. Instead, DARPA is exploring different methods of suspended animation by trying to unlock our evolutionary potential for hibernation to save lives on the battlefield and give wounded soldiers extra time to get treatment…

[The] military’s mad-science arm DARPA has awarded $9.9 million to the Texas A&M Institute for Preclinical Studies (TIPS), to develop treatments that can extend a “golden period” when injured war fighters have the best chance of coming back from massive blood loss. […]

The institute’s research will be based on previous Darpa-funded efforts. One project, at Stanford University, hypothesized that humans could one day mimic the hibernation abilities of squirrels – who emerge from winter months no worse for wear – using a pancreatic enzyme that we have in common with the critters.

The other, led by Dr. Mark Roth at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, used nematode worms and rats to test how hydrogen sulfide could block the body’s ability to use oxygen – creating a kind of “suspended animation” where hearts stop beating and wounds don’t bleed. […] The next logical step: Try the same thing on pigs. They’ve got a similar cardiovascular system to humans, and TIPS researchers think they can accurately predict human results from the swine trials.

Here’s where we should note that at no point is the subject dead. Heartbeat, respiration and brain function are down to their minimum, but whoever has been put into suspended animation is still very much alive and while the body is hibernating, the effects of trauma and shock should be reduced just long enough to give a medical team more time to do whatever can be done to stabilize their patient. Sorry doomsday aficionados, but it looks like there won’t be a zombie apocalypse triggered by an out of control military experiment. At least not yet…

[ illustration from the video game Dead Space ]

forget the bio-weapons

April 30, 2009

While the world is worrying about a strain of H1N1 Influenza commonly referred to as swine flu, there’s been another small outbreak making its way across the web; an outbreak of conspiracy theories which say that the somewhat unusual set of mutations in this virus clearly indicate it was made in a lab. What’s more, it’s a test of a biological weapon that will be used to control the human population. I’ve written before about the fact that mutations of influenza viruses between birds, swine and humans are quite common and happened many times in history, including the infamous 1918 pandemic, but there’s another interesting fact to think about. A biological weapon is simply not an effective means of modern warfare and could actually do more harm to its creators than to a target population, contrary to what sci-fi movies and books might say on the subject.

biohazardAs far as bio-weapons go, swine flu isn’t exactly a good one. In an average year, over 36,000 people die from complications related to the flu. This strain of H1N1 is responsible for 160 deaths out of an estimated 2,500 infections. That makes for a mortality rate of just over 6% rather than a terrifying 50 to 75% we’d expect to see with a powerful bio-weapon attack. Ebola, probably the most feared disease on the planet today, has a mortality rate of up to 90% and can quickly and easily devastate a big community the same way we’d expect a bio-weapon to do. This is why members of the Japanese doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo tried to get their hands on a sample of this hemorrhagic fever in 1994 to use it for terrorist acts against their critics and enemies. A flu that can be treated with commonly existing medications, relatively easily avoided and far from widespread, simply wouldn’t work for a large scale military operation.

There’s also a big problem with developing a bio-weapon in a lab. While it can certainly be done, once you let the virus or bacterium out into the wild, there’s no telling how it would mutate and with what other organisms it could interact. It could very easily and quickly spin out of control, something you wouldn’t want a weapon to do. Thanks to global air travel, the weaponized disease could come back to haunt whoever tried to release it and cause deadly outbreaks in places where it shouldn’t. Biological weapons are just too difficult to control in the modern world. In the Dark Ages, invading armies could throw corpses of those dead from infectious diseases into enemy cities and wait for months, sometimes years, for infections to spread and kill enough people to pry open the city gates without resistance. Today, warfare simply doesn’t work this way and precise infections like this just aren’t possible. Bio-weapons will get out of the target area, spread and backfire.

Finally, there’s the question of why a New World Order would want to start a pandemic. We’re not prepared to deal with a pandemic and should some secret conspiracy trigger one, the fear, chaos and death would cause major economic and political repercussions that have no possible upside. It would be the equivalent of taking a gun, shooting yourself in both kneecaps and saying that this will further your goals because you have stock in the hospital and rehab center that will treat your injuries. It simply doesn’t make sense. So while it might be tempting to find villains and play along with media sensationalism, when we apply some science and logic to the idea of conspiracy theories involving pandemics and bio-weapons, we’ll see that they simply don’t work.

Humans are territorial creatures. The only reason why we seem to share outer space with each other is because we can’t put up border crossings and have them stay in the same place. But when we reach out to the Moon and to Mars, we’re going to have land that we can physically guard and patrol. Conflicts are imminent. The age of real space wars is slowly creeping up on us and when it arrives, few will be surprised. After all, we’re used to war and on our own home world, we’ve built vast, devastating arsenals. What going to be a real shocker though, is that many of our modern weapons will be obsolete in the vacuum of space and we’ll need to think of new and very different ways to kill each other.

spacecraft liftoff

Last year, when China and the U.S. shot down a pair of orbiting satellites in an international tit for tat saber rattling exercise, they had to use missiles with kinetic kill vehicles. That’s military speak for a missile that uses sheer momentum to destroy a target rather than high explosives in its warhead. On Earth, we can rely on explosive charges and the energy of their shockwaves to take out targets. But shockwaves rely on pressure to do their damage and without enough gases in space to move around, explosions are only as powerful as their initial burst. So when missiles with explosive charges hit a satellite, they can damage it but not necessarily bring it down. High speed impacts that transfer nothing but raw, kinetic energy and don’t need a hand from a pressure wave to do their job, are much more effective and guarantee that a good shot will obliterate your target.

When the first generation of space destroyers takes off, expect them to be armed with kinetic missiles and electromagnetic pulses rather than explosive warheads or lasers which tend to be the standard fare for warships in the sci-fi world. Even the mighty thermonuclear warheads of our nightmares would only be effective weapons on a surface of a celestial object. Ok, you may be asking yourself, nukes need pressure waves to propagate their energy but what’s what’s so bad about lasers? One word: diffusion. Lasers are concentrated beams of light and they tend to diffuse over very long distances. They would do a good job in guidance and targeting systems but a long rage laser beam would diffuse before imparting serious damage to its target.

Now, if there was a multi-petawatt beam that could slice into a spacecraft about six miles away, there might be real use for lasers on a cosmic battlefield. Particle and electromagnetic beams suffer from the same problem as lasers but for a different reason. The mutual repulsive force of the charged high energy particles that create the beam, would force it to keep expanding as it propagates. Like a laser, it would need either extremely high starting energies or a powerful magnetic field to counter the repulsive force for the nanoseconds the beam would take to get to its target and impart its charge. Whoever figures out a reliable technology for making lasers or particle beams effective would enjoy a major advantage on the battlefield. Both would need just an infinitesimal fraction of a second to reach the enemy and do their damage.

And all that brings us to the big question. What would the first space warships look like? Would they be the giant, imposing aircraft carrier style monsters we know and love? Well, not at first. When wars in space are fought so far away, they require a mobile base to coordinate an attack, repair damaged craft and house hundreds of pilots, then we’ll see immense space station-like ships which carry dozens of fighters that do much of the actual shooting and killing. The space stations would house the most powerful weapons intended for surface bombardment or taking out other stations and their defenders. The fighters themselves would be relatively large craft, something on the scale of a B2 bomber and either autonomous or remote controlled. Which is more practical or effective will depend on how good AI technology gets and the type of mission the fighter is supposed to execute. It might even be a hybrid, able to expand to accommodate human pilots and fight on its own. I’d use the term “pilot agnostic.”

It might seem depressing to think about how human conflicts will expand into space and we’ll be committing countless billions of dollars to creating space faring tools of malice. Space was supposed to be a place where humans go to avoid war and exploring other worlds, idealized by many to be the glue that will bring humanity together into a single collective. But the reality of the situation is that there will always be someone with too much power and appetite for war and destruction setting up military bases anywhere they could be set up and no regulation, no nice document singed by diplomats as a novelty or a serious pledge with an enforcing body to back it up, will stop this person. As long as we have nations, nationalism and people who’s primary concern in life is to determine what’s theirs and what should be theirs, we will always have the threat of war looming over our heads.

Space is the final frontier in many ways. It’s the place to put our science to the test and discover things we’ve never dreamed of. It’s the place to start anew. It’s the place which can satisfy our urge to explore and keep exploring. But it’s also a place where we’ll have new disputes and new problems that will often descend into violent conflict. We should be ready.

[ illustration by Roy McLeish ]