Daily Archives: October 22nd, 2008

A World Moving Notion

Being a rookie science-fiction writer, and a long time reader of sciences in various disciplines, I have come across some goofy things from mainstream science types.

The concept of moving planets isn’t new to me. In fact I’m using that as a plot device in some of my short stories I post here occasionally.

And some of my favorite stories are about planets being moved. ‘Moving Mars’ by Greg Bear and ‘World Out Of Time’ by Larry Niven are a couple.

So it was without some trepidation I came across a recent article in New Scientist about moving the Earth into a wider orbit.

In about 1.1 billion years:

…in 1.1 billion years, the Sun will grow 11% brighter, raising average terrestrial temperatures to around 50 °C (120 °F). That will warm the oceans so much that they evaporate without boiling, like a pan of water left on a sunny kitchen counter.

Plants and animals will have a very tough time adapting to that hothouse, although some single-celled organisms called Archaea might survive. But only for a while. Once the water vapour is in the atmosphere, ultraviolet light from the Sun will split the water molecules, and the hydrogen needed to build living cells will slowly leak into space. If our descendants – or other intelligent life-forms that follow us – want to survive, they’ll have to migrate elsewhere. But where and how?

One approach would be to fire up rockets and move to another planet. Back in 1930, British science-fiction author Olaf Stapledon wrote about a future where our descendants fled to Venus, and later Neptune, when the Earth became uninhabitable. Eminent scientists such as Stephen Hawking have endorsed the idea of establishing colonies on the Moon or other planets so humanity would survive any disaster that wiped out life on Earth.

Yet evacuating all 6.7 billion Earthlings would take the equivalent of a billion space shuttle launches. Even if we could launch 1000 shuttles a day, it would still take 2700 years to move the whole planet’s population.

Then there’s the matter of taking care of people once they reached their new home. Moving to any other planet would require “terraforming” it to provide food, water and oxygen to support colonists. Why not bring our own planet along with the resources we would need?

Like I mentioned, moving planets isn’t hard for me to comprehend.

It’s the “In 1.1 billion years…” part that gives me pause.

For one thing, does Mr. Hecht believe that mankind will still be here, let alone be here virtually unchanged that many years into the future?

I believe as a thought exercise, the concept in the mainstream is worth contemplating. God knows these people need a boot in the arse of their imaginations more often than they do.

But moving Earth as they suggest, i.e., bringing in orbitting asteroids within 10,000 miles of the planet isn’t exactly too smart in my estimation. Although the solar sail concept sounds promising. But I would be leery of it floating off station into the much needed light and warmth!

Unplanned Ice Age anyone?

In closing however, I think whatever beings we become, or are at that time in the future, we should be able to save the mother world and move it to a safe location if we choose.

If there are no sentient beings here at that time, I guess it wouldn’t matter.

Nature will take its course.

The sad thing would be if other sapient beings evolve in that far future time only to discover their world will end in fire and flame before the Universe ever gets to hear their song.

Is there justice for them?

Moving the Earth: a planetary survival guide