Friday, July 15, 2016

Balloon Inspection -- A-OK!

Yesterday took my balloon for inspection in Albany, OR with my buddy Ben Wilson, who is a member of the Pacific Spaceflight team. The balloon is in good shape; fuel tanks, burners, basket and other systems were also given the A-OK by Alan Sanderson of Lindan Hot Air Balloons. We're one step closer to flight, and that is very close, now!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Plumose Anemone Dive 2016!

Went diving in Puget Sound, gliding downwards over rolling mud hills of the sea floor with the sensation of coasting down for a moon landing in a lunar module!

I also spent some time in shallower waters, in the sketch below taking time to examine a giant plumose anemone.

Not the greatest scans, but I don't have time to mske better scans at the moment.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

"any legitimate analogy"

A richly-written speculation on extraterrestrial life from Richard Owen's 1849 biology text “On the Nature of Limbs” is found below; if he were talking of life in Earth he would be mentioning the phenomenon of convergent evolution, but in the case of non-Earth life we would be talking about a special case of parallel evolution, special because even in Earth life, parallel evolution ins among life that is somewhat related simply by the fact that all Earth life appears to have a common ancestor. Anyway, fascinating to note that today, SETI research is well-underway and the broader field of astrobiology is a well-funded and central field of many space research organizations, including NASA and the European Space Agency.

“The naturalist and anatomist, in digesting the knowledge which the astronomer has been able to furnish regarding [star and sunlight on other planets] can hardly avoid speculating on [the evolution of the light-sensitive organs such as eyes on other planets]...

[for example]...the laws of light, as of gravitation, being the same in Jupiter as here, the eyes of such creatures as may disport in the soft reflected beams of its moons will probably be organized on the same dioptric principles as those of the animals of a like grade of organization on this earth. And the inference as to the possibility of the vertebrate type being the basis of the organization of some of the inhabitants of other planets will not appear so hazardous, when it is remembered that the orbits or protective cavities of the eyes of the Vertebrata of this planet are constructed of modified vertebræ. Our thoughts are free to soar as far as any legitimate analogy may seen to guide them rightly in the boundless ocean of unknown truth.

And if censure be merited for here indulging, even for a moment, in pure speculation, it may, perhaps, be disarmed by the reflection that the discovery of the vertebrate archetype could not fail to suggest to the Anatomist many possible modifications of it beyond those that we know to have been realized in this little orb of ours.

The inspired Writer, the Poet and the Artist alone have been privileged to depict such.”

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Genetics of Interstellar Migration -- From Science Fiction to Science Fact (as always)

From 2012-2013 I researched and wrote a paper on the genetics of multigenerational human voyaging in interstellar space. The article was published in the International Academy of Astronautics' journal, Acta Astronautica. It is a reference paper for 'worldship' planners, including those at Icarus Interstellar, the Initiative for Interstellar Studies, the Tau Zero Foundation and others. I can't give the paper away, due to copyright issues, but most libraries can get it in one way or another. The highlights and abstract are below; and this is a link to the page where the article will eventually be available on my academia site.

It is quite amazing how, since the first DARPA/NASA interstellar voyaging conference was held (I was happy to be invited to the second conference, in Houston), awareness of exoplanets and the 'interstellar realm' in general have come in science and in the public imagination. I'm thrilled to be contributing in this research field, updating important estimates generated over a generation ago and with quite different overall paradigms regarding ''humans-in-space'', some of which I tackle in my popular-science title, "Emigrating Beyond Earth".

Smith, C.M. 2014. Estimation of a genetically viable population for multigenerational interstellar voyaging: Review and data for project Hyperion. Acta Astronautica Volume 97, April–May 2014, Pages 16–29.

Highlights • I review the literature on human populations for multigenerational interstellar travel. • I find previous estimates might be possible but are risky over multiple generations. • I suggest space voyaging populations on the order of 20,000–40,000. • Other figures can be proposed providing they are safe through multiple generations.


Designing interstellar starships for human migration to exoplanets requires establishing the starship population, which factors into many variables including closed-ecosystem design, architecture, mass and propulsion. I review the central issues of population genetics (effects of mutation, migration, selection and drift) for human populations on such voyages, specifically referencing a roughly 5-generation (c. 150-year) voyage currently in the realm of thought among Icarus Interstellar's Project Hyperion research group. I present several formulae as well as concrete numbers that can be used to help determine populations that could survive such journeys in good health. I find that previously proposed such populations, on the order of a few hundred individuals, are significantly too low to consider based on current understanding of vertebrate (including human) genetics and population dynamics. Population genetics theory, calculations and computer modeling determine that a properly screened and age- and sex-structured total founding population (Nc) of anywhere from roughly 14,000 to 44,000 people would be sufficient to survive such journeys in good health. A safe and well-considered Nc figure is 40,000, an Interstellar Migrant Population (IMP) composed of an Effective Population [Ne] of 23,400 reproductive males and females, the rest being pre- or post-reproductive individuals. This number would maintain good health over five generations despite (a) increased inbreeding resulting from a relatively small human population, (b) depressed genetic diversity due to the founder effect, (c) demographic change through time and (d) expectation of at least one severe population catastrophe over the 5-generation voyage.


Multigenerational space travel; Space genetics; Space colonization; Space settlement

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Special Visitors!

I was lucky to have my Mom and Dad come by recently, they looked over the balloon system I'm building and I hope were convinced of some of its safety features! Happy Father's Day, Dad!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Long Term Space Settlement

From a recent NASA report:

The recommendations set forth in the 2011 National Academy of Sciences Report, Recapturing a Future for Space Exploration: Life and Physical Sciences Research for a New Era call for reproductive and developmental biology research within and across generations. The workshop participants uniformly agreed that, prior to embarking on multigenerational studies, individual ‘milestones’ should be met for distinctive reproductive and developmental phases to ensure success across these life stages. As depicted in the ‘Roadmap to Multigenerational Studies’ an intermediary achievement will be a full mammalian life cycle in space, involving successful mating, pregnancy, birth, lactation, suckling, weaning, and postnatal development to adulthood. Work needs to be accomplished, starting now, in each of these areas, especially to close knowledge gaps presented on page 23 of this report. In addition to ground-based efforts, important project milestones could be achieved through a sequence of three validation flights that will also address the specific goals of: (1) Breeding, (2) Birth through Weaning, and (3) Multiple Generations. Multigenerational success is a repeating cycle of necessary milestones. The capstone of these efforts will be the first breeding, birth and development of purely spacegrown mammals opening the door to unique opportunities to investigate the role and influence of gravity on a complex organism, the rodent.

I'm using these excellent guidelines in addressing these structuring stages for long-term space settlement planners, but also adding the important cultural elements of development missing from most space biology studies (at present, that is understandable). This approach will introduce space planners to the world of biocultural evolution, as investigated by the academic field of anthropology. Diagram below is a draft for my book in production, "Principles of Space Anthropology".

Monday, June 13, 2016


My younger brother's abstract paintings are on display this month in Biarritz, France. Exciting and interesting works!