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Riled Up is a journal of science, the environment, exploration, new technology, and related commentary.  Contributors include scientists, explorers, engineers, and others who provide perspectives and context not typically offered in general news circulation.  For interested readers, additional resources are included.

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Hugh Bollinger
/ Categories: Uncategorized

Department of mad scientists

Along with the writers Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein, Issac Asimov was one of the masters of 20th Century science fiction. Asimov's stories-- first published in magazine form --now include SciFi classics such as Nightfall and I-Robot. However, his masterpiece was a series called The Foundation Trilogy first published in book form in 1951. As a 15 year old guy who was interested in all things science, reading these books was like eating candy. I couldn't stop. [caption id="attachment_4723" align="alignleft" width="168" caption="The Foundation by Issac Asimov source: Gnome Press"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_4724" align="alignright" width="300" caption="The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov source:"][/caption] In the Foundation, Asimov envisioned an ancient galactic empire that was ready to decay into chaos. His protagonist-- Hari Seldon --foresaw a 1000 years of collapse that couldn't be prevented so Seldon created two "foundations" that would hold all human knowledge. The guardians of the foundations would re-emerge after this dark age and restore the wisdom. Science fiction has had a long history of predicting futures and technological advances that eventually come to pass. It may now be happening again with an announcement from DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. DARPA is most widely known for its development-- along with the National Science Foundation --of what we now call the internet and the world wide web. In its new 100 year planning initiative-- not unlike in the Foundation --DARPA is developing plans to enable human travel to the stars. The agency is enlisting the brainpower of science fiction writers and scientific researchers in a call for ideas covering innovations from the necessary faster than light travel to life-sustaining technologies. It is also asking ethical questions about who should get chosen for the starship and what happens if alien life forms are discovered at the end of the long journey. DARPA's 100 Year Starship Study has just been launched with its first symposium to be held in Florida in September. [caption id="attachment_4730" align="aligncenter" width="575" caption="Future spaceflight concepts credit: DARPA"][/caption] DARPA is sometimes called the department of mad scientists but this is one project that I hope fulfills some of the visionary ideas set out all those years ago in Isaac Asimov's writings. WHB
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