Flying, frying, trying in space.
Flying In Space
So it turns out the Gene Roddenberry and Majel Barrett Roddenberry, or rather their cremated remains, will be rocket-launched into space next year, via Celestis Inc, a company that specialises in “memorial spaceflights”. Gene, was of course, the creator of Star Trek, and his complex and beautiful relationship with Majel was explored deeply in a book written during the final years of his life by Yvonne Fern, ‘Gene Roddenberry: The Last Conversation’. In this book, Yvonne, a former nun steeped in religious knowledge but not bound by it, and Gene explored the meaning of life during his last years, intensely discussing, debating and provoking, trying to push each other through to some new understanding. It’s an enchanting and at times enlightening read, even for non-Trekkies like myself, with quite a few weird provocations floating about near the end. And now, appropriately, Gene and Majel are floating in space, forever heading further away from earth.
Back on the watery blue ball, it’d seem we are frying in space. At the time of writing Melbourne is going through a heatwave, which means a week of temperatures above 40 degrees celsius. In that same week, blue ball studiers, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, announced the results of a study : whatever increases in CO2 that occur from 2000 to 2100 are set to “lock in” a sea level rise over the next 1,000 years. ( Going back a step : Before the industrial age CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere amounted to only 280 parts per million, and thanks to our use of fossil fuels in that last little mechanical flurry, we currently have 385 parts per million.) The scientists argued that even when we manage to stabilise the quantity of C02, whatever the rate, this will still mean that changes in surface temperature, rainfall and sea level are “largely irreversible for more than 1,000 years after CO2 emissions are completely stopped.” In other words, the longer we take to stabilise, the worse the effects that will be suffered over the next millenium.
The Long Now Foundation was established in 01996 to develop the Millennium Clock & Library Projects and promote long term thinking, and yes that’s a 5 digit number to represent the year, because they’re already thinking about the next equivalent of the millenium bug ( Remember that monster?). They do actually have a few interesting projects up their sleeves though, most notably plans to build a monument scale, multi-millenial all mechanical clock, which would move and make a noise every year, every decade, every hundred years and every thousand years. Californian computer scientist Danny Hillis was behind that idea, and to date they’ve built a prototype which is now at the Science museum in London, and are investigating a Nevada desert property as the location for the public 10,000 year clock.
Despite belief in the permanence of digital storage, it is actually very difficult and complex to securely store information digitally for use in the distant future ( as so many truckloads of obsolete disks, hard drives and computers testify ). To counter this, the Long Now are pursuing the idea of a 10,000 year library:
“In a sense every library is part of the 10,000-year Library, so Long Now is developing tools (such as the Rosetta Disk, The Long Viewer the Long Server) that may provide inspiration and utility to the whole community of librarians and archivists.”
Also inspired by the long term, they’ve started The Rosetta Project, a global collaboration of language specialists and native speakers building a publicly accessible online archive of ALL documented human languages. Their site currently hosts the largest collection of linguistic data on the Net, featuring over 2,376 different languages.