Exporting Earth


Throughout our history we have brought pieces of the unknown into our home as a reminder of what we experienced. Our future, however, will require us to bring
pieces of our home out into the unknown with us. So today we will be continuing our look at
Interstellar Colonization and Generation Ships with a look at how you go about moving whole
ecosystems to be transplanted to alien worlds. The first and most key thing to understand
is that this inevitably requires a certain amount of compression and loss, a lot like
compressing an image by zipping it. Short of moving an entire planet, which is
actually possible, to another system with a planet perfectly matching Earth, which is
also possible, you will never end up with an exact copy of an ecosystem. After all, such a place is not just the flora
and fauna in it, it’s the terrain inside it too, the microorganisms there, and it’s
interactions at the edges with its neighboring ecosystems. Even minor changes in terrain, weather, and
sunlight can change the dynamics of an ecosystem, as can changes to its neighbors, and of course
it is worth remembering that these changes are always going on naturally. There are no perfectly balanced ecosystems;
they are dynamic, evolving, and ever-changing. So our threshold of ‘good enough’ is actually
how nature rolls anyway. This would vary with the folks making that
decision, but recreating Earth in minute detail isn’t really the goal of interstellar colonization. We want similarities, but not perfect copies
complete with the same mountains and rivers – that would be boring. As we look at this today though, we are going
to be shooting for the most complete ecosystem we can get, even though odds are many colonies
would opt not to go that route. We’re showing it can be done rather completely,
not that you necessarily would. We should also note that there is no such
thing as a closed ecosystem, even our entire planet, if thought of as such, still relies
on the Sun and Moon in major ways, for light, warmth, tides, and so on. Even our biosphere is just a thin skin along
the surface, with constant interaction not just above to the heavens, but also down deep,
as we exchange a lot of material with our planet’s crust and mantle. There are external inputs, so a smaller ecosystem
engineered to be fairly stable shouldn’t be thought of as not being closed just because
it might need the occasional infusion of new DNA. After all, it needs light and energy from
outside too. A complete ecosystem need not take up a lot
of space either. And I don’t mean because DNA is so small
you could fit copies of every species on the planet in the palm of your hand, or even digitally
store them. For most of our planet’s history there’s
been life, but just single-celled life or very basic multicellular types. These tend not to be too dependent on each
other, and you can fit millions of members of millions of species in such a volume. Indeed you already have complete ecosystems
in the palm of your hand, or at least under your fingernails, and scientists found something
like 1500 new species just by examining our belly buttons, and several dozen on Mir and
the ISS. You have more unique species in your body
than there are species of birds and beasts, and for most of our planet’s history you
could have gotten a solid and representative sample of our planet’s ecology by just filling
a modest box with petri dishes scraped from random spots in, down, and around our oceans. The other thing of course is that we can up
that diversity for a colony immensely by storing samples, both of entire species we don’t
need yet, and members of that species left back on Earth. You’d have problems finding room on a ship
for 2000 elephants to provide a stable genetic pool. But you don’t need to. You can just transplant a fertilized embryo
from an unrelated elephant into its future mother. However – and this will be important for our
next episode too – for some species you still need a viable population for social purposes. Humans are not the only species that pass
behavior on that is learned, not instinctive. For some species those behaviors might be
re-learned with a few generations with zoologists directly involved, but for others it might
not be plausible at all. Indeed for humans, or modern human civilization
anyway, it might be that your minimum size for that social continuity is actually much
larger than that needed to avoid genetic bottlenecking, or making the gene pool so shallow that the
only option is inbreeding – with disastrous consequences. On top of that though, you’d have some species,
like the prairie dog, that not only creates its’ own living area, but changes the entire
ecology and provides living area, food, and habitation for many species that couldn’t
survive without it. In ecology this is a keystone species for
an ecosystem, and you probably need to have it even though it might not need much social
continuity. They might not need many members, but some
other species that needs social continuity and eats them might require you to have a
lot of them. So this is one approach: you figure out which
species need that social continuity and the minimum population they need for this, and
you build your colony ship habitats with that in mind. Whichever of those needs the most space for
a viable ecosystem represents your ship size. As we discussed last time in Exodus Fleet,
a colony expedition to a new solar system is likely to be a colonial fleet, not a lone
colony ship. So if you find out that Elephants need 10,000
square kilometers for a complete elephant pack, that’s your minimum ship size; other
ships can be smaller or more likely just contain several ecosystems, overlapping or segregated
off. Such a ship, as a classic rotating habitat,
might be 20 kilometers across and 150 kilometers long. That is a pretty big ship, and far more than
most will need, so we’d like to shrink that and we’ll discuss some approaches in a moment. A couple of notes, however: that may be a
big ship, but it is buildable, and on century long missions it is nice to have lots of elbow
room for your human population. As we discussed last time, the size of these
ships isn’t actually our bottleneck on colonization. Even for ships this big, there is more than
enough raw material in our solar system to construct whole fleets of such vessels to
send off to every star near enough to us that we’d want to colonize them directly without
even putting a scratch in our Solar System’s resources. We will also see how this sort of path pushes
you more toward the Gardener Ship variation of the Generation ship we’ve discussed before,
that stops at planets temporarily to restock raw materials and sets up a colony, then moves
on, rather than staying there forever, as it would seem to make more sense to have your
Pachyderm ship move on to the next planet to colonize, rather than re-task or scrap
it. Ultimately, though, smaller is better when
you can do it, so how do we go smaller? We have several approaches. One of those is the pygmy route which involves
breeding up some smaller elephants with the same brain and behavior, then reverse the
process on arrival, speeding it up by using implanted embryos on the larger side of what’s
safe for each successive pack to rear. You might need to go rather slow with something
like elephants of course since size is a pretty big part of their social dynamic along with
age, and they live a long time. If the bigger and older elephants are having
to deal with younger ones who are already much bigger than them, it might screw up the
social dynamics and render the entire process pointless. A human can raise an elephant after all, or
a pack of them, the idea is that we can’t do it as well. That’s our second approach by the way, using
humans or robots or virtual reality to cut down on needed space or resources. This part of the “Stow and Grow” approach
we see with seed ships or data ships, you pack everything tight as essentially data,
DNA or Digital, and grow it on arrival. Taken far enough, you don’t even need any
elephants alive for the trip, you just clone them on arrival and let them get raised by
an artificial intelligence, either in a virtual reality or in an elephant-mimicking robot. We talk about uploading human minds a lot
on this channel, and there’s no reason you couldn’t upload an elephant mind either. For that matter, while a zoologist can raise
an elephant and not do as good a job as an elephant, presumably, one can also presumably
get better at that with more technology and research into such methods and the social
structure of the species in question. Don’t take that as easy though. Your animal-mimicking robots have to be very
good, and we’d have to design an equivalent of the Turing Test for every single species
we needed to do this with, many would be simpler than tricking a human with an android, but
would still need to incorporate everything from behavior to appearance and smell. In theory, we could establish entire ecosystems
in a digital substrate for the duration of a voyage with Dumbo and all his friends blissfully
unaware that they are in a simulation. One morning, they wake up a little dazed and
groggy on the real terraformed alien world or space habitat at the destination, completely
unaware that they have just woken up from being vat-grown and their digital minds downloaded
into the flesh and blood brains. Done right, they get up and go on their merry
way, doing whatever elephants do, in the same way that they did yesterday when they were
digital simulations. If you want to skip all those routes, you
can just supplement the diet of those elephants. A pack needs thousands of square kilometers
of land because they need to eat, and tend to inhabit places that are a lot less effective
at producing food than a high-tech farm. A typical African Elephant eats about 70,000
calories a day, but they’re pretty flexible about where that comes from, unlike something
like a panda, so you can compress their natural habitat quite a bit by growing food elsewhere
in dense and efficient hydroponics and having robots drag it in, or have them simply apply
a lot of farmer techniques to enhance biomass production inside that habitat. If you know what you’re doing, to avoid
screwing with their behavior or health while supplementing their diet, you can get away
with a much smaller habitat. We’re focusing on Elephants because they
are probably the most space demanding. The general consensus of zoologists I’ve
seen is that while the minimum for health is a about a hectare, a few dozen productive
hectares a piece is probably the goal for elephant packs, though more is always better. We will say 50 hectares a piece and a pack
of 50 elephants, or 2500 hectares or 25 square kilometers. That’s probably overkill, but the less dense
they are, the easier it is to include other species there to share in the environment. That would be a rotating habitat 2 kilometers
in diameter and 4 long, more in keeping with the ship sizes we’ve discussed before for
generation ships. Now you need nothing like this for most species,
even most animals. There’s around 5000 mammal species and most
are a lot smaller than people, let alone elephants. Most of those do not really need the continuity
of society to do okay either, and even of those, most could be guided up by zoologists. They might be a bit weird for a few generations
then return to normal, or a new normal, keep in mind, an elephant growing up under an alien
sky or one growing up in a cylinder habitat where the sky is more pasture, is not going
to be quite identical in behavior. That’s not necessarily a bad thing either,
the elephants in India are not the same as the ones in Africa, in behavior or genetics,
so they need not be the same around Alpha Centauri either. When you’re building these ships, you are
aiming for the smallest size you can, based on your knowledge and technology and the species
in question, and the biggest you can depending on your budget and desire, and will settle
for a happy medium. You are not building a zoo and you are not
building a natural habitat, you’re building a colony fleet to make a colony, you can worry
about replicating things like back home and maximizing the welfare of those critters once
you get there, the passengers are not meant to be a complete and final system. Now on something like a Gardener Ship or Gardener
fleet, you do need that, because you might be doing it for millions of years; but then
that’s another reason I suspect that will be the preferred approach to colonizing other
solar systems. If you have a bunch of people tasked to make
new worlds, trained to care about that as their main purpose in life and to tend to
their fellow non-human passengers, and with those passengers living in their literal backyard,
you are going to have a rough time with crew morale if they feel like their charges are
being neglected or abused. I don’t think we want to discourage them
in that either, or teach them to be callous or distant. We are, after all, principally focused on
seeding human civilizations around the galaxy and we’d probably prefer that to not be
done by heartless jerks. Now we picked elephants because they are huge,
space demanding even for their size, and very social. While they are probably the most demanding
for land species, they aren’t the only challenge we face. We have smaller apex predators that need a
lot of land to support herds of the critters they eat, for instance, and it might be rather
bizarre to have herds of robot antelope with lab grown meat on them running around. You can still compress that space though by
enhancing the food source for those herbivores and letting the predators more often find
random vat-grown carcasses to scavenge. It summons an image of the Park from Westworld
to mind, but with the robots being animals rather than people, and with a lot of zoologists
wandering around. We always think of the crews of spaceships
having a lot of engineers and physical scientists; but colony ships probably would have way more
biologists, botanists, and zoologists. But of course you’d need marine biologists
too, because we have a lot of oceanic life, and some of those are pretty big and complex. A shark is a pretty simple critter, they are
mostly instinctual, and they don’t raise their young. However, a few types are actually very social
– with each other anyway – to everything else in nature they really are giant killing machines,
and we probably could skip them on a ship entirely in favor of growing them at the destination
from frozen stock. Needless to say, whales and dolphins are also
very social and do need that social continuity and a lot of space. Or rather water. Water is heavy too. It may not be as heavy as dirt, which tends
to be about twice as dense, but it’s a thousand times denser than air. As we discussed in the Ocean Planets and Water
Worlds episode, most life in the oceans is pretty close to the surface and the various
pelagic zones, areas broken up by depth and sunlight, don’t have all that much crossover
especially with the very deep parts of the Bathypelagic or Abyssopelagic. Except for nutrients of course, those lower
depths are just as dependent on organic material falling from the upper regions, marine snow,
as those regions are on sunlight falling on them. The marine snow that feeds the deeper zones
can be replicated by just dumping organic material from hydroponic facilities into such
environments. But some critters do cross zones a lot and
whales for instance are a good example of that. Cuvier’s beaked whale can dive 3 kilometers,
near the bottom of the bathypelagic. That is a lot of water, and a lot of depth
too, which is very rough on rotating habitat hulls. We have a couple of advantages though. First, you do control the gravity in a habitat. It varies linearly with distance from the
center, and half way from the middle the gravity is half what it is at the edge. We can also spin it slower or faster and the
shape of the rotating habitat is not restricted to cylinders. Second, we don’t know how dependent any
species is on gravity, less might be fine, and those living in an aquatic environment
in particular might not need much gravity, so you could possibly get away with very low
spin rates and gravity on them. Third, those zones getting increasingly lower
in biomass density as you go deeper and all the light goes away as the pressure rises
too. The entire Bathypelagic Zone, everything below
a kilometer of depth, is essentially a scavenger zone, and even the Mesopelagic, everything
under 200 meters, is pretty sparse compared to the Epipelagic surface layer. This would seem to indicate that you mostly
don’t need to replicate anything much more than 200 meters in radius for that habitat,
but you can do your lighting differently, lighting lower depths to make the epipelagic
in spots, and leaving other spots unlit to handle the life from the lower pelagic zones. We’ve discussed these before as vertical
reefs and will look at them more in Colonizing the Oceans next month. One upside is that while dolphins and whales
are probably as space intensive as elephants, they also do well with humans, so we can get
away with smaller groups that marine zoologists help along. They are a problem though, and water is a
problem on spaceships – it sloshes about in response to changes in acceleration and spin
gravity. That’s fun in your bathtub, but a Tsunami
in an O’Neil cylinder is somewhat more terrifying. While you are cruising through space with
your cylinders rotating, all is well enough. But if you are accelerating or decelerating
up or down from your cruising speed, all your water wants to go spilling toward your ship’s
drive. Now, this isn’t too big a problem if you
are accelerating slowly. If your maximum ship speed is about 10% of
light speed – probably about the best you can get from fusion – then at 1-g of acceleration
you will only need about a month to hit that speed, and if your destination is 10 light
years away, that will be a journey of 100 years with a month of acceleration and deceleration
on each end – no big deal. If you wanted to do that though, you have
to wait until you’re up to cruising speed to setup all your habitats and deal with some
problems during switchover, as you throttle down the drive and spin up the drum. You’ve got to do it again at the other end. And you have to do all your setup with your
crew. Which admittedly gives them something to do
during an otherwise boring mission. But more realistically, you will want to start
that habitat long before your colonists even board the ship, probably spending decades
in a shipyard essentially being terraformed alongside fleets of sister ships bound for
that system or others. And you’ll want to keep that ship when you
arrive too. Terraforming planets isn’t a fast process,
and it’s very destructive, so you want to live in your ship in orbit during the early
violent phases. All of this means you want a slow acceleration
while the habitat drum is spinning, you might even make it ever-so-slightly conical, rather
than cylindrical, so that the net gravity will be perpendicular to the floor. Ideally a semi-flexible floor that can be
released when the drive shuts off so it returns to a cylinder shape. In a spinning cone, gravity is zero at the
tip and highest at the base, and by using a conic section, one just a little narrower
at the back near the drive, you can eliminate some of the material migration. When the drive is off, if it can’t expand
back to that cylinder shape, you just have slightly lower gravity in those areas, and
not a lot. If you were doing 10% of a gee for your thrust,
you’d take a year to get up to 10% of light speed, and a year down, a pretty small time
delay for a century-long voyage. That would still be quite a pain, but maybe
preferable to the delay of a mere hundredth of a gee, which could practically be ignored,
but would add a decade to both the start and end of your journey. I suspect this would be the upper and lower
bounds of how fast you’d accelerate a colony ship though. Faster is hugely problematic for little gain,
you’re shaving off months not years to your total voyage time, slower is just rather pointless,
you’d need fairly good measuring equipment to even notice that gravity wasn’t quite
pointed straight down. Just as a reminder, Earth spins too, and the
centrifugal force we experience from that is not straight up anywhere but the equator,
so don’t think net gravity being pointed slightly off center from spin is the kind
of thing where even small quantities can cause problems. Your concern is so much of it that you get
tidal waves and landslides inside your habitat drum toward the back, and you can get around
that even for fairly high acceleration rates by sectioning the drum up with retaining walls. You might want to do stuff like that anyway,
gently sloping tiered walls which can blast open and slam a bulkhead across the whole
cylinder, since a puncture could otherwise wreck a whole habitat section. I’d actually bet though that most of these
would have lots of sealed off sections for individual smaller ecosystems. Ones you could wholesale remove as wedges
at your destination. The image of a generation ship as a single
vast cylinder you can look across doesn’t work too well, to avoid loose material and
water slamming around under any acceleration, you want a lot of compartmentalization, which
has other advantages too. You would like conceal your compartments as
hills and ravines to make it look like a single big landscape, but it would be compartmentalized. This isn’t a very big problem though. Even for species like elephants or whales,
that need a lot of space, or migrating birds, it wouldn’t be that hard to have passages
in between compartments they could use, just stick a little tracker in each critter that
opens the airlock when they’re near and a shutdown override you can trigger if that
compartment is sealed off temporarily. Adds a lot of safety features and makes it
easier to gather them somewhere when you need to. Odds are pretty good any critters you can’t
grow easily will have such trackers in them anyway, since those are your size bottleneck
so you can help keep the space they need minimal by monitoring them closely for problems. This is fundamentally an artificial environment,
you are not letting nature takes it course, and if you need to knock out a lion before
it kills one of the members of your keystone species for that habitat section, it helps
to be able to have trackers on them all. Ditto, if you have an otherwise valuable member
of that species who has a chronic illness and needs medication every day snuck into
its food or injected by a robot mosquito. This is all a lot of work obviously and is
one of the reasons why I can’t imagine anyone would get bored on these trips. You can decrease it by better technology,
better understanding of biology and ecology, or by just making your ships bigger, thus
allowing more of those critters and more people to tend to them. It’s not even possible to be more than vaguely
in the right general area for how big the ships need to be and how many you need, at
this time, and I would expect one of the jobs in the future will be whole universities worth
of scientists spending generations trying to fine-tune everything against various benchmarks
for size, cost, mission goals, acceptable drift in ecosystem or critter behavior, and
so on. Many critters are easy, but many are very
hard, and may require huge numbers of experts to study all these species first and then
to properly model a viable stable habitat for them. Again something like migratory patterns can
depend on everything from magnetic fields and day length by season to wind and water
flow. Even fire, we have species that propagate
seeds that way, and if you needed them during the trip, you’d have to torch part of your
habitat drum periodically. This may turn out to be complex enough that
the “Stow and Grow” approach of seed and data ships ends up being technically easier. We skipped a lot of the other challenges too. Gravity and air pressure vary a lot with height
inside rotating habitats, you could have problems with birds and insects and deep sea life that
way. Feeding deep sea life is hard too, as Plankton,
the basis of many marine food chains, is surprisingly tricky to manage for such a simple type of
organism. Ships may have many compartmentalized and
separate ecosystems but are likely to specialize in certain climates. You’ll need swamps and deserts, lakes and
oceans, forests, steamy jungles and frozen tundra of every conceivable kind in between,
and you’ll want to keep them grouped together to share assets and expertise as much as you
can, and to replicate the native environment as close as you can. Even a lot of microbes are touchy about that
and don’t grow well in captivity, something we didn’t even notice till relatively recently. The more we know, the smaller we can go, but
at the same time we often end up finding out about problems we didn’t even know about
that will require extra efforts or interdependent species we didn’t even realize had a connection. We might find out that you need ships even
bigger than an O’Neill Cylinder and dozens of them for each colonial fleet, although
with enough research I think that will be unlikely. Now you might say that’s a lot of effort
to go through when there’s a good chance you could go the hard-tech route and just
clone everything on site, Stow and Grow, and if needed dump in copies of uploaded animals
minds into them for when you arrive if instinct isn’t enough. Indeed, I suspect that might be a popular
approach, but that requires a lot of work too and keep in mind, you will need all these
skills and experts to make the habitats and terraformed planets at the destination too. Moreover, you will need them to colonize our
own solar system. So you should have the knowledge base already
there before you begin interstellar colonization, and you will need those skills when you arrive,
and your crew does need something to do during the trip, so there is a logic to doing things
this way. Indeed, as mentioned previously, you probably
are starting this work before the ship even leaves the solar system, which is a good way
to weed out unsuitable candidates. If much of your crew is spending a year or
two getting the habitat drum ready before it even gets loaded into the ship, they have
time to get used to what they’re doing and who they’re doing it with, and can jump
ship if they don’t like it, rather than in interstellar space. Once a ship gets underway and up to speed,
you are stuck on it for the duration, which is likely to be at least several decades and
possibly thousands of years. That itself is another big issue and one we’ll
be addressing in our next episode of the series, the Ark of a Million Years, where we will
see that maintaining a human civilization on these ships is maybe harder than even maintaining
these ecologies. After all, it needs to be one that can still
be useful, maintain the ships, and get the mission done on arrival, while also still
being a civilization we’d actually want to transplant, not one gone primitive or mutated
so far off basic human behavior that it might as well be an alien colony you’ve founded,
not a human one you could get along with. We had to skip over a lot of the complexities
of ecosystems today, like genetic bottlenecking, and we also mentioned the idea of using robots
to colonize places. There’s a great Computational Biology course
on Brilliant.org that covers these topics, including a Colonizing Mars quiz where we
send robots off to do it that explains a lot of the biological concepts in terms of simple
robots mutating and having features added, which I have to say is probably the best explanation
of genotypes and a phylogenetic tree I’ve ever heard. If you’re like me and more of physical sciences
and computer person, it’s a great approach to learning some of these biological concepts,
and also a great introduction to von Neumann machines and some of the problems they face
that tend to get skipped in sci-fi. If you want learn more about those and other
topics you’d need for running a generation ship, go to brilliant.org/IsaacArthur and
sign up for free. And also, the first 200 people that go to
that link will get 20% off the annual Premium subscription. And I really do advise trying out that robot
course, it’s just plain fun. So today we focused a lot on ecosystems in
interstellar missions. Next week it will be more about post-biological
approaches to the future, as we examine the role of artificial intelligence and robots
in warfare, in Attack of the Drones. The week after that, we’ll be back to interplanetary
colonization in Colonizing Neptune, and we’ll look at colonizing our most distant major
planet, along with its close cousin Uranus, both in terms of colonizing their moons like
we did for Jupiter and Saturn, but also if we can actually colonize these sorts of small
and cold icy giants directly, and live in their atmosphere or even terraform them into
super planets. For alerts when those and other episodes come
out, make sure to subscribe to the channel, and if you enjoyed this episode, hit the like
button and share it with others. Until next time, thanks for watching, and
have a great week!

Comments 100

  • Just hit me that this is episode #150, admittedly 150 isn't 100 or 250 special and our chronology is a touch arbitrary, but it's hard to believe we've done 150 of these already 🙂 Here's to 150 more!

  • I have a difficult time believing these armada's of ships flying amongst the stars taking decades or centuries to get to its destination so they can deposit there "seeds." I think something is missing don't you? Maybe you don't need to do all that and possibly at a certain point in development it is unnecessary because what you are looking for is not "out there" but right here hidden in plain sight. I think your presentation relies too much on human Ego and how we do things now than what might actually be. We don't know that yet of course but we can surmise the possibilities. Did you ever Isaac look into the possibility of us staying on Earth and going to some planets and moons in this solar system, and developing our own intellect and/or spirituality and taking our current Ego out of it?

  • What does a K2 or K3 civilization need anyway? More power and control, really? Do they care about spreading themselves throughout the galaxy and beyond? It might be irrelevant at a certain point, who needs it. I'm thinking the Organians from Star Trek and they evolved past a physical body and a need for anything. I think we are seeing things through human eyes and not from a potential aliens races eyes.

  • Thinking of water in O'Neil cylinders… The idea of opening and closing mirror sections for day/night cycles wouldn't work because of conservation of angular momentum. Pull the mirrors in, and the rotation rate of the cylinder speeds up, with the water flooding in the down-spin direction. Open them again, and it slows down while all the water washes over the land sections up-spin.

    The "mirrors" would have to be trusses supporting multiple mirror banks pivoting on one axis. That way you change the angle of the mirror banks for the day/night cycle, and the trusses stay at a fixed angle to keep the same angular momentum and pseudo-gravity.

  • Just a small correction at the start (around 45 seconds into the video) you are using zipping data when talking about compressing and losing data. However zip is a lossless compression method, meaning you can extract the data inside it and get an identical copy of the original data. An example of lossy compression in which data is lost is mp3 for audio or mp4 for video. Both of which are formats in which data representing parts of the original signal that human senses can't detect data degredation in that much is deleted in favor of data that is very noticable to our senses if data resolution is lowered on it. An other example of lossy compression would be the .aa, .aax and .aax+ audio file formats that Audible is and has been using for their audiobooks. Which is a format optimized for compressing speech audio that has to remain very comprehensible when played back. (You wouldn't want to use that format for hi-fi stereo music cause to much of hifi data in the original audio will be lost with the compression. I never tried but I'm guessing music would sound flat, dull and without deep bass. It might even lose it's stereo component all together and turn into a mono signal as mono is fine for speech)

  • Fun fact @ 2.20 Isaac is talking about the earth not being a closed eco system because the sun and moon affect it a lot.
    Actually most raindrop are seeded by space dust (dust left over from micro meteors disintegrating and space dust dropping down) because raindrops need a seed impurity for the water vapor to condense into water or ice crystals (depending on the temperature. Mostly ice crystals if I remember correctly). Without it you just get super cold water vapor. Just like without impurities in water you heat up you can get super heated water which can blow up when disturbed, which can cause a class of distilled water heated in a microwave to instantly change into steam and engulf your hand if you take it out to soon after the microwave is done.

    So when it rains, it's literally space raining down on you. 🙂

  • @9:50 ish on moving elephants to a new colony by putting them in a digital VR simulation of their environment and seemlessly move them to the colony upon arival.
    That is very much the plot line of one of the Star Trek TNG episodes (Season 7 episode 13 Homeward) where they move a tribe of primitive people from a doomed planned to a new suitable one using the holodeck to emulate a journey through a set of caves through a mountain range in order to explain the radical environment change when they are put on the new world! 🙂

  • 5:10 Putting beavers on spaceships is just looking for trouble. Beavers are like honey badgers with an engineering degree.They managed to shut down a water sanitation plant in my city – they didn't like the sound the outflow pipe made, so they dammed it up.

  • Pack of wolves or pack of dogs, Herd of Elephants. Please. By2030 we will need all those spaceships.

  • I don't see why we would ever do this. In fact you've made an argument many times that, why terraform planets when you can make a dyson swarm that is many billions of times more efficient. And especially, why would we terraform a planet and bring earths entire ecology? Better to just convert the planet's own resources to create the environment if you want to waste time terraforming. If you have the technology to bring vast quantities of earth stuff, you likely have the technology to just recreate any ecology you want there. It only requires some genetic information and a bio printer, as well as some self replicating robots and maybe some cloning vats. It doesn't make any sense to ship over elephants or fish or anything else like that. You could also just avoid that altogether and just have very advanced VR that can simulate any ecology you want. Seriously I just don't get this at all. This will never happen and there's no reason to expect it would happen.

  • Видео как всегда прекрасное! Жаль нет русских субтитров

  • I watch all of your videos. I have a question that may be offensive but I am finally going to ask. Why don't you get someone else to narrate your videos? You must know you are pretty hard to understand, and for your listeners sake, why don't you get a friend or family member to do it? Sorry if that came off insensitive, but I just have to know. You have enough listeners that I'm sure just about anyone would do it.

  • Great video, but skip the mythology of mind uploading. There is absolutely no reason to believe that the mind can be uploaded, even if you are a physicalist. It's a wild hypothesis, at best. Besides this, how exactly is the mind physical?

  • But what if you put people in those habitats, and then tell them they are part of some made up elaborate history? *removes tin-foil hat*

  • and now, for another humongous episode of: elephants! in space!

  • 25:53 : dammit, isaac … nearly dropped my phone

    i know, it's not your fault but I feel like someone should make an arachnophobia proof chrome extension

  • Their was a project run by sao paulo university in conjunction with the unaeo reserve in 2008 that may be of interest.

    They took golden lion tamerinds and raised them in captivity to boost the numbers, they slowly acclimatised them to conditions similar to the canopy they would occupy and allowed them to develop the correct behaviours. The first group where released and sadly died as they hadnt correctly modeled the canopy but they ajusted the model and the subesquent generations have thrived. This could be a viable in situ method of raising clones where the initial generation raised by humans in captivity could become wild within 3-4 geberations.

  • Isaac Arthur – creates a 30 minute video that becomes the basis of entire universities in the future. That sounds about right..

  • In your rotating habitat, won't accelerating the ship cause some internal issues?

  • Your episodes just keep getting better 150 and still awsome content thanks for all your time.

  • Love the opening statement 🙂

  • It looks like elephants, whales, and giraffes are going to be left on earth

  • hehe.. united independent starsystems elephant trader ship. Sells most of the cargo at each system, then on a 150yr trip breeds up a new stock and sells it again for fuel, repairs and the latest toys. Hell get 2 more ships as the grandkids of the old trader dont quite get along and want to go in different directions with their own elephant trader ships.
    Then trading back and forth with smaller ships for funny genetical variations that happened on another world.

  • great video

  • 2:43 Why is this guy all gowned and masked but not wearing gloves?

  • One big problem with those deep sea ecologies is pressure. Reducing the gravity will mean that the water pressure will be less, so you'd need to find some other way to create a ultra-pressurized vessel to serve as your abyssalpelagic ecology. That's far more expensive and dangerous compared to normal spaceships, sustaining pressures several hundred times as great as a normal atmosphere.

  • Okay, I don't generally like to multipost, but the more I think about it, the more I think that terraforming planets is both unnecessary and undesirable except as a long-term experiment in wild evolution. Once you can make O'Neill cylinders, you would be better off just making more of them. The minerals/metals from even a small planet could make enormously more living & ecology space than the surface of that planet, and you would control factors like gravity, climate, etc. Planets are messy, relatively immobile, and subject to stellar lifespan. Mobile habitats, on the other hand, can go wherever the space/energy is good for them.

    For that matter, if you wanted to orbit a star to collect free solar energy, you would pick a red dwarf that will last for trillions of years, and there are tons of those available. At this point in the star-formation period, we are only at the 1% point in their lifespan.

    This is a valid solution to the Fermi Paradox. Once you come to this conclusion, interstellar civilization would be undetectable as long as they didn't crowd a given system so densely as to noticeably dim the host star's light. If the cylinders/habitats were running on fusion power, and/or if they were insulated enough for their internal operations to maintain a stable temperature (which wouldn't take much), there would be no reason to keep them near a star at all. There could be bazillions of them drifting in open space around the galaxy, and our current technology wouldn't have a clue for spotting them.

    Given the sensibility that "if I can think of it, so can the aliens" we can expect the galactic civilization to be a loose confederacy of independent space-faring ecologies that are not particularly tied down to any particular solar system. They might dip in to snag a few free resources from a star system, but there's no reason to be any more anchored or dense than that. Once a civilization hits the sustainable habitat stage, they would be better served by spreading out rather than clumping together, and the interstellar voids have room enough for all.

    To understand these post-scarcity/post-conflict situations, you have to fully embrace the concept. There is zero need or use for greed or empire when you can just slurp up a few space rocks and get whatever you need, and recycle what you have for the next time. Most sci-fi ties itself down to 19th century Malthusian colonialism in ignorance or denial of the unlimited resources of nature. In reality, there would be no motivation for it when you could be richer in quietly dispersed peace than you could in obvious war. "Space is big… really big… I mean, you might think it's a long way down to the chemist, but that's nothing compared to space…"

    This doesn't make for a dramatic, conflicted storyline. You don't get heroes and emperors fighting for a throne. What you do get is maximum life and maximum enjoyment for the maximum number of people. It's the natural way for things to progress.

  • It sounds more and more likely that what you see is what we've got so we'd better take care of it.

  • Good job Isaac.

    Just one comment. You store software in memory systems. So the term "Data Ships" should more generally be called. "Software Ships", or maybe "Software Carrier Ships". 😉

  • @Isaac Arthur, ".zip"-ing a file is lossless! (0:40)

  • Leave the mosquitos  and liberals at home (parasites).

  • An elephant eats 70,000 calories a day? I highly doubt that!
    Some very smart people came up with a very efficient system of unit prefixes. If used correctly (which isn't that hard, really!), one would easily see that an elephant probably eats around 70,000 kcal – KILOcalories – a day. And that does sound realistic compared to the ~2,000 kcal a human needs per day.

  • Exporting ourselves as we are physically today is one option, and the only option near-term. The better option is to make our physical platforms more space-efficient (while we are still tied to physical platforms, which assumes 'we' are our consciousness, with our bodies in a supporting role (sorry cells and microbiome, you will be left behind) (maybe I shouldn't have tipped them off))…

  • 'that would be boring' not ' that would be impossible'. I love this channel

  • Considering how Alastair Reynolds has been referenced before, are elephants a reference to Blue Remembered Earth?

  • perfect sunday isaac's calming voice and great subject matter.thank you.

  • 1:55
    Anyone else think that looks a bit like Wallowa Lake, Oregon?

  • In relation to this. Have you thought about doing a video on XenoFlora & Fauna and if it’s possible for Humans and Animals to consume them, or what would be needed to adapt non Earth based foods to Earth based diets?

  • Will you please make a shirt of some sort that say Welcome to S.F.I.A where we always have a point it just may take us an hour to get there. I'd buy that shirt with a fistful of cash screaming TAKE MY MONEY.

  • I wonder if we won't take just three or four species and then let the ecology just figure itself out.

    Like taking no Cetaceans, and instead one ecology preferring mollusks, non-jawed fish, and sponges.

    While another garden ship prefers corals, fishes, and close to shore mammals like otters.

    Then over the next ten thousand years let natural processes sort out species neiches.

  • the video is the thinking of our current standards …… waste of time and only pure fiction this video is better as a fiction book than a reality documentary…. before airplanes even where u didn't even think it was possible to fly hahah maybe in the future we won't be even traveling through space maybe we will be warping or teleporting haha but nice pure fiction video

  • Hi @Isaac, you keep mentioning hydroponics, but previously noted the problem of mass. Are you aware of aeroponics?

  • Did you play the "the more you know" theme at 25:23?

  • There goes Noah's ark down the drain.

  • If it takes a gen ship 1000 years to get any where its likey that the tech would be invented to jump there before the gen ship got there so dont think gen ships are going to be the way we travel. It just looks like its the most likey right now

  • terraforming takes so much energy and coordination that by the time we accomplish it we'll probably have mind uploading and re-uploading down. Just transport the ecosystem piece by piece Biblical Genesis style to the terraformed planet, growing everything in vats from data, and just taking copies of the mind of complex social creatures and send them to the vat grown bodies on the planet (and given the growing power of genetic manipulation, we could slightly alter their body plans to best fit the gravity, pressure of the terraformed planet).

  • Wood. Its important. It matters. Possibly magic. Invest in wood. Where else are you going to find it?

  • Issac, another way to get familiar with the scale and difficulty of biological systems is to grow a garden and try to grow a week's worth of food for yourself. It really makes you realize how difficult it will be.

  • I'd like to see a video on how our technology and space exploration mindset would have come along if we knew for sure there was life out there. Say, we found about in the 1920s or 1930s a weird bit of radiation in the sky. About 1940s or 1950s, whenever our tech would support it, we found it was a Definitely Unnatural thing, like a bunch of infrared or something, and by about the turn of the century, 2000 or some such, we knew it was a planet, and apparently had a civilization about at our technological level. How much more of a priority would we have made Getting Out There into space? Where would we be right now, in terms of our development? Playing with sky hooks or a lot closer to fusion or have a manned base on the moon and bona fide space station where civilians could go?

  • I love how you name everything "critter", haha

  • Dolphins are assholes. Let's skip dolphins.

  • Hey, can you address the errors in your quantum computing video? It's unhelpful to the people trying to learn quantum mechanics, and makes me question your education. I studied physics in college as well, and I wouldn't have lasted a year with your understanding of QM.

  • I actually don't imagine our population expanding that much beyond 10-11 billion people. Once Africa, South America, and South Asia have industrialized and have access to advanced medicine and reproductive facilities, along with quality education, the population growth in those regions will slow down. I think in the future, when we are building Orbital habitats that can sustain millions of people each, we will actually have a steady state population that will enjoy more resources and land between each person. As we expand out into space and gain access to abundant extraterrestrial resources, we will be able to sustain our population's demands without much effort, and with very little impact on the ecosphere of earth and other habitats. If you create an environment similar to earth on a megastrucutre like a ring-world, each individual out of those billions of people could enjoy perhaps thousands of acres of land to themselves.

  • Issac can you do a video of moving earth to a new solar system the earth would freeze but I think that when it reached a new star it would spring back to life

  • This should be on tv

  • Didn't you just have a 250k subscriber vid not too long ago? This channel is exploding.

  • I have no idea who Fishy Tree is, but those new animations look awesome

  • I think a conic section is called a frustum, but I guess that one's a bit uncommon and hard… XP

  • I suspect that once we start building up the infrastructure in the solar system, a great deal of these issues will be tested simply as a matter of course. Just moving a habitat from Earth to Earth's orbit and then over to the rungworld around the sun, for the purposes of creating a nature preserve nearby to them, will teach us a great deal about moving and maintaining such environments while in motion.

  • lol Isaac, I've noticed you have a thing for Elephants… 😉

  • Love your work Isaac !!! Truly amazing 🙂

  • they included this vid into Vatican codex of building real Noah's arc

  • O'neill Cylinders are retarded, as are ring habitat sections. They are terrible wastes of space and mass, not to mention the create unnecessary problems with artificial gravity being perpendicular to the axis of acceleration. There is no good reason to use a ring or cylinder. Just built a multistory structure like a skyscraper with hundreds of floors if needed and stack it on your propulsion unit. When accelerating or decelerating, you propulsion is your gravity generator. When coasting, you simply detach the habitat section from the propulsion stack and spin it like a tumbler held together by a few tethers.

  • I never considered the societal implications of seeding other planets with Earth fauna. Brings to mind the possibilities of cryo storage. Hopefully that may become an option.
    Also, I am amazed! You even made the advertisement interesting. lol. First time I haven't skipped ahead.
    Thank you for your insights. Jim.

  • The oceans need sharks.

  • I love that your videos don't assume an FTL technology be used to colonize new grounds.

    Also, I found this video quite insightful on how we would take Earth species along with us.

  • "…elephants are the most space demanding…"
    Am I the only one who immediately started thinking about exporting whales?

  • Thanks so much for all your efforts. I look forward to your videos every week. i just wish we were already colonising space the way you describe.

  • But… But… Noah did with just a big boat. God told me so

  • If scientists could develop an Alcubierre Warp drive to move these giant Generation Ships across vast interstellar distances, they would not only arrive at the destination in a matter of weeks instead of decades or centuries but also avoid the problems of accelerating and decelerating since they would be compressing and decompressing spacetime rather than accelerating the ship. They wouldn’t have to worry about tsunamis and landslides in these giant space habitats or keeping apex species alive as long in space.

    Colonizing the galaxy at sub-light speeds requires patience on an unprecedented scale.

  • Here is a huge problem to overcome if we find a planet where life already exists. Here on Earth man has been limited on how far inland they can go in foreign continents before we learned how to inoculate for diseases.

    During the Atlantic slave trade European slave traders purchased slaves from the African coast slave markets because death from disease was highly probable if they went to far into the interior for too long.

    Alien worlds would have their own unique bacteria and viruses that our immune systems would be unable to fight. We would have to figure out a way to identify diseases and inoculate colonists so that they didn't all die from a plague.

  • If a planet already has life, should we bring Earth life with us?

  • 16:35 Did I hear that you have a cylinder both rotating end over end & revolving along the long axis? I might have confused rotate & revolve but the wife asked me to take the kids out & I don't have the time else I shall forget this thought. If so there would be no place on the inner surface that would be zero gravity. You could customize gravity in different sections.

  • im gonna unsubscribe, becoz i though its gonna be science channele but then found perpetual machines and now a ridiculous bus to another similar planet there is no similar planet and nearst star is caaaaazy far let alone this planet is working great so your videos becomes unusable at least for me

  • Perhaps you plan to discuss this later, but why would you bother to take human colonists on these ships? At 10% lightspeed, there is no reason I can see why we would not upload minds from our solar system and beam them to the colony ship where they could manage robots, drones, and androids to manage the ship for the duration of its journey. This gives our humans freedom of choice, something a thousand year voyage lacks even with life extension techniques. It also allows the crew to remain somewhat contemporaneous to Earth. With the right setup, each "colonist" could have his/her mind transmitted back to our solar system after completing their contracted tour of duty. In fact, this might be the preferred approach to solving the ethical dilemmas of condemning entire civilizations of descendants 1) to a life of isolation, 2) a life without freewill (compared to a civilization that has colonized the solar system, the opportunities on a single ship regardless of size would seem unacceptably limited), and 3) a way of life that must at some point end to support the colonization of a new planet at the end of the journey (cultures tend towards preserving their way of life and changes can be violent). Why not avoid that problem entirely by ensuring each of your humans on board are volunteers at every point of the journey?

  • 15:00 – you said whales and I randomly remember you making fun of yourself with "whale guns" instead of "rail guns". Humans like you, I believe in. Idk about the rest of us <3

  • Wouldn`t going to an earth like planet mean dealing with alien bacteria and virus`, presupposing that life , at least at a low level, will be found on most if not all on these preferential ecosystems?

  • squirrel!!!

  • Elephants the most space demanding 😛 What about the blue whales?

  • Complexity of human social behavior can't be understated in a colony move like this, what if a good percentage of people refused to breed with each other and if you have to create laws for forced marriages how will that affect the society?

  • Lets face it. we will take some animals but most are doomed.
    I can't see anyone bother moving anything bigger than a cow.

  • Thanks for the great and thoughtful videos! Your explanation of life's dynamism is crucial and always overlooked. I am a microbiologist and worry that the dynamism of microbial communities in any long term space travel is problematic. The speed at which bacteria and other microbes change will hamper the plans of human space travel. Important beneficial species will not have enough stable population to hang on in even large space ships. Pathogens will evolve to exploit new environments in human, plant and animal environments. Cataloging and storing all species is a much more complicated task, as we may need totally new microbes to live in and around us in these new environments. I would love to hear your view on the role of microbes in space, and solutions to transport and maintain healthy microbes!

  • I'm going to steal the roving elephant colony ship idea.

    We'll have an alien colony.
    They detect a massive ship on the edge of their system. They try to make contact, but just get an automated response in an alien language. They send a ship out to investigate, but get scared off by the elephant ship's defenses. The elephant ship arrives in orbit above the colony. It shoots a dropship down to the planet that opens up and releases hundreds of elephants. The elephant ship leaves the system, and the aliens are just left speechless.

  • Most microbes are very dependant on having particular other species (of microbes, and sometimes bigger stuff too) around them. We don't know much about those microbes though, since we very rarely can figure out how to culture them in a lab.
    The development of DNA surveys and metagenomics has given us a better idea of what we are missing, which is most of it.

  • I read that some lab discovered 1500 new species of bacteria from 1 cup of soil from their grounds of the lab, then discovered another 1500 from another cup collected from the other side of the sidewalk.

  • 15:00 Indeed Dolphins do not do well in space.

  • Thank you for your videos, but thanks even more recommending "Rendezvous With Rama." I can't believe I haven't read it before!

  • What about a whale?

  • I had a dream very akin to this video once "🤯 a space journey terraforming Mars and we we're at this stage.. transporting DNA

  • thanks again. another wonderful trip through lands had had never considered.

  • These videos never cease to amaze. I was a Science Stream in High School student and I am a Mechanical Engineer, so I've got the grasp of the fundamental concepts, but the level of imagination and the detail of the explanations just blows the mind.

  • We don't need to replicate the entire ecosystem. A simplified ecosystem can support nutrient cycling. Treat the new planet not as a nature preserve to be reseeded and more like a blank slate to be farmed. Only introduce those species that directly support food production. We don't need sharks, just start with algae and after the ocean is overrun with algae, introduce fish that eat algae, and when those reach peak population, introduce humans to farm them, the same on land, introduce soil forming bacteria, grass clover, and fruit trees. Stingless bees. No need to have spiders and snakes etc, if you don't introduce mice and insects that need controlled.

  • Do you think the relatively recent public discourse on planetary protection will pose significant obstacles to humanity’s spread though the solar system?

  • Why wait for Star Ships to begin colonization when we can distribute wild animals across the planet now ? Lions, elephants and all Africans creatures can be transported to Central Park today. The great planes of America would see the immediate benefit of feeding protein desperately needed by men, women and children to animals. Schools of fish that could be used to feed mankind could be used to feed to the great mammals of the ocean. The reason we don;t is obvious. The only creatures transported should be of benefit to man such as the honey bee to polonaise crops. We don;t need to take zoo across the stars. Let;s get real.

  • There are some nice videos of Sharks enjoying being hugged by people!

  • I'm just imagining Elephants in low, but not zero, gravity. They could jump without breaking their bones.

  • If we ever find/detect an empty planet with an appropriate atmosphere, we will quickly own it

  • We have so many water that it will drown us if it would melt, if we could just send it to space all the water like to Mars we wouldbe saved… Rockets are just too expensive

  • Long voyages in ultra slow ships is not going to happen. When galactic and intergalactic travel happens the trip is going to be very short.

  • You put me on a ship to travel the universe I swear to my God, Your God or your No god I will never say “I’m bored” even if my job is emptying the shittier!

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