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Astrophysics, economics and biology Astrophysics, economics and biology
by Joseph Gatt
2019-07-13 08:47:51
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Many astrophysicists like to predict that within a century or two humanity will move to a distant planet or that humanity will divide its residence between planet Earth and some other planet.

Some of us have watched the movie Total Recall where human beings establish a colony on Mars. But as an amateur astrophysicist and economist, here's how I believe we human beings are to remain on Earth for many generations to come, and will probably never settle on any other planet.

astroph01_400Two assumptions. First assumption would be that we send a few human couples and families to live on a different planet, they reproduce, their population grows, and you get a colony.

Second assumption would be that human beings, like in the movie Wall-E, all move to some distant planet.

Let's look at the first assumption. Human beings need food and water to survive. Let's say we send a dozen couples and their children to some distant planet. They would need to find water and grow food, and needless to say oxygen. Let's assume they find a planet with oxygen. Those couples are going to have to grow food. Let's assume they can grow food. So the experiment would be some kind of kibbutz experiment. The families will perhaps take a few cows and chickens on their mission.

The problem with farming on a different planet is that it could be complicated, the harvest could fail, and the families will eat each other before they starve to death. In Israel, some kibbutzim needed something like 20 years before they were able to get stable harvests. Some took even more than 20 years.

Second problem related to taking families on a mission like that would be biological. Children who grow up together tend to develop an aversion to any sexual contact in adulthood. That's why brothers and sisters never marry each other or feel sexually attracted to each other. So if the children grow up living together on said planet, they probably won't mate and reproduce. Colonization mission failed.

Now let's look at the second assumption. 7,8, 9 billion people move to planet Alpha or Beta. Let's assume that a spaceship can carry 200 passengers. That's 35 million spaceships, or 70 million round trips from Earth to planet Beta. A small space shuttle usually carries 2 million liters of fuel, but let's assume a bigger one will need 2 million liters of fuel, even when headed to a distant planet, and I'm being generous with my assumption. That's 70 trillion liters of fuel that we're going to need. There are currently 159 trillion liters on oil reserves, but assuming the project will be lead 200 years from now, we won't have enough fuel by then.

Let's assume, for simplicity purposes, the spaceships will be the size of planes and will need 42,000 kg of steel or aluminum to be built. Let's assume they build 500,000 spaceships. That's 21 billion kg of steel. That's 21 million tons of steel, and we produce approximately a billion tons of steel each year. But I'm being very generous with my assumption, because spaceships will need a lot more steel than that.

Not to mention all the engineers you're going to need, the communication devices, the small parts which are made of all kinds of raw materials that we have limited access to, the assembly line, and many, many other factors.

In sum, if you go to an astrophysics conferences, you will find a lot of astrophysicists, including famous ones, saying that the future is in space. But if you believe me, our future, and that of our kids, grand kids, great-grand-kids, and their great-grand-kids is probably on this planet.   

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