Peter Schwartz: The Starships ARE Coming — A Seminar Flashback

Posted on Friday, September 12th, 02014 by Mikl Em
link Categories: Futures, Long Term Science, Seminars   chat 0 Comments

In September 02013 futurist Peter Schwartz spoke for Long Now about realistic scenarios for human interstellar travel. Peter, a founding Long Now Board member, participated in “The 100-year Starship” project and contributed to the book Starship Century (Edited by Gregory Benford and James Benford) with scientists and science fiction authors positing realistic ways humanity could voyage beyond our Solar System.

Our September Seminar About Long-term Thinking (SALT) “flashbacks” highlight Space-themed talks, as we lead up to Ariel Waldman’s The Future of Human Space Flight at The Interval, September 30th, 02014.

Video of the 12 most recent Seminars is free for all to view. The Starships ARE Coming is a recent SALT talk, free for public viewing until September 02014. Listen to SALT audio free on our Seminar pages and via podcastLong Now members can see all Seminar videos in HD.

From Stewart Brand’s summary of this Seminar (in full here):

Standard-physics travel will require extremely long voyages, much longer than a human lifetime. Schwartz suggested four options.

  1. Generational ships: whole mini-societies commit to voyages that only their descendants will complete.
  2. Sleep ships: like in the movie “Avatar,” travelers go into hibernation
  3. Relativistic ships: at near the speed of light, time compresses, so that travelers may experience only 10 years while 100 years pass back on Earth.
  4. Download ships: “Suppose we learn how to copy human consciousness into some machine-like device.

Peter Schwartz is a futurist, scenario planning  expert, and author of The Art of the Long View. Currently he serves as Senior Vice President for Global Government Relations and Strategic Planning at In 01988 Peter co-founded Global Business Network and served as their chairman until 02011. He is a co-founding Board Member of The Long Now Foundation and has spoken in our SALT series on four occasions.

Peter Schwartz

The Seminars About Long-term Thinking series began in 02003 and is presented each month live in San Francisco. It is curated and hosted by Long Now’s President Stewart Brand. Seminar audio is available to all via podcast.

Everyone can watch full video of the last 12 Long Now Seminars (including this Seminar video until late June 02014). Long Now members can watch the full ten years of Seminars in HD. Membership levels start at $8/month and include lots of benefits.

You can join Long Now here.

  • The avoidance of propulsion technologies exploiting general relativity and mach’s principle for propellantless propulsion, timespace warping and even wormholes in Peter’s work is non-futuristic. The technology is here. Scientists, including those at NASA, are already testing, with positive results, technologies capable of propellantless thrust and timespace warping, with a solid GR theoretical groundwork to support the experimental results being achieved.

  • Thomas Thorne

    I don’t think he wants to waste time or credibility on Dean drive schemes like Mach’s principle and EmDrive or FTL concepts that violate causality.

  • Has nothing to do with Dean Drive, and does not violate causality, which you’d know if you had the slightest idea of what you were talking about.

  • Thomas Thorne

    It’s a reactionless engine hoax. It’s going to go the way of every other reactionless drive. Those things come popping up every couple of years. And wormhole travel/Alcubierre drive does violate causality. Anything that allows interaction between two points in the universe faster than it would take light to travel there in a vacuum can create closed timelike curves and would violate causality. Even things like quantum entanglement, which are often presented as propagating FTL, are limited in their usefulness by the no-communication theorem, since true FTL communication or interaction would violate causality without a doubt.

  • If it was a hoax, then why does NASA’s own Eagleworks laboratory have a working device thats producing thrust? You have no clue what you are talking about.

  • Thomas Thorne

    Argument from authority. The Eagleworks laboratory is responsible for testing numerous claims for experimental and exotic physics for propulsion. They have tested lots of things in the past that looked promising but ended up being just plain wrong. It’s good that they’re testing these fringe ideas, but one has to be extra skeptical of results until they’re thoroughly verified.

    The reported thrust from both the EmDrive and the Woodward effect drive (also known as Mach’s principle) was so small that it was just on the threshold of detection for the instruments used. About the same minute amount of thrust you’d expect from radiation pressure. Eagleworks labs, as well as the Chinese laboratory that also reported anomalous thrust from EmDrive, states that thrust was detected but goes on to explain that it is unclear if the thrust is due to experimental errors (like reflections of radiation from the test chamber walls, a good candidate for explanation) or instrumentation glitches, or both. The quantum effects that supposedly make EmDrive work are poorly understood. It’s much more likely that the designer has stumbled upon a method to produce thrust through radiation pressure rather than found a way to get around Newton’s laws. So, as you can see, it’s possible for the drive to produce thrust experimentally but still not be a successful true reactionless drive. It needs more testing, and Eagleworks is the first to say so. It’s media sensationalism that took the reports of anomalous thrust and spun it as proof of the drive’s reactionless mechanism. The Woodward effect drive has produced similarly tiny amounts of thrust, but it is suspected that this is a product of static friction much like the Dean drive relied on. Stiction oscillators use the Earth as a reaction mass and don’t work in a vacuum.

    Particularly telling about NASA’s EmDrive experiment: as a control, they did a test run on a device that had been modified so that according to the designer’s claims it would no longer produce thrust. On the test bed, the device still produced exactly as much thrust as the EmDrive that was built to specs. This strongly points towards experimental error and NASA admits that readily.

    I wish you would read further into the reports from Eagleworks before you repeatedly accuse other people of not knowing what they’re talking about. I’m trying to expose you to more data, there’s no need to be hostile.

  • On the contrary, the amount of thrust detected was well over ten times what you’d get from putting the same amount of energy into a photon drive or light sail. If you bothered to actually read the papers, you’d see this fact. But don’t let the facts get in the way of your bigotry. BTW: your understanding of causality is deeply flawed.

  • Thomas Thorne

    Bigotry? Jesus, that’s a strong word for someone disagreeing with a scientific thesis. If you proved me wrong, I would be more than happy. I would love a real reactionless drive or FTL.

    How do you explain the fact that the disabled EmDrive still produced thrust? How do you explain, in terms of causality, the fact that an object that appears somewhere in the universe ahead of the light emitted from it can occupy its own past light cone, enabling it to receive information from the future?

  • Mach Effects are no longer a “thesis”, but a theory confirmed by multiple experiments, even done by NASA. In fact, the NASA experiments found that the disabled EmDrive produced no thrust, it was only when a peizo/dielectric module, akin to a Mach Thruster, was attached to the small end, that it generated thrust in NASA lab experiments. This demonstrates that the Mach Effect is real, the MET produces thrust with it, and the EmDrive is merely an amplifier mechanism.

  • I happen to know people at Eagleworks and get their reports, which I’ve read. Apparently you have not.

  • Thomas Thorne

    I’m still going to reserve my enthusiasm for when they do a test with a test chamber that’s actually evacuated of atmosphere.