“The American people will never knowingly adopt Socialism. But under the name of ‘liberalism’ they will adopt every fragment of the Socialist program, until one day America will be a Socialist nation, without knowing how it happened.”

Socialist Party presidential candidate Norman Thomas

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

China takes a baby step toward off-world life

Ok so Chinese scientists announced recently that they've successfully grown a mammal in space. Then, in what might be the greatest leap since Mike Powell broke Bob Beamon's 23 year old long jump record, claimed that it proves that humans can reproduce and live in space. 

Not so fast my friends. I'm no reproductive specialist, but I did major in Biology, and I can tell you that a fertilized mouse embryo in zero gravity turning into a blastocyst(the mass of cells that gets implanted into the uterine wall for development) does not a human make. 

The Chinese basically replicated the first 5 days after fertilization and announced "Eureka, we've done it"! That's like calling some flour, a bag of chocolate morsels, and a few pot plants in your kitchen, a plate of brownies.

Every process on Earth, both organic and inorganic, has taken place under the constant strain of gravity. It's why tree trunks are made of rigid wood and not diaphanous strings of xylem and phloem, why swimming pools are possible, and why birds have wings. Imagine what everything would look like if we had evolved without gravity. 

And now imagine how human life might change if forced to exist for scores of generations in micro-gravity. 

I'm not saying we shouldn't colonize other planets or mine asteroids with far less gravity than Earth, or that the Chinese haven't accomplished something interesting along the path toward interplanetary colonization. I'm just saying that looking for ways to exist in life-long micro-gravity is probably the most daunting of all human undertakings......we weren't designed for it in any way. 


Bill said...

Good points, Ed. Many people think artificial gravity will be necessary for human trips to Mars. This can be as simple as rotating a habitat around the center of gravity of itself and a countermass using a strong cable. It doesn't have to be 1 G, which would be over engineering.

Or, develop much faster propulsion, which is the better option for inner solar system travel at least.

Ed said...

I've read where the human body should be able to reproduce and develop in Mars gravity (0.6E) with only modest load bearing exercise daily. Of course I'd wonder what would happen to the human body long-term on a large planet with say (2E) gravity. Interesting questions.

Bill said...

Evolution would happen long term.

Ed said...

Yeah, but how specifically would we evolve in long-term low gravity? Would be have the capacity to grow bigger because of reduced load-bearing demands......like whales?

Would our bones be more like shark cartilage so that we could not stand up back on Earth.

What effect would dramatically different circadian patterns have on our bodies? Could we adapt to say a 5 hour day/night cycle if our adopted planet rotated that fast on its axis?