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2016-06-21 | 🔗

In 1968, an Italian industrialist and a Scottish scientist started a club to address what they considered to be humankind’s greatest problems—issues like pollution, resource scarcity, and overpopulation. Meeting in Rome, Italy, the group came to be known as the … Continue reading →

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This is ninety nine percent, invisible, I'm roman Mars in the late nineteenth sixties in italian industrialists, and a scottish scientists started a club to address what they consider to be. Humankind's greatest problems, things like pollution, resource scarcity and overpopulation. And because this group, men in Rome, ITALY, it came to be known as the club of Rome producer Katy mingle over The next couple of years, the club of Rome would grow to include politicians, scientists. Economists and business leaders from around the world. It was a pretty elite group. I've always pictured a lot of leather furniture and cigar smoking. How much cigar smoking there was. I mean it was certainly club e, that's Patrick Mccrae he's a professor of history at the University of California. Santa Barbara. I think, for certainly was a tendency to imagine them a sort of a cigar, smoking, cabal user, pulling the strings,
behind the scenes. But I think there is a genuine interest on their part to address these problems of the world. People who were a part of the club of Rome basically wanted to figure out if and when the world was going to hit maximum capacity and one out of reach Mrs and towards this end, they had a tool, a relatively new tool at the time, the computer, and so they plugged a bunch of data into their huge nineteen, seventeen computers and then, looked at the results and switched off the variables and ran the tests and no matter how they played with the variables which were resource use, pollution, industrialization, population growth, things like that of the models that they came up with all of them sort of lead to the same conclusion, sometime in the twenty first century:
There would be this massive collapse of global society in nineteen. Seventy two, the club of Rome, published a book outlining their findings, called the limits to growth and it costs a lot of media attention. Found the way things are going now, the planet can supporters for less than one hundred years it may be nearer. Fifty the book became, Prize best seller and was translated into more than two dozen languages. And yet there were cut ex who disagreed with the findings, but overall the limits to growth was incredibly influential. You know there is a famous cover of Newsweek around eighteen. Seventy three that I was Uncle SAM on the cover looking into a cornucopia and there's nothing in it, and the headline on the cover of Newsweek says running out of everything: you could see the idea of limits all over a popular culture, New York City in the year, two thousand twenty two-
nothing runs anymore. Nothing works the famous or infamous movie with Charlton Heston, soiling green, you mean the whole premise of the movie is is based on a scenario where those overpopulation and the earth is six young has exceeded its carrying capacity, but the people I to say, and the people will do anything to get what they need when they need most is silent, green. But I think there is this really fierce debate that the limits to growth report stimulated about whether there was a need to curtail economic growth and to regulate population and perhaps even curtail, individual freedoms and out of this chorus of debate and alarm,
judges, a physicist, an engineer name Gerardo Neil. He was mostly as Jerry An Durio NEO says TAT. We may live on a limited planet, but we if in a limitless universe and the answer to it Lot of our problems here on earth may act. We'd be out in space. What o Neill called the high frontier there's Jerry, O Neill in an archive all recording from the seventies opening the high frontier means making possible and ensuring the survival of the human race. Jerry O Neill wanted to build settlements in space. Few truly love this planet, the best thing you can do for them. To move as much industry and as many people as possible from its surface out into space O Neil. Motivated and really saw his ideas as a form of environmentalism
Jerry O Neill wasn't the first person to imagine the human habitats in space, but, unlike others, who come before M. O Neill was the first crunch, all the numbers and come up with technologically feasible designs. The course of his work, he would turn sceptics into true believers fund, support from NASA sort of social movement towards the goal of building human colonies in space. Before he started thinking about space colonies, Jerry Ionia was a professor in Princeton Physics Department, but he wasn't can and analyzing data, he like building things those contribution to physics was Ray Engineering, the way in which particle accelerators were designed and built, and he was really really successful. At this. It was very famous already- has a physicist long before he got interested in space colonies, so he was very much
spectres among his equals and of a person of great character I always goes along very well with him that Freeman Dyson. Yes, I'm through I soon I'm a retired professor at the institute further study in Princeton. My subjects was mathematics and physics. I was just a pen, so Pusher, scribbling equations, Dyson, is being modest. He was and is, appalling math and a veritable genius she's made huge cuts traditions in quantum mechanics, but also in nuclear energy, biology in astrophysics and he's got pop culture cried too there's a video game character named after him. There's even a STAR Trek episode about one of his concepts. Dyson was also and colleagues to Jerry, O Neill, O Neill died in ninety ninety two he had Many students who are always follow bring him around
surely got his students doing real projects. It wasn't just talk in nineteen sixty nine the same year. The first astronauts walked on the moon, O Neill posed a question, to his introductory physics, students at Princeton, makes more sense, building human settlements on the surface of another planet or building be floating. Settlements in outer space three months of research and calculations. O Neill in his students came to the conclusion that building free floating habitats was the way to go. First of all, you dont have to overcome gravity. Every time you go on and off free floating space settlement but even more importantly, in space, you have access to the sun's energy, a hundred percent of the time. So, oh other sources of fuel would be needed but when the semester ended, o Neill didn't stop thinking about space colonization, in fact he'd only just begun. It wasn't just
dreams of some rather remote future. It was something o Neill really thought he should do o Neil decided he would build his settlements at a place in our solar system. Two hundred and fifty thousand miles from the earth called Le Grange or the garage point. Five Lord George George Bush's spurs were objects, stood put they don't move around on all of its, and so these are the most convenient place is, if you want to have a fixed habitat object, stay put because the greens point five. EL five, the gravity of the sun and earth artists, special equilibrium. L five was his favorite LE garage point of flesh riches, the same distance from the moon. We're variations on cylinders, spheres or ring shapes and its designs have been copied all over science fiction. You can see only ask designs in the movies: Elysium
You can see only ask designs in the movies, Elysium and interstellar bricks, him The design that I find the easiest picture basically looks like a giant bicycle we'll floating in space. The people would live, inside the tire part of the wheel, which itself be enormous. There would be huge windows that leaden sunlight. And allowed amazing views of outer space the hour. This renderings of O Neill settlements make them look really earth like an appealing water. Trees and terrorist housing That would be like Italian Hill town. We we knew that the first ones wouldn't looked like anything like that that Tosh, O Neill in nice. In sixty nine Tosh, I had just move to the: U S from Germany to work as an AU pair when she died and had to attend a mixer. The way I'm CIA in Jerry O Neill, with his map top hair cut. Looking more
or like a member of the sixties, rock band than a physicist lie. Looked at him alive, that's the first interesting guided I see around here I wouldn't say it was lowered first sight, but it was definitely interest at first sight, which grew into love very quickly, when he in touch a mad. O Neill had just started seriously thinking about space colonies and he was eager to share his ideas with her. I thought it's really ironic that I wouldn't meat and marry a physicist. My physics was non existent. I've flunked it, but he was so good at explaining things too, a people and touch. My also got good at explaining his ideas she explained, me, for example, that the wheel in which people with live would rotating area slowly on an access and the centrifugal force of that rotation would create
gravity like sensation, for the people inside to keep them from floating around rotating would have been very slow and you would not have noticed it, but the close We were too the access or at the centre of the wheel, the law, Sk gravity, you'd experience when, when you went up hill, you got lighter and lighter, and you started skipping like a mountain goat had always Jerry, O Neill. Imagine the first structure can house ten thousand people and subsequent structures could house up to three million. He hoped that event play these settlements, could unburden the earth of a significant population and o Neil. So tat. His settlements could provide earth with a source of energy by collecting the sun's energy in space where in abundance all the time and sending it back to earth be a radio waves. This was it technology that another scientist had been working on already by doing
o Neil believed one as a solution to the energy problems of the world. At this point, you may be wondering how NEO plan to get all of the materials needed to build these massive structures into space. He imagined the first would be taken by the space shuttle anew. Tool, for which NASA had extremely optimistic plans again historian Patrick Mccrae in eighteen. Seventy people were predicting shuttle flights happening every week and it was made of us build at that. I'm is basically a space struck, but even The space shuttle taken traps once a week, o Neill knew that it would be enough. You need to get his building materials from them The moon is a source of minerals, We know about thanks to the APOLLO project. The things in fact that we need it for money for the product of an industrial civilization, so
His idea was to move that material, from the lunar surface, using a type of electromagnetic catapult, this catapult was called a mass driver and it would sling raw materials from the moon through space to look range point: five, o Neil some colleagues actually designed a working model of one. The PBS program Nova recorded a demonstration of it three on. The people who lived in the first base settlement would be working in space as well to process all materials to build the neck settlements, but there at all they'll be jobs in other industries. I decided that I was going to be running the first restaurant up there and I had a bad in which spices ahead.
Take along that we couldn't grow up their right away. I waited and capture the imagination. Not everyone was as enthusiastic about Cheerio Niels ideas as to Russia by Nineteen. Seventy two o Neill had turned his ideas into a paper and was looking to be published in a scientific journal. He got a lot of rejection letters. But then in May of nineteen. Seventy four, the New York Times when a front page article about Oneiros ideas which changed our lives dramatically. We had to He list our telephone number short. Thereafter Niels ideas also found traction in the academic world when his paper was, pushed in the journal physics today and the request sport interviews and lecturers just came rolling in on your was interviewed by the Smithsonian in the Science Fiction magazine, Omni even penthouse anyway. The very very good article
I mean I only read it for the articles in reducing the penthouse or maybe because penthouse O Neill even gain the interest of NASA, which funded a series of studies at the Aims research centre to explore all different avenues and to try to find a week. This isn't what he was suggesting and to really work out detailed designed the built on The original ideas in of his interviews and lectures. Jerry O Neill talked about space. In this whole new way, space wasn't just a government programme for a lead. Astronauts to take part in space was a place just another place for you and I get to explore when we open up the high frontier by building colonies. Instead, there is going to be room for people who want to leave the earth to go out and to develop their own colonies and to do their own thing.
Youtube the play This idea of space as a place appealed to a lot of different kinds of people and soon enough a social started coalescing around O'Neal's ideas by nineteen. Seventy five, a group called the EL five society for the Grange point. Five had formed a spread, the gospel of space colonization. They were very vocal. They were politically active, so they would oftentimes me lobbying Congress or NASA for an expanded space exploration programme and Yellow published a among Flynn NEWS letter. L fibers were serious space activists, but it as the Seventys, and there was a strange convergence happening of scientists, hippies and view
Let's do the Grange take over that's bell again he's a physicist and former L fibre who went to a lot of science fiction conventions and the Higgins. He's a physicist and former L fibre who went to a lot of science fiction conventions in the seventies were he says there was often a roomful of people singing and playing instruments. Bill CO wrote the letter, x to a song that became somewhat of an anthem for the EL five society. May your lungs, where the ground, spoke, is worthless. Body problem is solved where the languor waves play now really Greece and the cold virus never eat where the space Bree, always lens. We possess
Let's see, two of our greatest dreams: solar power and zero g sense. We just can't give you a second to stop. Picturing zero g sex. Ok for a while O Neill seem to welcome and encourage the attention from groups like AL five billion. Over society started to attract more controversial characters? How many of you would like, You live in space and liver, that's incredible Timothy Leary, promoting the idea of space colonization in the late nineteenth seven, these Leary B. Famous in the sixties for advocating the therapeutic use of LSD and Larry. His own ideas about what space colonies could do for humanity, rather tricky ideas about how billing space colonies would help uh sure in this new phase of conscious human evolution.
Having Leary as a spokesman may not have been ideal, as O Neill tried to get the government to take his ideas seriously. Leary someone who president Nixon once called the most dangerous man in America. If your six, Us full in promoting and popularizing particular technology or particular technological future you also risk losing control over the idea. You wanted to have the ideas out there in a people talking about it is better than not talking. People were certainly talking about it and not all of it was positive. According to Patrick pray. Many environmentalists of the time vehemently rejected the idea that space colonization could be a possible cure for our planet's problems, but he saw nothing environmental about. They saw their souci extension of the military industrial complex
in the space, and there were none environmental critiques made as well. People said why locate was actually going to go into space. It's not going to be the you know the urban poor. It's going to be. You know basically created these white suburbs. In space there was kind of a critique of of some of the meals ideas as a form of literally white Floyd. I suppose, rather than done with my now we're widely on the moon for bathing began, Well, why it is on the move, a k, pay, no doctor bills. Why didn't move ten years? From now we pass. The white is known among you know, demand more red. Last night of white is on the move, gills here and was just one of the people that voice this criticism about inequality and the space race. But of all the takes our made of only outside ideas. No one really said this is technologically impossible
in fact in the nineteen Seventys, we had just put astronauts on the moon. Anything seemed possible. Patrick says: to put this in perspective, he likes to imagine a hypothetical, Mario, its nineteen. Seventy five and you ask a random person on the street, which is the more likely scenario scenario: a wii are going to build a base on the moon and then we're going to bill colonies in outer space or scenario. Be we're not going to go back to them? for another half century at least now, argue that in nineteen seventy five most people would have that scenario, a was the much more likely one in nineteen. Seventy seven Oliver Niels Research was published in a very readable book, called the high frontier and he appeared on sixty minutes with Dan rather to talk about space colonization. Do you expect to set foot on what a space habitat
I sure, hope so down or I wouldn't be working on that your hope. But the question is: what does your expectations I'm putting my own professional time and and my effort into the scenario that says that these things we'll be realised within my working lifetime, Despite our meals optimism, the sixty minutes segment marked the peak of mainstream interest in his ideas and the goal of building settlements in space began to seem less and less attainable. So. Space shuttle did not become reliable space trucks The shuttles ended up making far fewer flights into space than originally predicted and in general then became more cautious unless adventurous than a lot of people had hoped which is why, in nineteen, seventy seven o Neill founded the nonprofit Space Studies Institute, which really is its own money and does its own research on space colonization.
Gerardo Neil died in nineteen. Ninety two, after a long battle with leukemia and now twice Five years after his death, some people think that were on the brink of another space age, one that can lead to the realization of some of our dreams. There are a lot of people working on it. He had so many young people, working with him there now calling themselves Jerry's kids, and they're in their 50s fifties, but they they learned sitting at his knee. Tomlinson Peter idea Mundus mission in life. Since I was a kid was and is to take the rest of you, into space. It's during our lifetime. There we're gonna, take the people of earth and transition off permanently that
Peter demand, is giving a TED talk in two thousand and five. We ve thought about the government, always as the person taking us there, but I put forward here. The government is not going to get us there. The government is unable to take the risks required open up this precious frontier, like Jerry, O Neill Dear, believes that technology can solve humanity's biggest problems and that we don't have to live a world of limits, but, like o demon, This has another primary motivation: money, the universe, full of valuable things to exploit for wealth everything about space everything. We hold a value on this planet, metals and men, rose and real estate and energy is an infinite quantities and space. In fact, the earth is a crumb in a supermarket filled with recent. Since there are other entrepreneurs like Elon, Musk and Jeff Basis, who would also like to make money in space and build human settlements there? However, it happens
both Freeman Dyson and touched her own. You are sure humans will find their way in the settlements in space eventually. Well, I would certainly will happen wonder at all. It was soon of worm and I'm counting on it, because Jerry wanted his just to scattered in a space colony life. By now you know his his grandchildren will, I hope, not his great grandchildren, but money will have to do it.
Ninety nine percent, invisible was produced this week by Katy Mingle, the same Greenspan's review set Delaney Hall Kirkwall said: Avery trouble, men and me roman wars. So thanks to Robert Smith, from the space studies Institute for all of his help on this story, Carolyn, Caroline my now for talking about the all five society and go Higginss for sharing his home on the grey zone with US to learn more about Gerardo Neil. In his plans for colonizing space, Checkout Patrick Mccrae Book the vision ears, our group will eat scientists pursued space colonies. Nanotechnologies Anna limitless future also be sure to check out the artist renderings of the O'Neill settlements that NASA Commission. In the seventies. We have a few of those on our website at ninety nine PA org. This episode is part of Pierre excess stories in science. Projects supported by the offered Peace Loan foundation to enhance public understanding of science, technology and economic performance more at Sloan DOT. Org
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Transcript generated on 2020-02-14.