from October 22, 2006
In a previous post, I spoke respectfully though skeptically of Mr Stephen Hawking’s suggestion that, in preparation for the next apocalypse, the human race ought to busy itself with the long-overdue project of colonizing Mars, in order to avoid the inevitable demise of the earth and with it, the human race.
Perhaps “skeptically” is too strong a word. Regular readers will remember that in the aforementioned column, I was forced to divulge the information that my eponymous think tank, MJTT, has been thinking along similar lines. That is to say, for the last two years we have been deep in thought on the problem of the Survival of Humankind (SOH). Thus our “skepticism” is a matter of what some journalists might call a mere quibble. We, however, are convinced that we simply have a better plan.
Instead of taking the route Mr Hawking suggests, that is, colonizing the moon within the next two decades and, from there, proceeding to colonize Mars—instead, I repeat, of working from Mr Hawking’s thoughtful but hastily conceived blueprint, we scientists should begin thinking along the following lines.
In our considered opinion, the first, and cautious, step toward abandoning Planet Earth (PE) should be to colonize a medium-sized meteor (MSM). Not with humans, or even intelligent robots, but with fruit flies (FFs).
The obvious beauty of this admittedly clever idea is that both MSMs and FFs are notoriously short-lived. We leave it to the technicians to flesh out the details of this plan, confident that the means of delivery of the FFs to a MSM are well within our current technological capabilities, and realizing, as do all reputable scientists, that vast projects must begin with tiptoe steps.
A less obvious beauty is best appreciated by ecologists and others of their ilk. Though their initial reaction will undoubtedly be that setting several million FFs on a slab of rock that is destined to burn them to a crisp upon entering PE’s atmosphere would be inhumane, further reflection should lead them to realize that an FF’s ride through space, brief as it is, would be more exhilarating than anything it is likely to experience within the prosaic confines of a scientific laboratory. These insects would undoubtedly be the envy of all human beings—excluding, of course, both our successful astronauts and the most timid souls in our midst.
As for the subsequent steps in our quite reasonable goal of abandoning PE, we at MJTT are busily but carefully at work, mindful that, as Aristotle famously and prudently warned in his lost treatise, After Metaphysics, “Haste makes waste.”