Welcome and why this blog?

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This blog is aimed at the formation of a independent secular, humanist republic in Space, called the Humanist Republic of Mordan. This new Republic will be based on classical republicanism and classical liberalism. Important to note is that we are not related the so called “Republican” Party from the USA (we prefer to call this non-republican party the GOP), neither do we support their policies.

Republic of Lagrangia differs from other “space” advocacy groups in several aspects. First of all, for us space colonization is a mean to create a better society, not just an end in itself. Secondly we reject begging for tax payers money, we believe that through crowd sourcing and good investments it will be possible to establish an independent nation in outer space by 2035.

On this blog we will publish several posts on topics related to Space Colonization, not only on technical topics, but also on political and social issues related to Space Colonization. Actually we will spent most attention to the latter issues, since there are on technical issues of Space Colonization already many sources on the internet, and whenever needed, we will refer to them. Nonetheless we will pay attention to those technical issues.

Even if you are not into space colonization, there are posts which might interest you. Since many of the topics we discuss are related to the influence of technology on society, they are often relevant for terrestrial politics as well.

We recommend new visitors to check our Reader’s Guide (which can be found under “Background information”). This reader’s guide gives an overview of our most important posts. And if you want to comment on our blog, which we appreciate, we urge you to consult our comment policy first.

The case for a direct current grid

Most countries in the world currently use alternating current in their grid. That AC has become the global standard is a relic of the past. In order to prevent losses due to resistance in electric wires, electricity has to be transported at high voltage. Only most electricity is produced and consumed at low voltage. Consequently the voltage has to be transformed when it is transported.

In the beginning of the 20th century, it was impossible to transform the voltage of direct current. Hence in early DC grids electricity had to be transported and be consumed at the same voltage as it was produced. And because of the inability of low voltage DC transmission, DC was rejected in favour of AC grids, since AC could be easily transformed at the time.

A century ago most applications of electricity could be performed with devices that used either AC or DC. Electric light and motors were the most used electric devices those days.

Times have changed, however. With the introduction of power electronics, and of DC-to-DC converters in particular, it has been become possible to modify the voltage of a DC current. And further, most electronic devices work on DC rather than AC nowadays. For instance integrated circuits (a.k.a. chips) cannot work on AC, and require a rectifier to convert AC into DC. On the hand there are only a very few applications for which DC devices are not suitable. And for those few situation an DC-to-AC converter might solve problems with a DC grid [1].

Because power electronics were developed by the time that most countries had already built an extensive AC grid, switching to a DC grid would take an enormous investment. What is the main reason we still stick to AC grids. Nowadays, DC power transmission is only used for long distance transport.

In space settlements, however, we will need to build the entire electric power transmission from scratch. Therefore it would be a good opportunity to build a DC grid rather than an AC one.

It is well-known that Solar power is the principal source of energy for space settlements. And photo-voltaic cells generate a direct current. Then the generated power is converted into high energy laser or microwave beams, which are transmitted to the space settlement, where the beam is converted back into electricity. And in the settlement most electrical devices require an DC input.

Opting for a DC grid in space settlements would be the logical thing to do.

[1] In fact many devices that run on AC, first convert to current they get from the grid into DC, and use an inverter to change the current back to AC. The reason for this that the frequency of the grid is not the same as the desired frequency for a certain application. In case of a DC grid only an inverter would be needed, instead of both a rectifier and an inverter.

What we are not

Republic of Lagrangia is not a space blog

That is we are not a generic space blog, we don’t write about everything related to space and space exploration. For us space colonization is a mean to an end, the establishment of a new society. Hence we wrote about those subjects which are relevant for space colonization and social reforms. See here for more.

Republic of Lagrangia is not a science fiction fan club

Though space colonization is a popular theme in science fiction, albeit often rife with planetary chauvinism, space colonization is a serious subject regarding the future of humanity. Therefore we discuss space colonization from a realistic and scientific perspective.

This should not be understood as we dislike science fiction, on the contrary SF can be very inspiring, but we don’t discuss science fiction on this site. However, since science fiction often deals with similar topics as the ones we discuss here, it’s acceptable to refer to certain works of science fiction (or to fiction in general) in comments. But keep in mind that those references should be relevant to the particular discussion, and that the cited piece of science fiction should be reasonably realistic.

Republic of Lagrangia is not a debating club

Some people like get engaged in discussion on the Internet just for the fun of debating with others. The Internet is full with forums and blogs suited for that purpose. And there is nothing wrong with this.

Only if your intention is to engage in a discussion just to win, Republic of Lagrangia is not the place to be. Discussions on this site are meant to be constructive, i.e. to further our aims. It is good to give critique on our articles, if provided with arguments, or to propose alternatives.

However, if you don’t show any interest in a constructive discussion, as opposed to a debate, we won’t bother to engage with you. We will not waste our time and energy to ’tis! ’tisn’t games.

If you cannot absolutely find yourself in what we stand for, than you could better leave this site. We respect that people have different preferences, but there is no point in seeking to change our preferences.

Republic of Lagrangia is not a lobby club

We don’t actively seek any terrestrial government to pursue any of the proposals we defend on this site, nor do we lobby said governments to further space colonization.

 

The Basilica

Originally a basilica was a Roman building with purely secular functions. A basilica typically had a rectangular floor plan, and contained a large hall. It principally served as a public meeting place for conducting business and legal affairs. The basilica of Trier gives a good illustration how a classical basilica looked liked.

Each Roman city had its own basilica, and without one, a settlement would not count as a city. Because capacity of a basilica to contain a large number people, it served as the center of civil society. Space settlers should consider to build new basilicas in their cities. And not in the last place because a basilica is an architectural enrichment of a city.

What functions should such basilica have? First, weekly services can be held there, probably each Wednesday. Such services could contain the following elements: a lecture on a philosophical, scientific or cultural subject by a qualified speaker, some music, and a drink at the end. Secondly, the basilica can be used as a room for temporary and permanent expositions of works of art.

Thirdly, people should be able to rent a basilica for their weddings, celebrations, memorial services, meetings and conventions. This would raise the revenue needed to maintain the basilica. The management of the basilica will have to make proper arrangements for renting the building.

As a special service, below an image of how the interior of an O’Neill cylinder might look like.

noorderlicht-interior-view-including-looking-through-large-windows.jpeg

 

The Return of the Siege

This is the first part in a series about warfare in space. In this first post we will not get into the discussion about possible motives Space Settlements could have to wage war with each other. Rather we will discuss possible tactics Space Settlers could use in space wars.

Assuming that a conflict between Space governments escalates into an armed conflict, we have to consider what potential targets for attack are. It does not take much imagination to conclude that at least the following are potential targets: Solar Power Satellites, industrial stations, transport vessels and space habitats. The first three are relative easy to attack, and the destruction of those will have serious impact on the population of a space habitat which is dependent upon their services.

But what about space habitats as a potential target? Compared to the other targets, space habitats are quite large and will be designed in such fashion that their construction will not fall apart by the first blow. Further space habitats are closed structures, which can only be entered through secure airlocks. In this respect space habitats are quite similar to premodern cities with their fortified city walls. But with the important difference that unlike city walls, Space Habitats have no opening.

In premodern warfare sieges were a common tactic. A siege is nothing more than surrounding an enemy city or fortification by an army, and to isolate the population. The idea is that since most cities couldn’t be taken easily, it would better to cut of the citizens from outside supplies, until they had to give up and to surrender.

Besides surrender there are two other ways in which a siege can end. First, they besieged city is too well prepared, that it will take years before they have to give up due to attrition. Besieging a city draws many resources from the army, and if a siege takes too long, the besieging army has to give up.

Secondly, the besieging army can be defeated by an external force. If the city has allies, or is part of a larger nation, those will attempt to attack the besieging forces. Whether this will successful, depends on whether the besieging party has enough forces to defeat those reinforcements.

As a tactic in space warfare, sieges have certain advantages. There is no need to enter a space settlement, if one is able to cut off all supply lines of that settlement. And since the inhabitants of the settlement cannot leave, they are kept out of commission (as potential soldiers). From an ethical perspective, besieging a space settlement is less problematic than a massive attack which might kill several thousands, and even millions (in larger space habitats such as O’Neill cylinders) of people.

Even if one does not have an inherent commitment to basic ethical standards, it’s rational to avoid mass killings of civilians. First of all, the opposing party might lose its interests in peace negotiations, and instead the opponent might seek revenge. Secondly, parties which were initially neutral might be moved to such war crimes, to either impose sanctions or even to join the war at the opposing side. Thirdly, after defeat the political and military leaders might face prosecution for war crimes.

Though besieging space settlements can be attractive, if neither conquest nor destruction are the objectives; siege warfare has certain disadvantages. First, a substantial fleet is needed to effectively surround a space settlement. And by sending out a substantial force, one’s own settlements are left vulnerable. On a related note as long as the siege continues, those forces cannot be deployed for other operations.

How could space settlements defend themselves against a siege? First, space settlers should be prepared. By building up adequate reserves, they can endure long sieges albeit it on a lesser standard of living. If a space settlement is able to recycle its resources efficiently, then the main concern will be a guaranteed energy supply. The attackers might conquer or disable the settlements solar power satellites, and hence reduce the amount of energy available to the settlement.

Secondly, a space settlement could establish certain defensive capacity, either by installing weapons, such as high energy laser or particle-beam weapons, on the outside of the settlement, or by having a fleet of defense ships in the neighbourhood of the settlement.

Alternatively, if a space settlement is aware that some party is intending to siege them, it could send a military force to attack its opponents before they can strike. This defense strategy, however, requires adequate reconnaissance and well-trained forces.

A possibility would be a tactic, which we will call a reversed Trojan horse. The inhabitants of a space settlement could pretend to surrender, and invite their adversaries to enter the habitat. However, when the enemy is inside, the space settlers overpower them. If the besieging party is relatively small, the settlers could choose to allow all hostile soldier within their settlement. Otherwise they could allow only one unit to enter, which is subsequently taken hostage with the aim of forcing the besiegers to back off. This could be effective, especially if a high-ranking officer is among the hostages.

Whether the siege is a suitable strategy or tactic in space warfare, depends on what is at stake. In case of minor interests, this type of warfare is probably to costly. However, if the stakes are high, sieges are much more attractive.

Next installment in this series about warfare in space, is about piracy.

The Humanist Republic of Mordan

Imagine a continent with many sovereign nations, but one of those countries is frequently referred to with the name of that continent, to much annoyance of the inhabitants of the other countries. Even if that particular country is the most populous on that continent, has the largest armed forces, the largest economy; that country covers only a fraction of the entire continent, and yet the name of the continent has become synonymous with that one country.

Of course, this causes a lot of confusion. After all when does the continent’s name refer to that particular country (or its citizens) and when to the entire continent (and its inhabitants)? A rational reaction would be to avoid such confusion in the first place by not naming a country after the continent, unless it covers the entire continent.

Lagrangia means land of Lagrange. It is a poetic reference to the Lagrange points, a popular destination in space colonization literature. But what is so special about Lagrange points? Joseph-Louis Lagrange discovered, after a thorough analysis of Newtonian physics, that in each system in which an object orbits another; there are five points where the gravity and inertial forces of these objects would cancel each other. The main consequence of these Lagrange points is that an object which is located at such a point, will remain there.

Later analysis demonstrated that the fourth and fifth Lagrange points were even more special. Bodies that are in close proximity of either Lagrange point 4 or 5, will orbit those points. And they will stay there. These properties make the L4 and L5 points interesting for stationing space settlements.

Because L4/L5 cover large  areas, we could compare them with continents. Multiple space settlements could be located there, and hence multiple nations. It is in no way necessary that all space settlements will form a political union. Ideological differences among space settlements might prevent such union.

On a practical note, things are even more complicated. Not only there multiple Lagrange points, but there also more sets of Lagrange points. There are Lagrange points in the Earth-Moon system, in the Sun-Earth system, the Sun-Mars system, the Sun-Jupiter, the Saturn-Titan system. And so on. In fact the Solar System is covered with Lagrange points.

Consequently, using Lagrangia as a reference to the Lagrange points, is quite broad. Maybe too broad. After all to which (set of) Lagrange point(s) are you referring to? And since there are many Lagrange points, where many different Space nations can be located, calling one of those nations Lagrangia, will only cause confusion.

It would be best if no space nation would ever use the name Lagrangia for itself. And contrary to what the title of this site might suggest, we have never intended to call the state we want to found Republic of Lagrangia, which is only the working name of our organization. Instead we intend to name the state we want to found at either SEL-4 or SEL-5, the Humanist Republic of Mordan.

From now on we will use the name Mordan more consistently as the reference to the state we want to establish. However, this does not change anything to our commitment to secularism, (classic) liberalism, humanism and (classic) republicanism.

Foreign policy doctrine

A few years ago I wrote the following memo, which outlines foreign policy. You should compare the doctrine below with the post on Space Settlements and foreign policy. As you will see, the memo does not contain an elaboration on the third principle, but from the context its understanding can be deduced.

The foreign policy of the Humanist Republic of Mordan is based on the following three principles:

I The peaceful coexistence of different cultures, political ideologies and forms of society

II Non-interventionism and strict neutrality

III National Sovereignty is unconditional and nonnegotiable as long the peaceful coexistence among nations is not endangered

These principles have to be understood as complementary to each other, rather than as three stand alone rules. Their unity is the fundamental base of our foreign policy.

The idea behind these principles is the proposition that the primary responsibility of any government are its own citizens. From this very essential proposition it follows that no government should adopt a foreign policy, which unnecessarily risks the lives and security of its citizens, such as by provoking aggression of foreign powers.

Every nation has the right to determine how to organize its own society, so do we. But if we want to organize our society the way we want, we should acknowledge this right to other nations. By accepting differences among societies, we create a base for peaceful coexistence.

The second principle logically follows from the first, the peaceful coexistence among nations cannot be realized if we should interfere with the internal affairs of other nations, and at the other hand our own nation cannot allow any interference by any foreign power in our very own affairs. And there is no general reason for us to interfere with conflicts among other nations, as long as those conflicts are not directly affecting our own interests. Therefore our country should abstain of choosing sides in transnational conflicts which do not directly affect our country.

Space settlements as smoke-free zones

Scientists have found that smoke-free legislation has positive effects on the health of children. Both preterm births as well incidence of asthma has been declined as result of banning smoking in public and work places.

It’s widely known that second-hand smoke as dangerous as smoking itself. Classical liberals in the tradition of John Stuart Mill, believe that adults should be free to do whatever harm to themselves; but if their actions would harm non-consenting others, then the government is justified to interfere. This rule is known as the harm principle.

Smokers do, by exposing others to their smoke, cause harm. That smokers inflict harm to themselves, is from a Millian perspective irrelevant as long as it is their own choice. What matters is the harm done to non-consenting others. Especially in case of children.

Children are because they not yet able to make their decisions, dependent of adults. If people smoke in the presence of children, the latter have little or no means to protect themselves against this violation of their right to health. Therefore the state should take action.

The research cited above about the positive effects of smoke-free legislation in Western countries, suggest that Space Settlements should take the ultimate step: complete prohibition of smoking. That means outlawing the sale smoking devices and, of course, smoking itself.

Since this prohibition is aimed at the protection of third parties, and not against the use of the drug nicotine per se, the sale and consumption of products such as nicotine patches, inhalers and nicotine gum, should be legal. Also the sale and consumption of smokeless tobacco products should not be be affected by the total smoking ban.

The different types of Solar power generation

Though there is broad consensus that Solar power will be the principal energy source for Space Settlements, several methods of converting Solar power into useful forms of energy have been proposed. In most cases this means to conversion of solar energy into electricity, but also the production of thermal energy of industrial importance.

In most Space colonization plans space habitats and solar power satellites are proposed as separate structures. This because space habitats have to rotate in order to generate “artificial gravity”, whilst solar power satellites are preferentially kept stationary. Most proposal suggest microwaves as the method of power transmission to space habitats (or even to Earth), where the microwaves are converted into electricity.

In Space colonization literature two main types of Solar Power Satellites (SPS) have been proposed: the first type uses Solar energy to heat a fluid (such as helium) to drive a turbine to generate electricity. The second type uses photo-voltaic cells to convert Sunlight directly into electricity. Both types use electricity to produce microwaves, which are then beamed to the consumer.

Type I satellites are by far the most simple SPSs to construct, and have been proposed since the 1960s. Basically you only need a mirror, tubes, a compressor, a turbine and a working fluid to build one. Back in the 1970s photo-voltaic cells were much less developed than today. And for that reason most early proposals for Solar Power Satellites were of this type.

Another advantage of type I satellites of type II ones, is that photo-voltaic cells will deteriorate due to their exposure to Solar winds. And consequently type II satellites will decrease in power output over time.

But on the other hand type I satellites are much more vulnerable to meteorite impacts. A small hole in one of the tubes caused by such an impact, will cause the working fluid to leak from the system; which will render the entire plant useless. However, if a type II satellite, which is composed of a multiple photo-voltaic cells is hit by a meteorite, only the cells which are hit will be destroyed, whilst the others will still be in operation.

Compared to type I satellites, type II satellites are less massive and hence require less material resources to be built. Also type II satellites have no moving parts, which are subject to wearing off.

Besides these two main types, several other types of Solar power satellites have been proposed. An interesting proposal are Solar-pumped lasers. These are laser which are powered directly by Solar power, without the intermediate step of producing electricity. The generated laser beam can then be used to transmit energy over great distances. This has several potential applications.

First, such lasers can be used to propel solar sails throughout the solar system. A second application is to transmit power to settlements at great distance from the Sun. The amount of Solar power one receives, decreases with the distance to Sun squared. For instance Saturn is located 10 times as far from the Sun as Earth, and receives per squared meter a 100 times less energy. A solar power satellite in the neighbourhood of Saturn needs to be a 100 times larger than a comparable satellite in the neighbourhood of Earth.

Since laser beams are highly concentrated, a solar-pumped laser in our neighbourhood could power a SPS close to Saturn. And that SPS could be considerably smaller.

Too cheap to meter?

Lewis Strauss coined in reference to the prospect of fusion power, the phrase too cheap to meter. Mr. Strauss argued that once fusion power would become available, the costs to produce electricity would be so low, that wouldn’t be worthwhile to charge the consumer in respect to their actual energy consumption.

The principal source of energy in Space Settlements is, of course, solar power. Our natural fusion reactor produces such amounts of power, that only a tiny fraction is needed for use by Space Settlers. Hence the question arises whether Space Settlers should be charged for their actual energy consumption?

Though the Sun does deliver its energy for free, it does not mean that the energy consumed by Space Settlers should be free. In order to make use of Solar energy, Space Settlers should convert it into useful forms of energy, such as electricity. This requires the construction of Solar Power Plants (SPPs).

And though a SPP has no fuel costs, it needs money for its construction and maintenance. Further the SPP has to be protected against meteorites and terrorists. It is obvious to someone has to pay for these services. And then we are only talking about the power plants, what to think about the construction and maintenance of the grid? But the good news is that even if we take these cost into consideration, space settlers will receive a considerably lesser energy bill than their terrestrial fellows.

The backside of SPPs is that the initial investment to build them, is quite high (though this would be compensated by the extreme long service life of the plants) and hence vulnerable to emerge of monopolists. After all once a space energy company has built a SPP, it can offer energy at relatively low prices, while the threshold of building a new plant will deter potential competitors.

Since such a monopoly is likely inevitable, it would be best if the governments of space settlements will take care of the production and maintenance of SPPs. This had two benefits: first all profits will flow to public treasury, and secondly price setting by the energy company is subject to democratic supervision.

Should households pay for waste disposal?

In many civilized countries households pay a fee for funding the public waste disposal service. This system, however, stems from the age when garbage was dumped at landfills and waste was considered as a valueless annoyance. Though many developed countries has switched to incineration as their primary method of waste disposal, waste was and is still seen as the useless by-product of consumption.

Within that paradigm it makes sense to let people pay for the disposal of their own garbage, under the principle of “the polluter must pay”. This principle would be useful for the reduction of waste, if the waste disposal fee one has to pay, would depend upon the amount of waste one produces. However, in some countries this fee is either fixed or does dependent on the number of household member, rather than on the amount of waste produced.

Under a fixed fee there’s a perverse incentive for people to produce a great amount of waste. After all your waste disposal becomes cheaper if you have more waste to dispose. And the cost of your waste disposal will be shifted to those who produce less waste. It’s not hard to see how this would lead to a vicious circle to more and more waste.

The question is then why governments does choose for a fixed fee? The answer is simplicity. It’s difficult for tax authorities to make an accurate estimation of how much waste someone actually produces. Levying a fixed fee, or making it dependent upon the number of household members, is much easier for the government.

But we do not want to have landfills in space settlements, and due to the abundance of solar power in space waste incineration does not make much sense either. Therefore we should consider whether this linear paradigm is actually the correct frame to look at waste. As have argued in a previous post, recycling should be the corner-stone of the waste management system of space settlements.

With recycling garbage should not considered as valueless waste, as one’s garbage is another’s resource. Consequently waste processing is not longer a service which prime focus is managing of a public annoyance, but rather a productive and value adding industry. The revenue generated through the sale of the products of recycling plants, should be used to fund the waste management system of space settlements, rather than charging households for the disposal of their waste.