All posts by Mordanicus

Space advocate, author, classical republican, classical liberal, religious humanist, religious naturalist.

General notice

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Google co-founders funds in vitro meat

Today it was made public that Google co-founder Sergey Bergin has been the mystery backer of Dutch scientist Mark Post’s project to create the world first lab grown hamburger. On this blog we have discussed to importance of lab-grown or in vitro meat before. As we have discussed in another post:

The main reason why Musk might want a vegetarian-only colony, is that meat is a very inefficient method of producing food. For producing 1kg of beef you need 10kg of vegetable food for cattle. Especially in the first Space settlements this will be an important factor. After all, the early space habitats will be small and agricultural land will limited. Since humans can perfectly live on a vegetarian diet, it will be an easy choice for Space governments to ban the raising of livestock for food.

It will be an easy choice, because for every cow ten people can be fed. So by banning livestock Space settlements can sustain a population up to ten times larger. Since these extra people will have a greater economic value than livestock, Space communities can grow faster to full economic independence from Earth.

As we can see in the article on BBC News: in vitro meat will require only 55% percent of the energy used by, emits only 4% of the greenhouse gas emission of, and only 1% of the land occupied by traditional animal farming. Especially the last reduction, is important for early space settlers. By switching to in vitro meat, space settlers can save 99% of their land, which can be used for more important applications.

Although at this moment only meatloaf can be produced by this method, we have to consider that most meat consumption consists of processed meat, such as hot-dogs, hamburgers, pizzas and chicken-nuggets. And in vitro meat is especially useful for producing such meat products.

Since the method developed by Prof Post, allow 10,000 kilogram of meat to be produced from one single stem cell, it is no longer necessary to kill animals. The needed stem cells can extracted from living animals through a biopsy, a standard medical procedure. Because stem cells can easily be frozen, there is no need for importing livestock to space settlements from Earth. However, in the more distant future it would be advisable to have a small herd of donor animals, for reasons of food security.

A few notes on Mars One

Mars One is organization based in the Netherlands aimed at sending four people to Mars in 10 years from now. In previous posts we have discussed the feasibility of their mission plan, and we are a little bit sceptical about it. Perhaps it’s good to discuss their progress.

Curious as we are, we check from time to time their website. The first thing we have to notice is the surprisingly small amount of information it provides. In regard to general information about the colonization of Mars, Wikipedia provides more or less the same amount. But more importantly is the lack of any details about Mars One’s own program.

Nevertheless, the information the site does provide, is of no less importance. Mars One has a road map lined out on their site. According to this, Mars One intends to build “a replica of the Mars settlement on Earth” by… 2013. Though I always thought that in order to build a replica, you have to build the original first, this piece of information is quite interesting. MO claims that this “replica” settlement is meant as both the training facility for their astronauts and as testing ground for the equipment. Because reliability, this “replica” has to be built in an environment similar to Mars (there are enough of such sites on our planet).

Of course, this is actually a good plan: test your stuff here before you send it on the long way to the Red planet. However since it’s already August 2013, we have to ask one simple question: how far is Mars One with building this “replica”? The news section on their site does not refer to any progress in regard of this. Actually MO gives news only quite irregularly. But one would suppose that the start of construction of the testing-and-training facility would be important enough to make an official press release. Hence we might conclude that MO hasn’t been able to establish the replica yet.

It’s unclear whether MO intends to start construction of the “replica” settlement or they want to have it operational by the end of this year. Since Mars One has been subject to severe critique from around the world, it is essential that they will build this facility as soon as possible. If MO can have it operational before 2015, they have something to show their criticisers. But if they fail, then it’s game over. But having an operational Mars base on Earth, is just only the easy part (it will also be a TV studio). The difficult part is actually sending the supplies to Mars, before the intended arrival of first settlers.

So Mars One should provide the world answers to the following questions: Has MO selected any particular site or sites for the prototype settlement already? If so, has MO commenced the procedures to purchase or to lease this site? Or has MO already completed these procedures? When does MO expect to start with the construction and when will it be finished?

Evading these questions is no option, at some point Mars One has to show world something. Otherwise their credibility, already not quite high, will collapse.

Another point of interest, is the following: their most recent update in regard with the progress of their program is dated May, 7th 2013. It states that by then 78,000 people have applied for the mission already. As far as we know, people can give themselves up until August, 31st, and their target is 500,000 applications. Why haven’t been there any further updates? Wouldn’t it be great to know that by now already more than 100,000 or 250,000 people have applied for a one-way trip to Mars? Note they have issued an official press release to let everyone know that 78,000 people had applied.

Honestly, we suspect that the number of additional applications is quite low. The most enthusiast supporters of Mars One have submitted their applications during the first month of the application period. Thereafter only a few people would have submitted an application. Those who didn’t apply, will not do it in the future, because either they are not interested or they are sceptical about Mars One’s credentials.

It would be a huge setback for Bas Lansdorp, if he has to announce that only less than 100,000 people has applied for a one-way journey to the Red planet. Of course, this wouldn’t jeopardize his ambitions to put a man on Mars by 2023, but it would demonstrate his lack of realism.

Declaration on International Conflicts

This is a declaration on the formal position of Republic of Lagrangia in matters of international conflicts.

For the purpose of this declaration, international conflicts are defined as any dispute between any number of nations, regardless whether any nation involved is recognized as such by the international community.

Since the purpose of Republic of Lagrangia is the establishment of an independent and sovereign republic in outer space, RofL maintains a policy of strict neutrality in matters of international disputes between terrestrial nations. For all on going international conflicts RofL is in favour of any peaceful resolution of those conflicts, for any of those conflicts RofL does not prefer any particular solution.

Consequently, RofL will not discuss any particular international conflict between terrestrial nations in its publication, nor will it allow any public discussion thereof on its blogs and fora. However, this will not prevent RofL from referring to international conflicts for illustrious purposes, provided that none of the parties involved will receive any credit or discredit.

Why racism is bullshit

The following YouTube video is about a white girl with blue eyes and blond hair born to… two black Nigerian parents without any known white ancestry. According to the scientist at the end of the video, there are about twelve in genes involved with “racial” characteristics, a rare mutation might radically change someone’s “racial” appearance. In other words, racism is utterly nonsense.

A 3D printed future: 10 surprising things we could see printed soon

This post explains why 3D-printing is an important key-technology for the realisation of space colonization. 3D-printing, with in-situ resource utilization of extra-terrestrial resources, will enable space settlers to achieve economic independence much earlier than would be possible with tradional production techniques.

TED Blog

It is the dawn of the era of 3D printing. From artificial prosthetics to very real human kidneys to filigree skull sculptures — the number and variety of applications for this technology are growing, layer by printed layer. Combine this with the decreasing cost of owning a printer, as well as the cheaper cost of manufacturing in general, and it appears that 3D printers are here to stay. So, why stop at a kidney?

[ted_talkteaser id = 1798]Bastian Schaefer of Airbus has a far bigger use in mind. In today’s talk, he shares a vision for the sustainable future of aviation: a jumbo jet that’s light, cheap and spacious, with an exterior that mimics the structure of bone. He imagines the jet  as a “living, breathing organism,” complete with its own consciousness. And he imagines the jet printed from the ground up.

Why use 3D printing technology to create…

View original post 792 more words

Some thoughts on prostitution

Last weeks the Dutch city of Utrecht made national head lines because of a controversial decision to close so-called prostitution boats. Though prostitution is legal in the Netherlands, there is great concern about the fact that many prostitutes are victims of human traffickers. Ironically the problem has become worse after the legalisation of prostitution.

In order to combat the problem of forced prostitution, many Dutch cities are revoking the licenses of brothel owners they suspect of human trafficking. Consequently, many prostitutes are losing their work places, including those who have entered this job voluntarily. It’s important that the bad pimps and their criminal associates are prosecuted, but in the way things currently work, the voluntary prostitutes (and their clients) are victimized.

Since the sole brothel owner in Utrecht has lost its license, there are no brothels left in the city. Some of the prostitutes who has lost their work place, have come up with the plan to start a cooperative of prostitutes. This cooperative would take over the brothel and the prostitutes themselves would run it. In this way the prostitutes are no longer depended on the services of a pimp.

Several people involved in this issue (e.g. mayors, district attorneys, prostitutes themselves) are calling for a mandatory registration of prostitutes. Only those who voluntary enter this particular trade, can be registered. When a client seeks the services of a prostitute (s)he is obliged to ask for the prostitute’s registration card.

Considering that prostitution will not disappear any time soon, and will likely also exist in future space settlements, I would propose the following system:

1. It will be prohibited to buy sexual services, unless from a registered sex-worker;

2. All sex-workers have to be registered by the authorities;

3. In order to be registered as a sex-worker, a person must be:

a. at least 21 years of age

b. be a citizen or permanent resident

c. a member a sex-worker cooperative.

This system would prevent most abuse in the sex-industry, whilst respecting people who voluntarily enter this branch.



Euthanasia and capital punishment

The participation of medical professionals in both euthanasia and capital punishment is controversial. Lethal injection is a common procedure in both practices, but it requires trained skills to perform it properly. Ideally, either physicians or anaesthetists should carry out the injections. However, traditional medical ethics (the Hippocratic Oath) prevents medical practitioners from administering people lethal substances.

British humanist philosopher A. C. Grayling argued for the introduction of thanatologists: medical professionals specialized in human euthanasia. Though Grayling does not point out a specific method of euthanasia, it’s reasonable to assume that he is thinking about either some kind of lethal injections or some pill (“Pil van Drion” in Dutch). However, they are other possible methods for euthanasia.

Canadian-American philosopher James Park argues for the abolition of the death penalty around world, and to replace it with imprisonment for life. However, Park agrees with Peter Moskos that:

the sadism inherent in long-term imprisonment, especially solitary confinement, should give pause to all who have the slightest bit of human empathy. Is anything worse than being entombed alive? (Moskos p. 50, 2011).

Imprisonment, life sentences in particular, have been described by many as a kind of torture. For those criminals sentences to temporary prison sentences, Moskos has proposed to offer the condemned a choice between either a several years in prison or to be flogged instead (with subsequent release). But Moskos has to accept that some criminals (including murderers, serial rapists, child molesters and terrorists) are so dangerous that they have to be kept away from society, for ever.

However, if we accept that imprisonment is a kind of torture, than life-imprisonment becomes a serious moral problem. This argument is used in favour of the death penalty, since some supporters of the death penalty see it as a more humane alternative for life-imprisonment. (Conversely, some opponents of the death penalty are using this to describe the death penalty as too soft.)

In order to solve this moral dilemma, James Park has proposed to offer those condemned to life without parole the option of voluntary execution. In his proposal, the prisoner will select the date of his or her execution (at least a year into the future). During the time up to the execution the prisoner can reverse his or her decision. Further the prisoner who desires to be executed, has to make twelve requests for it to be sent to trusted person outside the prison system. Park also proposes several safe-guards to ensure that the decision to be executed is made voluntarily by the prisoners (i.e. without pressure from the authorities).

Additionally Park argues for giving prisoners the option to donate their organs after their (voluntary) execution, which could save the lives of up to seven persons. This requirement severely restricts the number of execution methods which can be used. Although Park mentions brain death as an execution method, he does not say how to induce brain death in people. But there is an execution method which is both humane and leaves the organs suitable for donation.

This method is inert gas asphyxiation. As explained on Wikipedia:

Inert gas asphyxiation is a form of asphyxiation which results from respiration of inert gas in the absence of oxygen rather than atmospheric air (a mixture of oxygen and the inert nitrogen). The painful experience of suffocation is not caused by lack of oxygen, but because carbon dioxide builds up in the bloodstream, instead of being exhaled as under normal circumstances. With inert gas asphyxiation, carbon dioxide is exhaled normally, and no such pain experience occurs.

Therefore inert gas asphyxiation is a relatively humane way to cause death. This method works also quickly, unconsciousness within fifteen seconds and death within a minute. As method for euthanasia, it has the additional benefit of causing a state of euphoria in the person dying in such manner. What way of dying is better than dying in euphoria?

However, this aspect is reason for some supporters to oppose this method for executions. But since this method only requires a bottle of nitrogen, a tube and a mask, inert gas asphyxiation does not depend on the use of medical skills. This fact makes it suitable for use by Grayling’s thanatologists. With a simple and fast method for euthanasia, thanatologists can focus on counselling their patients and their loved-ones.


Moskos, Peter 2011. In defense of flogging. Basic Books, New York.

How to kill a human being, part 5. BBC Horizon. 2008.

Artificial wombs and gender equality

Recently we did a post about the 21-hour work week, one of the arguments raised in favour of this proposal, is enhancing gender equality. By reducing working hours, parents of both genders would be enabled to a more equal share in the care of their children. There is no doubt that this idea would improve gender equality, however it is not enough. A fundamental obstacle to full gender-equality is pregnancy.

It’s a biological fact that only women can become pregnant, and unfortunately it is also a full-time job. Pregnancy has a huge impact on female physiology, especially at the later stages. Because of these inconveniences, working women who are pregnant has to decrease working hours or to stop working at all. For this reason, female employees are too often fired, not hired at all, or their temporary employment contract is not prolonged.

And this is only in case of one child, what if a couple wants to have more children? Young women often leave the labour force for a few years, when they are starting a new family. It’s obvious that this is detrimental for the careers of women. Too many women are giving up their ambitions. There should be a way for women to pursue both a career and a family.

As some regular readers might know, I am a great fan of artificial uteri. I have written about it before, albeit in the discussion of non-human animals. The technology would enable, if fully developed, the gestation of a human person outside the female body. At this moment it is not possible to carry out the entire pregnancy in an artificial uterus, only the final stages. But since the later stages are also the most problematic ones, many women would be helped.

No woman should be forced to use an artificial uterus. Some women will choose to be pregnant herself, other women will be glad to make use of this bright new technology. Also this can also solve another problem: sometimes a pregnant woman’s life by her pregnancy, in which case the pregnancy has to be terminated at the expense of the child’s life. For many parents this is a great nightmare. See this post for another possible application of artificial uteri.

In order to achieve full gender equality, any humanist government should encourage research to artificial uteri.

Space settlements and citizenship

In the model we propose, people who are immigrating to a space settlement will do this by their own choice. Further those residents who wish so, are allowed to leave the settlement at any time, either to return to Earth or to move to another settlement.Though some authors have suggested to impose a minimum period of residence by contract, we believe that save for some exceptional circumstances, such contractual clauses should be avoided.

As such it follows that the residence of a space colony is voluntary (I restrict myself here to the case of adults). However, if the residence of a space settlement is voluntary, then the citizenship of such settlement should also be voluntary. Citizens have more rights than residents, mainly rights such as suffrage, but have also additional duties such as conscription. Of course, different space settlements will have different sets of rights and duties, according to principles on which their societies are based.

Any person who is seriously committed to the idea of democracy, should recognize the right of any person to choose in which society he or she wants to live. A socialist, for instance, should be able to migrate to a socialist society, whilst a libertarian should have the right to move to a libertarian one. This idea is known as foot voting. If democrats give us the right to choose between socialist and libertarian parties, they should give us a similar right to choose between socialist and libertarian societies.

This might sounds the bloody obvious, but in reality it is not. Many countries such as France, the Netherlands and Singapore, do not allow their citizens to renounce their citizenship unless they acquire the citizenship of another country. Some countries, such as Argentina and Morocco, go even further and deny their citizens the right to give up their citizenship at all. If you are born as a citizen of such country you are out of luck, you will remain a citizen until your death. At least these countries do allow their citizens to leave the country, but some countries such as North Korea do anything to keep their citizens prisoners of their own country.

People who do not agree with the principles of their own countries should not be forced to stay. And since many country still impose all kind of obligations, such as conscription or taxation, on their citizens, people should not be forced to keep their citizenship if they do not subscribe to the principles of their country.

The reason why many countries have made it hard to renounce citizenship voluntarily, is the convention on the reduction of statelessness. This treaty is meant to combat the ills resulting from involuntary statelessness. The last century has seen a lot of instances of governments arbitrarily revoking citizenship of their subjects, it’s this abuse which has caused many people to see statelessness as a thing to be avoided. But the general principles of the convention are:

  • Everyone has the right to a nationality.
  • No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality. (Wikipedia)

Therefore if a person should desire to become a stateless person, a state should not prevent such action. The only thing prohibited to states, is to arbitrarily deprive their citizens from their nationality against their will. Only by due process of law, a state is allowed to involuntary deprive a citizen of his citizenship.

Republicanism is based on the idea that citizenship should be voluntary, which is a logical extension of the core principles of democracy. Persons are not the property of their prospective governments, therefore states are not entitled to impose citizenship on their subjects against their will. In practice this would mean that if a citizen should desire to give up his nationality, he or she should be allowed to do so.

See also:

Federalism and Space colonization