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Aurora - a critique by Stephen Baxter and others
#9
So, reading through the thread, various thoughts:

a) I would suggest that rather than trying to fit a full planetary ecosystem into a ship, a better approach might be to create a smaller, custom designed, and possibly engineered, ecosystem instead.

Such a 'shipsystem' would be viable within the small and closed environment of the ship, but might not fair so well if it had to operate on a planet. It might consist of a mix of organisms, some naturally evolved, some evolved, but then gengineered to fit better into the shipsystem and some totally artificial (if the tech allows for that).

One element of such a shipsystem might be that it 'tops out' with its largest organisms and/or apex predators actually being rather small and harmless by our standards. Cats or weasels instead of wolves or lions (or tigers or bears, oh my). Another might be lifeforms engineered to work better in the closed environment of the ship. Perhaps a rabbit gengineered to have a slower breeding rate, for example.

Such systems might be partially modeled on urban ecologies, in which organisms that do well around lots of humans (and generally need much less space and 'nature' to thrive) dominate.

b) I would also suggest that for a fairly short range/short duration ship such as Aurora (I've seen discussions of ships taking centuries to thousands of years to get around and SF back in the 70s and 80s had many stories about such), that a better approach would be to go for less of an ecosystem and more of a system designed to support humans reliably over a fairly long time scale. So perhaps something more like farmland, living areas, some amount of plants and animals, but not trying to cram whole self-sustaining ecosystems into such a small space. A certain amount of machinery doing some jobs as well might be in order, if that turns out to be easier and more reliable than attempting to manage a purely biological set up. The elements of an ecosystem, including large animals of all types could be brought along in a genebank, embryo store, or some other method.

c) In terms of generation ships, I've seen some discussions that suggest that, at least for early starships, any trip taking more than a century should not be undertaken since there is some chance the travelers will arrive to find that advances in propulsion tech have resulted in other people getting there first.

d) On a different note, worldships are an element of the OA setting (although a little used one). I agree with Rynn that it would be interesting to explore these kinds of vessels and that some novel and 'OAesque' ideas might grow out of the discussion. For one thing, there would be the issue of making use of the entire volume of the ship, rather than just a single spinning open space ala an O'Neil cylinder. For another, there would be the question of how the inhabitants would continue to feel such things as a connection with the wider universe, a sense of horizons or growth, avoid stagnation, etc. All while operating inside something much smaller than a planet.

Just some thoughts,

Todd
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RE: Aurora - a critique by Stephen Baxter and others - by Drashner1 - 08-18-2015, 11:58 AM

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