Sample abstracts from issues of Axiom, the official journal of the Initiative for Interstellar Studies.
Volume 1, Issue 1: The ‘Invention’ of the Starship and Revisiting Tsiolkovsky
The pursuit of interstellar flight has led to innovative approaches to vehicle designs and mission optimisation studies. The process by which these were produced is typical of any aerospace design project although frequently with the distinction that many of the ideas are inspired by the works of science fiction. It was in the 1500s that the Renaissance man Leonardo da Vinci also conceived of weird and wonderful machines that could cross the lands float the seas, soar the skies and beyond. The science and technology developments of his day were not sufficiently mature to allow for the realisation of their achievement, but the later centuries showed that he was in fact a visionary. Today, many dream of designing vessels to travel to other star systems to explore exotic worlds. These ideas have gone from speculative conjecture, to theoretical plausibility and are now moving into the realm of practical feasibility. In this paper we discuss the process of creative invention that has led to the design of Starships—a vehicle capable of travelling across the light years of space to facilitate eventual human expansion and colonisation out into the vast Cosmos. In this paper we also discuss a different approach to the interstellar space-time propulsion problem, by stepping back from the Tsiolkovsky rocket equation in search of a more general solution, which may involve multiple propulsion systems operating in series or parallel but on the same vehicle. It is argued that this may elucidate new trade-offs in the design space to facilitate a more tractable road to the stars.
Volume 2, Issue 1: Prototyping Starships: The Nature of the Interstellar Question
In this paper we explore the idea of prototyping starships, which is to see the starship as a catalyst of human diversity, where all people have the opportunity to contribute to compelling and important questions. Prototyping the interstellar question does not pretend to be classical science, nor a substitute for engineering practices. It is an adjunct and inspiration for these kinds of endeavours. At worst, prototyping activities help us to examine the challenge across many different disciplines and practices in variably testable ways.
Volume 2, Issue 2: How Might Artificial Intelligence Come About? Different Approaches and Their Implications for Life in the Universe
Those fretfully debating artificial intelligence (AI) might best start by appraising the half dozen general pathways under exploration in laboratories around the world. While these general approaches overlap, they offer distinct implications for what characteristics emerging, synthetic minds might display, including (for example) whether it will be easy or hard to instill human-style ethical values. Most problematic may be those efforts taking place in secret. The “Moore’s Law crossing” argument is appraised, in light of discoveries that brain computation may involve much more than just synapses. Will efforts to develop Sympathetic Robotics tweak compassion from humans long before automatons are truly self-aware? It is argued that most foreseeable problems might be dealt with the same way that human versions of oppression and error are best addressed—via reciprocal accountability. For this to happen, there should be diversity of types, designs and minds, interacting under fair competition in a generally open environment.
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