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IF earth was going to be destroyed...


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#1    George Ford

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 03:06 PM

Hi,

So lets say, hypothetically, a massive asteroid was going to destroy ALL of Earth but we had a years worth of time to flee. Would there be enough resources and technology to move enough mass and people into space (or the moon or Mars or whatever)to sustain a viable human population for say 1000 years before the Earth became habitable again.

An average human generation is between 20-25 years, obviously with few resources it would have to change to maybe 30 years. So even then that's 33.33 generations.

I don't know how much fuel it takes to get 1 tonne of mass into space but I think we would have to use all of the remaining fossil fuel to get as much stuff up their as possible.

I suppose building massive space stations/ships would not be too difficult but a renewable oxygen, water and fuel supply will be difficult I would think. Even things like solar panels are going to degrade over just 100 years with all the space dust and junk.

What are your thoughts?

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#2    Druidus-Logos

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 04:07 PM

Hey Bulvye, how goes it?  Thought I'd pop in, exchange greetings, and then apply a generous dose of realistic (though somewhat depressing) thinking to the subject.  Luckily, I've been thinking about this very topic lately.

View Postbulveye, on 03 December 2011 - 03:06 PM, said:

Hi,

So lets say, hypothetically, a massive asteroid was going to destroy ALL of Earth but we had a years worth of time to flee. Would there be enough resources and technology to move enough mass and people into space (or the moon or Mars or whatever)to sustain a viable human population for say 1000 years before the Earth became habitable again.

An average human generation is between 20-25 years, obviously with few resources it would have to change to maybe 30 years. So even then that's 33.33 generations.

I don't know how much fuel it takes to get 1 tonne of mass into space but I think we would have to use all of the remaining fossil fuel to get as much stuff up their as possible.

I suppose building massive space stations/ships would not be too difficult but a renewable oxygen, water and fuel supply will be difficult I would think. Even things like solar panels are going to degrade over just 100 years with all the space dust and junk.

What are your thoughts?

First, I'll quote myself twice from another topic, as it is relavent.  We are talking about creating a viable colony in another stellar system in this thread, so just replace everything about going to a place like that and input Mars/Near-Ex-Earth Orbit.

First, the technology that I believe will be absolutely essential to our vacuum/low-atmosphere habitation efforts.  Really, I don't think any "generation ship/station is feasible without these little buggers to do a lot of the dirty work.  Obviously, we need some improvements in our tech base to make these possible for us, but nanomachinery is near; I predict rapid advancement after the first few major developments (of course, that's just me).  Anyway, the quote:

Quote

Nanomachinery is literally around the corner. Why not take advantage of it? Drop pods of nanomachines programmed to set up gardens, a base, various necessary buildings, and any vehicles you need. They'll use the raw material of the planet to conduct their missions. Not only that, but you can mine space dust/debris/asteroids with them and have them convert the mass into potentially edible or otherwise usable material (depending on our proficiency with the tech, of course).

Also, they provide important radiation protection and immune function. They repair the cells of your body, potentially even repairing radiation damaged DNA. They augment your own immune system, strengthening it vastly, and it would likely increase longevity, which could be important for a first colonization mission (ie keep the elders who remember Earth around for as long as possible).

This is only a short list of the potential uses of nanomachines. Honestly, they're going to be awesome, if/when we get them functional and, better, efficient and useful.

Now, obviously, we aren't there yet, so I think any such attempt at extraterrestrial habitation would be for naught, and would, over time, dwindle to futility and finally extinction.  We just can't find the necessary resources on our own, regularly; and even then there is extraction and manufacturing.  Plus, only nanomachines could potentially make edible and nutritious material (yeah, sounds good, eh?) from space debris.  Even if they can't directly make it, they could convert asteroids or comets into hollow "space farms" without monumental effort on our part, and a good deal of luck.

That said, there is a worse issue with extraterrestrial habitation complexes.  It has to do with genetic diversity; something that humans actually are quite lacking in.  The first problem can be solved with relatively minor tech advances.  This latter problem is not similarily tackled, it requires much more effort to overcome, ESPECIALLY if you want to save anywhere near a sizeable portion of Earth's population:

Quote

60-80 humans is too small for a long term starter population. Honestly, I think you'd need at least 250-1000 people, just to ensure a basic gene pool that isn't going to inbreed before the next generation ship comes, in, well, generations. Even 1000 would be problematic. You'd need to keep close check on who was related to who over the succeeding generations, as any incestuous relations at all would be detrimental to the colony as a whole in terms of desperately needed genetic diversity.

Humankind went through a genetic bottleneck once before, and that's why we're one of the most inbred animals around. That was when we were reduced to 10,000-100,000 people, and it affected our long term genetic diversity. We can't possibly get away with another debacle like that. So, yeah, 1000 would be good, for a few generations, until a new influx of settlers could arrive to input new genes into the mating pool. If no follow up mission is to go bearing new colonists, then we need to take at least 10,000 to have a viable colonial population, again, still going to affect us in the long run.

Fact is, people are pretty large mammals, we've got some mass to us.  Not only are the diversity and genetic sustainability issues a concern, but how the HELL are you going to get even just 10,000 people out of Earth's gravity well?  I mean, the energy required would be enourmous, any way you look at it.  Either you build one ship, to keep the total mass lower and waste less of whatever fuel you happen to be using, or you build hundreds, and end up lugging more mass up.  We just can't do it, not in any reasonably feasible way (especially on the short notice this asteroid is likely to give us before obliterating home).  Also, the debris that would be released by Earth being hit by such a massive explosion as to cause utter global catastrophe would be highly hazardous for years afterwards to any sort of structures we built in space.

A quick Google search indicates that one pound (mass) is some ~10 thousand dollars, so an average person would be some 130 times greater, and then the cost of the 7 billion totals out to 9100000000000000 dollars (nine quadrillion one hundred trillion, if you prefer).  I'm not even sure three or four Earths could produce the GDP necessary to save that up in a few years, our most probable advance notice.  And that's not counting cargo like animals, luggage, seed stock, and miscellaneous supplies & assorted cargo.

That's assuming, as well, that we find enough fuel for what would be our greatest and most challenging endeavor, perhaps ever.

Honestly, I'm of the opinion that because of these difficulties, many humans would be left for dead, while only the super-rich might even have the possibility of space colonies.  No one is coming up with that cash, no one.

Edited by Druidus-Logos, 03 December 2011 - 04:18 PM.

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#3    Bavarian Raven

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 08:53 PM

human populations have been as low as 1-2 thousand, so we can survive again if we get that many people onto mars or some other place. especially if people who have no major genetic problems are chosen. but 3 thousand is a nice sound number to start with :) and if mars was the destination, we would be able to send countless rockets (everyone we have) with extra supplies as well before the impact. especially if we only have to live there for a few hundred years. all that being said, how big of an asteroid are we talking about? if its like the one that killed the dinos, we would be better off surviving here (and the human race would survive, mind you). unless you are near the point of impact, so long as you are underground (bomb shelters, etc) you should survive the blast wave...


#4    Druidus-Logos

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 09:54 PM

View PostBavarian Raven, on 03 December 2011 - 08:53 PM, said:

human populations have been as low as 1-2 thousand, so we can survive again if we get that many people onto mars or some other place. especially if people who have no major genetic problems are chosen. but 3 thousand is a nice sound number to start with :) and if mars was the destination, we would be able to send countless rockets (everyone we have) with extra supplies as well before the impact. especially if we only have to live there for a few hundred years. all that being said, how big of an asteroid are we talking about? if its like the one that killed the dinos, we would be better off surviving here (and the human race would survive, mind you). unless you are near the point of impact, so long as you are underground (bomb shelters, etc) you should survive the blast wave...

It's not the blast wave that kills you, it's the aftereffects that persist for thousands of years past a major impact.

I'm aware of the supervolcano bottleneck, I mentioned it.  The thing is, there is a cumulative effect involved in repeated serious genetic diversity crises such as these.  If it happens again, we would risk serious inbreeding and loss of diversity, to the point where we could be reduced to a species of individuals not capable of introducing new genetic material without a long period of time to allow for random mutation.  Ridiculously long, it's not a solution.  3000 individuals, in my opinion, is not enough genetic diversity.  Sure, we could function and survive for a time with no immediate problems, but we would lose far too much in the end.

We'd have a better chance than cheetahs, because we could designate potential mates to individuals to keep inbreeding down; but you can't deny the fact that we'll have another serious genetic bottleneck.  These are not good events for a species to go through, it reduces the ability of the entire species to breed without certain genetic disorders being likely to develop over several generations, and our ability to withstand disease would suffer.  3000 sounds nice, but seriously, think for a minute, the last time this happened DID cause us to be ludicrously closely related to any other human on the planet, more related than in almost any other mammal.  If it happens again, the same thing will happen, but we won't be on Earth anymore, and we won't have a secure future.  At such a brink, it would be very disadvantageous to start poorly due to low numbers of people.

Our breeding population would go from 3000 to something like 3000-6000 (can't have too many children to feed and support with very limited resources), giving a possible breeding pool about as large as the original 3000.  This means, like the first time, another ~1500 viable couples, if lucky.  Again, double to quadruple that population, and don't have too many children, you don't have the water, the food, or the air to spare.  So, again, another 3000.  

What I'm saying is that until we are finally secure in our ability to maintain a colony, we'll have generations that barely raise the total population of viable couples, if it didn't just decline.  This means a concentration of genetic traits, over time.  If it continues too long, our struggling species just gets more and more inbred over time.  It's an issue that has not been adequately addressed.  I suppose if you have the air, the water, and the food, and you can spare enough, you could have multiple males sire children with each female so as to increase the genetic mixing, and maybe increase the next generations viable couple population by 3-4, which is still only allows 3000 viable couples, and, following the same rules, you could increase the viable population to 6000 next generation.  This is still a VERY slow increase, and it will still cause reduced genetic variety amongst our species as a whole.

Even in that example, which is quite simplistic, and laced with assumptions (most in favour of us, like assuming space, fuel, food, water, air, lack of disease, lack of infant mortality, and everyone being ok with finding a mate, no one being soley homosexual, and everyone getting as much possible genetic mixing into the next generations), we don't come out on top.  

There's so much more involved in a viable colony than a few thousand people, even if they are the least related individuals on Earth.  We might be able to do it, but there's no denying it would affect us in the same way it did last time; in the same deteriorating pattern that, for instance, cheetahs have.

And this is also assuming that for generations all couples are monitored so as to mitigate any potentially poor genetic matches.  

Even with all this, unless we have unlimited food, water, and air (also space), we won't be able to have our growth rate at a secure and rapid enough rate, while still maintaining proper genetic diversity amongst the next generations of viable couples.  If we assume infinite resources and space, then we have a much more likely chance, but we'll still have some problems, and we'll eventually have to limit people to certain pools of possible partners in order to allow for continued mixing of differing genetics as opposed to concentration (at least after a number of generations).  

You might be right; we could get through it.  But at the cost of all of the diversity we've built back to since the last bottleneck, and likely more.  Yeah, it's worse than perishing on Earth, but clearly we've got to find a way to get MORE people off Earth.  If not for the genetic reasons, than, really, are not 7 billion people important enough to try to save for their own sake?  I don't know a means to do so, but for a fair future where it's not just the super rich who get to bid for positions in the colony, we've got to discover a new way out of this gravity well.

Edited by Druidus-Logos, 03 December 2011 - 10:05 PM.

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#5    Habitat

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 09:58 PM

The answer is NO.


#6    95-Nasty

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 10:02 PM

Yeah, i think we can do it, its possible if life depended on it. Anything is possible, life (even us) must/ will survive! Dont know how, why or where but we will survive!


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#7    Druidus-Logos

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 10:08 PM

View Post95-Nasty, on 03 December 2011 - 10:02 PM, said:

Yeah, i think we can do it, its possible if life depended on it. Anything is possible, life (even us) must/ will survive! Dont know how, why or where but we will survive!

Welcome to UM.

That said, the universe is not anthropocentric or even zoocentric.  It's not made for your benefit or the benefit of life in general.  It just is, and is not at all fine tuned for your unending existence.  We could quite easily go extinct, or all of Earth's life, and the universe wouldn't be all that changed.  Non-life (and life elsewhere) would continue; but exactly WHY do we HAVE to continue to survive as a species or even collection of species?

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#8    Bavarian Raven

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 10:14 PM

Quote


I'm aware of the supervolcano bottleneck, I mentioned it. The thing is, there is a cumulative effect involved in repeated serious genetic diversity crises such as these. If it happens again, we would risk serious inbreeding and loss of diversity, to the point where we could be reduced to a species of individuals not capable of introducing new genetic material without a long period of time to allow for random mutation. Ridiculously long, it's not a solution. 3000 individuals, in my opinion, is not enough genetic diversity. Sure, we could function and survive for a time with no immediate problems, but we would lose far too much in the end.

We'd have a better chance than cheetahs, because we could designate potential mates to individuals to keep inbreeding down; but you can't deny the fact that we'll have another serious genetic bottleneck. These are not good events for a species to go through, it reduces the ability of the entire species to breed without certain genetic disorders being likely to develop over several generations, and our ability to withstand disease would suffer. 3000 sounds nice, but seriously, think for a minute, the last time this happened DID cause us to be ludicrously closely related to any other human on the planet, more related than in almost any other mammal. If it happens again, the same thing will happen, but we won't be on Earth anymore, and we won't have a secure future. At such a brink, it would be very disadvantageous to start poorly due to low numbers of people.

Our population would go from 3000 to something like 6000 (can't have too many children to feed and support with very limited resources), giving a possible breeding pool about as large as the original 3000. This means, like the first time, another ~1500 viable couples, if lucky. Again, double that population, and don't have too many children, you don't have the water, the food, or the air to spare. So, again, another 3000.

What I'm saying is that until we are finally secure in our ability to maintain a colony, we'll have generations that barely raise the total population of viable couples, if it didn't just decline. This means a concentration of genetic traits, over time. If it continues too long, our struggling species just gets more and more inbred over time. It's an issue that has not been adequately addressed. I suppose if you have the air, the water, and the food, and you can spare enough, you could have multiple males sire children with each female so as to increase the genetic mixing, and maybe increase the next generations viable couple population by 3-4, which is still only allows 3000 viable couples, and, following the same rules, you could increase the viable population to 6000 next generation. This is still a VERY slow increase, and it will still cause reduced genetic variety amongst our species as a whole.

Even in that example, which is quite simplistic, and laced with assumptions (most in favour of us, like assuming space, fuel, food, water, air, lack of disease, lack of infant mortality, and everyone being ok with finding a mate, no one being soley homosexual, and everyone getting as much possible genetic mixing into the next generations), we don't come out on top.

There's so much more involved in a viable colony than a few thousand people, even if they are the least related individuals on Earth. We might be able to do it, but there's no denying it would affect us in the same way it did last time; in the same deteriorating pattern that, for instance, cheetahs have.

And this is also assuming that for generations all couples are monitored so as to mitigate any potentially poor genetic matches.

Even with all this, unless we have unlimited food, water, and air (also space), we won't be able to have our growth rate at a secure and rapid enough rate, while still maintaining proper genetic diversity amongst the next generations of viable couples. If we assume infinite resources and space, then we have a much more likely chance, but we'll still have some problems, and we'll eventually have to limit people to certain pools of possible partners in order to allow for continued mixing of differing genetics as opposed to concentration (at least after a number of generations).

You might be right; we could get through it. But at the cost of all of the diversity we've built back to since the last bottleneck, and likely more. Yeah, it's worse than perishing on Earth, but clearly we've got to find a way to get MORE people off Earth. If not for the genetic reasons, than, really, are not 7 billion people important enough to try to save for their own sake? I don't know a means to do so, but for a fair future where it's not just the super rich who get to bid for positions in the colony, we've got to discover a new way out of this gravity well.

i never said it wouldnt be without risk, but it would be survivable (baring bad luck). i believe the bare minimum that is given (needed) to maintain enough genetic diversity if 500 breeding individuals of good health. human populations (colonies) have been founded by less people then this...the plus side to having only 3-4 thousand people to start with is that it will be easier to keep them all alive.


Quote

It's not the blast wave that kills you, it's the aftereffects that persist for thousands of years past a major impact.


of course it will probably throw the earth into a nuclear winter (bare minimum) or iceage, etc. but so long as the world doesn't go iceballearth again, humans will persist... human's already have been surviving in extremes for tens of thousands of years - from the worst deserts to the cold high arctic, etc. it can be done. would it be easy? hell no. would it be fun? hell no? would many want to live in this world? hell no. but enough would survive to keep the human race alive.

actually, what would be an interesting topic is when these "colonists" arrive back and meet the surviving populations. would the survivors even want to take them back or just try and kill them on sight for abandoning everyone else...

Edited by Bavarian Raven, 03 December 2011 - 10:15 PM.


#9    Druidus-Logos

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 10:27 PM

View PostBavarian Raven, on 03 December 2011 - 10:14 PM, said:

i never said it wouldnt be without risk, but it would be survivable (baring bad luck). i believe the bare minimum that is given (needed) to maintain enough genetic diversity if 500 breeding individuals of good health. human populations (colonies) have been founded by less people then this...the plus side to having only 3-4 thousand people to start with is that it will be easier to keep them all alive.

Oh, yes, but we're still running a lot of assumptions here, and I can't support your idea of 500 breeding individuals (whether that means 500 females or 250 males).  It's worked on Earth, but we've got a neat thing here where populations can move around and disperse, genetically.  We can't do that in space; there is no new influx of new genetics.

The question was whether we'd LIKELY survive.  Given the hardships, I've seen no argument given that shows we'd have a healthy recovery from calamity.  I doubt we'd be able to make it; and if we did, we'd be the most fortunate life forms ever to have been spawned on Earth.  It's a big if.

We could survive, but we would not be likely to, given the extreme hazards, pitfalls, and prerequisites we need for continuance.  The dangers of space, the lack of resources, genetic concentration, lack of space, the lack of terraformed planets available for habitation, the radiation outside of Earth's mag field, etc, are all seriously being underestimated here, it's harder than just doing it.  You need a specific plan, you can't rely on assumptions of success; for a problem like this we need to look at the worst possible cases, to account for them.  And the examples I've previously described are not at all worst case scenarios; they're actually littered with ameliorative lucky boons that are granted us by fate and not likely to occur in reality.

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#10    libstaK

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Posted 04 December 2011 - 12:10 PM

What about subterranian colonies?  If we were deep enough we could conceivably avoid the affects of the impact. With correct placement we could also avoid seizmic shifts etc - I'm sure that could be correctly calculated to maximum benefit.  We could generate energy from the earth's core and grow crops hydroponically of course - not to mention recycling and therefore "biofuels" that can be further utilised.  

As to genetic diversity - thats actually really simple -  implement invitro fertilisation with stored ovas and sperm from a wide diversity of the population - a solution to genetic diversity in space colonies too ;) - not to mention the opportunity of those not given a place in the colony to be the fathers and mothers of future generations anyway - knowing your potential offspring will be given a chance would mean quite alot to many people, even if their opportunity arose hundreds of years hence .  

Same for various fauna in the subterranian "ark" - diversity can be stored cryogenically and introduced regularly to maintain diversity.  I'm sure we can replicate solar light atificially to be adequate for our needs - it seems a far less expensive and more viable solution IMO - not to mention the advantage of maximising the number of potential survivors, a much larger population could be saved in various parts of the globe.  In fact, cost would hardly rate as an issue as I am sure the people's of the earth would take on the task of building etc without consideration of "profit" which would be of zero value post impact for anybody anyway, heck I'd be there slugging away for 3 square meals a day and a place in the colony as payment wouldn't you?

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#11    Mentalcase

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Posted 04 December 2011 - 04:24 PM

Great post Libstak.


I was thinking about a "Noah's ark" type vessel orbiting Mars till Earth is habitable. Of course, in my mind, very few humans, if any at all would have to be alive. Perhaps only a robot to revive us from our DNA and clone us. So a DNA capsule orbiting Mars. Yup. Sounds feasible, with many complications. Especially, unpredictable circumstances, such as asteroids, meteors. Could robots do it alone? Or would a few handfuls of humans, living each generation suffice?

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#12    DONTEATUS

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Posted 04 December 2011 - 07:52 PM

Life finds a way ! We would If given enough time be able to at least save our DNA and a few actual humans  money would not be a deal breaker ! When in need we can do the deed ! Mankind is quite the amazing Race !

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#13    Bavarian Raven

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Posted 04 December 2011 - 08:40 PM

as an interesting aside, discovery channel did a show a while back on what could potentially happen should the asteroid that killed the dinos struck today (one of similar size and mass)... i forget what the show was called, but it was a fun watch nonetheless.


#14    DieChecker

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Posted 07 December 2011 - 10:56 PM

View PostlibstaK, on 04 December 2011 - 12:10 PM, said:

What about subterranian colonies?  If we were deep enough we could conceivably avoid the affects of the impact. With correct placement we could also avoid seizmic shifts etc - I'm sure that could be correctly calculated to maximum benefit.  We could generate energy from the earth's core and grow crops hydroponically of course - not to mention recycling and therefore "biofuels" that can be further utilised.  

As to genetic diversity - thats actually really simple -  implement invitro fertilisation with stored ovas and sperm from a wide diversity of the population - a solution to genetic diversity in space colonies too ;) - not to mention the opportunity of those not given a place in the colony to be the fathers and mothers of future generations anyway - knowing your potential offspring will be given a chance would mean quite alot to many people, even if their opportunity arose hundreds of years hence .  

Same for various fauna in the subterranian "ark" - diversity can be stored cryogenically and introduced regularly to maintain diversity.  I'm sure we can replicate solar light atificially to be adequate for our needs - it seems a far less expensive and more viable solution IMO - not to mention the advantage of maximising the number of potential survivors, a much larger population could be saved in various parts of the globe.  In fact, cost would hardly rate as an issue as I am sure the people's of the earth would take on the task of building etc without consideration of "profit" which would be of zero value post impact for anybody anyway, heck I'd be there slugging away for 3 square meals a day and a place in the colony as payment wouldn't you?
That is what I first thought too. Go Down rather then Up. A lot easier, cheaper, closer, can be built in parallel all over the world....

I think that humans could move out into space, if we needed too, but the technology really is not developed to support that just yet. By developed I mean made efficient, so that it is a known quality and safety is good.

Here at Intel we make processors on 12 inch wafers. And, the individual processors on the wafers are called die. And, I am employed to check these die. That is why I am the DieChecker.

At times one remains faithful to a cause only because its opponents do not cease to be insipid. - Friedrich Nietzsche

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#15    Wise Beyond Years

Wise Beyond Years

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Posted 08 December 2011 - 06:22 AM

The most easiest, yet probably the most distant possibility would be: TELEPORTATION. Imagine, we set up one of those on Mars or some other safe, spacious place, and BOOM, we got new colonists arriving on that spot on an hourly basis. Anything is possible. There should be more funding and research put into teleportation is a step closer to mastery of our solar system.





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