Critical Requiem Mass

The reason it seems multiple cultural icons are dying every day is not that more people are suddenly dying, and not because we’re simply hearing about a greater percentage of those who are dying, but because the critical mass of our cultural icons (and of our culture, in general, in the macrocosm) have matured to the point where we have entered what may be called Critical Requiem Mass. Not to be flippant, please understand.

So, don’t freak out because this is part of the New Normal, but do understand it *is* part of the New Normal.

(I’m ruling this more appropriate to WordPress than FB. So be it.)



If we ever aspire to terraform any planet of this Solar System, it MUST be Venus. Not because it would be easy or logical, but because it is both a clean slate and it is (just barely) possible.
Mars (and possibly Europa), could, conceivably, be harboring autonomous native life NOW. Mercury is obviously sterile and equally obviously beyond any thousand-lifetimes-hence human capacity to bring to life. Microbial or fracto-microbial (mad-cow disease, anyone?) “life” could be cached in various asteroids, but cannot achieve the “on” status without external help. Other than Europa, anything else outward is beyond speculative.
But Venus….
Venus is sterile.
How bizarre that statement seems to me, theologically. But logically, it is inescapable. Between the heat (enough to melt lead!), the pressure (more than at the bottom of the deepest trench of Earth’s oceans), and the chemistry (so far beyond toxic it is mind-boggling), it’s just prohibitive.
And yet, Venus is *just* inside the “Goldilocks Zone,” and a simple swarm of artificial parasols could easily (from an engineering standpoint, if not a capital one) make it a lobe of that zone. And, coincidentally, provide enough photo-voltaic energy to drive any- and everything all of humanity may desire to achieve over the remaining lifetime of the Sun!
What Venus lacks, strangely enough, is what Earth has: a large (relatively) satellite to stir its mantle and initiate plate tectonics and, above all, carbon recycling. For that appears to be the crucial driver along Earth’s path to fecundity Venus lacks.
So, all we need to do is bring Venus a big moon. “All.” hahahaha
As an engineer, my impulse is to ask, where’re we gonna find that?
Mercury, though tantalizing, is just too massive. And I have theological objections to moving Mercury, anyway; if you don’t, feel free to do so in your version of this story. Not happening here.
No way we’re sharing OUR moon!!! Hell, no!
Mars is far more massive, and precluded by its aforementioned possibility of ALREADY harboring some sort of life. No-Go Zone.
None of the asteroids begin to have the mass to cause plate tectonics in Venus. Nice try.
Because Europa just MIGHT harbor life, I’m inclined to rule out “moving” ANY of the Galilean satellites of Jupiter. (Io, maybe, but JESUS what an engineering nightmare!)
At Saturn, Titan beckons, but like Europa, we just don’t know whether this is a plausible tableau for extremo-extremo-phile Life. So, no. And none of the other Saturnine moons are big enough. (I poo-poo Hyperion as a plausible site of life. Pffft!)
Uranus has no large satellite. [shrug]
Triton…. Hmmmm….. But wresting it free from Neptune is unnecessarily difficult when, right next door, we have….
Recently demoted to “minor planet” status. JUST big enough to have crustal-gravitational implications. Certainly sterile. Not gravitationally bound to anything (ok, we crash Charon into it as a precursor, just for the…..ahem….Hell of it!)….
 So. My *STARTING* point for any notion of terraforming in THIS solar system is having the capability to MOVE Pluto+Charon into roughly geosynchronous (Aphroditesynchronous?!?!) stable orbit around Venus.

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Journey 1

(Please note: the phrase your guide gives you will be unique to you. Remember it!)

Close your eyes and tap your foot three times.

You’re walking along a pathway, through a grassy meadow. The sun is shining brightly, and there are a few fluffy white clouds in an otherwise pure blue sky. Ahead, to the right, is a group of low, rocky, rounded white hills and bluffs. To the left is an area of woods, a mix of oaks and evergreens. The woods extend right up to the trail, culminating in a gigantic oak, toward which the trail leads.

As you approach the enormous oak, you see that the trail not only leads to it, but through it. It’s so huge, its roots arch over the trail, and make a passageway. You can see out the other side, where the trail resumes. Coming closer, you can tell the opening is so large you won’t have to stoop or draw up to go through. You step into the tree-passageway and notice your movement has become effortless – you’re not walking, but simply moving forward. You can see the woody, bark-covered sides of the passageway as you go past.

Now, ahead, you see that the opening on the far end seems further away. Yes, now you’re sure of it, but you’re also sure you are moving forward. Oddly, the sides also seem more distant now; the passageway is expanding as you go into it. The far end is now a small circle of bright sunlight, and the sides are so distant they are just black inkiness.

Going onward, the exit has receded until it is just a dot, and the sides are limitless black space. You know you are moving, because you see other dots of light around you, moving as you pass between them, and you realize they are stars. All colors and sizes of stars are there: giant and dwarf red ones, blazing orange ones, inviting yellow ones, dazzling white ones, fierce blue ones.

You realize you’re riding in a boat, seated at the bow. It is a canoe, with geometric designs painted on it. Behind you, you sense other people, maybe five or six, paddling, but you do not see them. They are family, kinsmen and neighbors, conveying you safely to a far place and home again. At the stern, another kinsman beats a drum.

As for yourself, you are wearing buckskin, with a beaded breastplate hanging around your neck and tied behind your waist. It is covered in animal shapes. And a leather bag also hangs in front of that. Beside you in the canoe are a longbow and a large hide bag.

Smoothly, your canoe glides to rest among cattails on a shore, and you realize you are now on a planetary surface, much like the one you just left. A friendly fellow is offering you a hand out of the canoe, and you grab his forearm. He is tall and strong, and smells of wood-smoke and meat.

“Tschee-Tschumpkh’ Tway!” he says in greeting, and dips his head agreeably. (You will hear a different word. Remember it!)

You attempt to repeat the phrase, but he smiles, and in your mind he is telling you, “Don’t worry about making the words right now; they are difficult for far-away-ones.”

Bees are buzzing, birds are chirping, a brook babbles nearby, tumbling into the river you have traveled upon.

Your guide beckons you toward a group of flat boulders spread with a huge feast. A small fire smolders between a ring of smooth white stones, and meat is sizzling on spits over it. He leads you to a series of gourd bowls. The first contains a dripping honeycomb; he breaks off a corner for himself and slurps it down to show you it is good. You eat, and it is unimaginably delicious; so sweet and light, you have never tasted the likes of it before.

A second bowl contains quail eggs; he deftly breaks one end off an egg and gulps down the contents; you do likewise, and taste smooth eggy goodness. In the third bowl are an assortment of berries, and you share their tangy sweet tartness.

Finally, he hands you a skewer of smoking meat. It is three quails, plucked and roasting whole, and you crunch them down as he eats from a similar spear.

Then something amazing happens – birds fly out of your ears, singing. They are quails. By eating them, you have made more of them. Your guide laughs gently at your surprise and says, “Tschee-Tschumpkh’ Tway!”

In the sky you see the moons, for there are more than one. A small red one moves across the sky with visible haste. A bright blue one is motionless, and a gray-white one stands beside it. With a start, you realize the blue one and the gray-white one are the Earth and the Moon.

Seeing your realization, your friend nods grandly, then holds his hand before his face, with the palm toward his face. Then he places his other hand in a similar position, in front of the first hand; now he passes the front hand to stand behind the other, then alternates this motion with the other hand to produce the effect of a receding series of palms, each revealing the one behind it. He says, “Tschee-Tschumpkh’ Tway,” and in your mind he tells you, “the truth behind the truth revealing another truth, all one being.”


It is some time later, and you find yourself back in your canoe, waving farewell to your new friend and guide. In your mind he says, “Return, and come again, to feast and grow strong and tell stories. This is the beginning point for many journeys. You are always welcome.”

Now the canoe sails into the river, propelled by your tribesmen. The banks recede and the river becomes space. The only sound is the drumming behind you.

Ahead, a bright star comes closer, then opens to become the exit, just as the bark-covered roots emerge from the distance to form the passageway through the tree. You step out of the tree onto the pathway and into the meadow.

Close your eyes, tap your foot three times, and open your eyes, once again in the here-and-now.