Apr 08 2012

Fractal Maslow Windows and the Near-Term Colonization of Mars

Please Note: This is my Abstract for The 15th Annual International Mars Society Convention, August, 2012, in Pasadena, CA.

Fractal Maslow Windows and the Near-Term Colonization of Mars

Self-Organized Criticality (SOC) is an emergent property of complex systems whereby they organize themselves into a critical state such that rapid changes, including catastrophes, can occur.

In 1998, based on power-law plots like this, Roberts and Turcotte concluded that “World order behaves as a self-organized critical system independent of the efforts made to control and stabilize interactions between people and countries.”
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SOC is indicated for space exploration by the following: 1) Apollo is the most recent in a string of rhythmic, twice-per-century clusters of great human explorations, large macro-engineering projects (MEP), and major wars, back to Lewis and Clark, suggesting punctuated equilibrium, 2) Based on their power law size-frequency distribution, Roberts & Turcotte (1998) showed that wars are SOC processes; my recent analysis of cost data suggests the same is true of NASA programs, and 3) Space programs obey Bak’s gap equation (1996), which describes the system’s evolution from weak SOC to the fractal, self organized critical state; i.e., a “Maslow Window.”

While in the critical state, large changes (e.g., in space, MEPs, and/or war) can rapidly occur in response to even a minor stimulus. The classic example is the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis which raised the stakes for the Moon Race, and suggests the road to the next critical state may also be bumpy.

Long-term and current global trends – including the financial Panic of 2008, the great recession of 2008-10, and geopolitical tensions in the Persian Gulf and in North Korea – signal that a new, 1960s-style critical state is expected by mid-decade. This should trigger a new, Apollo-level, international Space Age.

Bak’s model shows punctuated equilibrium — long periods of stasis (horizontal portions) interrupted by rapid changes (vertical sections) while in the critical state.
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As in Bak’s numerical simulations, the real-world transitions of a critical state are abrupt – including both into it (e.g., in 1901; in 1958) and out of it (e.g., in 1914; in 1970). To avoid another 40 years of being trapped in Earth orbit (since Apollo 17) due to sudden closing of the approaching Maslow Window, human spaceflight should establish near-term bases on or near Mars and/or the Moon by the 2020s that do not require frequent re-supply from Earth. Because of its exploration, science, and colonization potential, Mars is preferred.

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