Nobody wants a broken camel
From the Rust Belt to the Asteroid Belt:
The Incredible Future Worlds of Issac Arthur
by Jeff Fullerton
Attribute to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
The things I stumble across on the internet.
I discovered the Science and Futurism channel of Issac Arthur about a year or so ago while watching various SF movies and cartoons from the 1960s and late 50s. I’ve watched everything from Lost in Space to Space Ghost and the Herculoids and many other favorites from early childhood days. And just recently I discovered Scott McCloud—the Space Angel who was actually a little before my time.
Even though much of that represents “Bad Science Fiction” and some of it falls into the really bad category—there is something about those old films I love. It probably has a lot to do with the fact it was from a time in my life when my childhood expectations were fueled by the notion that the future would be better than the past or the here and now—just before the culture of SF along with the political culture of America and western civilization in general took a dystopian left turn. And I found myself ridiculed in those days for yearning to go to the stars when there were so many problems in need of solving on Earth first.
And we see where that mode of thinking has gotten us—or where it kept us from going in light of what could have been. But I digress.
I was probably watching an amateur produced computer animation remake of a Lost in Space episode when I saw a thumbnail for one of Issac Arthur’s YouTube videos; probably something about starships or the one from his mega structure series on rotating habitats and I was hooked.
Mr Arthur who sounds much like your typical science geek started the channel about 4 years ago and hails from the Midwest. A good old Ohio boy! He has a speech impediment that I initially mistook for a foreign accent and assumed he was Dutch or German! He is quite witty about it and provides a closed caption option for those who have trouble understanding; an Elmer Fudd icon that says “Click here you wascally wabbits”! which I’ve never found necessary.
The videos are a mix of live action of often mundane scenes with still photos and computer animation which has steadily improved over time and some of his most recent works that started coming out this fall are very well done.
It took me up until then to catch up on the older material—some of it watched more than once because it is a veritable gold mine of information on just about everything you might want to know on everything from spacecraft propulsion to spin habitats and even space warfare. In these areas this site is probably the best source alongside Winchell Chung’s Atomic Rockets / Project Rho. But it doesn’t end there. Other topics tacked range from extrasolar planets and the culture and psychology of aliens to terraforming and building various mega structures like launch loops, sky hooks, and orbital rings all the way up to Dyson Spheres and even something called a Nichol-Dyson beam which advanced civilizations on the level of those capable of building Dyson spheres can destroy enemy planets in other solar systems from the comfort of their own living room!
And if that is not esoteric enough there are other videos on things like networked machine intelligences on the scale of an entire solar system called Matrioska Brains and ones detailing how civilizations might farm black holes and devise other ways to eke out an existence at the end of time.
Since this article has come out more like a book or movie review I would give Mr Arthur’s channel a five star rating. It does a very good job at explaining science in layman’s terms in the fashion of another Issac that the editors of this journal and many of the readership ought to know well—Issac Asimov who was often hailed the Great Explainer of the Ages for obvious reasons!
If you are interested in checking out his channel the best bet might be to start with one of the more recent ones like the one one on Ringworlds (latest in the mega structure series) and then cherry pick your way around like did with the ones I found most interesting. [Link] I eventually did them all at least once and will probably keep watching some of them again to pick up missed info. And more episodes are coming soon!
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