Third Quarter 2011 Report

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Okay, I’ve kept you in suspense for three months regarding “Meetups, a church survey, and space elevators.” I’ll clarify those cryptic remarks in a moment, but first I’ll add another one to keep you guessing until later in this report: “100 Year StarshipTM.” Okay, now it’s time to resolve the cliffhangers:

Way back in July, we were investigating Portland-area Meetup groups to join, and discovered the Religious Naturalism group, which at the time was literally one day old. (Almost enough to make you wonder about divine intervention...) Brandon has been attending their discussions of the book The Sacred Depths of Nature, where he has met a number of kindred spirits. We’re also considering starting a SolSeed Meetup group.

Along similar lines, we were planning to interview several friends and family members about what they would think if the SolSeed Movement decided to define itself as a “church,” or if it decided otherwise. We didn’t really get that survey done, but we did come up with a provisional decision on how to define ourselves anyway: “The SolSeed Movement is a science-based alternative to traditional religion.”

In early August, we took the SpaceWiki free-caricature table to the three-day Space Elevator Conference, hosted by Microsoft at their headquarters in Redmond, Washington. (As a Microsoft employee, I got a discount on the registration fee). We signed up dozens of new members, and perhaps more importantly, Brandon actually got a slot on the conference agenda to give a presentation about using the
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150th anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad to motivate a similar leap forward in space transportation technology. (If you’re still wondering what the heck a space elevator is, well, I'll let Nova explain it.)

We got seven people for the SolSeed bike ride to the September 24th Moving Planet event—and one of them was from Malaysia! (He happened to be in town for a sustainability conference and decided to join the Portland Moving Planet festivities before heading home.) The big event was pretty much what you would expect: impassioned speakers, booths for various environmental groups (including our friends at City Repair) set up on the plaza, and a sign-waving march around the Rose Garden stadium. The only unexpected element was the acrobatic street performers, including mimes and one woman on very tall stilts.

On August 18th, my mom alerted me to a New York Times article about a small project of DARPA (the folks who started the Internet) called the 100 Year Starship Study. Doesn’t sound small, does it? Well, the ambitions are big, but DARPA’s intent was to study the project of building a starship for one year, and then hand it off, along with a $500,000 grant, to someone else who could keep it going for the next century. SolSeed isn’t applying for the grant, but we did decide, on about a month’s notice, to fly to Florida for the 100 Year Starship Public Symposium, one week after Moving Planet. While Brandon’s mom kept Sequoia company (thanks, Bonnie!),
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we listened to panels on topics ranging from starship life-support system design to the philosophical and religious implications of the whole concept of starflight, and got to talk with several famous people like Stuart Brand and astronaut Mae Jemison, as well as other attendees with fascinating ideas.

In the coming months, you’ll see us focusing a lot more on outreach and finding new SolSeed members. We decided recently that this will be more beneficial at this stage of our development than our original focus for the year, which was starting construction on the Seed Village. We’re also planning a unique Winter Solstice celebration on December 21st: getting out of the city for a stargazing party on Larch Mountain! Stay tuned for more details.

Thanks for reading!
Ben Sibelman

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