The following are resources I find helpful when I am thinking about settlements in space. Be reminded that when all the machine work is done, off-Terra settlements are about people and people's lives; about the future that is out there; about how we undertake that future and succeed at it. (If!) And much that's required for success will be soft technology. Some of which, reflects into here.
Before going on with this Base topic, I want to say something about hardcopy, i.e., text on paper. Much noise around says it's stultifying and obsolete. It's not, and it won't become so. If some of us find ways past cultural and ideological blockages out to space, directly after the work starts out there, our new human life spaces will include paper. With text on it. (But that space settlements paper may work in ways that surprise us wellers down here on Terra.)
That simple thing, plain text, may prove difficult to accomplish in a way not much anticipated today. In recent years, a developing cyberspace has extended the public information universe, not morphed it into something new and wholly digital. Or it tries to extend it, and beyond all the noise, that is where the trouble is.
Business institutions afflicted by a flaming and fascist propertarianism, work to corral all our intellectual resource and the means to reach it, wholly to themselves. Their attacks upon our public domain include loud pronouncements that they are all there is, and that earlier tech, i.e., hardcopy, is obsolete. Where these groups and organizations strip and degrade public domain, our selves, our children, our future are hurt and needed growth slowed. (I've seen word in cyberspace of a Supreme Court case that tries to return public domain materials back into corporately owned property.) By what they do, they handicap all those who would think of our future.
The unique virtues of plain text on paper include, that 1) you don't need today's high tech to read it; 2) it is durable vs time and accidents; 3) (very important these days) your copy in hand is stable against whatever restricted narrowness some religious or political institutions intrusively try to impose upon yourself, your wholly private thinking and beliefs; and upon your personal library. And, 4) you can reduce your large work to pointers and notes saved into a small set of handwritten 3x5 cards, which you carry around to pull out at odd moments to reflect upon whatever you're trying to do. Do not ignore or reject hardcopy resources. If they're good, they're good. Else, you don't need them for your Settlements work.
From cyberspace to hardcopy reports, periodicals, and books, there's much out there for the use of anyone thinking about space settlements. However, this material is unevenly distributed and not very popular, so you may have to search it out. If you live near a large college or a university, it's worth your while to scout nearby bookstores and libraries. On campus, and off. See Adra's Top/Links section for a start on cyberspace resources. The information in this Books Dealers node starts with the (only) two Space oriented publishers that I know of.
Books serve for reference and study, but where do you find out what's going on now, locally and around the world, about space? If you can't go there to see it and, perhaps, participate? You search out all the periodicals you can find, and you follow them closely.
I've visited in the Barker Library at MIT to see what space oriented periodicals I find in its large periodicals section. I found two that publish weekly. Here is an annotated listing of my choices for the most useful of these. My listing may be optimistic if you live out in West Lockwasher, AZ; but it will give you some ideas what's around to look for.
(Note concerning change at MIT, if you haven't been there in recent years. The separate small library that was in Aeronautics has been closed, and its materials are in Barker now.)
Explore in all the libraries that you can reach, to look for the books I've listed here. These are conventional resources.
A feature of today's world is that nobody yet lives off it, Out There. The challenge to get Out There is the largest and most difficult (and probably the most important) us humans face as a species. You could make a full-time life career of developing from scratch your own picture of what living Out There means. Of thinking through what its evolutions and consequences might be. Or, the consequences and devolutions that would arise if nobody ever lives Out There.
You don't need to undertake such an immense project to invent once again that particular wheel. It's been done. The body of literature where you can find that work is fantasy and science fiction. For a quick introduction to this literature see Rudyard Kipling, With The Night Mail, or Fritz Leiber, A Pail of Air. Among many others.
Before I move on I want to make observations about what science fiction is, about what it isn't, and about its place in this human reality. "Science fiction" is a grossly misunderstood topic and much that's out there in the public arena about it, is severely wrong. Maybe I can point your understanding of this in a better direction. and I try to do that here.
Good science fiction builds from current hard and soft sciences knowledge, to imagined developments and consequences that could follow from it. Bad science fiction builds from rubbish to rubbish and that's not my topic here. Good science fiction is generally not written to "predict" the future. Like if you stand in the vicinity of a barn and you fire off gunshots in all directions, sometimes you'll hit the barn. That's by coincidence, not by some phenomenal marksmanship. In a parallel way, science fiction writers write for pay -- it's a living -- and of the many works they produce, some of those and some parts of others, appear amazingly predictive and prescient. Then a few people seize on these coincidences and create the confusions that exist today.
And in today's America with its growing flaws and faith-based ideologies, around half to three-quarters of all Americans simply don't know what good science is, what it sounds like, how it works. In a recent hotel stay I scouted some television, and I came across a "Syfi" channel. It was running a piece in which large storms were developing and people were trying to find out why. This piece was riddled with science errors and misunderstandings; yet children (and adults) see such materials combined with a story full of action and conflict. The result is, they learn in a way like imprinting, facts and perceptions that are deeply wrong. Which illustrates my thesis that today's television programming plays a large part in the mechanics of Troubles that afflict today's America.
For which reason, I am working up a counter-influence, an alternative to today's broadly purveyed ignorance and misunderstanding. Link over to my Books 2 to see what are the works I think are worth your attention.
Videos complement text but do not replace text. Text is a more dense, compact and intellectually energizing resource; videos are more easy to watch but the impression you may have from watching videos that you are getting a lot of data, will often be false. The richness is deceptive. Videos are a different kind of resource than text, but very useful in their place when studied with an eye to their deficiencies.
It's economical to use the past, since that avoids redoing work, study, and human experience already done. ("Those who ignore history, are condemned to repeat it." -- R.A. Heinlein) The practical problem is, what from the past will serve in the future? I've made some thoughtful guesses here.
My choices are colored by my perception of future space settlements as frontier settlements, because, that is what they'll be. Not utopias. I expect those nice pictures you've seen, great PR, have very little to do with what anyone out there in the future, will actually find or make. To guess that future, review the past. There will be a connection -- more or less. We can make the connection good, if we study our past for what's useful in it.
My list here is annotated pointers, not the content of the resources named there. The annotation text is my comments, thinking, and evaluations of the items listed there.
I started my Adra with two (of several) topics being: "Basics," and "Reading." The "Basics" were more engineering in character; the "Reading" more general. But I decided these two are really the same sort of thing and best applied in parallel. Both are necessary and I see putting both topics here in the same part of Adra is an economy and a convenience to the reader.
Heinlein remarked a settler must be versatile. In fact, he beat that particular drum pretty hard and some feel he overdid it; yet, he had a point there. Here on Terra, if you need an expert of some sort, you can usually seek around and find one nearby.
However, the population density off Terra is much less than here and it's going to stay that way. Just think about how big space is, and the consequences to people of distances measured in AU's or in mere millions of miles. Travel across these distances will be restricted by orbital mechanics, energy and mass availabilities, economics, and the current sunspot cycle. If your handy service person is on the far side of Sol from you, it will be a while before she can drop by to help out with your Environmental Control and Life Support systems.
That's why all space settlers will need to know enough technology to service the shell that holds their lifespace, the local industrial base that keeps it viable, the computers for fun and work and communication, the medical technology, their own inner selves. All that stuff, and more. Computer software with DRM, gotchas and vendor lockin like Microsoft does it, will be lethal in space. However, business is business, and certainly, someone will learn details the hard way. It's up to you to avoid being one of those. And so you, too, may need to broaden your horizons, and here in these pages are some of my ideas about doing that.
Reading, and books, have not gone out of style. I believe they won't go out of style while our human line endures. "Digital technology" is good in its place, but in today's world, it is badly flawed. Thru strong business PR supported by deception, monopoly, and brutal legal process, some very large companies extract immense profit from digital technology. Short-term consequences of this are bad; longterm consequences are intolerable in a healthy society. I'm not arguing that digital technology is bad in itself. Rather, I'm saying digital technology is remarkably abusable and some people are making the most of that potential.
Digital technology is useful and powerful. People who are lucky thru inner wisdom or social support, can find great good in it. That's not my topic here. In this Resources topic area, I emphasize books. Made of paper, bound. If properly made, durable over centuries. Like some of Gutenberg's books, for example.
Books made history, if people were the agents of it. The "public domain" is that large collection of historical materials, up to today, that serve as the base our culture builds upon, and as the basis of most education. This topic of "books" is not simple.
It is not simple firstly, because books provide targets for censorship; and those people who indulge in censorship busily tell everyone else what they should or should not read. (The Catholic Church keeps an index of proscribed books.)
And secondly, it is not simple because over recent decades, something has emerged that appears to compete with books. (It doesn't.) This new thing is digital technology, whose appearance has multiplied the complexity of our intellectual environment and of "public domain."
Digital technology in cyberspace complements books but does not replace them. Books are durable, as vs Microsoft's 'licensed' software, complexified far beyond need and often changed as a part of Microsoft's "vendor lockin" strategies. Books can be read without recourse to technology beyond plain old sunlight. The work to write a book, a tidy cumulation of accessible information, contributes to the author's personal skills and development. I leave it as a practical exercise to the reader to see the contrary in effect across cyberspace (and television).
The perspective I'm working on here was recently illustrated. (About 2009 July 16.) Amazon's Kindle users received a surprise. Apparently, these Kindles are locked-in to Amazon, who can go into customers Kindles at any time to make any changes they like. In July, they illustrated this by doing it. (Do they also track what readers are doing with their Kindle files? If someone in government thinks your copy of a book is politically incorrect, could it be "updated" to a book that is (today) politically correct?) This seems the complete opposite of the privacy, stability, and generic character of a hardcopy book in your hand.
It turned out, Amazon had sold copies of Orwell's 1984 and his Animal Farm to their readers, which someone thought they were not authorized to sell. Never mind that in Russia -- or Canada, among others, these two books are apparently public domain and legal there. So they simply deleted those (paid-for) books from their readers machines. As http://law.rightpundits.com so concisely puts it, "No warning, just poof, no book."
How could Amazon do this? They seem to believe this is legal as "legal" is construed these days.
Well, "legal" didn't work as far as very many people were concerned. That's not quite my topic here. My topic is that apparently, thru some of today's technology, a remote stranger can rummage into your machine and delete anything (or install anything?) he wants. And if you don't like that, it's yourself with maybe a few kilobux, vs him with multi millions. For example, see this Rights thing today in the music business. Now here it is again with these Kindle machines. Orwell! How appropriate.
(I don't have a Kindle in my home. I'm not going to.)
Key point: hardcopy is hardcopy. If what you have is right, what you have stays right. And if you're using any Microsoft software, have you reviewed your Microsoft User ...Agreement recently? Start now using Cygwin, BSD, Slackware, Linux From Scratch, or other open operating system!