How

“Ad Astra Incrementis”

To the stars in ever-increasing steps

 

The About page explains what we do. This page explains how we get that done.

 

 

Governing Principles

  • Focus on the pivotal challenges of interstellar flight.
  • Emphasize accuracy before advocacy.
  • Explore diverse options from the seemingly simple to the seemingly impossible.
  • Deliberate cultural, societal, and philosophical influences.
  • Find and collaborate with the pioneers of starflight.
  • Inspire and guide students to become future pioneers.
  • Work in affordable steps, consistent with available resources.

 

Methods

1. Providing the latest news about starflight

THE person behind our news forum is journalist Paul Gilster, author of Centauri Dreams. His postings are based on:

  • Articles in peer-reviewed journals
  • Books
  • Interviews or short articles from practitioners in the field – even practitioners outside of Tau Zero. 

His three major leads are:

  • Tau Zero practitioners
  • Contents from professional journals
  • Readership of Centauri Dreams

2. Finding today’s pioneers

Our network of practitioners, many of whom are pioneers in their own fields, are our first source for finding additional pioneers. As each goes about their work, they look for publications or new colleagues that show that rare blend of:

  • Impartiality – Equally open to the possibility that their idea will, or will not, work. Lets the data lead to the conclusions, rather than the more common practice where data is selected to assert preconceived conclusions.
  • Vision – Conceives or explores ideas that are beyond the comfort zone of their peers. Looks farther into the future rather than just the next innovation. Willing to branch off into new “S-Curves”. (see below)
  • Rigor – Conducts work carefully enough so that the readership will judge the results as trustworthy. Conveys the level of uncertainty in the data accurately. Cites the appropriate source material upon which the work was based.
  • Dedication to the Cause – Has more interest in achieving progress toward the cause (star flight) than in promoting themselves.
  • Pioneering Vision versus Innovation – Each technological development follows an “S-Curve,” where only little progress is made in the beginning until a breakthrough occurs (lower knee on the curve), and then many improvements are made. Eventually, however, the underlying physical limits are reached and additional work cannot improve performance, the point of “diminishing returns.” To surpass those limits a different method must be found whose physical limits are better. That path, too, will follow an S-curve. Pioneers typically look for the new S-curves, while innovators and established experts in their field tend to further refine existing methods. With virtually all space groups pursuing the nearer-term goals, Tau Zero instead seeks out those who are willing to depart from than norm and seek the revolutionary advancements. Examples include how steam ships surpassed sailing ships; how rockets fly higher than aircraft, how jet aircraft fly faster than propeller aircraft.

3. Contributing to the pool of knowledge

The basic Tau Zero tactic is to find today’s pioneers, support them to accelerate their progress, and then filter out the best prospects. Once sufficiently viable approaches emerge – then it will be time to invest to bring those approaches to fruition.

With a network of individuals having the characteristics described above, progress is only limited by time and resources. It has been found that these individuals are typically willing to participate with others, to find areas of mutual interest for collaboration, or define niches (who does what) to avoid redundant work.

From there, it’s pretty much a matter of following the scientific method for the technical progress, following journalistic integrity for sharing that progress to the public, and applying imagination and writing skills for creating provocative science fiction… to present new possibilities and inspire future generations of pioneers. In short, this means: 

  • Understand the problems well enough to determine what needs to be done next, the critical unknowns and make-break issues.
  • Focus on resolving the critical make-break issues, and filling in the knowledge gaps. (Note – this is in contrast to a common tendency when writing advocacy papers to avoid discussing critical gaps and issues to promote established ideas)
  • Publishing those findings to draw the scrutiny and critiques of peers to further improve the next-steps.
  • Share that progress via journalistic venues so that students and the general public are informed… and hopefully inspired
  • Extend beyond the scientific method by producing science fiction stories to toy with new ideas and new possibilities.

To convey this progress in a manner where novices can find out who is doing what and the real edge of knowledge, Tau Zero is compiling this progress into our Discoveries Log.

4. Creating educational opportunities for tomorrow’s pioneers (Still in development)

Education includes connecting students to correct and timely information, and guiding them on how to take the next steps. Our Centauri Dreams news forum is our venue for sharing progress to general audiences. We are now seeking grants to scale up to our next level: linking graduate students and faculty to correct and timely information on interstellar flight so that they may make progress to solving the next steps.

 

Progress

The progress made by practitioners in Tau Zero network is documented in their various books, journal articles, and presentations. Some of these are listed in the “Steps Taken” page. In addition, progress also includes identifying what work remains to be done, more specifically the next steps.  Some of these are listed in the “Steps Remaining” page, and are at the level of next-step tasks, each of which could be completed in 1 to 3 years.

 

 

Implementation Plan

Tau Zero started an informal network of like-minded scientists and engineers, which evolved to include the collaboration of journalists, artists, and science fiction writers. Through our Tau Zero connections, we could do things beyond the bounds of our day-jobs. Now, Tau Zero is ready to scale up to the next level, of actually sponsoring research. To reach that point, here is our multi-decade implementation plan.  Items that are already in progress are in Green font.

 

1. Laying Solid Foundations – accessible, accurate, focused, and timely information

   1.1. Internet presence (this website) 

   1.2. Centauri Dreams interstellar news forum – to sustain momentum of progress and public awareness

   1.3. “Discoveries Log” – a repository for information about the challenges, prospective solutions, and required next steps. Intended to become the impartial and unbiased source on star flight

        1.3.1. Categories of Coverage

                1.3.1.1. Humanity’s Journey (Societal relevance and interaction with society)

                1.3.1.2. Destinations

                1.3.1.3. Getting There

                1.3.1.4. Ancillary, relevant topics (AI, synthetic biology, human lifespan extension, etc.)

        1.3.2. The big, important questions

        1.3.3. Current state-of-the-art toward answering those questions (including a ‘top hits’ bibliography)

        1.3.4. Resulting ‘next-step’ recommendations to continue progress

        1.3.5. Opportunistic Projects

   1.4.   Social networking / participation – engage the world and especially the young

        1.4.1. Moderated discussion forum on Centauri Dreams news blog

        1.4.2. Twitter and Facebook page

        1.4.3. Crowd sourcing on the ‘next-step’ recommendations

2. Merchandizing – for promotion, provocation, and revenues

3. University Participation Program – planting seeds widely, efficiently

4. Spokesperson for public relations (PR) and fundraising campaigns

5. Investment Strategy for Incremental Progress

   5.1. Establish a special fund for supporting incremental research and other projects

   5.2. Prioritization and selection process for incremental research

   5.3. Corporate sponsorships

   5.4. Intellectual Property and revenue return policies – preparing for profitable spin-offs

   5.5. Venture Capital fundraising

6. Triennial cycle of progress, publications, and awards

   6.1. Symposium & workshop to showcase interstellar progress, consider implications of advancements in outside disciplines, present awards, and prepare for next steps

   6.2. Interstellar progress awards

   6.3. Solicitations & awards for next-step research

   6.4. Publish progress in journals – normal dissemination of science and technology

   6.5. Special publications for promotion and revenue – value-added explanations for general audiences (journalist contribution) plus inspirational material (artist & sci-fi writing)

   6.6. Repeat cycle until sufficient progress has accrued to enable star flight

 

Make it real, make it exciting, get it done.

 

Content Contributors

  • Marc Millis
  • Paul Gilster
  • Jim Gilland
  • Miles Gilster