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Re: Colony Critical Mass

From: TEHughes@a...
Date: Wed, 19 Nov 1997 23:53:29 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: Colony Critical Mass

In a message dated 97-11-19 15:59:18 EST, you write:

<< >I guess one of the critical points is "What tech level are you
 >about?"  With a high enough tech level, (or, rather, with the right
 >technologies), you can get a minimum colony size in the hundreds.  
 >(Genetic Engineering, Food replication technologies, "Simple" power
 >generation technologies i.e. 'Cold Fusion' turns out to work after
 >all with suitable modifications, that sort of thing.)
>>>Agreed but what you also need to consider is the type of world that
 "colonists" are trying to set up on. Somewhere like Mars is going to
 problems due to radiation and low gravity. The first you can avoid to
 extent but the later is still a problem because of the long term
 caused by living in low gravity particularly on a developing feotus.
 may have been some work done on this (I know the Russians have had a
lot of
 experience with the effects of low gravity on the body) anyone else?
	If your colonists end up on an "Eden" world (Earthlike) then
group/s of 30
 or so could form selfsustaining communities that are stable over the
 term (Australian Aboriginies). It might also be interesting to
 what would happen if a group of high tech settelers came to live on a
>>> veritable paradise. Might they not take up a primative lifestyle.
 >Some parallels could probably be drawn between colonization sizes and
 >the Polynesian experience during their Age of Colonization.  (circa
 >5-10000BC (?) )  Discover Magazine (Jared Diamond) has a couple of
 >fascinating articles on what happens when populations (i.e. colonies)
 >are cut off and forced to survive on their own.  (November 1997 has a 
 >great example.)
  >Beyond this, it's hard to get more specific without more specifics.
 >(8-)	Technology Level, frequency of contact with "Mother" culture, 
 >social aspects of colonizing culture, that sort of thing.  Indeed, 
 >the numbers I stated above for what I consider a 'typical' scenario,
 >are probably just nothing but garbage.
>>This would be very important in determining the culture of the colony.
 Stanley Robinson's "Red Mars" had some ideas on this. (I haven't read
 two sequels yet.)

Two points:

1. Since inbreeding comes from marrying your cousin, it will take 2 or 3
generations before a members choice of mates become so restricted that
breeding with your cousin is even likely (even in a very small colony!)
can't see it as much of a concern for at least the first century! In a
colony, the date of concern will be at least several centuries down the

2. Once you have produced enough cousins that inbreeding becomes a
given a couple thousand intial colonist (=> several centuries) the
question is How Much Eugenics Will Your People Tollerate! If you
compulsory genetic screening, and therefore abortion of the fetus that
the screen, how will you handle this concern? How will you handle the
drive of the individual whose genetic history has accumulated too many
"recessives?"  P.S. Anyone who says people will line up like sheep for
government genetics program, no matter how well intentioned, doesn't

I see the answer to your original question as this: No matter what the
of your colony, there is no "safe" size. There are only levels of

Tom Hughes

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