What should be the next Manhattan Project?

Then the revolutionary advances that require heavy expenditures just won’t happen. Would private enterprise have landed anyone on the Moon if there were a bunch of MBA’s doing discounted cash flow analysis and passing judgment on any such proposal? Would there be a Panama Canal or a transcontinental railroad without government funding and organization? Would there even have been an atomic bomb? Gotta be realistic here - large projects require a group effort without a need for a near-term low-risk positive cash flow requirement, and that means using the government to do it. The privatization ideology applied inappropriately or at the wrong time has not only been stultifying, it has been destructive - witness the space station languor or the Columbia crash, for instance.

This is a good OP, and I’d like to define it as something that not only benefits all humanity tangibly, directly and through spinoffs, but inspires us spiritually and for a long period, too. The science has to be reachable enough to make it an engineering project. Ending world hunger and disease might do the trick, but I agree we need something big and visible to take pictures of. I’d like to see something other than space missions in the mix, but frankly I don’t have any good ideas other than that.

Looking at big projects of the past, they’ve all had a charismatic visionary to make them happen, or at least get them going, within both the government and the private sector. There probably wouldn’t have been a Suez or Panama Canal without De Lesseps, or a man-in-space program without Khrushchev and Kennedy. But, given our current cynical and government-hostile political climate (at least in the US), it’s almost impossible for any such personality to get anywhere.

Any day now being some time in the next 100 million years or so;
however asteroid collision avoidance would certainly be on my list…

let me see…
in increasing order of difficulty;
ocean thermal energy conversion;
clean fresh water for all parts of the inhabited world;
fusion power;
asteroid mining and control;
artificial intelligence;
permanent bases on the Moon and Mars;
a space elevator.

All these could be achieved in the next hundred years or so, and would of benefit to humanity (in my opinion).
Others might have better examples.

SF worldbuilding at

We need to get all the military geniuses together and make a working 1920’s-style death ray.

Oooooh, space elevator. Now THAT could be a project of consequence. Uplifting AND practical, if they could pull it off.

I agree with ElvisL1ves. I think this is a good basis for this debate:

From ElvisL1ves

I am having a hard time visualizing a GRAND project that isn’t space based. Its the final real fronteer after all, and its big enough to challenge mankind for the rest of our existance. And its also a looking beyond the horizon, as opposed to turning inward.

I mean, sure solving world hunger and disease is a noble undertaking. Same with environmental issues, and alternative fuel sources. But they just aren’t visually GRAND…though of course they are both noble and grand in scale.


So a 2020’s-style death ray then? Those Zottis are everywhen. :wink:

to blow up the asteroids! Excellent idea Dogface. Now, we still need a catchy acronymn…

I’ll cast my vote for a space elevator. It has all the elements to be a truly awe inspiring mile marker for humanity with tons of positive benefits. Heck, it would be a tourism mecca for folks who just want to SEE the thing much less ride it up. It would be the ultimate key to the solar system, as is said once your in space you’re halfway to anywhere.

Ya know, the space elevator just might be the trick, lokij. The science is in hand and the engineering is reachable, but with enough innovation required to inspire a lot of spinoff benefits.

One theory about the benefits of the space program, one Asimov in particular was emphatic about, was that it inspired people to think of the world globally instead of regionally or locally. Just that one picture of Earth taken from Apollo 8 changed a lot of minds about how we treat it and each other, and it made a lot of people wish they could go into space, too. If there’s a way to get there that’s still reassuringly anchored to solid ground, so much the better.

Asteroid catching is, technically, a solved problem. Just a giant water balloon and a nuke or two. The problem is placing it on the spot in time.

I vote Space Elevator. Over Mars, for the first one, for safety’s sake.

Space Elevator… yeah that would be impressive, useful and massively challenging. Let’s do it.

But E-Sabbath, what is the giant water ballon and 2 nuke solution to an asteroid?

In all honesty, there are only so many suppplies of renewable energy, and they can only provide so much. Most are enefficient and not really useful. Its highly unlikely that we’ll see any significant breakthrough until fusion power become available, but that won’t be for another 50 years. Maybe 25 with a crash program with huge funding.

Be prepared to wait a very long time then. There are… problems.

Instead of looking outward (I’m a big fan of the notion of men on Mars but I just dont’ see it happening anytime soon) I say look inward. Remove most of the silly and unnecessary limits on stem cell research and start curing things. Nerve damage, diabetes, Alzheimers, and paralysis could all vanish in 50 years.

Most diseases could follow in the next 100.

In 200 we could rebuild mankind in the image WE want. Stronger faster, smarter, and most importantly more emotionally stable.

But then again I am a bit of an optimist when it comes to Stem cells and gene studies.

I’m surprised that no one has mentioned ocean exploration. We have less experience at the bottom of the ocean than we do outside near earth orbit. An underwater city could provide the photo opportunities, technological development, and perhaps (if it done with enough international participation) a global perspective as well.

Okay…but let’s be REALLY careful about what “we” want… One man’s “emotionally stable” is another man’s “heterosexual, uninquisitive, and obedient.”

On the other hand, I’d certainly be all in favor of faster healing from injuries, resistance to diseases, etc. etc.

How about (as a Manhattan Project level of research program) complete understanding and control of the mammalian immune system?


Just thought I should point out that as a private company, it’s not up to Halliburton to discover the energy of tomorrow.
Screw space-elevators, trips to mars and all that other geeky sci-fi stuff. The most important thing we need now is more clean energy.
Either that or “blank robots” that you can download celebrities into and make out with like Fry did on Futurama.:smiley:

As a company with an obligation to its stockholders, it is up to Halliburton to be aware of potential fundamental externally-induced changes to the basis of its business plan. If “the energy of tomorrow” puts it effectively out of the petroleum business, or even shrinks it, then management had better have Plan B in mind. But, if it’s left to private business, there won’t be an “energy of the future” anyway. Even nuclear power is a spinoff of, and was midwived by, the government, not industry.

Let’s combine the two. I wanna go ice fishing. On Europa.

And it should be privately funded. We got enough rich guys lying around to do it. Hell, just float a rumor that Bill Gates is interested and Scott McNealy would probably backstop a program just out of spite, and those dot-commers who sold would sign up in a second.


I was mostly speaking of increasing impulse control and increasing man’s ability for reason and logic. (I just hope it doesn’t screw up our joys of art) and lowering the tendencies towards obviously detrimental mental conditions. (I.E. not homosexuality or anything of that nature)

hmmm I was going to put more but I’m having trouble wording it correctly. I just feel mankind’s emotional growth hasn’t kept up with our technological growth. If that makes sense.

Exactly, manhattan. If we can develop robots to explore under the arctic ice shelf, we might be able to build robots to explore the frozen oceans of Europa.

I would also like to say that one man’s “heterosexual, uninquisitive, and obedient” just might be another’s mistress. :slight_smile:

Oh, I just realized I misread the OP. The thread title was supposed to be:

What should Manhattan’s next project be?

In that case, I’ve got this really messy garage that needs some work. Stop by tomorrow and I’ll set you up.:slight_smile: