August 6, 2017

Frédéric Marin

Dr. Frédéric MARIN.
Astronomical Observatory of Strasbourg.
11 Rue de l'université. 67000 Strasbourg.
la France.
Please share with Camille Beluffi.
Dear Dr. Marin,
I have read your article about the starting size of an interstellar crew and its showcase in the Cornel University Library, an institution I much love because they are said to have access of my own paper in African Entomology.  I shall end this note with a dare I think you will find difficult to resist. 

Let’s talk first principles:  Animals compete.  Species compete for a niche that offers food and shelter; when a new niche appears, the first animal to undergo speciation and possibly exploit the new niche as well as its legacy is the animal with an advantage.  This was explained by Alfred Russel Wallace.  So speciation is a competition; it can only be delayed at peril. 

Assuming 2,000 generations to speciation, that is to say that two chromosomes or parts of chromosomes can only work together if they share ancestors within the past 2,000 generations (think of how a valley divided by a glacier results in speciation).  Suppose the population rises to 2,000.  Now one chromosome must find its closest mate among 3,999 homologues.  I think you’ll agree that’s likely to take more than 2,000 generations; the whole population dies, which is not what we seem to see.  So there is intense selective pressure to develop a mechanism that maintains a population at some moderate level.  Richard Sibly demonstrated the action of such a mechanism in 1,700 species.  Teams led by Helgason and Laboraeau confirmed the curve in Icelanders and Danes and ruled out anything affecting fertility other than kinship issues.  Inspecting Sibly’s curve, it is obvious that there is some population size below which there is high fertility and below which there is low fertility.  In between is a size that remains stable indefinitely, with obvious advantage in an interstellar voyage; no social engineering.  People do as they please, and nature takes care of it all.  Of course, you’ll need a couple of boarding schools to deal with the Westermark effect.

Just now the world is far to the right on the curve and hurtling farther.  Go too far from the rest point in either direction and extinction is assured.  If you want to travel to another star, you need us to survive until we have the funds, and the outlook now is not good.  Humans can survive without constant horror such as we are living through only if humans are divided into reproductively airtight populations the size of your space probe. 

This is all laid out in some videos at with scripts with references at .  If, like me, you find the online version obnoxious (not to be confused with an obnoxious virgin) I’d be delighted to send you a fair copy on a DVD if you can handle Word.

Here is the dare: find that ideal population size for humans, referring to the Iceland data or better if you can find it (somebody suspects {“Peak Friends” Sci  Am vol. 319 no. 3 Sept 2018 p. 104} that you can only have 150 friends; there are not that many who will answer a message from me ☹), and publish it.  If you do I’ll give you a case of Scotch or equivalent cash for Scotch, tax and shipping from here, since importing it might be tax costly.  Take heart; don’t be the heroes the world deserves; be the heroes the world needs. 
M. Linton Herbert MD

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