Your Views for May 24

Build a temple

The notion that the Thirty Meter Telescope stands in opposition to Hawaiian culture is a false and myopic narrative. In fact, without Hawaiian blue-water navigation culture, the ultimate purpose of TMT is not achievable.


It is an amazing historical coincidence that the prime location atop Maunakea for an advanced telescope of the caliber of TMT also is sacred to the ancient culture that holds the only key to the ultimate purpose of the telescope.

In synergy with orbiting observatories, TMT will be capable of locating Earth-like planets around other stars. At this time in history, any other use of the telescope is superfluous.

It will come as a surprise to most that humanity is very close to achieving interstellar spaceflight. In the year 1903, knowledgeable scientists asserted that mechanized flight was impossible even as two bicycle mechanics built and flew the first mechanized airplane.

Conditions are similar today. Earth’s first starship will depart within the lifetime of most people reading this. The physical principles for a functional warp-drive are now understood. No, it does not go faster than the speed of light, like Hollywood. It does not need to.

There are two problems. First, there is no known Earth-like destination for a starship. That is where TMT comes in. Second, interstellar navigation is hard. Very hard. It is, in fact, what is known as an “NP-hard problem” that is computationally unsolvable even in theory. Like navigating an open ocean the size of the Pacific without any instruments. That is where Polynesian navigation culture comes in.

Space is not flat. At interstellar scales, space is about as smooth as the surface of the ocean. The position of the stars in the sky are unique to Earth’s position in time and space. As you travel vast interstellar distances on voyages that can last for many centuries (Earth time), the stars will appear to wander randomly. It will be like a bird flying over the ocean and trying to navigate based on the reflections of the stars on the water.

Interstellar navigation software will become useless. What is required is a discipline of using the depths of the human mind to manage the countless subtle nuances of the deep to maintain knowledge of one’s position. Such a discipline exists and has been nurtured for thousands of years in Polynesian navigation culture. Here, in Hawaii. By Native Hawaiians.

Put simply, TMT will find another Earth, and Polynesian navigation culture adapted to the interstellar regime will guide starships to these worlds. We must do this so humans will not become extinct when the next asteroid strikes the Earth, like they have at least a dozen times in the geologic past. Or maybe we take a do-it-yourself approach to extinction. Either way, we have an interstellar future, or no future.

If you have a problem with that, OK. We all have issues. I am not Hawaiian and do not pretend to be. I am a clumsy and crude haole. But if I was Hawaiian, I would build the biggest temple on the islands in front of TMT, make them pay for it, lay claim to the thing, and establish a Hawaiian school of Interstellar Navigation at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

I would do it, like, today.

Or we can block roads, wave flags, etc. Whatever.


J. S. Powers


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email