Image credit: ICON

The “Pancosmorio theory” describes the complexity of maintaining gravity and oxygen, obtaining water, developing agriculture and handling waste far from Earth.

Pancosmorio theory is a word coined to mean “all world limit” – and is detailed in “Pancosmorio (World Limit) Theory of the Sustainability of Human Migration and Settlement in Space,” published in March in Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences.

According to one of the paper’s authors, it would be unwise to spend billions of dollars to set up a space settlement only to see it fail, because even with all other the systems in place, you need gravity.

Image credit: ICON

One-G gravity

Humans and all Earth life have evolved within the context of 1G of gravity.

“Our bodies, our natural ecosystems, all the energy movement and the way we utilize energy is all fundamentally based upon 1G of gravity being present,” explains Cornell University’s Morgan Irons.

“There is just no other place in space where there is 1G of gravity; that just doesn’t exist anywhere else in our solar system. That’s one of the first problems we must solve.”

For more information, go to “Pancosmorio (world limit) theory of the sustainability of human migration and settlement in space” at:

Also, go to Baine Friedlander in the Cornell Chronicle at:

4 Responses to ““Pancosmorio Theory” Focuses on Human Migration, Settlement in Space Issues”

  • Leonard,

    I think there’s a big difference between saying that Earth life evolved in 1G (obviously true), and saying that therefore we’re hyperoptimized for 1G, and can only safely adapt to 1G +/- .0001G or something like that. We really need to get some data, because it’s quite possible to be adapted for one environment, but readily able to adapt to others. That’s one of those things we’re hoping to see addressed in the next several years by Vast, Gravity Labs, and Gravitics.


  • Abelard Lindsey says:

    I don’t see any new issue being raised in this paper that was not addressed by O’Neill’s high frontier concept. We’ve always known that space colonies would slowly rotate in space to provide artificial gravity. The myostatin inhibition gene therapy may reduce (but not eliminate completely) the need for gravity.

  • Lee Irons says:

    As we see on Earth, in order for human infrastructure, technology, and society to operate, a naturally functioning ecosystem must be actively producing resources and energy to a certain capacity to sustain those levels of operation. At its fundamental root, human infrastructure, technology, and society require human involvement at every level to operate indefinitely into the distant future, and humans will always require an essential level of naturally occurring conditions that exist on Earth in order for humans to continue to exist. This conclusion is based upon the science of ecological thermodynamics that has been developed over the last century (with major developments in the last three decades) and the second law of thermodynamics which states that the production of resources needed by humans and human civilization requires the expenditure of energy and a certain amount of that energy can never be useful again. This is known as entropy. The physics and planetary science reveals that nature uses conservative forces to produce natural resources in ecosystems; we call these forces conservative because they do not have an energy cost. These conservative forces also result in the natural production being self-restoring, even in the presence of natural friction that generates entropy. However, human technology that humans also use to produce resources does not use conservative forces to drive cycles and so it has more of an energy cost and is not self-restoring. For this reason, we cannot use technology to completely replace natural ecosystem functions that we need to survive, considering we would eventually get to the point where the technology would require more energy cost and effort than resources have the capacity to generate. We would get upside down on our energy budget. It is at such a point that blight, species loss, and cascade failure would happen in any natural elements of an ecosystem that exist, and signs of civilization collapse would begin to show, such as population decline, average human biomass decline, supply chain disruption, human speciality knowledge and skill loss, technology loss, and political and governance disruption.

    Keep in mind that this is a theory. We have based this proposition on existing science, and we have provided hypotheses that still need to be tested to either prove or disprove the theory. The science tells us that Earth life evolved on Earth in the context of the conditions of Earth, and therefore Earth life is evolutionarily and adaptively tuned to these conditions, which are described in detail in the paper. Much of the media has been focusing on our gravity claim, which is important, because gravity has the greatest effect on how energy moves through and is utilized by life and by planetary systems. However, I think the biggest challenge is the need for 60% of the power capacity of the natural part of the ecosystem (the part that produces natural resources to be used by humans and that technology) to move through a great biodiversity of functional service systems that produce a great level of competitive redundancy. This is called “reserve” according to ecological thermodynamics theory. It is this reserve that makes Earth especially resilient and would be the thing that technology could never completely replace.

    Keep in mind that the Pancosmorio theory is a theory of human sustainability. This means that it defines a probability of success or failure, not a guarantee of success or failure. In our paper, we prefer to use the terminology of robust and brittle to describe a settlement, rather than success or failure. If a settlement is robust, there is a lower chance that a disruption, such as a meteor strike or a pandemic, will cause it to fail. If a settlement is brittle, it could appear to be functioning just fine for a while, but suddenly be pushed into complete failure by such a disruption. To improve the robustness of an ecosystem, the theory states that the conditions identified by the theory need to be established by as natural a means as possible and by technological means if natural means are not possible. For example, humans cannot produce natural gravity force fields, because we really do not understand yet how gravity works. So, humans could create a spinning space station that artificially generates a force that is the same magnitude as gravity. But as we noted before, there is a point where we can only use so much technology before the use of the technology is no longer sustainable by the portion of the ecosystem run naturally by conservative forces. If we do not have a sufficient reserve of naturally functioning ecosystem that is not provided by technology, then our settlement will be brittle or it will solely but surely start running out of resources, like what happened with Biosphere 2. If the settlement is being sustained by a supply chain from Earth, then it is effectively part of the Earth ecosphere, which is a different matter entirely. Then the concern would be the robustness or brittleness of the supply chain (a handful of rocket companies and launch facilities would make it brittle). The theory describes what is needed to be sustainably independent of Earth.

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