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Centauri Dreams has a fascinating guest post by Dr. Gregory Matloff, co-author of The Starflight Handbook and Solar Sails: A Novel Approach to Interplanetary Travel. Last year Matloff delivered a paper in London at the British Interplanetary Society’s conference on the work of Olaf Stapledon, the author of Star Maker. As one of the ideas that Stapledon explored was the hypothesis that stars might have a form of consciousness, Matloff presented a paper speculating on anomalous stellar velocities, notably the possibility that this problem might be solved by positing stellar consciousness. You can read the full paper, “Star Consciousness: An Alternative to Dark Matter“, over at Centauri Dreams. Here’s the abstract:

The Dark Matter hypothesis has been invoked as an explanation for the fact that stars revolve around the centers of their galaxies faster than can be accounted for by observable matter. After decades of failed experimental searches, dark matter has remained elusive. As an alternative to the Dark Matter hypothesis, a idea first presented by author Olaf Stapledon is developed in this paper. Stars are considered to be conscious entities maintaining their galactic position by their volition. It is shown that directed stellar radiation pressure and stellar winds are insufficient to account for this anomalous stellar velocity. Previous research rules out magnetism. A published theory of psychokinetic action that does not violate quantum mechanics is discussed, as is the suggestion that stellar consciousness could be produced by a Casimir effect operating on molecules in the stellar atmosphere. It is shown that a discontinuity in stellar velocities as a function of spectral class exists. Cooler red stars in the solar neighborhood move faster than hotter, blue stars, as would be expected if the presence of molecules in stars was a causative factor. Further research in experimentally validating the psychokinetic effect and demonstrating the role of the Casimir effect in consciousness is required to advance the concepts presented here beyond the hypothesis stage.

Love reading these sorts of highly speculative ideas (it immediately reminded me of Lem’s Solaris, and also previous things I’ve read about consciousness as an emergent phenomenon in complex systems). Though Centauri Dreams is a properly sober, scientific website devoted to interstellar travel/exploration, so as you can imagine there’s some fairly predictable reactions in the comment thread. But as Matloff himself says in the comments, he expected some heat for publishing the paper, but believes that such speculation is necessary for the progress of knowledge.