Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The opposite of small-scale is...

?This is just a little post to prove that most theories, no matter how "out there" in scale, are good for science as whole. In this case, the cost might be a little over the top (you try harnessing the energy of a star on a budget), but concepts like these need to be brought up, re-brought up, and then re-brought up again. Considering it's almost 40 years since its inception, I thought now might be a good time...

...keep in mind that it's the outlandish ideas that make the slightly crazy ideas look plausible, thus enabling the ultimate acceptance of radical thought processes. Necessary, yes?

The image below is a Dyson Swarm, an original concept by English-American Freeman Dyson. He's a futurist that opposes nuclear armament...that's a vision I'm more than happy to embrace.

The Swarm is undoubtedly the most plausible of Dyson's Sphere concepts. In Sphere theory, a star is completely encompassed with individual satellites and/or biospheres in order to harness all of the power and energy emitted from that star. In the aforementioned picture, the concept is the same as his sphere concept (described below) but on a much smaller in scale. In this case, numerous satellites or biospheres will share the same orbit, thus allowing us the ability to harness the power via satellite or live in the orbit. Pretty easy, yes?

Next we have DEFCON 2 of the Dyson Sphere theory (above). In this instance, multiple satellites are projected 15 degrees relative to one another, thus increasing the amount of energy you could harness.

Next is the Dyson Bubble concept where each satellite and/or space habitat is individually independent of one another. All of these concepts have some obvious advantages, seeing as each individual location could be built over an extended period of time.

Similar variations of this concept has been thrown around, specifically with future-science author Larry Niven and his early 70's story Ringworld (pictured below).

Finally, the most extreme concept from Freeman Dyson is the Dyson Sphere (below), in which the entire star is encapsulated in a...errr....sphere. This concept traps all of the energy radiated by the star within the sphere, giving us enough power sustain a population trillions of times our current population for a bajillion million years.

So why is all of this important? Freeman Dyson first developed this concept in 1959 in his article "Search for Artificial Stellar Sources of Infra-Red Radiation."


Let me write it again...1959...on a napkin.

Even though it's been said that the sphere concept is a bit dubious in scale (apparently there are some small gravity issues), the swarm and bubble concepts are potentially feasible. Can you imagine?

Not bad for a guy who developed these theories long before we landed on the moon...it's kind of like Euclid mapping out the potential of a Pentium 4.

In the interest of full disclosure, however, I'll also let you know that he also thinks there's no reason to worry about global warming. As a result, I guess there's a long-standing quack or genius debate.

Which camp are you in?