Monday, January 2, 2012

Per ardua ad astra: Why not?

By CanSpeccy

Escher Dyson Sphere
A post over at Tallbloke's Talkshop argues that we need global governance to restrict hydrocarbon energy use if we are to avoid civilizational collapse when supplies of hydrocarbon fuels abruptly run out.

The idea makes a change from the "if we don't stop burning so much oil we'll all die an 'orrible death from global warming" argument for the Global Soviet Socialist Republic, but seems hardly more convincing.

Of interest, though, is the argument in an article to which the author links, which states:
No matter what the technology, a sustained 2.3% energy growth rate would require us to produce as much energy as the entire sun within 1400 years.
In other words, so we are to assume, our present course of ever increasing energy use is totally unsustainable.

But wait, is it really inconceivable that we could harness the sun's entire output of energy?

Not to the visionaries:
When we physicists look at outer space for alien life," says Michio Kaku, Professor of Theoretical Physics at City of New York University, "we don't look for little green men, we look for Type I, Type II and Type III civilizations. A Type I civilization has harnessed it's planetary power ... A Type II civilization is stellar ... they get their energy directly from their mother star. Eventually, they exhaust the power of a star and they go galactic" (i.e., become Type III)
So could we evolve in a mere 1400 years to the point of going galactic, of evolving from a Type I to a mature Type II civilization?

Freeman Dyson
Absolutely. In theory, anyhow. A means proposed by the legendary mathematician, Freeman Dyson, would be to build a sphere surrounding the sun, which would intercept every emitted photon and converts its energy to human use.
A Dyson sphere (or shell as it appeared in the original paper) is a hypothetical megastructure originally described by Freeman Dyson. Such a "sphere" would be a system of orbiting solar power satellites meant to completely encompass a star and capture most or all of its energy output. Dyson speculated that such structures would be the logical consequence of the long-term survival and escalating energy needs of a technological civilization, and proposed that searching for evidence of the existence of such structures might lead to the detection of advanced intelligent extraterrestrial life. (Maveric Universe Wiki)
So why not?

Let us abhore global governance, but instead "boldly go where no man has gone before": each small group in its own independent, self-governing, hollowed-out solar-powered asteroid.


  1. LOL...The post seems to pit the banal Chimera of PC (Politically Correct) Solar God of Media NYU professor Dr.Kaku; against Freeman Dyson an advocate of NUCLEAR POWER.

    The real problem is falsifying science with a political agenda and people who continue to use it as a tool to promulgate sick anti-human agendas.

    I favor nukes in all its forms including PEACEFUL NUCLEAR EXPLOSIONS (PNE) technology, PROJECT ORION.
    Nuclear power is still the best hope for humans of providing high density energy - bar none.And other undiscovered forms of energy are quite possible but need the R&D to facilitate their use. Hence the recent neutrino behavior observation in Italy.
    I don't subscribe to Malthusian or AGW hysteria.
    For anyone to claim that all discovery has occurred and thus humans can't be sustainable and grow is tempting stupidity.

  2. Re: solar versus nuclear, solar is nuclear, but on a large scale!

    But, yes, a pity the US dropped plans for a nuclear steam rocket, which seemed like a good way to cut the journey time between Earth and Mars.

    But the Orion Project, WOW, I'd be hesitant about riding on something propelled by a series of atom bomb blasts.

  3. "solar is nuclear, but on a large scale!"

    What? (>^<) scratching head.

    Read up on PNE technology as a tool. It's not about destruction it more about construction.

  4. Yes, solar energy is the product of fusion. Right!

    Dyson's scheme was to turn the entire solar system into a fusion- (i.e., solar-) powered heat engine.

    But, sure, there can be intermediate stages of nuclear power utilization. Thorium reactors as now under development in China sound less fearsome than the Fukushima/Chernobyl type, which can not only turn lethal but can make large tracts of land uninhabitable.

    Estimates have been reported of 14000 excess infant deaths in the US due to Fukushima, although the government certainly isn't telling anyone about that.

  5. UR more prone to mis-information.

    Sun light is a by-product of fusion energy.
    The highest density sources of energy outside of antimatter are fusion and fission.

    -Matter/Antimatter-180 petajoules
    -Uranium 238-20 terajoules.Electric power plants(nuclear reactors)
    Commercial Solar Plants(CSP) developed in the 1980s, and the 354 (MegaWatts) MW SEGS CSP installation is the largest solar power plant in the world and is located in the Mojave Desert of California. Other large CSP plants include the Solnova Solar Power Station (150 MW) and the Andasol solar power station (100 MW), both in Spain. The 97 MW Sarnia Photovoltaic Power Plant in Canada, is the world’s largest photovoltaic plant.

    Bruce Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) Canada, expanding plant to four units of a total 4.4 GigWatts (GW). (almost largest in world)

    There's a varity of NPPs types 40-80 types.
    Please, I don't pay attention to HYPE MEDIA stories like the one you just quoted from.

    There's no context or science behind them.

  6. "HYPE MEDIA stories"?

    You mean about the dead babies?

    I don't believe it or disbelieve it, but the failure of the MSM to report anything useful about the distribution and extend of contamination from Fukushima is a cause for concern.

  7. Fukushima has been hyped by mainstream media paid for by Hydrocarbon industry for obvious reasons in the energy market.

    Like Chernobyl. 3 core reactor units suffered partial melts with no breach of containment structures. The process of De-commissioning is an ongoing process.
    U need to read-up on radiation dosimetry to get a better clue as to what dose metrics where at the scene. Too many N. Americans are subject of mass dis-information by LAME-STREAM MEDIA.

    check the comparison chart:

    Fukushima workers @ 400mSv/24 hr.(pulse). Ramsar, Iran max. background radiation @ 290mSv/yr.

    I've worked w/ radiation and I don't have two heads.

    Less 'Hollywood' media, more science media please.

  8. Your data don't have any bearing on the issue raised. The question is how much radio iodine and other radioactive isotopes has been ingested by people in Japan and elsewhere and what effect, if any, has this had on mortality.

    Whole body dosage, which you refer to, has little relation to the carcinogenic effect of ingested radiation from airborne particulate matter or radiation assimilated in drinking water, milk and other foodstuffs.

    There seems nothing Hollywood about this report:

    WASHINGTON, Dec. 19, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- An estimated 14,000 excess deaths in the United States are linked to the radioactive fallout from the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear reactors in Japan, according to a major new article in the December 2011 edition of the International Journal of Health Services. This is the first peer-reviewed study published in a medical journal documenting the health hazards of Fukushima.

    Authors Joseph Mangano and Janette Sherman note that their estimate of 14,000 excess U.S. deaths in the 14 weeks after the Fukushima meltdowns is comparable to the 16,500 excess deaths in the 17 weeks after the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986. The rise in reported deaths after Fukushima was largest among U.S. infants under age one. The 2010-2011 increase for infant deaths in the spring was 1.8 percent, compared to a decrease of 8.37 percent in the preceding 14 weeks.

    The IJHS article will be published Tuesday and will be available online as of 11 a.m. EST at

    Just six days after the disastrous meltdowns struck four reactors at Fukushima on March 11, scientists detected the plume of toxic fallout had arrived over American shores. Subsequent measurements by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found levels of radiation in air, water, and milk hundreds of times above normal across the U.S. The highest detected levels of Iodine-131 in precipitation in the U.S. were as follows (normal is about 2 picocuries I-131 per liter of water): Boise, ID (390); Kansas City (200); Salt Lake City (190); Jacksonville, FL (150); Olympia, WA (125); and Boston, MA (92).

    Epidemiologist Joseph Mangano, MPH MBA, said: "This study of Fukushima health hazards is the first to be published in a scientific journal. It raises concerns, and strongly suggests that health studies continue, to understand the true impact of Fukushima in Japan and around the world. Findings are important to the current debate of whether to build new reactors, and how long to keep aging ones in operation."

  9. The peer review journal article:

    An Unexpected Mortality Increase in the United States Follows Arrival of the Radioactive Plume from Fukushima: Is There a Correlation?

    which was referred to in the above-noted press release is now available online in the International Journal of Health Services


    The multiple nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima plants beginning on March 11, 2011, are releasing large amounts of airborne radioactivity that has spread throughout Japan and to other nations; thus, studies of contamination and health hazards are merited. In the United States, Fukushima fallout arrived just six days after the earthquake, tsunami, and meltdowns. Some samples of radioactivity in precipitation, air, water, and milk, taken by the U.S. government, showed levels hundreds of times above normal; however, the small number of samples prohibits any credible analysis of temporal trends and spatial comparisons. U.S. health officials report weekly deaths by age in 122 cities, about 25 to 35 percent of the national total. Deaths rose 4.46 percent from 2010 to 2011 in the 14 weeks after the arrival of Japanese fallout, compared with a 2.34 percent increase in the prior 14 weeks. The number of infant deaths after Fukushima rose 1.80 percent, compared with a previous 8.37 percent decrease. Projecting these figures for the entire United States yields 13,983 total deaths and 822 infant deaths in excess of the expected. These preliminary data need to be followed up, especially in the light of similar preliminary U.S. mortality findings for the four months after Chernobyl fallout arrived in 1986, which approximated final figures.

    The full text of the article can be purchased from the publisher, or is at present available online here.