Save The Earth Series: A Dyson Swarm.

I read a brilliant article in the RCG website recently regarding the imminent shortage of oil that Earth is about to experience. The analogy they use to describe our oil use is genius.

In the jungles of South America, the tribes came up with a genius way to trap monkeys. The trap is a hollowed out coconut filled with rice via a hole cut into the shell. The coconut is chained to a wall with a shackle. The hole is the correct size for a monkey to reach the rice inside but not large enough to take out with a handful of rice.

The only way the monkey can release his hand is to let go of the rice. The monkey has a choice, let go and live to fight another day or become trapped. The native villagers often found that the monkey more often than not kept their hands inside the coconut.

This analogy perfectly describes the way mankind treats oil reserves. We have become trapped by the need for oil to keep the World turning. Current estimates put the oil reserves as having between 50 and 60 years before running dry.

So what would happen if the world ran out of oil? Unforetold catastrophe, so economists say. The need to use alternatives to fossil fuels is a pressing issue. This weeks solution is a bit more “out there”, literally!

The sun powers plenty here on Earth with its heat and light! The Photoelectric Effect is sunlight hitting a metallic surface and producing an electron. This is a loose explanation of how solar panels work. Which is outlined in Einstein’s 1905 special relativity paper. Easily googled and easily read.

The only issue with solar power is that the sun only gives a finite amount of heat and light to the Earth. We can’t turn up the sun or move the Earth closer to it. Truly, there is only so much solar power can offer to us.

So what if we go closer to the sun? In 1960, Freeman Dyson wrote a paper titled “Search for Artificial Stellar Sources of Infared Radiation”. This paper hypothesises that if tens of thousands of small craft were launched toward a star it could harbour all its energy. The swarm of craft would all have their own orbital path around the sun to collect the energy the sun releases.

This energy in turn can be harnessed and sent back to Earth. This is a hypothetical way of giving mankind the energy it needs to ensure its long term survival. The thousands of craft would orbit, absorb the suns energy and send it back to us. Although it would take each and every craft to have its own orbital path calculated to prevent them from crashing into each other and possibly letting the whole swarm down.

Another question does come from the Dyson Swarm idea. Are there any Dyson like swarms out there already? If an advanced civilisation far beyond have thought of this idea, it could give us a clue of extra-terrestrial life! All we have to do is find one, should anyone in the universe have thought of this.

So is this feasible? Regrettably, not at the moment. This would be far beyond current engineering capability but one can’t deny it may have to become an option. If a global effort was made to implement this it could ensure our survival and prevent us all from becoming savages. Or should I say, more savage than what we already are.

Jude Morrow

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