Title: Astro-engineering – Dyson Shells, Alderson Disks and Stellar Engines
Podcaster: Richard Stelling and Russell Mulligan
Organization: The 2009 Show
Description: Russ and Rich discuss the search for astro-engineering by SETI and others. Will these massive engineering projects seen in modern Si-Fi one day become a reality?
Bio: Richard Stelling and Russell Mulligan have been podcasting since 2003. Their regular fodder is music, films, current affairs and politics. However they both have a keen interest in science and are delighted to have the opportunity to discuss some of the issues that excite them most.
Today’s Sponsor: This episode of “365 Days of Astronomy” is sponsored by the American Association of Variable Star Observers, the world’s leader in variable star data and information, bringing professional and amateur astronomers together to observe and analyze variable stars, and promoting research and education using variable star data. Visit the AAVSO on the web at http://www.aavso.org/
Rich: Welcome to the 356 days of Astronomy podcast for the day 23rd February, 2009.
[musical interlude – 00:00:07]
Rich: So, Russ, on this day in space history 23rd February, 1997. Can you imagine what happened? 1997; Spice Girls, X-Files…
Russ: Halley’s Comet was… 1985…
Rich: Hale Bopp was around at that time.
Russ: Anything to do with Voyager?
Rich: You mean Star Trek Voyager…?
Russ: Yeah, did they release it on DVD?
[musical interlude – 00:00:53]
Rich: Well, there was something shining in space, and it was the Mir Space Station that caught on fire, this day in 1997.
[musical interlude – 00:01:09]
Rich: In today’s podcast we’re going to be talking about Astro-Engineering and it’s impact on man kind. We’re going to step away form the facts and figures that have bogged down all these other podcasts. We’re not interested in facts Russ. We want to theorize about where man kind will be in 200, 500, 1000 years time.
Now, I’ve got a degree in Engineering, but what are your credentials?
Russ: I did the Kessel run in 12 parsecs.
Rich: I think that was Hans Solo.
Russ: I build the first warp drive.
Rich: That was Zefram Cochrane.
Russ: I got 1 Million points on that video game and they took me up into space.
Rich: That was Robert Peston in the Last Star Fighter!
Russ: Remember I was doing those stretches on that camp site and my bra flew off…
Rich: That was Carry On Camping! That’s not even a space film.
[musical interlude – 00:02:27]
Rich: So what everyone is think is, what is astro engineering. Astro engineering is the construction of mega-structures in space. I talking about things that maybe as wide as 2 astronomical units.
Russ: That’s a lot.
Rich: That’s the distance form the earth to the Sun.
Russ: I know that, 93 million miles.
Rich: A Dyson Sphere or as it appeared in the original paper a Dyson shell is a structure at 1 AU for a star that completely encompasses the stat and allows for the capture of all or nearly all or the energy of that star.
Think of a shell around the sun at the the radius of the earth.
[musical interlude – 00:03:49]
Rich: That is a mammoth feet of engineering, it’s bigger than the Death Star.
Russ: [laughs] So was he saying this is the zenith of human achievement, or was he saying that aliens would to this as the height of production.
Rich: I don’t know weather he was saying this was the height of a civilization, but he certainly postulated it would be an advanced civilization who could even muster the resources to build on of these.
Russ: It’s like the old saying, there’s no cave men in space.
[musical interlude – 00:04:57]
Rich: Dyson Shells or Dyson Spheres are used to capture energy but you might of seen them in Si-Fi, they certainly turned up in Star Trek, I know Scotty crashes his shuttle craft into one, and they find him in The Next Generation.
And in that one there is actually an ancient civilization that built it were living on the inside of the shell.
Russ: Very hot?
Rich: Well not if it were the same distance for the earth to the Sun, it would be day all the time, but not too hot to live.
There are other theories, Dyson swarms which oar millions of satellites that swarm over the star and collect all the energy.
Russ: When you say theory are you saying this might be a good idea or this is something out there already.
Rich: Well, certainly there are people looking for these things. But the way Dyson proposed it in his paper it was as a theoretical structure. There are obviously massive technological and social implications.
Russ: What would be the social implications?
Rich: You’d need millions and millions, if not billions, of personnel to create this. A lot more storm troopers are required.
[musical interlude – 00:06:52]
Rich: Before we get onto the construction and discovery of these mega structures. Stellar engines, this is a mega structures that uses the rotation to create usable energy or possible propel it self along, so your using a star as a massive space ship much like the Daleks tried to do in Doctor Who and the Daleks, with Peter Cushing.
My personal pet theory on this is Nano Bots. Because as a species we can’t afford to propel all of the resources into space, all of the metal on the earth would only be a few atoms thin if we wanted to encompass an entire star.
So, put in orbit around a star a small payload of Nano Bots that can feed off the solar winds and heavy metals the hydrogen and oxygen combine them in so some sort of usable material and then start to build the structure.
Russ: Does it have to be made of metal? Essentially it needs to harness radiation, I’m thinking of a smart gas?
Rich: Smart Gasses?
Russ: Yeah. I’ve just invented it. Oh come off it, it’s ok for James Dyson to invent hovers and this big shell but you can’t have smart gases? That doesn’t make sense.
Rich: Coming back to reality and Nano Bots. Conceivably you could program your Nano Bots to create some sort of diamond or graphite structure.
Russ: Surely if your using my smart gas the Astronomers out there are still going to be able to look out there through their telescope and see some stars, you be able to see through the gas. If everyone start whacking up one of these Dyson Spheres the heavens will just go dark. It’s like, “Not round our way, you wont be looking at our star mate, sorry we’ve blocked this one up.”
All I’m saying is it would be a pretty dull celestial vista if everyone started building these Dyson Spheres of yours.
[musical interlude – 00:09:32]
Rich: Thanks for downloading this episode of 365 days of Astronomy podcast, remember an extended version of this show can be downloaded from the 2009 Show page on iTunes and we will be back later in the year discussing Astrobiology.
End of podcast:
365 Days of Astronomy
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