By Steve Boudreault, Buildium, Boston, MA
As of this morning, the population of this little blue ball we call home was 7,061,514,434. And that doesn’t even take into account the number of babies born in the time it took to write that first sentence. As anyone who takes public transportation in the morning can tell you, this planet is packed.
Most of the preeminent scientists of our day — including the renowned Stephen Hawking — agree that the future of humanity doesn’t rest here on Earth. It’s the old adage of keeping all your eggs in one basket: there’s too much of a chance that catastrophe will strike either externally (a rogue comet or solar flare) or internally (exhaustion of our natural resources) and wipe out humans with one swift stroke. In order to better guarantee that humanity lives on, we need to set up colonies on the moon, on Mars, or in orbiting space stations. That way, if something ever happens here on terra firma, our race will continue.
But while moon bases and miniature Deep Space Nines are ambitious, some scientists prefer to think big. Like, really big. One of those scientists is Freeman Dyson, who in 1960 came with the concept of a megastructure known as a Dyson sphere.
A Dyson sphere, for our purposes, would essentially be a giant metal ball built around the sun. Its circumference would be the current Earth’s orbit, and its inner surface (where we would all live) would have the advantage of harnessing 100% of the sun’s energy. If thick enough, the Dyson sphere would protect us from all manner of space-borne destruction.
It would also alleviate some of that congestion we spoke of. The Dyson sphere’s inner surface would be 550 million times the surface area of the Earth.
“So,” you’re no doubt thinking, “550 million times the surface area of the Earth. They’re gonna need some serious property management.” That’s executive thinking, but hold your horses. There are a few minor issues that need to be worked out first.
The sphere would have no gravitational interaction with the sun, so it would likely drift and eventually collide with the sun. You’d probably have to install and run giant industrial fans in various spots on your MegaProperty to correct for the drift. And think what that’s gonna cost you.
The sphere would have no gravity of its own, so anything you put on the inner surface would simply fall into the sun. The only real solution to that conundrum would be to put everybody on the outside of the sphere, but then the sun’s light would be completely blocked and you’d be sitting on a giant metal ball in the cold vacuum of space. Good luck attracting residents to that.
There’s no known or theoretical building material that could withstand the sun’s gravitational pull, so you’d have to divide your time between being a property manager and being a theoretical physicist just to get the project off the ground. Hope you’re budgeting your time wisely.
Oh, and there isn’t believed to be enough material in the entire universe — even after mining the cores of gas giants, which we haven’t figured out how to do yet — to build a Dyson sphere. So your MegaProperty may have to be put on hold for a bit.
Still, the concept of a Dyson sphere certainly is tantalizing. If they could work out all the kinks, how many properties do you think you could manage?
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