Q: I read your article “How can I move a planet?” the other day. I’m not sure I understood the device, is it some kind of GIGANTIC mechanical arm that stores elastic energy to harvest matter?
no, it isn’t a big mechanical arm, kinda. youtube links there are important to watch.
all in the article is actually a fluff, demonstration of use, but what’s important is technology itself, its building blocks.
It is kinda gray goo without the gray goo.
it sort of artificial muscle, with made out of thin threads, and those thin threads which are kinda one-dimensional objects, as it may be considered from a macro perspective meter or few meters long and 0.1 um(maybe or less) in diameter, they can be arranged in different thing at the macroscale. In a programmable manner, in a dynamic changing form things, from a material which is potentially stronger than anything we use atm in order of magnitude.
So basically all production can be replaced by production of those threads and software which arranges it to things we need, and maintenance and repair are the replacement of broken threads in the structure.
If we have a vessel, let’s say a hundred km in diameter, made out of steel or something like that – if it cracks then it cracks and needs to be repaired and it is a problem, big problem. With the vessel made out of the material out of those threads, cracking does not have to happen in the first place because you can control the internal integrity of the vessel all the time, by keeping track on the integrity of threads and replace threads which are about to fail. Or in case if it fails, as result of the significant hit, the repair process can begin immediately and the thing will be like new in a short amount of time, like a zipper.
repair and maintenance is a big problem for megastructures. For some structures, it is critical for them not to fail at all, because if they fail they fail miserably, so degradation of materials and structures they are built from is not acceptable(it is a problem of an orbital ring as an example).
It also a problem in terms of manufacturing.
Let’s take as a crazy example a steel gear, one km in diameter, a hundred meters thick. One could cast such object – but the problem is it will have to cool down for ages, it may take few years for it to solidify completely.
But let’s say it is a part of even bigger mechanism – one of the part’s – if it cracks and it might do so – it is a problem – you need to dismantle the mechanism make a replacement – both are big problems.
The point is – there are limits of conventional technologies in terms how we do things today. And in the example, it would be good if the gear would begin to repair itself without disassembling the big construction, and it would be good if the gear could be produced not in years, but in a more reasonable time – minutes or less, and done in the way the its internal structure would be more under our control, parameters of it – no stresses etc.
In terms of space habitats – it means an ability to repair and maintain it seamlessly. To change its shape on the fly if required etc.
It is not an arm, it is a material, programmable matter, it is a change in the technological paradigm which is suitable for megastructures and megaprojects.
We can ger K1 rolling with our conventional tech and approaches, and then it would be good to make a little stop to simulate and find solutions how to make the thing and then continue with K2 process.(and we do have a beginning of the technology in the labs today, far from what’s described, but it definitely recognizable a beginning of it)
It is not only about repair, maintenance and changing shape but also about things which we can’t do with conventional means. As an example, related to the star lifting, a problem of conventional materials is a speed of heat transfer. Namely, you blow the surface of a vessel with a 6000K plasma torch, and it begins to melt, evaporate and lose its integrity etc. You can’t do too much about that with conventional materials.(there are tips and trick – heat insulators, ablation etc, but they are not that good for 6000K and for a long time etc)
But with a material made out of such threads, you can make things lets call them bloodvessels, in which you can circulate heat carrier with high speed in laminar flow. And you can make so that the very surface of the vessel will be replaced constantly with another cooler/pre-chilled material, and hotter thing going inside to be cooled, and again do it at the very high speed of exchange rate. Thus the structure can have no structural damage whatsoever from heat itself, for as long as there is coolant inside.
And here we have another thing which we can obtain only with the making thing bigger – their proportion of surface(which is heated) to the volume of coolant we have. the volume of coolant grows proportionally to r^3, heat influx proportionally to surface r^2.
So if let’s say a 1km vessel which scoops plasma from the photosphere of the sun can stay there for an hour in the photosphere, then a 100km vessel could do that for 100 hours – and it is the difference between getting in and getting out at certain orbits. Get out with plasma you scooped and hot coolant, on eccentric orbit it might stay as long as required to cool things down before to get back and do it by the magic of choosing proper orbit.
The cool thing in aposolar, extract energy, repair diagnose things if there is something to repair, separate extracted material, build more of threads from extracted material, pack everything back, and dive in again.
On a greater scale, it can be a continuous process.
In that regard making a shell on Jupiter if you would like it, is mater of making a bubble around it. Make vessels inside, which are rings in the scenario, lift part of the shell at appropriate height to have 1g.
It is a technology, it is not a particular implementation, but the way to implement things and use them on the scale of the solar system or on the scale of the everyday life of a human. You douse it only to make megastructures – your cloth can be made of that, planes, plastic bags, phones, implants, suits, internal reinforcements of the body, implants, etc etc.
the difference with gray goo is that we may understand how to make it, how it can operate, which structural properties it might have, etc.
We can imagine different processes and different stuff how things can be done, but understanding the technology, which is quite flexible we can understand how those things can be done. So it can be a tool which tests ideas if they can be done or not. Maybe they can be done with some more advanced technology if it can’t be done with this tech, but capacities of the tech are way bigger already compared to what we usually imagine. If something is can be done with the tech, then it is hard and can be done for real. There are physical constraints and implementation constraints which helps to sort things and think in a more realistic way and see if certain things are problems or not if certain things are possible to do or not, which ways to solve things are better which are not so great etc etc.