Monday, April 03, 2006

Chapter 12: Space Elevators and the Demise of a Planet

Many of our readerbase has come across the subject of the space elevator. This is the technology slated to replace rocketeering into space with a more radical mechanical method similar to an elevator. The concept is to string up a carbon nanotube composite “cable” several tens of thousands of kilometers long into space and anchor it to a counterweight that could be as simple as a much greater length of cable or as complex as a captured asteroid. This contraption would utilize centripetal force from the rotation of the Earth to accelerate satellites into orbit. What the scientists won’t tell you however is that due to Newton’s third law, every payload that is accelerated to orbital speed by such a device is subsequently minutely slowing the Earths rotational speed. Much of this energy will be recovered when the elevator cars or “climbers” return back to Earth for another payload. However since the entire purpose of such a device is to launch these payloads and not necessarily bring them back down the cable we will be seeing a net reduction in rotational speed over the course of the elevators lifetime. This has been dismissed by the LSC as such a minute consequence that it may safely be ignored without consequence. The HSC however has seen such an invention out to it’s logical conclusion. As the space industry becomes privatized, more elevators will be built. Eventually the entire equator will become the picket fence of the planet. Elevators will litter the skyline across the entire circumference of the globe with lifting capabilities reaching inconceivable proportions. The combined release of that many satellites and extraplanetary thrill rides, sightseeing tours and scientific explorations will begin to take its toll on the length of our days. Such a massive exodus of materials and personnel will eventually slow down Earths rotation to the point that a stiff solar breeze or a small meteorite collision could theoretically cause it to cease altogether. Such a cessation would cause an intense disturbance to the ecosphere that nearly all the planets surface would become inhospitable to all creatures but the Australian lesser wallaby, the speckled hornblower bird from northeaster Chile and certain third world dictators. The only range that would have slightly normal temperatures would be a thin ring following the dusk area of the Earth around the new vertical equator. Otherwise the sunward side of the Earth would be turned into an arid desolate barren wasteland of superheated proportions and the spaceward portion would conversely become an arid desolate barren wasteland of interminable cold.

The HSC has begun taking measures to act upon this likely eventuality however. The matter of how it would deal with such a forthright disregard for future likelihood was a matter of much debate over eight of the last seven intercontinental HSC meetings of the Galactic Disaster Preparedness Committee (or GDPC whose greatest accomplishment so far was saving the Largely Grumpy Sea-Bass from the 23½ dimension from certain annihilation from the creation of interdimensional sport fishing, and whose greatest failure is now known as the Horse Head Nebula). The GDPC has considered many methods of dealing with this imminent problem. For one meeting one ill-favored scientist merely kept suggesting a simple picket line of the greatest minds that the Earth has to offer. This was dismissed soon thereafter however since most of the world does not even know about the existence of the HSC at all.

The most revered suggestion however has been the one that has gained the greatest following from the GDPC and therefore the world collective of higher scientific minds. As we speak the HSC is taking measures to charter a lift on the first space elevator or collection of space elevators with the combined lifting power to place all of Ventosus Island into an extra-orbital flight path. The short-term goal is (of course) Neptune, at least until the fad of Space Elevators happens to reach our outer ring planets and begin systematically destroying them as well. Ultimately Ventosus Island will become a self sufficient motile space borne island of vast scientific knowledge flying no flag other than it’s own and drifting at will among all civilized star systems divining the mysteries of the universe at random.

3 comments:

Ted Gossard said...

I am deeply moved by this post. Thanks for the life changing insights. I especially appreciate your thoughts about the Horse Head Nebula. That is awesome. I'll never look at my life the same way again. Thank you.

Hacker said...

Brilliance, sheer brilliance. I've linked to this at my new blog, www.spaceelevatorblog.com.

Your only mistake was posting this article two days late...

Kotulic Bunta said...

I was terrified in the beginning of your article by the fact of a complete lack of any physical knowledge and sense for proportions of natural forces. However (and fortunately! :-) ) during the reading I realized what's the point. I would like to send my deepest condolence to the victims of the Horse Nebula disaster and hope they've found a quiet place in the 34 and 1/3 dimension. :-)