Bad news, everybody:

Turns out, disassembling Mercury and turning it into a Dyson Sphere is not practical.

I'm glad Forbes is addressing these important issues in the nascent field of Mad Science, however.

Previously, previously.

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16 Responses:

  1. Dave says:

    Well, now what am I going to do this long weekend?

  2. zewt says:

    Well, now what am I going to do with Mercury?

  3. Erbo says:

    The Millennial Project does posit the eventual dismantling of Mercury to make solar collectors, but not until humanity is already well on the way to becoming a solar civilization, i.e. colonies already in place in Earth orbit, on the Moon, and moving into the asteroid belt (and probably other places, too, such as the Earth's L-4 and L-5 points), and Mars in the process of being terraformed. This would be in about 500 years, not 25-50; whether that gives enough time for technology to advance enough to make it practical is, of course, unknown, but guessing at the answer would be like looking at Columbus' caravels and guessing about the future existence of a Space Shuttle.

    Also, the material wouldn't form a complete Dyson sphere, but rather "Dyson shells" over the north and south poles of the sun, letting sunlight pass out along the plane of the ecliptic (as those orbiting colonies, as well as Earth itself, are solar-powered. The habitats themselves would make up kind of a "Dyson cloud." At that point, our civilization would be close to Kardashev Level Two. But it takes time to get there.

  4. Edouard says:

    This is what I've been seeing more and more of lately. It like all the actual journalists have left in defeat, and replacing them were the people who answered the add "Can you write legible English? A full page worth? On topics you've seen on, say, the internet? Send a CV to ".

    Tomorrows editorial: Washington Posts "who would win in a fight between Superman and Batman" full of holes

  5. I'll start listening to planet-eating replicating bot proposals sometime after we have developed the technology to correctly maintain mathematically significant superscripts in pop-science articles on the web.

  6. 205guy says:

    The original article reminds me of Kurzweil. Manifest destiny dies hard.

    The counter articles are full of holes. The first one has a long footnote saying how the comments were right and he was wrong, or something.

    But the real reason it won't work is this: how can you build a Dyson sphere without being detected and identified as a threat by other Type II civs in your own galaxy? Since Type I's like us aspire to Type II, it seems resonable to assum that Type II aspire to Type III. That puts us in direct competition with the rest of our galaxy. Boom, suddenly we're energy slave colonies to whoever beat us to Type II.

    • jwz says:

      Your optimism that interstellar predation is even possible is actually refreshing!

      • 205guy says:

        It'll be cowboys and Indians all over again, except guess who are the Indians? And they won't call us American-Indians because we won't be writing history anymore. More like Centauri-Earthlings. Except the literal translation of their term will be more like Orion-arm-unnamed626-3-carbon-mongrels.

        Who wants to take the chance that we're the first to reach Type II out of 10-100 Billion possible planets? I'd rather we took the Sentinalese approach (tropical islands, good), but just remember that to "them" we'll look like monkeys flinging poo.

  7. MattyJ says:

    "But we don’t have autonomous drilling robots on Earth yet, much less self-replicating ones, and we’re quite a few decades off from developing them."

    It disturbs me that we are measuring this in decades now.

    • piku says:

      I know, it'll take at least 500 years to repopulate civilisation after we run out of oil. Forget the zombie apocalypse, it's going to go all Mad Max instead.

      ;-)

  8. What's "nascent" about Mad Science? Hasn't it been around for, like, longer than Real Science?

  9. bq Mackintosh says:

    There goes Gingrich's buck-fitty gasoline plan.