Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Railroad to the Stars: Riding the Lightways

We used and still use the oceans to sail ships to The New World, and everywhere else.

We used railroads to get our Steam Locomotives and later Electric Locomotives from city to city and all points in between. Still do.

We use asphalt to do the same for Tractor-trailers, to drive to and from work, and to visit Grandma on the weekend as all good young parents should.

So who the heck are we to think we won't have to have another media like oceans, railroad tracks, and smooth asphalt, that is to say the seas, the rails, and the highways, to do the same when it comes to getting to the stars?

The news is good. We know how to do it. Or at least I know, and I know I'm not the first with this idea, for I have done the research. So it's not just me.

I'm just writing to publicize; to get the word out that the Engineering is a done deal. All that remains is first agreement, then commitment from the PTB, then the energy, which means money. But if you have commitment, the money then energy will flow. Been my experience.

We already know, and people are planning, the next media of transportation:

We will do it with light. Good old photons.

Old reliable!

The way to build it, and this is my idea but I'm probably not the first, is to have a series of stationary Light Stations strung between Sol System and Tau Ceti or Procyon.

The Light Stations would beam laser light of a specific magnitude and frequency at "starships" riding the "lightways." Being the "locomotives" of this system, the starships would be built and automated to receive the laser "boost" which would free them from having to carry on-board fuel which means extra mass.

Unless of course, some "genius" figures out how to extract energy from the vacuum first. Good luck on that one. Even a prognosticator like me won't go there.

There are several resources I used in coming up with this idea, but before I give them ...

The essential point is to design and build these lightway stations first, then launch them to their permanent (relative to two star systems) spacial positions. They will of course be refurbished on a regular basis of families and material, but that's not the essential first point. It will however make the first future young enterprising person to act on such a repeat business a very wealthy person.

We can do this. We have a lot of humans who want to work but can't today due to the lack of jobs. We can give them jobs. We also have too many freshly minted PhD's in Physics and Mathematics who are struggling to find permanent positions in their fields, whose knowledge and skills can be fruitfully applied to making this so.

So let's make it so.

(With apologies to Jean-Luc)

Steven Colyer
World's 2nd biggest Space Nut after the professional Astronomer Phil Plait who writes the most excellent (Garth said) weblog: Bad Astronomy. I'll never be better than No. 2 because nobody can top Phil.

Dec. 15, 2010

P.S. Things must be done in stages with steps, therefore here is my proposal No. 1: Start with experiments in cislunar space, that is the space between Earth and the Moon. Make the project Apollo-like, which means hitting up on Governments and the Globals (I know, kissy-assy time, I hate it too). Start with unmanneds, then dogs, chimps, and finally people, otherwise known as "Spam in the can." Or forget the dogs and chimps, sacrifice some lab-grown bacteria instead. PETA will be pleased. After that, build a lightway to the moon, and points outward after that. A circular lightway in orbit around the Earth after testing and proof will most likely be the first step. Well whatever the first step, let's get steppin'! Ciao.


Wikipedia entry on Interstellar travel. Ignore the "Urgent Appeal of Wikipedia (Co-)Founder Jimmy Wales." He just wants us to send him money or he's threatening to charge us for access to Wikipedia. Yeah, screw that, I'll just go back to the Encyclopedia Britannica. At least those entries have to be peer-acceptable. No lies. And definitely no money from me. They still have libraries, right?

Wikipedia entry on Beam-powered propulsion. Again with the Jimmy Wales, sheesh.

Fine-tuning The Interstellar Lightsail

About the weblog: Centauri Dreams :

Tracking Research into Deep Space Exploration

Alpha Centauri and other nearby stars seem impossible destinations not just for manned missions but even for robotic probes like Cassini or Galileo. Nonetheless, serious work on propulsion, communications, long-life electronics and spacecraft autonomy continues at NASA, ESA and many other venues, some in academia, some in private industry. The goal of reaching the stars is a distant one and the work remains low-key, but fascinating ideas continue to emerge. This site will track current research. I’ll also throw in the occasional musing about the literary and cultural implications of interstellar flight. Ultimately, the challenge may be as much philosophical as technological: to reassert the value of the long haul in a time of jittery short-term thinking.


Gregory Kohs said...

Regarding donating to the Wikimedia Foundation to "save" Wikipedia:

I wonder when the news media will figure out that the Wikimedia Foundation spends on program services only 41 cents of every dollar they scam from donors, which earns them ONE STAR (out of four!) from Charity Navigator in organizational efficiency. In fact, their KPMG audit discovered that it only takes about $2.5 million to keep the servers running, provide ample bandwidth, and staff a team of code developers to keep things running smoothly. Why, then, is the ask for $20 million?

I also wonder why the news media never thought to cover the 2009 story of how the Wikimedia Foundation needed extra office space, and as if by magic, they hand-picked Jimmy Wales' for-profit corporation to be their landlord, THEN obtained competitive bids, THEN asked Wales' for-profit company to match the average of the competitive bids.

I too wonder why the media don't seem to care that the 2010 market research study of past Wikimedia Foundation donors was awarded to the former employer of the WMF staffer running the project, without any competitive bidding whatsoever. And when the Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation was asked how much the project cost, the guy asking the question was banned from the online discussion.

Steven Colyer said...

Hi Gregory. I'm going to guess it's because the media depends too much on Wikimedia (nice play on words) for its information?

God forbid we should go back to the days of Clark Kent and Lois Lane when a good reporter had to don hat and coat and hit the streets to get information from the source, hmm?.

Well, I have no problem with Wiki atm, but it will be a sad day if they ever charge for their services. Jimmy Wales shows all the hallmarks of an egotist or egoist or however its spelled, but I have noticed in this life that it is usually such people who more often than not are the ones getting things done.

Steven Colyer said...

Have any of you heard of Laboratory Technician .org? They seem to have made a mistake of putting MbI on the top 50 Physics blogs. I do like lab techs as people, but I guess I don't get out enough because I hadn't heard of this particular organization.

qraal said...

Hi Steven

IMO a better approach is the hybrid Fuel-Beam system which launches propellants to a probe/ship via either particle or laser beams. An important question often over-looked when people advocate these concepts is just how much power it will take to get the desired performance. Launching a multi-tonne star-probe via a laser, for example, takes terawatts of power, which is hard to supply without some heroic space construction efforts. And a massive terawatt laser bank with multi-AU range is a planet-blackmailing terror-weapon in the wrong hands.

Steven Colyer said...

Hybrids are a good idea, thanks graal.

I hear you about the terror stuff. It's why I don't think a space elevator will ever be built, or if it is, it will be taken down by some nut-job pronto.