Exotic Energy Concepts

With the pressing concerns regarding climate change, alternative sources of energy have been a prevalent topic of discussion. These sources range from feasible ideas such as nuclear power to ideas a bit more far fetched, such as harnessing energy from waves. While the alternative energy sources in question are all relatively feasible, there are some concepts that seem like the works of sci fi novelists. The application of these concepts is nearly impossible, but the methods and their ways of harnessing energy are quite interesting.

One such concept is known as the Dyson Sphere. Theorized by physicist Freeman Dyson, these spherical megastructures would encapsulate a civilization’s host star and ideally harness all of the solar radiation produced by said star. According to Dyson, these spheres would only be necessary for an intelligent civilization far larger and with far larger energy demands than we do. This civilization would need to be capable of travel about the solar system, as once the Dyson Sphere is constructed, the civilization would reside there. One method Dyson proposed that could be applied to create this sphere would be to deconstruct a planet in their solar system- ideally a large one such as Jupiter- and redistribute the mass into a spherical shell. Instruments capable of harnessing the Sun’s energy would be built on the inner face of the sphere, and the civilization would need to have a method of radiating the additional energy so that the Dyson Sphere does not melt.

Another concept would be to somehow get a mini black hole to orbit a civilization’s planet. The late Stephen Hawking claimed that a mountain-sized black hole could suffice all of Earth’s energy demands and then some; this energy is produced by harnessing Hawking radiation. Along the event horizon, particle pairs pop into existence. The pair is composed of a particle and antiparticle, which will annihilate each other right after they are created. Sometimes, one of these particles gets absorbed by the black hole and the other is released as radiation (This is also how black holes shrink and die off over time). Hawking stated that a black hole of that size would produce high-energy electromagnetic radiation at a rate of about 10 million megawatts.

While these concepts are almost entirely implausible, it is fascinating nonetheless to think about whether or not there are other civilizations in our universe advanced enough to employ methods as intricate as these.

5 thoughts on “Exotic Energy Concepts

  1. I am very interested in the “Dyson Sphere” concept, and it brings up a lot of questions for me (as I am sure it does plenty of others). I think being able to harness the Sun’s energy in such a way would be very interesting, seeing as how the amount of energy we get from the sun in just one hour would be able to supply more than enough energy for the whole world to use for a year! I think it will be interesting to see how this concept can lead scientist towards more plausible ways of using Solar energy more efficiently than done now, though. However, seeing as how we don’t have technology that can even survive in Jupiter, it is interesting to see solution on how we can redistribute the planet’s mass.

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  2. These ideas seem like they are straight out of science fiction. It’s interesting to think how they were developed by some of history’s most respected and important physicists. To me, I think it’s funny how as we reach the cutting edge of human knowledge and discovery, we circle back to what seems like pure imagination with seemingly impossible ideas like these.

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  3. I love the idea that somewhere in the universe, another civilization may be already using these. If, for example, a civilization implemented a Dyson Sphere in a far away galaxy, would we be able to detect it? Based on your description, my understanding is that none of the radiation of that star would leave that particular solar system. If that’s the case, we wouldn’t see the star at all right? So theoretically, there could be multiple Dyson Spheres already in place that we don’t know about. I don’t think it’s likely, but certainly fun to think about!

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  4. From a TA: I shudder to think about how costly a Dyson sphere would cost and how long construction would take. Launching and operating some of the best space telescopes costs many billions of dollars.

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