A Billion Worlds in One - The Dyson Sphere and Architecture
Technology Articles 9/17/11
By: Chris Capps
All marvels of architecture are carefully crafted, meticulously made, and viewed with a reverence that says, "This is what humanity is capable of when we work together." But there is one marvel of architecture so profoundly ambitious, most scientists say we will be unable to make it - even in a thousand years. This structure is the Dyson Sphere. And even when we consider the scope of all the largest structures built before it, the Dyson Sphere would dwarf them all. But building this sphere may very well be the ultimate fate of many civilizations before us, and our own future.
The Dyson sphere, as it has been dubbed by the most ambitious futurists in the field, is a large sphere that would encircle the entire sun making night and day a thing of the past. There would be enough space on the sphere to hold mankind long into the future - at least for millions of years. Asteroid impacts would be outside of the sphere - which would have a substantially stronger composition than the interior of the "planet" (where all life would remain).
It's hard to imagine when humans first started stringing clay and straw together to modify caves that ultimately they would envision a world where the planet expanded to several times what it is today and allow for complete control of all aspects of life. And the sun's power would be harnessed with incredible results. Crops could grow indefinitely on the entire surface which would be many billions the size of Earth.
But that's one of the problems with the Dyson sphere - where would we get the necessary materials? In the past scientists have made several proposals ranging from the spontaneous generation of matter (which is still as impossible sounding today as it was then) to the attraction of matter from elsewhere in the galaxy through a series of artificial mining operations. Of course a conventional understanding of physics suggests it would be impossible to achieve this. But the great thing about science is it has consistently made the impossible possible several times in the past, and each new understanding seems to broaden the horizon of what is possible. Perhaps in a thousand or two thousand years conventional understanding will have a very definite route to accomplish this.
Life on a Dyson sphere is generally pictured as idyllic. Imagine if every single one of the six billion people alive today had their own planet. The amount of space involved would be several times greater than that. As time rolled on, these areas could be engineered and cultivated to make a world beyond anything we could possibly imagine. And with a carefully crafted world as expansive as this, whole worlds worth of people could lose contact with others for thousands of years. And of course as if this was not ambitious enough for the species that brought us the atom bomb, art, war, love, and reality television, if we build one, we can build more.