Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Geek Musings II: On bootstraps...

...and projects with ridiculously long timeframes.

A thought struck me the other morning while I was lying in bed; dozing in that hazy zone of comfort where the inspiratons* fly.

The last edition of Scientific American had an article on space tethers: those bits of wire that spacecraft can trail out and use to pull themselves out of a planet's gravitational well by courtesy of said planet's magnetic field.

My thought took a barely proved concept several hundred steps further and applied it to the Earth.

You see, current estimates have it that life on the ole' ball of mud has probably got another billion years or so to strut its time upon the stage. By then, the sun will be about 10% brighter, and the habitable zone will have migrated out beyond Earth's current orbit.

Yes, indeed! Forget political elections, terrorists, environmental degradation, global warming, or asteroid strikes: we've got real problems to start worrying about!!

But it's all right I've got it covered!

My solution involves attaching a space tether to the farside of the Moon (firmly, and for aesthetic purposes: it won't be visible there), and using it to hoist the Moon into a higher orbit 'round the sun (dragging the Earth along with it). In this way, we stay in the habitable zone much longer.

A few excerpts from the back of the envelope:
  • I don't know the necessary rate, but say we want to boost Earth's orbit by about 10 million km every 100 million years.
  • That's about 100 metres each year (for comparison, tectonic plates cruise at ~ 0.1% that rate)
...I'll work on it a bit more over the next millenia or so. Meantime, can I go back to sleep now?

* Read Terry Pratchett's Wyrd Sisters.... Oh no! Google has no matches for 'Pratchett inspiratons' . I've heard of Googlewhacks, but has anyone coined a word for this new phenomenon yet? How about:
  • googleghosts,
  • nulgles...
It is later than I thought!


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