To fans of science fiction, the idea of having solar power stations in space sending down energy to Earth is far from new.
News is, however, the fact that Japan have drawn up plans for exactly such a power station.
The idea, which is still just an idea, goes as follows:
Take an island, fill it witl billions of tiny rectifying antennas able of converting microwave energy into DC electricity. Run a cable from the island, where no-one is going to want to live, because of the radiation, to the mainland. Now take a handfull (or two) of solar collectors, shoot them into space and have them set up in a geosynchronous orbit and beam down microwaves onto the island from 36 000 km above Earth.
Sounds great, and as long as the whole thing worked according to plan. If the solar collectors missed their target, or someone decided to tinker with the whole setup, things could be very, very different.
Imagine a giant microwave oven, and then stuff the population of Tokyo into it…..
Science Fiction is cool! Just think of things like ray guns…or the phasers from Star Trek. I’ve personally spent way too much time wondering about questions like: ‘how would phasers actually work?’, usually followed by questions like ‘how often would you get the setting on it wrong and end up vaporizing someone instead of just stunning them?’.
Good thing we have science – and scientists, because they are the sort of people who will sit down and find answers for questions like this.
Let’s start with the concept of vaporizing. If we take a pedantic view, then this involves splitting every single atom in your body down into its most base components. This is not an easy thing to do. Actually, it takes “460 kilojoules of energy to break just one mole of oxygen-hydrogen bonds—around the same energy that a 2,000-pound car going 70 miles per hour”.
So, getting out the mother of all abacuses, scientists worked out that it would take a whopping three gigajoules of energy to completely vaporize you. To put it into context, that’s the amount of energy you need to melt 5,000 pounds (roughly 2.2 tonnes) of steel.
Who do we have thank for this information? Well, it’s actually the undergraduate students on the Natural Sciences/Interdisciplinary Science degree programmes at the University of Leicester.
Photo by: adactio
I can hardly express just how happy I would have been, if Ray Cantebury had around when I was growing up.
But then gain I’m glad he wasn’t, because then I might have ended up voting for a Republican – or more likely he would have been campaigning a little far afield.
Anyway, what’s great about the West Virginia Republican Ray Cantebury is that he wants everybody to read science fiction. Well, everybody young, that is.
The way Mr. Cantebury wants to achieve this is by making science fiction literature mandatory in the state’s schools.
His proposed bill put it like this:
“To stimulate interest in maths and science among students in the public schools of this state, the State Board of Education shall prescribe minimum standards by which samples of grade-appropriate science fiction literature are integrated into the curriculum of existing reading, literature or other required courses for middle school and high school students.”
Ray Cantebury describes himself as a fan of ‘thinking man’s science fiction’ – a genre that includes works by Isaac Asimov and Jules Verne.
I’m primarily interested in things where advanced technology is a key component of the storyline, both in terms of the problems that it presents and the solutions that it offers,” he said.
Science Fiction on the curriculum? Where were politicians like him when I was growing up?
Of course some of his fellow Republicans might argue that certain parts of the US have already made science fiction mandatory in schools. And that it’s all thanks to them.
NASA is taking a jump from science fact into the realm of science fiction through a trailer which will be shown in theatres across the US in connection with the new Star Trek film, Star Trek: Into the Darkness.
NASA’s trailer is called ‘We are the Explorers’ and it showcases the space agency’s history and the latest developments in spacecraft technology.
The trailer is going to be 30 seconds long – it’s based on a video NASA released last year.
Although the footage comes from NASA, the trailer is actually the brainchild of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) of America, and the money for it has come through crowdfunding. It took AIA just five days to raise the $33,000 needed.
So now there’s even more reason to be excited about the new Star Trek movie!
Here’s the clip released by NASA last year: