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Requested in Science & Technology by a contributor
edited by Dreamer

6 Ideas

0 votes
Ionic Skiing

More fun things to do with comets.

Comets leave ion trails behind them, often as long as a million miles or more. We could take carbon nanotube cables and position a package with a couple of spools of it in front of an inbound comet. The package would be cushioned by the same type of inflatable devices used in the recent Spirt/Opportunity missions on Mars. The bags would inflate right before the comet hit, leaving several spikes exposed facing the comet. Upon impact, the spikes would lock the package onto the comet.

After that we would go skiing.

The bags would deflate and spit out 2 smaller packages containing spools of cable at a 90-degree angle to the comet's momentum. When these smaller packages reached the end of the lines that still attached them to the main package, the comet's momentum would drag them back towards each other, but behind the comet now. Once they were behind it they could unfurl the ionic sails contained in boxes on their ends and begin skiing the comet's ionic wake. If we picked a comet that had an unusually long orbit around the sun (long enough to take it beyond Neptune), we could release mini-skiiers that would use the trail to change directions and head towards whatever looked interesting. There would be cameras on both of the main skiiers and all of the mini-skiiers so we could visually ski along with them.
Shared by a contributor

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A laser-reflected communication system for cross-planet calls...
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We Weren't Home

If an intelligent species more than 100,000 light years away from earth scanned their night sky looking for intelligent species they wouldn't have found us. In fact, they'd have to be closer than 5000 light years always to see anything resembling a civilization. If they wanted to hear radio waves they'd have to be closer than 100 light years. In effect this probably means we shouldn't look any further than 200 light years away to find someone who might be sending a message back to us (taking into account the back and forth traveling time required).
Shared by JFR (6,080 points)
0 votes

Smart aliens would throw smart rocks

An article in New Scientist magazine argued that it would be much more energy-efficient for aliens to send their messages out through the cosmos in bottles instead of continually beaming those messages to potential contactees. The article should have taken that premise one step further though. Smart aliens would throw smart rocks. If they took the trouble to toss their messages out into space then they'd probably take the trouble to make sure those messages didn't crash into the first planet or star they came to. Any bottles they sent out would be able to spot solar systems where intelligent life was likely to evolve and then park themselves in one of the stable Lagrange points so the new species could find it when they had evolved far enough. In our case that would be either the L4 and L5 Lagrange points. If we're going to go looking for alien bottles then those would be the best places to start.

Shared by a contributor
edited by a contributor
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Voyager 3

The interstellar part of the Voyager missions included a disk with various information about our world on it in case an intelligent species happens to run across it. That way they could come say hi if we were still around, and at least know we once existed if we'd destroyed ourselves by then. A quick summary of their progress:

"Voyager 1 will drift within 1.6 light years (9.3 trillion miles) of AC+79 3888, a star in the constellation of Camelopardalis. In some 296,000 years, Voyager 2 will pass 4.3 light years (25 trillion miles) from Sirius, the brightest star in the sky."

If we're willing to wait a couple of hundred thousand years for someone to open the time capsule the least we can do is make sure the information in it is current. The way to do this would be to create a Voyager 3 and park it in one of the two stable Lagrange points (L4 or L5). If it was solar-powered it could hang around for quite awhile. We could also send it updates as our civilization progressed.

Another thought - it could start beaming back information to us if it hadn't heard from us after a couple of thousand years. That way if we bombed ourselves back into the stone age we'd start receiving a steady stream of technological information to get us back on up on our feet faster once we'd got back to the point where it looked like civilization was starting again. In order to help us along Voyager 3 would have to be able to do two things:

1. It would have to be able to spot a pre-industrial culture while it was sitting at one of the LaGrange points. It could do this by looking for evidence of artificial structures on the surface - straight lines, clustered buildings, pyramids, statues carved into mountains, etc.

2. It would then have to be able to communicate ideas to this culture without relying on radio (since that wouldn't have been invented yet) so it could steer them towards development. The easiest way to do this would be by sending a lander near one of the settlements and then projecting images of the lessons it wanted to teach. The lessons could either be shown automatically on a screen that came with the lander or, if we reach the point where we could project free-standing holographs, we could have a holograph disguised as one of them show the lesson. Done correctly, it would look like a vision to whoever saw it.

Once they reached the point where they had radio again our computer would have to either learn their language or teach them ours to communicate more advanced concepts. Medical, mathematical and technically sophisticated information along the critical paths of invention/discovery could then be sent. Some of the less critical solutions could be left out leaving the revived generation to discover then on their own (giving them the chance to arrive at different solutions to similar problems in areas we could afford to risk).

Shared by JFR (6,080 points)
0 votes
When satellites collide it can spew all sorts of debris which can cause lots of damage to other satellites in orbit. Why not create a UN agency that would track all objects in orbit and then program computers to predict where they'll be orbiting and if they could potentially collide? Then they could maneuver the satellites out of any dangerous paths.
Shared by LWBaum (5,620 points)

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