Over fifty years ago, physicist Freeman Dyson proposed an awesome, if slightly insane, idea: That an advanced alien civilization might construct a massive, energy-harvesting sphere around its star, and bunk up inside.
Scientists have a low tolerance for errors, but as Freeman Dyson points out in a recent New York Review of Books article, some of our most important conceptual breakthroughs — from natural selection to general relativity — first got started as big mistakes.
When most people think about searching for extraterrestrial intelligences, they imagine someone like Ellie Arroway searching the skies for radio transmissions. But what about looking in other ways? Perhaps a highly advanced alien civilisation might build structures large enough for us to see.
In the following analysis, Centauri Dreams discusses an oft forgotten factor that could hinder future space travel: price.
Back in the mid-twentieth century, a bunch of NASA engineers had a dream — a highly-classified dream — about taking a nuclear-powered rocked to Saturn. They even went so far as to plan the entire device, create design specs and concept art (some of it pictured here), and name it "Project Orion." Now science historian…
Forever-young physicist Freeman Dyson, now 83, has long been beloved by scifi writers for his extremely fucking cool ideas. He invented the Dyson Sphere, featured in a Star Trek: TNG episode, where the crew visits a sun wrapped entirely in an artificial sphere that captures every bit of solar energy available (you can…