back to article Astroboffins to search for mega-massive alien power plants

A team of alien-hunting astroboffins has been awarded a grant to search the sky for immense engineering feats that would reveal the existence of astral civilizations far, far more advanced than us puny humans. Lead by assistant professor Jason Wright of Penn State's Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics, the team will use …


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  1. Zmodem

    any advanced civilization would use self powering dynamo's the size of house that generate 100,000kw every turn, and being tuned by a 5kw motor

    1. Zmodem

      they could be on the market in 8 months and powering 90% of earth in 10 years and 99% green energy

      1. Zmodem

        the power of 100 windfarm dynamo's generating constant power and selling for £60-100m is better then £3bn for a wind farm and hydro dams, in 150 years they could produce 1m kw each, who care for a 1000 years

        1. Zmodem

          etc etc

          use a 500w motor instead of wind on 10kw domestic wind turbine, and you can still power your house, a wind farm turbine generates 1000kw at full power, its all the same technology, just upscaled

          1. Zmodem

            they are the future and cuts global co2 emissions by 99%, you can put them in old mines, in custom silo`s, in power plant carparks, anywhere at anytime and get power for the national grid without enviromentalist complaining, and power companies saying green electric costs too much and so on and so on

            no advanced civilization would make a sphere, having a fustion reactor in orbit of a sun is more practical, or just magifying a beam into a laser

            1. Zmodem

              off shore = 6.15mw

              6mw = 6000kw

              a 500w motor can doo 1000rpm, not 20 offshore turbines need for max output, generated electric goes to a AC and loops back to the motor, you just need a external power source to start them up, when they are able to power themselves, you cut the external power source

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward


                A perpetual motion machine - you must be the first one to have thought of this !

                1. Zmodem

                  Re: Congratulations

                  probaly or they would already exist...

                  wind farms only produce 2% of green energy for the national grid, if the world wants to cut co2 levels for 40% in 10 years, then the only way todo so is to have self powering dynamo`s,

                  if you put a motor on a current wind farm turbine that generate 6mw every minute with constant generation using a motor instead of wind, then wind farms would being giving the national grid 16% green enerage to the national grid

                  if you have a domestic wind turbine that generates 10kw, and put a 500watt motor on, then you can power you house and have a bit spare to give to the national grid and get paid for the extra electric you generate

                  its all just a simple bit of math, and the power of motor and torque to need to mimic wind and make a turbine generate maximum output at optimal speed for the RPM

                  electric motors are the only way you can turn massive axles, as soon as the dynamo starts to turn its generating power which 2% loops back to powering the motor, and the rest goes to the national grid, when the turbine is generating maximum output, then they can power themselves and you diconnect from the external power source which would be the national grid or a solar battery cell


                  is better looking then a wind farm turbine, in power plant carparks, with the electric motor bolted on top

                  1. Zmodem

                    Re: Congratulations

                    give me the credits and submit it to the mythbusters

                  2. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: Congratulations

                    Having read your posts I assume you are mad or deluded

                    1. Zmodem

                      Re: Congratulations

                      i assume you post on dnba and just trying to be posh

                      a wind turbine is just a dynamo being turned by the wind, like dynohubs powering lights on bike in the 80s from the turn of the wheel

                      wind turns the axle with turns the dynamo, a electric motor can turn the axle which turns the dynamo, a electric motor with the power and torque to mimic wind will not use 6mw of electric to power it

                      1. Anonymous Coward
                        Anonymous Coward

                        Re: Congratulations

                        IF you REALLY, REALLY believe the rubbish you spout then you need to do Physics or Electrical Engineering 101

                        (or better still put up your own money and build one )

                        1. Zmodem

                          Re: Congratulations

                          its stuff for monkeys


                          electric motor

                          small amount of generated power -> AC -> motor

                          1. Zmodem

                            Re: Congratulations

                            take the blade off a 10kw wind domestic turbine, and clamp the axle in a 12v power drill

                            12v = 0.012kw, with alot of extra RPM and you will be able to power the drill and your tv and kettle


                            1. Chemist

                              Re: Congratulations

                              12v does NOT = 0.012kw and the rest of your absurd ramblings make even less sense.

                              Troll or fool - it's hard to say

                              1. This post has been deleted by its author

                              2. Zmodem

                                Re: Congratulations

                                12volt motor with a 13 amp fuse is still only 156 watts using and the same on

                                which still gives you 9844 watts to go else where, with a constant source of 10kw being generated using a electric motor, with a power drill would just be wasting extra power having to much RPM and torque

                                if 10kw is generated from 20 turns of the dynamo, then 500watt is generated every rotation which can still power the motor and have 344 watts spare,

  2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Dyson spheres have *other* benefits

    As Bob Shaw note they have *huge* surface area, so you'd have to work very hard to run out of living space.

    And all structures make statements about their builders. A Dyson sphere (like the one in Orbitsville) says

    Know our power.

    Although as others have noted the structural stresses of a *true* sphere, rather than a (large) number of panels would be immense. While it's quite likely any such builders would have more compact power sources available having a growing population might be a more pressing issue *assuming* you have an expansionist culture. The amount of solar energy captured by the part of a single planet facing a sun at any given point in its orbit is *tiny". Run the calculation for our Sun and just the amount *wasted* by radiation out of the ecliptic hitting *no* planets in the Solar system is immense.

  3. DF118


    As long as nobody lets the Primes out we should be ok

    1. carrera4life

      Re: Danger

      Too late! I am Morninglight Mountain

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Building a huge structure around a sun seems like an insurmountable task. I would argue that it would be much easier to just create a smaller, artificial sun within a container harvesting it's energy. This could then be placed safely outside of your home planet, so that if things go wrong, nobody gets hurt.

    Besides this, enclosing your sun in a structure would put your planet in a bit of a sticky situation: less solar energy reaching it, temperature will decline, among other problems.

    1. tkioz

      That's one of the main criticisms of Dysons' ideas (one he himself brought up IIRC), the idea that any race that had the knowledge and capacity to build one, would be so staggeringly advanced they wouldn't have the need to build one (beside bragging rights).

      But on the subject of harming your planet... not so. If you build one in our solar system, you'd do it out near Jupiter's orbit, the Earth, Mars, Venus, Mercury, would be INSIDE the sphere and it wouldn't have much impact on them at all.

      The shear amount of living space of a Dyson construct is really hard to get your mind around, you'd have land equal to billions of Earths, capable of housing hundreds of trillions of people without any crowding at all... Hell it would be like Earth with only a few million people living on it... It's brain hurting.

      Though you'd need a lot of people outside bringing you raw materials to keep the civilisation going... that's stripping mining on a stellar scale kind of stuff... Hell you could dismantle every planet in our solar system and still not have enough raw materials for even a small percentage of it...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not that difficult or far fetched

    A Dyson sphere wouldn't even be particularly difficult once we (or anybody else) develop self-replicating machines. Send a single machine to e.g. jupiter to start converting its moons into more machines that launch themselves toward the sun and form a giant swarm of (super efficient) solar panels. They would need to get much closer than, say, Venus orbit. The machines in the swarm could be close to each other in the order of meters and they could beam power toward Jupiter to feed the machines being made there (machines beam power to each other and relay it to a central point on the sphere where it is then beamed toward Jupiter or whereever).

    Thus progress on the sphere would be exponential and therefore done in a jiffy. Once complete they would beam the power where ever we want it.

    I say there's a good chance we can do that in a century or so (remember, we 'just' need self-replicating tech to do this).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not that difficult or far fetched

      "Once complete they would beam the power where ever we want it."

      Which we would' cos we'd be in the DARK !

    2. Anonymous Coward


      Good idea, the only risk we'd take is when they ever become self aware we'd have created our own worst enemies (according to Stargate SG-1 that is).

  6. Terry 6 Silver badge


    It's wonderful to think that after all those years of apparent dedication to the ideals of science, coupled with perseverance, endless scientific study, exams,MScs, PhD research etc. etc these guys are happy to sit back and slurp up a big grant for a load of old cobblers.

    It just makes me proud to be human.

  7. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    So what about the runaway Greenfly?

    Maybe we should be looking for evidence of stars shrouded in green instead.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Way too much assumptions

    "No matter what form they might take, they'd undoubtedly give off infrared radiation that could be detected by such sensitive sensors such as those aboard WISE – and that's where Wright and his team come in."

    So we're assuming that such an Alien nation actually has the means and skills to build a Dyson sphere, but immediately conclude that they can't be advanced enough with chemistry to have invented an alloy capable of complete absorption (or at least one which doesn't waste any energy at all) ?

    Sounds like a very flakey assumption to me.

    1. Nuke

      @ ShelLuser - Re: Way too much assumptions

      ShelLuser wrote :-

      "So we're assuming that such an Alien nation actually has the means and skills to build a Dyson sphere, but .. can't be advanced enough .. to have invented an alloy capable of complete absorption (or at least one which doesn't waste any energy at all) ?"

      Yes, we are assuming that. Unless they have found a way to suspend the Laws of Thermodynamics. Energy cannot be destroyed and eventually all of its forms degrade into low grade heat that you cannot do anything more with. That low grade heat being dumped outside the sphere is the infra-red radiation being talked about.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Even more assumptions.

        -We- can't do anything with "low grade heat" but how does that proof that 'they' can't either?

        Which is all I'm saying; its foolish to start with assuming that we know how things work for them.

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: @Nuke

          Thermodynamics is the one theory we can be most certain of.

          Namely that you can't get something for nothing - you can only get usable power by letting heat flow between a heat source and a heat sink, and the smaller the temperature difference between them the less useful work you can make it do.

          As far as we can tell the only way this can change is if you can use another universe as your heat source and/or heat sink.

          1. Eguro

            Re: @Nuke

            While I have the utmost respect for the laws of thermodynamics, there is one thing that I would point to, that might make it at least slightly plausible that a sufficiently advanced civilization could find a way to circumvent that law.

            I would point to the universe itself. Whenever someone debates this topic, someone usually mentions the oddity of something coming from nothing - be it the universe coming from nothing, or some deity [who created the universe] coming from nothing.

            There might be a perfectly good explanation to the universe - that doesn't involve something from nothing - but it is also plausible that there is some process or other that allows something to arise from nothing. If such a process is possible, then it is surely exploitable with sufficiently advanced tech.

            So yes, in order to respond on a heavily debated topic with no chance of a sure answer, I am referring to another heavily debated topic with no chance of a sure answer [both being restrained only by our current tech development]

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward


              Of course if you have the tech to get something from nothing, having a Dyson Sphere is a bit unnecessary!

              One side effect of such tech being possible would be a universe with more and more civilisations discovering and using it growing at an exponentially increasing rate.


            2. h4rm0ny

              Re: @Nuke

              "There might be a perfectly good explanation to the universe - that doesn't involve something from nothing - but it is also plausible that there is some process or other that allows something to arise from nothing. If such a process is possible, then it is surely exploitable with sufficiently advanced tech."

              There is. Check out Hawking Radiation. As to the means of exploiting it, you need a handy supply of Black Holes.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    And where would the material come from to build a sphere, much less a ring? We're talking a ridiculously large amount of surface area which is made even more improble when factoring in a depth. That object would probably have as much mass as the sun that it enveloped.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Mass

      "Also if assuming a radius of one AU, then there may not be sufficient building material in the Solar System to construct a Dyson shell. Anders Sandberg estimates that there is 1.82×1026 kg of easily usable building material in the Solar System, enough for a 1-AU shell with a mass of 600 kg/m²—about 8–20 cm thick, depending on the density of the material. This includes the hard-to-access cores of the gas giants; the inner planets alone provide only 11.79×1024 kg, enough for a 1-AU shell with a mass of just 42 kg/m²."

      Well, we are talking Magical Tech here of a full, solid sphere, so you can go with anything. Maybe structured spacetime, who knows?

      1. lowwall

        Re: Mass

        Even our puny civilization has built aerogels and metallic microlattice materials that have densities of under 1kg per cubic meter (excluding any trapped air). Use something like this for most of the bulk of the sphere and you have plenty of mass left for the support struts, PV panels, greenhouses and whatnot.

        Regarding the tensile strength issue. Surely most of the surface area will be dedicated to harvesting energy in one form or another, which requires neither gravity nor general atmosphere. So you don't need to spin the whole sphere, just the bits that require gravity. An array of spinning earth-diameter mini rings (with lips on the inner edges to contain the atmosphere) orbiting just inside the sphere could handle any needed 1G real estate.

        1. wheel

          Re: Mass

          Yes, but the point is that to build a Dyson Sphere all the matter in the solar system would have to be converted to this crazy supermaterial. The energy required to convert all that matter would require a really big power source.

          Like a Dyson Sphere, perhaps?

  10. Elmer Phud


    Start with a Death Star and work your way up?

    1. stucs201

      Re: Building

      Not as daft as it sounds. You do need to take planets apart to build one of these things, so a deathstar might be handy.

  11. David Pollard

    The cosmic microwave background radiation ...

    ... might suggest that these Dyson spheres are already out there in very large numbers but at considerable distance.

  12. Best Before:

    Another theory...

    I certainly commend the efforts to investigative and identify if there is anyone (anything?) out there capable of building a Dyson Sphere which would certainly be an awe inspiring moment if indeed we could identify one, (I too am of the belief that if they were advanced enough there would be ways of hiding the emissions, yes, yes laws of Thermodynamics and all but I have no doubt we as a species haven't plumbed all the secrets of the universe yet so don't discount there are other ways we have to discover that may break those laws.. but I digress), but here is another thought of mine.

    What if we are not alone but in fact the one species that has managed to progress/advance quickly enough to this level, taking that one step further ,(and whilst we postulate that the universe is old do we really know how many billions of years are left, i know we can guess/calculate based on matter decay etc but I refer to my earlier point of not knowing everything yet.), perhaps we will become the first KI,KII & KII or KiV species! we could become that "ancient" species that develop all the cool toys ..

    Anyway just a thought, would explain why we can't seem to find anything just yet.. Could also be because space, is really, really big.....

  13. lecprog

    intergalactic civilizations

    It is extremely difficult to imagine how it would look a civilization far more technologically advanced than our own. Such an advanced civilization might be able to extract energy from the vacuum, they would have total control of gravity (they could create artificial gravity), so they could build artificial worlds not related to a solar system, artificial worlds that would "work" in the vast space between galaxies where there is no danger of cosmic collisions, black holes, supernovae, etc.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: intergalactic civilizations

      "might", "would" "could" !!!

    2. Handle this!

      Re: intergalactic civilizations

      ZPM's anyone?

  14. LaeMing

    Howard Taylor on Dyson Spheres

    From: :

    The f'sherl-ganni have built several of these spheres, which they call 'buuthandi.' That word is the shortened form of an ancient f'sherl-ganni phrase... Literally: "This was expensive to build."

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Be prepared for unforeseen circumstances...

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Sublime IntelAIgent Steganography ........ <s>OHMSS</s>@urService

      Be prepared for unforeseen circumstances... .... Anonymous Coward Posted Monday 8th October 2012 08:39 GMT

      Events, dear boy, events, ...... by another name, is IT ever so sweet. Although if events and clearly foreseen circumstances have been freely shared, such as may be viewed and peer reviewed here, and are plotted for a much smarter reworking of a villainous Zorin type Bond movie, which may all too easily be able to be an actuality and current reality, as mused upon by the Register here ....... they cannot be heralded as being unforeseen whenever they have been rather more stupidly ignored by intelligence services which just don't come anywhere near being able to cut the mustard in these novel virtual times.

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: Sublime IntelAIgent Steganography ........ <s>OHMSS</s>@urService

        Although that is not to say that there are not many who be trying to get to grips with intelligence explosions and information overloads which they would no controlling power or empowering control over, for IT is certainly a frenetic and some would even admit, quite supremely psychotic field of future great games play ........ as this lively little article would suggest .......


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