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Supramundane Planets

supramundane planet space gas giants space colonization megascale engineering

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#1
Jakob

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A rather obscure method of colonizing gas giants. The idea is that you have a massive plate or strip, thousands of miles long, upon which a colony is built. The colony floats in the upper atmosphere of a gas giant, held aloft by dynamic mass streams--large columns of gas electromagnetically propelled skyward. Atmosphere could be retained by a high wall of hydrogen gasbags, or possibly even a layer of specialized utility fog. (The latter would be prettier and allow solid objects to pass through.)

 

Appears in The Causal Angel and Orion's Arm, so I figured it had to originate from somewhere. It took a little while to track down the original paper, but it's out there:

 

Supramundane Planets. Birch, Paul. Journal of The British Interplanetary Society. 1991.

 

(Thanks, archive.org. I <3 you.)

 

This is probably the finest method of gas giant colonization I have heard of due to the massive living space. The other method that comes to mind is colossal vacuum-based  hybrid airships (two links) the size of cities, so large they make the Hindenburg look like a toy blimp.

 

Also useful for colonizing brown dwarfs.


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#2
Maximum7

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Cloud City?



#3
Jakob

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Cloud City?

No, not at all.



#4
Rolletroll

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This is interessting because you can use this concept for any object of any size. I've made a funny calculation: The biggest object possible to have 1g of gravity to its surface would have a radius of 5*10^15 meters (0.45 light year!) and a mass of 3*10^42 Kg (about the mass of the milky way, including dark matter). anything bigger would collapse on itsef to form a black hole. If the humanity in few millions years becomes bored of our galaxy it could use it to create such a monstruosity.



#5
Alislaws

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May have got this wrong but that's.... 615565580000000000 earths? In terms of surface for people to live on?

so lets say 15 billion is the max people we can comfortably support per earth surface area of space. 

 

(even though its definitely not)

 

whihc would mean the max population the milky way could support would be:

 

9,233,483,700,000,000,000,000,000,000
 
whatever that number is.


#6
Yuli Ban

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May have got this wrong but that's.... 615565580000000000 earths? In terms of surface for people to live on?
so lets say 15 billion is the max people we can comfortably support per earth surface area of space. 
 
(even though its definitely not)
 
whihc would mean the max population the milky way could support would be:
 
9,233,483,700,000,000,000,000,000,000
 
whatever that number is.


This makes me curious: how much material is needed to support and run a human-level of intelligence?
I recall someone doing the calculations, and I posted their results on this forum. IIRC, the smallest space human-level intelligence could occupy was a few cubic centimeters. I'm going to search the forums to see if I can find that exact post, but in the mean time, do try to imagine a scenario where almost everyone comprising that number has their body broken down into pure operating neural intelligence. Imagine a galaxy-spanning superbrain.
 
Edit: Never mind, it was on exaflop computing. Here it is regardless.
 
 
h3half

When people say "exaflop computer" what's usually meant is "a computer that can do at least one exaflop per second."
This site says that, currently, the Chinese supercomputer Tianhe-2 is the fastest computer in the world, at 33.86 petaflops/second. What I'm going to do is figure out how many transistors are in it, find a transistor-to-flop ratio, and calculate the size of a theoretical exaflop chip based on that.
This Forbes article says that Tianhe-2 consistes of 16,000 nodes, "which each contain two Xeon IvyBridge processors and three Xeon Phi processors." That's good information, because we can find out how many transistors are in Ivy Bridge and Phi processors. This makes for a total of:

2 Ivy Bridge/node * 16,000 nodes = 32,000 Ivy Bridge processors
3 Phi/node * 16,000 nodes = 48,000 Phi processors

We don't have information on exactly what processor models Tianhe-2 is using (which I would guess is probably a Chinese state secret), but I'll assume that the most powerful/largest/highest transistor count models are used.
For Ivy Bridge, the highest transistor count model is the Ivy Bridge-EX, clocking in at 4.31 * 109 (4.31 billion) transistors.
For Phi, the highest transistor count model is the Xeon Phi SE10X, with 5 * 109 (5 billion) transistors.
So the Tianhe-2 has:

32,000 Ivy Bridge processors * 4.31 * 109 transistors/Ivy Bridge processor + 48,000 Phi Processors * 5 * 109transistors/Phi processor = 3.7791 * 1014 transistors

These 3.7791 * 1014 transistors are able to produce 33.86 petaflops/second, which is equivalent to 3.386 * 1016flops/second.
To find the ratio of transistors to flops:

(3.386 * 1016) / (3.7791 * 1014) = 3,386,000 / 37,791 flops/second/transistor

That's not a very round number, but it's roughly equal to 89.5981 flops/second/transistor.
Our goal is a computer that can do 1 exaflop/second, equivalent to 1 * 1018 flops/second.
Using our current flops/second/transistor ratio, this would take:

(1 * 1018 flops/second) / 89.5981 flops/second/transistor = 1.1161 * 1016 transistors

This is roughly the point in my calculations that the unit "flops" starts to sound pretty silly.
So we'll need a total of 1.1161 * 1016 transistors. That's 1.1161 quadrillion. That's a lot.
In your post you specified that each transistor should be three atoms large. I don't think that's super feasible with current technology (barring some hardcore cooling to keep everything working properly) but hey - nobody has made an exaflop computer yet either so we're talking hypotheticals anyway.
Ninja edit: Apparently three-atom transistors are totally a thing. The paper is behind a paywall so I can't access it but still; cool.
Another issue is that transistors need space between them in order to work properly. I can't really find how much space, but we'll assume that since our transistor technology has advanced to the reliable three-atom range, we need two atoms of space between each transistor. We'll also assume that each transistor is 3 atoms long by 1 atom wide. This means that each transistor takes up an area of:

(3 atoms + 2 atoms) * 3 atoms = 15 atoms2

This brings us to, finally, the size of our chip:

15 atoms2 /transistor * 1.1161 * 1016 transistors = 1.67415 * 1017 atoms2

As far as I'm aware, transistors are still made of Silicon and our hypothetical 3-atom transistor should be no different.
Silicon's atomic radius is 110 picometers, or 1.1 * 10-10 meters. This datatable says that a Silicon-Carbon bond is 186 picometers (or 1.86 * 10-10 meters) long. We'll assume that a silicon-silicon bond is similar enough that the same numbers apply.
So in one direction (call it the 'x' axis) we have five atoms and four bonds, and in the other direction (call it the 'y' axis) we have three atoms and two bonds. Our transistor dimensions are then:

5 atoms * 1.1 * 10-10 meters/atom + 4 bonds * 1.86 * 10-10 meters/bond = 1.294 * 10-9 meters in the x direction
3 atoms * 1.1 * 10-10 meters/atom + 2 bonds * 1.86 * 10-10 meters/bond = 7.02 * 10-10 meters in the y direction

You can pretty much think of this as a rectangle, and the area of that rectangle is:

1.294 * 10-9 meters * 7.02 * 10-10 meters = 9.08388 * 10-19 meters2

So 9.08388 * 10-19 meters2 is the size of each transistor.
Finally, the size of our chip:

1.1161 * 1016 transistors * 9.08388 * 10-19 meters2 /transistor= 101.4 cm2

That's roughly the size of a CD.
So, now, why is that number so small? Honestly it surprised me too, but the math is correct. The key thing here is that you specified that each transistor should be three atoms big. I added onto that to try and simulate how transistor might actually be placed on a chip, but still. Three atoms is really really really small.
Obviously we're not at the point yet that we can reliably produce huge quantities of three-atom transistors (at least not in the scale this exaflop computer would need).
But this question, and subsequent answer, shows exactly why tech sites get so excited about news of smaller transistors - once we can produce transistors that are so ludicrously small we're open to such huge advances in processing size that it's almost unbelievable.
tl;dr: 101.4 cm2 , or roughly the size of a CD. See immediately above for explanation why it's so small.

And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future.


#7
Rolletroll

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May have got this wrong but that's.... 615565580000000000 earths? In terms of surface for people to live on?

so lets say 15 billion is the max people we can comfortably support per earth surface area of space. 

 

(even though its definitely not)

 

whihc would mean the max population the milky way could support would be:

 

9,233,483,700,000,000,000,000,000,000
 
whatever that number is.

 

You perfectly got it. a world like this would be stupidly big, travelling to its antipodean by going throught its centre (which would be empty with no gravity at all, because of the spherical distribution of the mass) would take a year at the speed of light. But the milky way could certainly contain a far bigger number of human being, because this ultimate supra-mundane planet use the matter with the smallest ratio surface/volume available.



#8
Jakob

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May have got this wrong but that's.... 615565580000000000 earths? In terms of surface for people to live on?

so lets say 15 billion is the max people we can comfortably support per earth surface area of space. 

 

(even though its definitely not)

 

whihc would mean the max population the milky way could support would be:

 

9,233,483,700,000,000,000,000,000,000
 
whatever that number is.

 

You perfectly got it. a world like this would be stupidly big, travelling to its antipodean by going throught its centre (which would be empty with no gravity at all, because of the spherical distribution of the mass) would take a year at the speed of light. But the milky way could certainly contain a far bigger number of human being, because this ultimate supra-mundane planet use the matter with the smallest ratio surface/volume available.

 

You both are completely misunderstanding what a supramundane shell even is.



#9
Rolletroll

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You both are completely misunderstanding what a supramundane shell even is.

 

I'm just pushing the concept up to its extrem. The common idea behind a supramundane planet is to use the orbital rings to create a complet shell thats envelop and not just an equatorial ring above the gas giant, like you can see on this picture:

 

 

artiplanet.JPG

it can work with any type of mass. It could be use to envelopp a gas giant, a star or even a black hole or a mass of dark matter.

By pushing this concept even further, the orbital ring support could just be here to help the shell to withstand its own weight, with nothing inside.



#10
Jakob

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^That's a shellworld not a supra. And combining all the mass in the galaxy is neither practical nor the most efficient way to obtain living space.



#11
LWFlouisa

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I'm reminded of how I did a story once, where a space habituated was accidentally created by old anti-gravity ships the size of multiple mother ships blended on a gas giant, and thousands of years later after cold wars, society was reduced to medieval farmers in their Earth like decentralized ship matrix collection.

 

The whole ancient tech advanced culture is an object of fascination for me. Especially involving giant underground super computers.


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Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: supramundane planet, space, gas giants, space colonization, megascale engineering

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