Dyson spheres – the potentially invaluable solution to energy

Written by Callum Murison

In today’s society, energy is an issue touching all 7.5 billion inhabitants of our planet Earth. Without energy, there is no electricity, no fuel, no power, and no method by which food can be cooked or resources can be extracted from within our planet. A near-infinite supply of energy would, therefore, be invaluable. But is it a realistic possibility?

A Dyson sphere is essentially a hypothetical sphere that would be man-made and constructed around a star, and it would be able to harness a very large proportion of that star’s energy. Given that, here on Earth, only a tiny fraction of the sun’s total energy hits the surface, this could be an ingenious solution. The main reason that this is such an interesting topic is that, currently, scientists are investigating the star known as ‘Tabby’s Star’ (or KIC 8462852), because the light from that star that reaches Earth is very different from any other discovered star.

It is well-known that the light from a star varies depending on whether or not there are planets in orbit around it. When a planet passes in front of a star, the light usually dims by about 1%, but some of the light fluctuations received from Tabby’s Star have been dimming by about 22% – a tell-tale sign of a gigantic structure or object passing in front of the planet.

In autumn of 2016, another possible star that may have a Dyson sphere around it was discovered – called EPIC 204278916 – but the data recorded from that star was even more spectacular. Apparently, over 25 consecutive days, scientists recorded dimming of about 65%! Ridiculous!

However, there are more, possibly regarded as more probable explanations for the gigantic, unexpected and odd dimming of Tabby’s Star (amongst others). But firstly, we need to understand the total number of things that can influence the light level of a star.

The most common ‘object’ that consistently passes in orbit around a star, which blocks some of the light released by it, is a planet. Earth and the other planets in our Solar System are constantly orbiting around our star (the Sun). The Earth takes 365, occasionally 366 days to orbit the Sun, and every time that it passes between the Sun and a potential alien planet that could be monitoring light – let’s call it Planet X – it will essentially cast a shadow on the Sun, and block some of the light leaving the Sun from reaching this Planet X.

However, the ‘object’ blocking the star’s light does not necessarily have to be solid. Asteroids and comets – in large quantities – could impact on light levels of a star. Additionally, if an asteroid collided with a comet, or another object in space, the dust thrown up by the collision could spread and block out the star’s light on an even larger scale.

The vitally important reason why a potential Dyson sphere would be an incredible discovery is that it would almost certainly reveal the existence of an incredibly technologically advanced civilisation. This is mainly due to the challenges that would be faced when building it – the close proximity of the sphere to the star itself would make the intense light and heat a severe hindrance alongside the sheer scale of construction – it would have to be gargantuan!

In conclusion, with the current political turmoil and other disastrous events currently occurring in our world (like the horrific terror incidents of the past year or so), it is easy to forget the longer-term crises that we face. According to the Business Standard News in 2015, “oil will run out in 53 years, natural gas in 54, and coal in 110.” If we do not greatly improve our sources of renewable energy, and increase the scale at which we use them, we could be heading for even more problems than exist currently.

We have to make this decision now, and invest in our renewable energy, before it is too late. Even if Dyson spheres do prove a step too far up on the theoretical and hypothetical spectrum, surely we need to keep investigating.

Energy is everything…

About the author

Callum Murison

1 Comment

  • Perhaps we should spend less time researching renewable sources of energy and instead focus on how to reduce our current energy consumption on the whole, and figure out what the best way to generate energy is from there?

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