Will Someone Please Design A Better Space Elevator?
Over a century ago, a Russian scientist dreamed up the idea for a space elevator. It was an audacious scheme for a cable to connect the Earth to space allowing us to access areas beyond our atmosphere with nary a shuttle mission.
Arthur C. Clarke's 1979 work, The Foundations of Paradise, introduced the idea to a broad audience, and when work with tiny but strong carbon nanotubes took off in the present century, more scientists took the idea seriously. Now, two theoretical physicists hatched a whole new way to make it work—have the space elevator rotate.
The standard way scientists have dreamed up such a contraption, like the vision that came out of a 2000 NASA workshop, interprets the phrase "space elevator" about as literally as one could: it's a car much like an elevator car, propelled by electromagnetism, ferrying people or goods to a space station or some other counterweight about 50 kilometers above Earth's surface.
An alternative version that physicists Leonardo Golubović and Steven Knudsen of West Virginia University have drawn up involves no elevator shaft at all. Rather, long looped strings rotate to create a centrifugal force that conquers gravity. Golubović explains it's like stirring a couple of coffee—if you stir too vigorously, you create too much force and the coffee flows up out of the cup. The rotating strings in this theoretical model would provide enough force to lift objects up the elevator on their own. Not content with merely creating an elevator to space, the scientists' rotating engine could even blast satellites or spacecraft into orbit. In theory.
The space elevator is one of the great dreams of the sci-fi camp that cause the dreamers to pour hours into figuring out how it might become reality. But unlike the time travel that J.J. Abrams obsesses over, a space elevator defies no theoretical physics—it's just damn hard to engineer.
Still, scientists are taking the idea seriously. A proposal to geoengineer the Earth to arrest climate change (pouring aerosols into clouds to thicken them) could be achieved via a space elevator. However, until somebody gets the audacity and permission to string carbon nanotubes out beyond our atmosphere, designing a space elevator will remain the stuff of imagination.
Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.
No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.
A growing body of research shows promising signs that the keto diet might be able to improve mental health.
- The keto diet is known to be an effective tool for weight loss, however its effects on mental health remain largely unclear.
- Recent studies suggests that the keto diet might be an effective tool for treating depression, and clearing up so-called "brain fog," though scientists caution more research is necessary before it can be recommended as a treatment.
- Any experiments with the keto diet are best done in conjunction with a doctor, considering some people face problems when transitioning to the low-carb diet.
The Harvard psychologist loves reading authors' rules for writing. Here are his own.
- Steven Pinker is many things: linguist, psychologist, optimist, Harvard professor, and author.
- When it comes to writing, he's a student and a teacher.
- Here's are his 13 rules for writing better, more simply, and more clearly.
Thinking your life is worthwhile is correlated with a variety of positive outcomes.
- A new study finds that adults who feel their lives are meaningful have better health and life outcomes.
- Adults who felt their lives were worthwhile tended to be more social and had healthier habits.
- The findings could be used to help improve the health of older adults.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.