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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

I Love Science: The Space Elevator

Star Trek didn't cover this. Star Wars was way off. And, if you think you're gonna get something this rad from Farscape, then you're a bigger nerd then I already thought you were for watching that puppet show in the first place. Nerd.

Check this out. I've been reading all morning about a hypothetical device called The Space Elevator. I'm not saying that all that reading has me fully understanding the idea, but here's what I surmise: You tie a rock to a huge rope and you tie that rope to the earth. Ship that puppy out a bunch of miles so its past earth's orbit and let is follow us on our orbital path. The centrifugal force creates a taught cable. With a taught cable, you have the makings of an elevator.

Simple. It seams simpler than what they make the meatheads on the Road Rules Real World Challenge do (seriously, did you see Landon try to climb a rope made of pantyhose last night? WTF?).

Georgia Flight over at CNN describes with a bit more science than I do. Georgia?

Earth is constantly spinning. So if you attach a counterweight to it with a cable, and put it far enough away--62,000 miles--the cable will be held taut by the force of the planet's rotation, just as if you spun around while holding a ball on a string. And if you'’ve got a taut cable, you've got the makings of an elevator.

As strange as that sounds, —push the "“Up" button, climb in, and soar off into weightless bliss—don’t be surprised if it happens. The space elevator is where the PC was in the 1960s: The theory is solid, the materials exist, and people in garages are starting to tinker with the next step. Two Seattle startups are competing to build the elevator. Both believe they can do it within 15 years at a cost of $10 billion. NASA and China's space agency are eager to help make it happen.

And no wonder: A working elevator would reduce the cost of launching anything into space by roughly 98 percent.

Sounds pretty rad. 98% off? So, It now costs about 10 million for a regular joe to go into space. With savings like that it'd only be around $200,000!!! Yeah, hear that aliens? There goes the neighborhood.

So the science is sound, if we can figure out how to make it work. I'd imagine its pretty tough. You gotta make a really long rope, for a start. Then you have to put the weight up there. And linking them up is gonna be a pain in the ass. And what about weather? What about the structure? What if this thing gets tangled in existing satelites? What if it sends us spinning into the sun?

Its crazy and dangerous. That's why the US, Japan and China are all working on it. Cause we're all crazy and dangerous too.

I just hope we get there before Japan. I couldn't take it if Hello Kitty was on everything in space. I mean, it's space, thats our deal. Giant robots? Japan. Ruining outer space? Us. Its not rocket science. Literally.

The 62,000-Mile Elevator Ride

What the nerds at Wikipedia say.


Anonymous Lisa said...

I think that in order to communicate with earth, in case of an emergency, they should have a can in the elevator connected by a long string tied to another can located at a call center.

5:33 AM


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