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Thread: Dyson swarm or interstellar colonisation — which would logically be done first?

  1. #61
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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Robinson View Post

    Please note, I'm not suggesting conflict is inevitable. If one group clearly had command of orders of magnitude more energy than the other, and both groups were intelligent, then the weaker group would presumably see the disadvantages of messing with the stronger.
    I'm not sure why you focus on energy so much. I think I mentioned this earlier, but I don't think the availability of energy is such a big constraint. The constraints we face come from real estate and resources and partly the ability to harness and store energy. We're drowning in energy, so having another sun is not what we need; what we need is more solar panels and batteries and fusion reactors.
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    I doubt an STL interstellar empire is even possible, let alone plausible. But empires are not the only source of conflict.

    However, the advantages go overwhelmingly to the defenders. They have a whole star system's resources and likely a distinct advantage in population, industry, and time. The attackers only have what they can drag with them across a gulf of years or decades. And it's almost impossible to hide any practical size of invasion force for a space-based society's observation tech. You'll likely be seen coming for years ahead of your arrival.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I'm not sure why you focus on energy so much. I think I mentioned this earlier, but I don't think the availability of energy is such a big constraint.
    As I mentioned in the OP, the need for sources of energy is something all humans, animals and plants have in common. I should have mentioned anaerobic microorganisms as well... Unless there is a basic flaw in our understanding of thermodynamics, any other form of life anywhere in the universe will need energy sources also.

    The constraints we face come from real estate and resources and partly the ability to harness and store energy.
    I'm not sure why you focus on "real estate" so much. Would you like to explain?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    I doubt an STL interstellar empire is even possible, let alone plausible. But empires are not the only source of conflict.

    However, the advantages go overwhelmingly to the defenders. They have a whole star system's resources
    Yes, but only if they've already gone through the process of harnessing the resources of their whole star system...

    This is the flaw I see in the Hart/Tipler argument, which assumes that an intelligent technological species would colonise the galaxy at a rate determined by how fast their space-craft can fly. (The argument doesn't depend on whether or not they would form an interstellar empire.)

    Why would an intelligent species race out like that, unless it was worried about competitors claiming planets and systems first?

    On the other hand, if you are worried about competition, wouldn't it make sense to consolidate and defend your presence in a system you have already claimed, i.e. by spreading from a single colonised planet to a Dyson swarm, before trying to claim another system?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Robinson View Post
    Yes, but only if they've already gone through the process of harnessing the resources of their whole star system...

    This is the flaw I see in the Hart/Tipler argument, which assumes that an intelligent technological species would colonise the galaxy at a rate determined by how fast their space-craft can fly. (The argument doesn't depend on whether or not they would form an interstellar empire.)

    Why would an intelligent species race out like that, unless it was worried about competitors claiming planets and systems first?

    On the other hand, if you are worried about competition, wouldn't it make sense to consolidate and defend your presence in a system you have already claimed, i.e. by spreading from a single colonised planet to a Dyson swarm, before trying to claim another system?
    I can't quite follow your logic. Are you saying that a competitor is the ONLY reason for colonizing other stars quickly?

    And what advantage would there be in waiting at home while a dangerous competitor spreads out?

    I personally don't believe that an ENTIRE system's resources is needed, just enough to have an overwhelming advantage over invaders.

    Unless that invasion fleet is sent right on the heels of the original colonists while the settlers are still in the earliest bootstrapping phase, is still there's no practical way they can match the powers of even a moderately successful, established space-based civilization once it develops even a .001% infrastructure. The invaders can carry only what limited amounts they can afford, and fuel or energy needed for a starship (while no match for a Dyson by a great many orders of magnitude) is truly mind-boggling. "Every gram counts!" So all interstellar travelers will use the least amount of mass possible. Carrying lots of weapons and military materiel across IS space would be an impractical extravagance. Meanwhile given any reasonable time to develop, the defenders will already have asteroid mines and solar collectors established. Plus they'll have the advantage of numbers once they spread out and get comfortable; But the invaders, locked in their ships for years, won't have any room or resources to expand their recruitment base.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    I can't quite follow your logic. Are you saying that a competitor is the ONLY reason for colonizing other stars quickly?
    It's the most plausible motive I can think of for the sort of fast colonisation described by Michael Hart.

    And what advantage would there be in waiting at home while a dangerous competitor spreads out?
    The advantage is that your home becomes a fortress, while your competitor has no fortress.

    I personally don't believe that an ENTIRE system's resources is needed, just enough to have an overwhelming advantage over invaders.

    Unless that invasion fleet is sent right on the heels of the original colonists while the settlers are still in the earliest bootstrapping phase, is still there's no practical way they can match the powers of even a moderately successful, established space-based civilization once it develops even a .001% infrastructure. The invaders can carry only what limited amounts they can afford, and fuel or energy needed for a starship (while no match for a Dyson by a great many orders of magnitude) is truly mind-boggling. "Every gram counts!" So all interstellar travelers will use the least amount of mass possible. Carrying lots of weapons and military materiel across IS space would be an impractical extravagance.
    Why should invaders carry all their weapons on crewed starships? Why wouldn't they follow the strategy described in the hard SF novel Killing Star — a salvo of interstellar missiles designed not to slow down when they reach their target planet? The missiles don't even need warheads — the kinetic energy they carry is enough to do dramatic things to the target planet's atmosphere when they hit... After that, one or more crewed star-ships can follow to hunt down survivors.

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    Planet-based populations were not my main concern. Planets can't dodge, but space habitats are just large spacecraft. Tow them where you need them, move them in a semi-random dance. Near-C relativistic kinetics cannot change direction easily due to the very effects that make them dangerous. And they lack the fuel to maneuver more than very slightly.
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    Interstellar war doesn't seem all that plausible to me. Not that it's not possible, but what's the reason for it? Most wars are fought over resources, but if you're not trapped on a planet, why wouldn't you just go where people aren't? Easier than risking being killed yourself, isn't it? Plus you're not murdering people, which is generally said to be good form.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Robinson View Post
    The advantage is that your home becomes a fortress, while your competitor has no fortress.
    Fortresses are pretty useless against interstellar weapons.

    The advantage to spreading out is that you're less of a viable target. Fortresses are not good at dodging anymore than planets.

    The other advantage to spreading out is, on an interstellar scale, access to more resources.

    The other other advantage is resilience. You could lose a whole planetary system, and still recover from the rest of your systems.
    Last edited by Noclevername; 2017-Sep-27 at 03:46 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Fortresses are pretty useless against interstellar weapons.

    The advantage to spreading out is that you're less of a viable target. Fortresses are not good at dodging anymore than planets.
    The fortress we're talking about is a Dyson swarm, remember. It's quite a few orders of magnitude larger than a planet, and can access orders of magnitude more energy...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Robinson View Post
    The fortress we're talking about is a Dyson swarm, remember. It's quite a few orders of magnitude larger than a planet, and can access orders of magnitude more energy...
    Ah, I see the confusion. Scales. I was talking about IS colonization which can take place in a time frame of centuries to millennia. You're talking about Dyson swarms which take at least an order of magnitude more time to build.

    "An attack? No, we're not ready yet! Tell them to come back in a hundred thousand years when our fortress is complete!"
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Ah, I see the confusion. Scales. I was talking about IS colonization which can take place in a time frame of centuries to millennia. You're talking about Dyson swarms which take at least an order of magnitude more time to build.
    In short, you think spreading through the galaxy, harnessing the resources of planet after planet, can be a faster process than spreading out in your own solar system, harnessing the resources there?

    "An attack? No, we're not ready yet! Tell them to come back in a hundred thousand years when our fortress is complete!"
    Does it have to be "complete" to make an attack more difficult, and to provide resources, including energy, for counter-attack?
    Last edited by Colin Robinson; 2017-Sep-27 at 08:05 PM.

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    If you access the entire resources of your solar system, including the luminosity of your sun, then you have a pretty good defence against any threat that might arrive from another star, The energy of the star could be focused on an invading spacecraft, or a fleet, or even a relativistic kinetic weapon - and such a threat could be converted into an expanding cloud of vapour.

    Yes; a Dyson Sphere could be converted into a gigantic laser. The Nicoll-Dyson beam.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjtFnWh53z0

    Okay- that means that the defenders are capable of defending themselves- against anything except another Nicoll-Dyson beam. Once you have a Dyson sphere you are a threat to any system within a radius of thousands of light years. I am sorry to say that interstellar warfare is emphatically not impossible- but it would be analogous to the Mutual Assured Destruction of the Cold War, where each system could destroy any other, but would also be at risk of destruction itself. Indeed, any two systems could destroy one another by simply firing beams at each other simultaneously, although it would be tricky to co-ordinate such an event.

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    In the case of "invaders against homebodies" there's no reason to expect there to be any meaningful parity between them. The invaders might arrive undetected and make use of a significant fraction of the invaded resources before they make their presence known.
    Selden

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Ah, I see the confusion. Scales. I was talking about IS colonization which can take place in a time frame of centuries to millennia. You're talking about Dyson swarms which take at least an order of magnitude more time to build.
    I don't really know much about it, but can you be so sure about how long it takes? Wouldn't it depend on the number of resources they have at the time they start building it?
    As above, so below

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    Robert Bradbury estimated a very short period of time to create a Dyson Sphere; less than a thousand years. Anders Sandberg has more recently estimated a similar time scale.
    https://aleph.se/andart2/tag/dyson-sphere/
    I don't really agree with these estimates - the construction of such a structure starts slowly, and grows at a near exponential rate until the last few years are impossibly fast. But a minimal 'Dyson Bubble' made of thin light-supported film could probably be constructed in a few hundred years, and would mass as much as an asteroid. Of course such a light-weight Dyson Bubble would have a very small energy capacity, so couldn't utilise or store very much of the gathered energy directly; but it would be better than nothing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Robinson View Post
    In short, you think spreading through the galaxy, harnessing the resources of planet after planet, can be a faster process than spreading out in your own solar system, harnessing the resources there?
    A Dyson swarm would take a very long time to build. But you don't need to harness the full resources of a system just to defend it!

    Does it have to be "complete" to make an attack more difficult, and to provide resources, including energy, for counter-attack?
    No. And that was my point. A "Fortress" Swarm is overkill.
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    Quote Originally Posted by eburacum45 View Post
    but it would be better than nothing.
    [citation needed]
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    A Dyson bubble could redirect some of the luminosity of the star towards a specific locations. Using thin mirrors, or possibly electronic re-emitters, a small but significant fraction of the Sun's light could be directed at a particular planet, speeding up the disassembly process. Making a Dyson bubble could be the first stage in making a much more substantial Dyson swarm.

    Or the beams could be used to propel spacecraft, as suggested earlier in this thread. You don't need to cover the whole star- just the poles would do, allowing normal sunlight to fall on any planet on the ecliptic (assuming you weren't intending to disassemble them all).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    A Dyson swarm would take a very long time to build. But you don't need to harness the full resources of a system just to defend it!
    Did anyone suggest that a Dyson swarm would be built "just to defend"? The point of harnessing increasing amounts of energy, is that you steadily increase your ability to do all sorts of things. The energy can support a growing population of intelligent beings living intelligent creative lives...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Robinson View Post
    Did anyone suggest that a Dyson swarm would be built "just to defend"?
    You did.

    I asked:
    And what advantage would there be in waiting at home while a dangerous competitor spreads out?

    You said:
    The advantage is that your home becomes a fortress, while your competitor has no fortress.
    You then identified a "fortress" as a Dyson Swarm:

    The fortress we're talking about is a Dyson swarm, remember. It's quite a few orders of magnitude larger than a planet, and can access orders of magnitude more energy...
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Yes, but isn't there is a difference between saying that a Dyson swarm would an advantage for interstellar defence, and saying that it would be built just to defend?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Robinson View Post
    Yes, but isn't there is a difference between saying that a Dyson swarm would an advantage for interstellar defence, and saying that it would be built just to defend?
    ...Yes, that was my point.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    ...Yes, that was my point.
    My point is this — there are several reasons why an advanced technological civilisation might prefer to steadily expand within its own solar system, until it creates a Dyson swarm, before embarking on colonising expeditions to other stellar systems. The military potential of the Dyson swarm is one reason, but certainly not the only reason.
    Last edited by Colin Robinson; 2017-Sep-29 at 09:53 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Ah, I see the confusion. Scales. I was talking about IS colonization which can take place in a time frame of centuries to millennia. You're talking about Dyson swarms which take at least an order of magnitude more time to build.

    "An attack? No, we're not ready yet! Tell them to come back in a hundred thousand years when our fortress is complete!"

    Dyson swarm doesn't need to be complete; it only needs to be complete enough.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Ah, I see the confusion. Scales. I was talking about IS colonization which can take place in a time frame of centuries to millennia. You're talking about Dyson swarms which take at least an order of magnitude more time to build.

    "An attack? No, we're not ready yet! Tell them to come back in a hundred thousand years when our fortress is complete!"
    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    Dyson swarm doesn't need to be complete; it only needs to be complete enough.
    That's right. Complete enough to wield more energy that your opponent can wield against you...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Robinson View Post
    Energy is important to all known living things. Plants get it from light, animals get it from food, our ancestors learned to get more of it from fire. High technology life uses more energy that anyone else.

    A star is an excellent energy source. A high-tech life-form might well, at some stage, expand to the vicinity of another star to access its energy.

    It’s true they'd have to invest big amounts of energy to get there, but the return on the investment might justify it.

    But why would you do so, if the energy of your home star were not yet fully tapped? Would it not be more logical to build a Dyson swarm first, and embark on interstellar colonisation later?
    Life on earth replicates. Interstellar colonization is a lot like replicating. Plants have to decide between growing more or investing more energy into flowers, fruit, and seeds. Some plants like orchids, apples, or watermelons put a lot of energy into reproduction. But they still put a lot of energy into solar panels first. A maple seed is fairly light compared to a maple tree. The Maples put a lot of energy into panels and they grow first. By weight male mammals have much less infrastructure dedicated to replication than females. That effects behavior. Many species of male mammal will launch sperm whenever the opportunity arises. Female mammals tend to be more selective and cautious.

    If you know how much energy, resources, and infrastructure an interstellar launch requires then you can make a ballpark estimate. Civilization is unlikely to invest in an infrastructure that consumes more than a uterus equivalent portion of the solar system's economy. When(if) civilization expands to the point where an interstellar colony ship drains the relative resources of sperm, pollen, or spores then the solar system will likely spray a lot of them. A mouse takes the opportunity to reproduce. No need to become an elephant first.

    Quote Originally Posted by tudoulaile03 View Post
    I see this drive to visit people and places as being a bigger hindrance than building a nearly closed system. People like to get out and see the sights, making a nearly closed system not that appealing even if it is available.
    Right. For interstellar travel you need someone to agree to see nothing for the remainder of his/her life. They also commit their children to seeing nothing except the inside of a ship. Interstellar travelers will have no outside contact except for media. The possibility of finding a football sized fragment of a comet would be frightening enough to discourage many people from making the trip. Colonists will pray there is nothing to see on the way. It is not something that will appeal to tourists.

    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Ah, I see the confusion. Scales. I was talking about IS colonization which can take place in a time frame of centuries to millennia. You're talking about Dyson swarms which take at least an order of magnitude more time to build.

    "An attack? No, we're not ready yet! Tell them to come back in a hundred thousand years when our fortress is complete!"
    Not at all. One published estimate said Mercury could be completely dissembled and converted to solar collection in 40 years from the arrival on Mercury's surface, about 70 years from now. Critics argued it would take a little longer. No need to wait "centuries to millennia".

    No. If you start with the stellar colonization you have one colony ship arrive in a hundred years. It might fail. If you start with Mercury you can launch thousands of colony ships. More energy could also mean faster colony ships. For a colony 100 light years away a faster start could reduce the arrival time by decades or centuries even if they wait a few decades for the launch.

    We could argue that launching a colony to Alpha Centauri sooner will get the Alpha Centauri Dyson swarm built faster. But that makes sense only because Dyson swarms are easy to build quickly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NearABE View Post
    We could argue that launching a colony to Alpha Centauri sooner will get the Alpha Centauri Dyson swarm built faster. But that makes sense only because Dyson swarms are easy to build quickly.
    But Alpha Centauri is relatively close to "jumping off" distance on an interstellar scale. If a functionally complete swarm wasn't possible with the scale of material available in a system, then steering the two systems close enough to migrate the elements to a single star makes sense, choosing the best star based on lifespan, navigational direction, and power output.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NearABE View Post
    Not at all. One published estimate said Mercury could be completely dissembled and converted to solar collection in 40 years from the arrival on Mercury's surface, about 70 years from now. Critics argued it would take a little longer. No need to wait "centuries to millennia".
    That's actually from the paper written by Armstrong and Sandberg I linked to earlier. As I said then I think this is optimistic, but only by an order of magnitude or so. Short construction times require exponential growth - this implies that the construction activity becomes impossibly rapid towards the end of the timescale. No matter how much energy you have available you can't exceed certain limits, or the construction equipment would melt. Instead of a Dyson Sphere you end up with a cloud of plasma expanding into space.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Robinson View Post
    Energy is important to all known living things. Plants get it from light, animals get it from food, our ancestors learned to get more of it from fire. High technology life uses more energy that anyone else.

    A star is an excellent energy source. A high-tech life-form might well, at some stage, expand to the vicinity of another star to access its energy.

    It’s true they'd have to invest big amounts of energy to get there, but the return on the investment might justify it.

    But why would you do so, if the energy of your home star were not yet fully tapped? Would it not be more logical to build a Dyson swarm first, and embark on interstellar colonisation later?
    I reckon all star life will embark and embrace at roughly the same time, once they realise their new energy requirements. 🤷🏼*♂️ But the length of time needed to get new Star energy may be off-putting to organic life.

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