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By Gina "Nanogirl" Miller 2013 all rights reserved.
When I was a child I dreamt of growing up and buying my own island. It was the age of the cold war; the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, my stepfather worked at Lockheed in Iran and was one of the last Americans to get out alive and unharmed before the Iran-Iraq war. There was the bombing of flight Pan Am, and a rise in crime.
Gone was the utopian ideology of the 1960’s hippie movement and perhaps as a rebellious move the youth redesigned themselves as yuppies. The image was materialism and prideful success with a new utopian dream, Wall Street. Ironic considering that in the 1980’s much of the developed world was facing recession. In 1982 American bankruptcies were up 50 % more than the previous year.
John Lennon the icon of peace who survived the turbulent 60’s was gone, killed in a senseless murder in 1980. Is it me or have random shooters and killing sprees increased at an excessive rate since the 80’s, so much so that we’ve come to EXPECT to see it on the news?
There was the Exxon Valdes oil spill, which was my generation’s BP oil spill (every generation has got to have an oil spill these days). Chernobyl, which was my generation’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster (every generation has got to have a nuclear disaster these days). The Chernobyl story has become oddly silent. Is this silence a lack of reaction, which avoids prevention and leads to repetition?
There were some great things that happened, for example NASA’s Voyager clicking pictures of Saturn, but it was hard to notice in a sea of political unrest. The Breakfast Club movie is often cited as a teen movie and it is, but it is also a huge social commentary on who we COULD be with one another if not for our self imposed segregation. The script is a social experiment of what happens when you get people alone in a room together without a group of people just like themselves sitting behind them, without any cultural barriers. And one barrier did fall, the Berlin wall.
From a child’s perspective the world can be difficult to digest. I found myself relating to the main character of the children’s book The Little Prince. He just didn’t understand the borders between countries on the map that separated them. This reference holds some irony within this paper because the Little Prince’s home was an asteroid, for which a real asteroid was named.
As I grew into early adulthood I heard a song by the Flaming Lips that had a line in it “I want my own planet cuz this one here is a drag”. I upgraded the dream of an island to a dream of my own planet that would be called Sanctuary – later on when I heard about nanotechnology I realized that this girlhood dream could perhaps be scientifically possible. But I digress, this isn’t my story, it’s our story and every story that has come before.
With all of our history, have we locked ourselves into cyclical behavior? Recreating our selves from the same mold over and over again? In current day America there is a battle over health care. But health care is being used as an emblem of deeper-rooted problems. The health care system is a network riddled with dependence, if you shift the network the structure and every company comes tumbling down, which equates to financial ruin for many. That is one part of the problem; the second is pure and simple politics. There is also the battle for gun control, which is a war pitting our own political parties against each other in which the end result is further separation. We have set ourselves up with structures and political parties that make it very difficult to untangle from and which causes great distraction from working together.
Countries are divided. According to Wikipedia there are 41 ongoing-armed conflicts some that go back as far as 1918. These arguments, beliefs and what comes right down to identities may be so embedded that we have trapped ourselves within them. How do I come to this conclusion? This has been going on for a very, very long time. History constantly repeats itself. What does all of this have to do with building a planet? It was what was going on around me when I began thinking of what it would be like to start over. It may sound like I am a pessimist but it’s quite the opposite. I see all the good in the world and I want for us to experience more of it. I certainly hope that we can make this world a better place, it’s not that we are not capable, it’s not that we are not smart enough…
In building Sanctuary I could do it with the knowledge and experience of existing on earth. I could use this knowledge as a social recipe for how to build a planet and how not to build a planet. In many ways it’s not our fault that we are in our current state. We began in Africa, tribes moved outward and we became separated by waters. We naturally evolved into our social situations; we didn’t have a choice in the matter, but what if you could INTENTIONALLY do so.
There has been much discussion regarding terraforming Mars, and building space colonies but why not build a planet? You might ask why go to the trouble when you can terraform one? This would be MY planet, not parsed off by a government space program that got there first and instated politics and laws, not owned by a billionaire who claimed it and is selling real estate. It is a heightened ideal equivalent of what buying an island is like here on earth, except even better because if you buy a island you still have to abide by provisions. This will also not limit us to the locations of natural planets. And no matter where or how you go into space, you will need to go before 5 to 7 billion years from now when the sun burns up its hydrogen fuel and collapses into itself, becoming a white dwarf after first expanding to form a red giant so large that it will most likely swallow up Earth and if not - at least scorch the life right off of it. And there are some more immediate issues. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that by 2030 we will be consuming two planets' worth of natural resources annually.
What can we learn from the creation of our planet? From what we surmise roughly 4.5 billion years ago our solar system was comprised of a swirling cloud of gas and dust particles that were a by-product of star formation. Over time these particles became attracted together forming clumps that became asteroids. As more and more collisions occurred, they grew in size becoming planetesimals (small planets) and becoming the planets in our solar system and our Earth. The Earth was molten, volcanic release created the atmosphere and the planet cooled over time creating a solid form followed by water.
Although it would be much easier and closer to make a planet out of the asteroid belt within our solar system I predict that the inhabitants of Earth would not feel comfortable with a man made planet close by due to fears of disrupting Earth. To get to the vast distances outside of our solar system would require traveling close to the speed of light so as to avoid the huge length of time—perhaps centuries—it would take to get there.
Jupiter is a huge magnet; it has a strong magnetic field that is 20 thousand times stronger than that of the Earth. If you send out swarm nanobots with an electrical charge you could bind them to the magnetic field of Jupiter so they reach close to the speed of light. When you turn off the charge they can move quickly to another destination. Jupiter is in our solar system but with this kind of energy the bots could go beyond. As the nanobots travel throughout space they will extract platinum group metals (platinum and palladium) from asteroids that are synthesizing carbohydrate fuels which could be used as catalysts for fuel to provide energy. Or plenty of asteroids contain water which is of course is a nice commodity for any habitable planet but can also be converted quite easily and inexpensively into hydrogen and oxygen which we currently use for rocket fuel. Both options could be used to fuel the nanobots to continue on their journey.
When the nanobots arrive to an asteroid they will also retrieve matter from the asteroid and use it for material to replicate and move on until they reach another asteroid and replicate again. This process will repeat over and over, therefore exponentially increasing the quantity of bots that will arrive at their final location and increase productivity. When the swarm leaves Jupiter they could direct some of the nanobots to the Jupiter Trojan asteroids to build up energy and collect matter to replicate and meet up with later.
To find the best location initially the swarms would need to survey the asteroids to determine if they have a firm composition or if they are loose dust and rocks. There are some nice neighborhoods out there. Many asteroids in our asteroid belt are created from extinct comets and contain an Earth like equivalent of water and carbon. Vega in the constellation Lyra has a large asteroid belt and isn’t too far away at 25 light years. The Lyra constellation itself has five planets discovered in 2013 orbiting the Kepler-62 star in the habitable/Goldilocks zone - which is a planet’s perfect distance from its star making its surface not too hot and not too cold. As of this writing NASA has calculated that in our Milky Way Galaxy there are 8.8 billion Suns with at least 8.8 billion Earth size planets in the Goldilocks zone and while not asteroids - all of this information combined leads to one conclusion, there are many habitable locations to choose from out there. The best location would depend on what the bots find during the survey period.
Once an appropriate location has been ascertained the now massive nanoswarm will begin to bind asteroids together until they become a massive core gravitationally attracting an atmosphere, which is how giant planets are created naturally. The forming planet will need to be 10 times the mass of Earth to begin creating a hydrogen and helium atmosphere and become a giant planet. A giant planet creates it’s own gravity. Also some asteroids have a magnetic field although not as strong as Earth but perhaps this could be achieved by expanding the field with a multitude of asteroids.
Our Earth has a large core and a thin crust and it has cooled over millions of years – too long to wait when building a planet. To cool your molten planet bots will bring asteroids and comets with frozen water onto the planet. There are such asteroids and comets, Ceres the largest asteroid in our solar system is thought to have frozen water beneath its surface and many comets contain ice and rock. This will not only assist in cooling but also produce watery surfaces.
To bypass a molten planet all together, instead of sticking asteroids together you could build a scaffold and have the bots add materials to it layer by layer – building this way would eliminate the problem of waiting the length of time it would take for a molten planet to cool. The nanobots will use the newly formed planet’s materials and/or payload materials from asteroids to engineer topography and shape landscapes.
Galactic Cosmic Radiation is heavy ions and high-energy particles from supernovae beyond our galaxy that explode and release energy in the form of atoms and elements that travel near the speed of light. This radiation can damage the human body – which is why astronauts wear spacesuits. Here on Earth we are protected by our thick atmosphere and our magnetosphere. For humans to live without harm from radiation the nanobots would need to create an atmosphere mimicking that of earth which comprises 78.08% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen, 0.93% Argon and trace amounts of carbon dioxide, neon, helium, methane, krypton, hydrogen, nitrous oxide, xenon, ozone, iodine, carbon monoxide, and ammonia. The strength of a magnetic field is determined by the size of the inner core and the planet rotation. Therefore our planet should have a high rotation rate and large core.
What will a planet with access to nanotechnology be able to do? Virtually anything you can imagine. There would be no disease, as programmable nanorobots would roam the human body monitoring and repairing damage and eliminating aging for those who want it. There would be no hospitals, no health care, and therefore no fighting over them. Poverty would be eliminated because foods and products would be made by a desktop size nanofactory, a concept introduced by Eric Drexler, that uses raw atoms from dirt, air, seawater. or other sources, making the process no cost or low cost and non polluting – they join molecules together to form bigger parts which in turn do the same and so on and so forth until large scale items are fabricated. A bonus of this molecular manufacturing is that there would be no pollution because there would be no chemical processing.
My planet Sanctuary would be just that, a refuge free from political parties, we will work together not against each other and we will help each other. Knowledge will be strived for rather than wealth or Wall Street as none of that will be relevant without the need for money. I will rebuild the library of Alexandria and fill it will as much knowledge as I could. Art, science and history would be valued. There will be no wars or guns – if someone wanted to do harm, I would not punish them I would simply send them elsewhere—perhaps to another planet. There will be no oil tankers, no nuclear power. Ours will be a community with no borders. It will be a planet that I would feel comfortable inviting The Little Prince to come and visit.
Copyright Gina Miller