Ancient Civilizations and Tiny Dyson Spheres

Ancient Civilizations and Tiny Dyson Spheres

Perhaps the greatest challenge facing a civilization
is surviving its infancy. We ourselves struggle with that as we try
to grow past the age of nation states, warfare and the need for weapons that can cause our
own extinction. But once past that infancy, for many civilizations,
our own included, there lies a future problem that will confront us in our old age. That problem is the life-cycle of stars. Our own sun will begin to present problems
for our civilization in only a few hundred thousand years. The first of these will be the general and
slow brightening of the sun, though if we’re sufficiently advanced this particular issue
would be somewhat easily mitigated with star shades and advanced technologies for harvesting
and controlling the sun’s energy. Past that period, however, it gets more difficult
as the sun will eventually swell into its red giant stage. That end may be avoidable, one area of futurism
that isn’t yet well explored is the possibility of managing, manipulating and even refueling
ancient stars. Alternatively, there are also hypothetical
possibilities regarding the repositioning of planets as the red giant’s habitability
zone migrates outward. But no matter what a civilization does to
mitigate the effects of a star’s life cycle, eventually available materials becomes a problem
and the further along in time, the more this problem will assert. So for very ancient civilizations nearing
the end of the life-cycle of their star, or indeed the end of the universe, solutions
for the problem of power generation become limited. Conventionally, one might turn to very long
lived stars, such as the M type red dwarfs. There are no shortage of those and they will
be among the last living stars in the universe. But there is another possibility, one that
lies in our own sun’s future. It’s hard to envision us as a civilization
sticking around in this star system when the sun finally goes red giant and ultimately
to a white dwarf stage. We’d need to manage a truly enormous planetary
nebula that would form after the sun sheds its outer layers and the solar system’s remaining
planets reorganize themselves as the sun loses mass. But once that stable white dwarf does form,
or we colonize any of the other myriad white dwarfs that will be around towards the end,
then there is a way to support a civilization using the energy of that stellar remnant. It’s a special type of Dyson sphere laid out
in a 2015 paper by Ibrahim Semiz and Salim Ogur, link in the description below. This concept is noteworthy because it not
only offers a way to build a Dyson Sphere around a white dwarf, but it also avoids some
of the pitfalls usually associated with building a full on Dyson Shell. More, this type of white dwarf Dyson sphere,
if any exist right now, would be very difficult to detect at a distance and might potentially
explain why we haven’t seen any Dyson spheres in the universe so far. It could turn out that the only practical
type are those built around white dwarfs and are simply too small to detect. White dwarfs are tiny, our own sun when it
reaches that stage will be roughly about the size of earth, though far more dense. This means that the habitability zone of the
white dwarf is much closer to the star, so you don’t need an enormous sphere to encompass
one. It only needs to be just big enough. Smaller spheres are easier to build and manage. In the paper, the researchers calculate that
you’d only need a thickness of about a meter for the sphere, dramatically reducing the
amount of material needed to construct it as opposed to a classic Dyson sphere built
around a main sequence star. Less than the material contained in our moon
in fact. A smaller sphere also makes earth-like gravity
possible, which is a problem for larger spheres. The one drawback, however, is that less energy
is available. A white dwarf emits far less energy than a
main sequence star like the sun. While it should be enough energy to sustain
an advanced civilization if they were frugal, it would be low enough energy not to emit
much infrared, the gold standard for detecting Dyson spheres. Given that we’re dealing with a universe that’s
currently bursting with stellar energy, these types of tiny spheres may not yet be common. It would seem to make more sense to colonize
high energy stars, at least for civilizations that behave like us. Though if a civilization doesn’t need much
energy, which is a possibility, they may choose to go this route. But in the far future when energy resources
become scarce, these kinds of Dyson Spheres might become common as outposts of life in
a dying universe. We may even have our own. Thanks for listening! I am futurist and science fiction author John
Michael Godier and be sure to check out my books at your favorite online book retailer
and subscribe to my channel for regular, in-depth explorations into the interesting, weird and
unknown aspects of this amazing universe in which we live.

58 thoughts on “Ancient Civilizations and Tiny Dyson Spheres

  1. Dyson Sphere?? Impractical, top much resources needed to build such structures just build interstellar ships not of course interplanetary.

  2. Thank you for the video.

    I still wonder whether there is a way for an advanced civilization to use the waste heat we want to detect them with. If so, you'd think they would do it to the best of their ability. That would make it even harder to find them by looking for their heat signature.

  3. 0:30 – 0:33 "Only a few hundred thousand years" ‽‽ I think you mean a 'few hundred million years'.

  4. Another great video John, thank you. I especially like your optimism, but really now…a few hundred thousand years? There is too much hate and stupidity for mankind to last even a few hundred years more, I doubt seriously that we'll ever get past our infancy.

  5. Random question: what do you think the chances are that aliens visited our solar system at some point in the ancient past?

  6. White dwarf need not form, we can lift natter off of the sun via refocusing some radiation from it and super heating parts of it causing it to evaporate off the surface and catching it in magnetic fields set around the sun causing the sun to shrink to red dwarf and never go giant

  7. Thanks for another great video. Also another reason for not yet detecting dyson swarms/spheres that currently exist…possibly

  8. pffft…. more fake "science"…. the Sun is electrically powered…. the Universe is electric…. the Universe won't end…. ridiculous idea….
    for real science go to Thunderbolts Project….

  9. You can get a steady supply of energy from a white dwarf by dropping matter onto it. This would be a controllable flow well in excess of normal emissions, especially at the later stages.

  10. What about start lifting to control the amount of fuel of a star. It should be possible to completely remove all fuel from a star for more efficient means of energy production such as controlled fusion or throwing it into an artificial microblackhole.

  11. What about star lifting the sun before it goes red giant, thus extending it's life? Could that also produce a white dwarf I also wonder?

    Edit: I see a lot of comments are mentioning star lifting actually, I guess I'm not a special snowflake after all, and I'm sure you're well aware of the idea.

  12. I thought you might have mentioned the Star lifting, Huff and Puff method for saving the star! possibly a bit far fetched but if possible then shaving matter off the Sun will give us needed elements as well as possibly making the star live longer by being smaller! 🙂 p.s. love the show

  13. One good idea that has been largely overlooked is the Bernal sphere. This is a hollow sphere that could be made any diameter from 200 metres (3 RPM to create 1g) to 1.6 kilometers (1 RPM for 1g) up to 100 kilometers (1 revolution every 8 minutes to create 1g) and support thousands or millions of colonists. The gravity would vary from 1g at the equator to lower gravity nearer the polar regions and sunlight could be directed into the interior by mirrors. We could start building these now.

  14. have you seen this article?

  15. who gives a thumbs down to this??? as bender would say " ohh humans!"
    I looked up the odds on discovering alien live in the next few years 1_7 ,there are not many poor bookmakers
    jwst directly observing the atmospheres of distant planets , there's a possibility we see just chemistry but seems so unlikely to me
    by the way john I think the woman searching for second earth Genesis in arsenic rich enviroments was called Wolfe
    & 5 to 6 k subscribers went fast eh , congrats you deserve it ,always glad to see a new post from you, thick and fast lately ,but not much on second channel?

  16. wouldn't any Dyson sphere have an inferred signature? unless they found away around the basics of physics and heat radiation.

  17. Now there is rising a new kind of crazy people who believe in a new kind of religion. The heaven is the universe, the aliens are the gods. Watch out!

  18. Would tapping stars of other universes, or perhaps even travelling to them, be a solution? M-theory states that the universe is a result of the collision of two large energy membranes striking one another, and the result crash and "spark" was the big bang that put us and everything else here. If that's the case, then would leaving our universe and trying to time another collision or perhaps even induce one be "a thing" to do to keep our civilization going?

  19. Who says they haven't been here already. Also, written "human history" is only about 10 to 12,000 years old. Who knows who was around before that.

  20. Why are Dyson Sphere's the end result of an energy using civilization? wouldn't any technological civilization that could actually build a Dyson Sphere also have invented the technology of direct matter to energy conversion? E=mc2 gives you power from any object made up of atoms if you know how to unlock that power. we do it with fission already, stars do it naturally by fusion. why build giant spheres to capture energy?

    even more advanced civilizations would be able to harness the energy that black holes radiate. if we can already conceive of such ideas now, by the time the sun becomes a red giant, not only should we be able to stop that but we should also be able to move the Earth if we have to. plus by then we should have explored and colonized the galaxy even if we don't ever develop FTL.

    100 million years from now, assuming humans don't go extinct, i would imagine that most of the people living in the solar system would be living on mini-ringworlds or other types of giant human-built space communities. Earth would most likely be a nature preserve. Mars and the other planets aren't really useful, for research and early attempts to live off-earth, sure. but Mar's low gravity can't be worked around (an artificial gravity generator for a entire planet would be too energy wasteful. adding mass would be impractical). Venus is worse. ( an interplanetary teleport pump that could transport a good percentage of Venus' atmosphere to Mars would be neat.)

    i think that it's crazy and illogical to even assume what our technology will be capable of in 100 years, let alone 100 million. and absolutely insane to think we can even imagine what an alien species will become over a million year or so lifespan.

  21. The very attractive aspect of building a Swarm around a White Dwarf is its reliable, and DURABLE energy output. It would make a very good long-term (Billions of years long-term) investment compared with main sequence stars, and who's to say that the energy demands of such a Type II civilisation would not be more than met? Harvesting even a significant portion of the energy from our Sun's white dwarf remnant in the future would still provide MANY orders of magnitude more available energy than we receive right now (we currently intercept about 0.000000045% of our sun's output!). Seems "White Dwarf Farming" might be a very sensible solution for any reasonably-advanced civilisation.

  22. You would think if an advanced civilization needs energy, they could simply figure out a way to cheaply convert matter into antimatter. There's bound to be a more efficient-way to do it than our primitive brute force methods. We create it randomly by slamming high energy particles together in particle beams. If we knew exactly what "charge" was, maybe we could manipulate it much easier. Like, I don't know… hitting a particle with several short-pulses of low-energy laserlight to polarize it, and then hit it with a high-energy beam in the opposing axis to flip the charge. Total bullshit example, but some trick like that, rather than brute force.

  23. What a great idea! If we cage a star in and EAT it's light, that wouldn't reflect the dark life-eating forces of a cancer at all!

  24. From s Sci Fi point of view this concept could be useful for a civilization that cannot leave it's home system. There are stars in the vast voids of space between galaxies for instance but the density are horribly low.

  25. All these depictions of “space farms” are ludicrous. We are going to evolve to become just some some sort of self aware intelligences, just consciousnesses nestled into some kind of hardware that will not need any kind of biological life support. Our bodies were built by evolution to suit this earthly environment and are no good anywhere else in the cosmos. Whenever mankind gets so advanced that it really becomes able to explore and manipulate the cosmos, it will no longer be “mankind” as we know and perceive it today.

  26. John,
    I always enjoy your videos; the topics you discuss are always thought-provoking and challenging.

    There is one point, however, that needs to be clarified with this video. Our sun does NOT begin to pose a problem for us "after a few hundred thousand years". You're off by three orders of magnitude. The Standard Solar Model predicts a 10% increase in solar luminosity over one billion years or an increase of 1% every 100 million years; thus, we won't see any significant change until after a few hundred "million" years and thus, we still have time. However, after the 1 billion year mark, we will experience a runaway greenhouse with the earth unable to adjust and after 1.5 billion years hence, the oceans will have boiled away – and the sun will be only 15% more luminous than it is today and still on the main sequence! This happens long before the first red giant phase.

    Regarding Dyson spheres, I think far too much is being made of them; specifically "Tabby's" star: KIC-8462852. There is no Dyson Sphere surrounding this star, in part or in total. The mass required to build a 1-meter thick Dyson sphere with a 1 AU radius around any star would require One-Jupiter-mass of material (assuming an average density of 5,000 kg/m^3) combined with the harvesting, transport and refinement of such material. KIC-8462852 lies in Cygnus in a very dense and rich part of the Milky Way; the star's anomalous light fluctuations are most likely just random debris along our line-of-sight or in the star's environs or perhaps even the "comet swarm" that has been suggested but it most certainly is NOT a Dyson Sphere.

    Regarding building a Dyson sphere around a white dwarf, even one of the more luminous white dwarfs (~0.001 solar luminosities) with a 100% energy efficiency, the completed Dyson sphere would produce 3 x 10^23 watts. Using 2015 numbers, the combined world energy consumption for that year was approximately 6 x 10^20 joules or 19 Terrawatts and we're a level 0 civilization – basically one notch above cave dwellers compared to a civilization whose age is measured in millions or billions of years (which is what the premise of the video was). This is approximately one part in 1.5 billion of the total energy produced by our white dwarf Dyson sphere (assuming 100% energy efficiency). That might sound like a lot but that is CURRENT energy consumption. One has to ask what the energy consumption will be in 1,000 or 1,000,000 years if we even survive to the next century? The other question that arises is: will there be any planets remaining (for raw materials) around the white dwarf? The cost of building such a Dyson sphere might outweigh the benefits but then, if that's all that's left, you might need to build more than one (assuming you can find and/or travel to other white dwarfs).

  27. John Michael Godier. You call yourself a futurist, what exactly does that mean? I am of an older generation and not au fait with modern terminology.
    Also would it not be easier to terraform bodies such as Jupiter's or Saturn's moons than to move the Earth? That makes me think of that old sci-fi TV programme Space 1999 where the Moon was blown out of the Solar System and travelled the depths of space.

  28. personally i think any civilization having the resources and technological capability to build a dyson sphere would b able to come up with something alot better. i think there have been major breakthroughs in energy production hete on earth that have been suppressed to maintain status quo.

  29. why don't u do one on moving planets or moons , to like take Europa and smash it into say venus to give venus water ect..

  30. We will learn to harvest the energy of our solar system & than our galaxy! We will feed our sun back to life , we have more than enough time to make this happen! Everything we need for long term survival is right here in our galaxy.

  31. The more I watch these videos the less I believe these super advanced ideas… I love the speculation but I feel like there are obvious reasons why the speculation is strictly fictional. That takes the speculation from interesting to irritating.

  32. You have piled so many assumptions upon assumptions. It’s no wonder we have found no alien civilizations. Look at the simple economics of it. And why do you say the nation state is something we need to move past? What’s the alternative and why do you think that’s more conducive to space colonization?

  33. Here’s an odd thing to ponder. What if the reason we don’t see any alone civilizations is because they all cloak themselves?
    What if what we call dark matter isn’t dark by nature and is only so because aliens have obscured the stars view from us. Not like they are blocking them from us on purpose, as in they don’t want us to see them, but just for energy use.
    It actually seems a simpler solution to the problem of extra gravity in the universe than making up some crazy dark matter thing that doesn’t seem to fit in with natural laws or physics as we know it. Could be an Occams Razor kind of solution. heheh.

  34. Perhaps earthlings will be a type 3 civilisation by then and the species will be intergalactic colonisers. I wish I will be around but……

  35. Can Dyson swamp harvesting the hydrogen for our future fusion reactor? That will some what mitigate the energy output problem of the white dwarf…

  36. I'm imagining in the far future having gaint layered iron foil balloons filled with hydrogen to save fuel to refuel stars
    Excellent video as always

  37. This is why we haven't advanced at all in the last 50 years. Pop science is all about thought experiments as apposed to actual experiments that provide facts. And before someone says computers and cell phones we had those back in the 1960s.

  38. The problem with engineering on a scale anywhere near what we are talking about here is the "means of production" and control of the "means of production".
    The principal behind "any government powerful enough to give you anything you want, is powerful enough to take everything you have" is in play here.
    Even is a decentralized methodology of funding and managing a solar system type project will somewhere have the possibility of corruption. Whether corruption happens a matter of time. Given about 15 minutes we will have corruption.

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