Friday, January 21, 2005

Space Nerd, continued

Adam mentioned space elevators, so I have to continue...

There's at least three different "inventors" of the space elevator. Many people credit Arthur C. Clarke with popularizing the idea, others (including Clarke himself) note that a Russian by the name of Artusanov came up with it first. However, before either of these men, Konstantin Tsiolkovskii was inspired by the sight of the Eiffel Tower (believe it or not) and added to his already-huge reputation in early space concepts by noting that, if you could find a material strong enough, you could build a elevator to orbit, meaning that all you pay for the cost of lifting something in to space is the electrical bill - and not even that if you have an equal mass coming down while you're lifting.

Tsiolkovskii is really a legendary figure in space history. He basically taught himself physics and then invented the rocket equation, which is still used today in basic rocket designs. Many people today, including John Lewis (who's written some excellent books on what he calls "space resources utilization") credit Tsiolkovskii with identifying all the key problems to space colonization, and theorizing the technologies needed to overcome them (in-space agriculture, spinning habitats for artificial gravity, solar power, etc.) Tsiolkovskii died in 1935. That should give you an idea of how ahead of his times he was.

And, to bring it full circle, what material is widely considered the future building block of space elevators? Carbon-60, aka carbon nanotubes, aka Buckminsterfullerenes.

I think we need a new game - Six Degrees of Bucky Fuller. Everything nerdy is connected to him!

(Note - extra points to Adam for pointing out how truly nerdy I am in comments)

1 comment:

adam said...

Hot damn!

Thanks for the history lesson and links. I knew that nanotubes were cool, but I had no idea just how cool they were. I really need to spend more time on wikipedia and less watching captain planet reru..

.. wait scratch that last bit.