Multiple Level Biospheres

David Musick (
Wed, 2 Oct 96 04:29:48 UT

I very recently thought of an interesting mega-scale engineering project that
I've never heard suggested before. To be cost-effective, it will require a
certain level of nanotechnology (although not the genie-in-a-box variety). I
was thinking: why not enclose the entire earth, atmosphere included, in one
big shell, which is grounded in place by several large posts that reach from
the upper atmosphere, down to the hard surface of the earth. The posts could
even be huge cities, if desired, and they could provide an elevator to the
outside (using space-ships that are propelled by magnetic fields, similar to
the way maglev trains work). Now, the first problem with this is that the sun
would be blocked out and we'd all die. But, this problem can be overcome by
coating the outside of the shell with solar cells to gather energy and coating
the inner layer of the shell with lights that emit the same spectrum that the
sun does (or even a more desirable spectum, if we want). We can also build
huge fins on the outside of the shell, which are also coated with solar
collectors, to gather even more energy, to be used however we desire.

The shell could be built to be very strong, strong enough to provide us
adequate protection from very large asteroids (perhaps we could even surround
the earth with probes that watch out for and explode any large asteroids or
meteors that are approaching earth, so that the shell gets hit by many small
fragments, spread out, rather than having all of its momentum concentrated in
a small area, which could pierce the shell.) The shell could also be very
insulating, to keep a great deal of our heat energy inside, rather than
allowing it to be expelled into space so quickly. Since we're controlling how
much energy is being radiated from the lights overhead, we could regulate the
temperature. We could also build devices which pull extra heat out of the air
and store it for later use. We would have excellent climate control, as we
could regulate the temperature and amount of light received in various areas.
If we wanted, we could make the whole earth warmer and more suitable for a
greater abundance of living things. The polar ice-caps would melt, but that's
not a serious problem because we could build enormous areas of land which
float on the ocean and provide more landspace for living things. We could
also provide lights on the underside of the floating landmasses so that the
ocean life would continue to flourish and not be shaded by the land. We could
also provide considerable air space under the floating landmasses for
creatures which like to come to the surface and take a breath of air. Hell,
we could even provide landmasses under the landmasses, for creatures to crawl
upon and live on.

Now, I'm having the idea that we could make several levels of shells, with
lots of space between shells, and we could have the outside surface of each
shell coated with a thick layer of land as well as oceans and other bodies of
water. We could have several concentric biospheres. We would gather energy
from the sun and transfer the appropriate amount to the lights on each level.
And if we need more energy, we can build bigger fins. We can also use nuclear
power, of course. Another way to get energy is to drill very deeply into the
earth and use the heat energy there.

For all these biosphere shells, we need lots of materials. We can get them
from the earth and from other sources, such as the asteroid belt, the moon. I
have nothing against taking apart mercury or venus or any of the other planets
and using them also. Eventually, we could keep taking material from the crust
of the earth to build new biosphere levels, use the heat energy of the lower
layers, and as they cool off, use that material to build more shells and
continue working in until the entire earth is turned into one huge,
multi-leveled, life-filled starship.

I'm still trying to figure out what the gravitational pull would be like in
the center-most layers, since they would pretty much be surrounded with lots
of mass. I'm thinking that the gravitational effect would be effectively
cancelled out down there since any mass in there would be getting pulled
nearly the same amount in every direction.

The earth would be much larger than it is right now, and it would probably
keep expanding as we added new layers. We may make its orbit larger as it
grows more massive. If we find some way to generate sufficient energy without
the sun, we could even leave the sun behind and fly the planet around the
universe wherever we wanted to. Or, even better, pull the hydrogen and helium
off the sun, use some kind of large fusion device to transform the hydrogen
and helium into whatever atoms we wanted and use them to continue expanding
the earth.

Now that we have the general idea of how this goes, I think it would be better
to have *many* of these kind of structures, which keep expanding and making
more room for life, rather than just one. This would allow for more diverse
types of biospheres and would be a good safeguard, in case something goes
horribly wrong in one of them. Then, when all the matter in this solar system
has being used by life, we can start travelling around to other star systems
and make use of the matter that exists there.

There was a thread going where someone was saying the life would transform
itself into a neutron star and just sit where it was and compute away, not
sending out any probes because they would be too costly. It may not send out
probes, but I don't see why it wouldn't propell itself around to various star
systems and grab up all the matter and energy there. Certainly *that* would
be cost-effective.

Well, these are just some more ideas to get us thinking. Of course, there's
lots of variations of these ideas that one could follow, and I'd be interested
to read any that any of you come up with.

- David Musick