Re: Novas

Anders Sandberg (
Thu, 17 Oct 1996 13:15:38 +0200 (MET DST)

On Wed, 16 Oct 1996 wrote:

> Robin Hanson wrote:
> >could someone nova our star, or galactic centre?
> Forrest Bishop: wrote:
> >Yes [then a story about inducing a fusion reaction in the
> outer layers of the sun]
> Does not sound plausible to me. First, if you would
> literally nova our "star" you would have to increase its
> mass by 40% -quite a heavy initiator!

That would of course be a "natural" supernova, based on the same
principles as real supernovae. I think just a major flare-up would be
enough for most purposes.

The trick is to get the star to increase its energy output drastically.
In a supernova, the core collapses until a "rebounce" occurs when a lot
of energy is released and shockwaves appear due to exclusion forces. If
we could induce a helium flash in the sun we would get a much smaller
effect, but probably enough to devastate the inner planets. And that
could perhaps be induced by compressing the core using technomagic, but
it sounds quite hard.

> Moreover, a supernova explodes at only about 15000 km/sec,
> which an advanced civilisation could perhaps be possible to
> run away from. A lot of the energy is also released in the
> form of neutrinos, which travel at approximately the speed
> of light; but then again there is a very small cross section
> for neutrino reactions, so one could stand a very heavy
> neutrino shower without getting hurt.

Apparently (according to what I read in the latest thread on this subject
in a year back), the neutrino shower is so intense
that it can be deadly in the entire solar system. And the x-ray pulse is
going at c (but delayed compared to the neutrinos), so the civilization
will have to run very fast.

> An "electomagnetic pulse of unspeakable amplitude" (Forrest
> Bishop) would also seem like science fiction proper.

OK, here is an absurd weapon me and my friends cooked up: Create a
toroidal black hole by fusing a lot of stars into a big ring. It will
collapse near c, and drag together the galactic magnetic field inside the
loop. Once it collapses topology change has to occur or it will have to
radiate away the collected energy - the result will still be a nasty
blast of gravity waves and emp. Not that it is particularly efficient
(compare this to the cosmic string weapons of _Ring_ by Baxter and _Tides
of Light_ by Benford).

> It is important that we use realistic assumptions about the
> conditions of cosmic warfare in our simulations. Since there
> are still many unsolved problems in fundamental physics, I
> suggest we set up several simulations with different
> parameters for weapon technology. There are several relevant
> variables here, such as projectile speed, production cost,
> identifiability of aggressor, technology level required for
> its manufacture, discrimination capabilities ("hurt only the
> bad guys"), etc. Maybe the time is ripe to begin to try to
> really work this out.

Good points. Personally I think this kind of hyperweapons we discuss
above are very unlikely - they are too indiscriminate and require a lot
of energy/work. "Perversion attacks" a la Vinge are more likely -
infiltrate the enemy with nanites or AI viruses, and then destroy him
subtly. One could imagine tiny berzerkers (gremlins?) that move around a
la von Neumann probes, and when they find a civilization they study it,
send out very subtle agents, and then plans its downfall using SI.

Anders Sandberg Towards Ascension!
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y