twinkle, twinkle

Eugene Leitl (
Sun, 22 Dec 1996 19:40:43 +0100 (MET)

I've never seen a definite answer to a recurring pet idea of mine: to
(transiently) stellify Jupiter by means of a nuke detonated in its
metallic (or at least somewhere deep enough where hydrogen is
sufficiently dense) hydrogen layer. You know, it's Christmas, and
twinkle, twinkle. Why not?

Why has this not happened before naturally? Shoemaker-Levy went by far
not deep enough, and was by far not hot enough (we'd need 100 MK, not 100
kK) the total energy release was sure enormous, but it was much too
difuse, and it affected atmospherical layers which were not dense enough.
A hardened thermonuclear charge can descend pretty far down, before
rising pressure and temperature would grew unberable for its electronics
and the chemical explosive primer. So we let off the firecracker just
before it would go fizz-fizz, just by itself.

What would happen? Either nothing (has anybody calculated this?), or we'd
start a fusion reaction, which would blast a considerable (yet
negligeable in relation to the residue) amount of hot hydrogen into the
sky, leaving the result somewhat hotter than it was before. Thusly we
might fabricate a short-lived ersatz Sun for the Jovian satellite system,
to better mine them (solar power is terribly thin out there). (Now why
must I instantly think of that Clarke chap?)

Since we are at madcap ideas, again: I've been reading up on some
preliminary prospection, erm, cosmochemistry. What is the legal
situation: which country/person owns the Moon? Phobos? Is this a claim
thing, first comes first, or is it currently legally undefined? I'd
assume the latter. As you doubtlessly know, unmanned LEO launch capacity
will soon grew progressively cheaper and cheaper, currently there are (tiny)
amateur satellites up there. Assuming one would start a large private
project, with the goal of constructing a smallish von-Neumann probe (the
Moon, or a suitable asteroid for target), complete with an ion drive
sufficiently strong to carry it from MEO. Of course, one would need much
better digital electronics, and through research into industrial
processes in hard-vacuum/low-grav conditions, but we might be ready to
launch such a beastie 20-30 years from now. After the stuff arrives,
unfolds, autoreplicates, etc. etc. you could ferry around (solar sails)
arbitrary amounts of processed materials, e.g. nickel-iron steel, organics
(plastics, etc.) titanium, platinum, solar cells, whatever. One could
deliver the stuff by ballistic course to any place on Earth, using the
atmospheric layer for decceleration.

What's your oppinion, when will the general public realize that all above
is not just another fraudulent scheme, and would invest in such a company?


P.S. Anybody knows where one can read up on Alan Guth from MIT,
preferably on the web? Thanks!

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