Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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And now for a BIG SF CONCEPT

Have you ever heard of this?

The Shkadov Thruster, which is a giant mirror meant to let you move your entire solar system from one place to another, assuming you think it would be handy to do so. Don’t like the neighborhood? Got a supernova a bit too close for comfort, maybe? Or is your own sun moving into the uncomfortable red giant stage? Well, no problem: here you go.

“The scope of the operation—fashioning Mercury-sourced hematite into thin sheets, connecting them in space, and orienting them into a growing megastructure at a considerable distance from Earth—certainly exceeds our logistical abilities, to put it mildly. Yet building a Shkadov Thruster would not be an unfathomable technological and engineering leap. “At small scale, present-day technology is able to manage all the operations needed,” Badescu says.

Good to know, good to know. Mind you, even if we decided to drag the solar system into a new location, you’d have time to finish that cup of coffee and the most recent Laura Florand novel before we got there:

A trip with a Shkadov Thruster would be slow going at first, at least in relative terms. The sun is already moving around the center of the Milky Way at a relative speed of about 500,000 miles per hour. The first few million years of Shkadov thrusting “may only slightly change the usual trajectory of the sun,” Badescu says.

Over the course of geological time, however, that bonus oomph adds up as the sun accelerates along its new path. “After 200 million years,” Badescu says, “the distance between the perturbed and unperturbed positions of the sun is on the order of 10 to 40 parsecs,” or 30 to 130 light-years.

Within the billion years we have left before the warming sun wipes us out, that level of displacement would be plenty to save Earth’s bacon. Many dozens of reachable stars suitable for hosting Earth surely could be found within a few hundred light-years.

Anyway, this makes me want to go re-read THE INTEGRAL TREES by Niven, and look up other Big Structure SF. Of course Kim Stanley Robinson does a lot of Big Stuff. I’m very slowly re-reading BLUE MARS right now, a few pages at a time because it’s not what you would call catchy, which is what makes it perfect for dipping into while I deal with the cascading action of my own WIP’s climactic scenes.

Anyway, while we’re sort of on the subject, you may remember that THE INTEGRAL TREES got a great Michael Whelan cover:

IntegralTrees

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3 Comments And now for a BIG SF CONCEPT

  1. charlotte

    It has been a long long time since I read The Integral Trees! Just checked–the public libraries still have it, so maybe someday I’ll go there again….

  2. Craig

    Greg Benford and Larry Niven collaborated on a two-book series about a construct that is close to one of these: Bowl of Heaven and Shipstar. (It uses an additional mechanism to move significantly faster than 1 millionth lightspeed.) I read them earlier this year but, alas, don’t think they came anywhere close to fulfilling their potential.

  3. Rachel

    Too bad, but I think I’ll skip them. But eventually I should re-read The Integral Trees and maybe the sequel.

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