The odd thing about the space elevator is it is so obvious. I thought of the idea independently when I was about fifteen. I even sketched it and did some rudimentary sums and the forgot. I really did. This is not a “Nick’s so clever” post. It is a Nick’s converging on the same track as almost everyone else who cares about this extraordinarily simple fact.
We are on one of eight planets. This blog is hosted in Brisbane. I have the money in my current account to be there with my posidrives (if they let them on the ‘plane) tomorrow (whatever that actually is in Brisbane). I am not a rich man. It is hardly exotic is it?
What is exotic is “up” not “around” (been there done that, got the postcard yet?). Now, don’t get me wrong some people are doing the right thing. LISA (or similar – gravity wave interferometer) looks like it might happen – eventually. I shall personally disembowel with the bluntest thing in my cutlery drawer any US President who cancels the Webb ‘scope (Hubble replacement) and “private space” is going great guns. The Aussies (bless ‘em) have even got a beer for space tourists! Just down the road from me Jodrell Bank will be the focus (not technically the focus but you know what I mean – “In’t the Universe like fukin’ brilliant our kid”! quoth Prof Cox) of the Square Kilometre Array. Yeah, the same Jodrell Bank that way back when this website had a black background was threatened with closure for the want of three million quid! Excellent! Excellent that it is happening at all and doubly so that it is happening on my doorstep. No, I’m seriously not saying government ought to hose monies at science but considering that it generally pisses it up the wall on things that very frequently are less than wasted….
What I’m saying is if the government has to spend your money (and mine) then I want it spent on true magnificence and not “obesity co-ordinators”. I can get fat off my own bat.
Back to me. Sort of. In 1995 I started my MSc in astrophysics (yeah, I have a dog in this fight but mine really is worthwhile – do I need to say why? If so I have lost you and you can grab your coat on the way out and basically I hope the door doesn’t bang your arse) at Queen Mary, London. I met a Spaniard there and you know what? She’d only written her undergrad dissertation on the space elevator! I was like wow! I really was. The idea, like so many others, like the Silbervogel or whatever had just been in the aether (which Einstein demonstrated doesn’t so much not exist as just not matter – ouch!).
Whether or not great minds think alike is irrelevant. Competent ones can do and we were far from alone. Both Agnetha and I had dreamed independently of something grand and this was not the meeting in a pub in Stepney of two geniuses. It was better than that for it was written on a beer mat. It was simply the realisation that it could be done and that we were not alone in conceiving this scheme. Yeah, I know it was not original but it honestly had been to me and her. That is my point. If the idea can occur without separate cause to the likes of me or Agnetha then…
… Maybe it’s a good one. Not an Earth-shaker. Not a Quantum Mechanics or whatever but basically, physically, (the engineering is as ever something else – I have have the greatest respect for engineers – they make dreams real – and that is way cool) absolutely obvious.
So I dreamed it up myself. And so did Agnetha. And so did so many others… It is a curious feeling you get at 22 when you have a scheme and look at the literature and discover it isn’t original. You get torn between not being the first to see the promised land and the reassurance that the promised land actually exists and your navigation was not so mad after all. But I was a true physicist so I was happy (my pride and evil are almost separate). You catch me in the right light and I am still that idealistic – though fleeting now. Anything that truly matters belongs to nobody by which I mean everybody of course.
No, it isn’t like being Abel Tasman – it’s something else. I can’t really explain it. It is the thrill of seeing the fire even if that fire is not you. It’s way cool anyway. God alone knows what it must felt like to be Einstein or Feynman. I have a picture of Richard Feynman at the Nobel awards “do” in ’65 and he’s in evening dress with a fuck-off cigar and a cunt-off grin. Feynman shared the 1965 Nobel for Physics. Chemistry, if you ask me (which you won’t), is just for gayers who can’t hack the mathematics of real scence. I mean really what is the point of chemistry. “It turns blue”. Whatever!
Anyway, back to my dream…
That really could be built for ten billion in ten years. The bill for a sports day in London is double that at least. Regardless of whether Boris Johnson plays “Wiff Waff” or not.
I just want to go home – that is always what I wanted – I’m verging on the paranoid on that score. But I won’t and neither shall you. It could happen technically but it just won’t.
Our dreams must outlive us I guess.