Energy Minimum Road to Outer Space

Energy Minimum Road to Outer Space


A Christmas message to starfarers

Posted by Rohvannyn on December 10, 2011 at 3:40 AM

This entry will deal with teleportation among other things and the connections between ideas and events which can make life so interesting and sometimes surprising. The Christmas of 1965 saw me residing 2,400 miles from my home, going to a boarding school in Washington State while my parents and younger sister lived in Ann Arbor Michigan where we owned a dry cleaning plant. Flying home on the Eve of Christmas, I fell into conversation with a young man, one of my seatmates who was also flying to Detroit with his wife and baby daughter. We discovered a shared interest in science fiction books and movies as well as space travel. He introduced me to the idea of matter transmission as a way of traveling in space. He said one might turns one's body into light then travel at the speed of light and turn oneself back into matter at the receiving station.

A couple of years previously I'd run across a similar idea on Superman (the daily half hour drama, not the cartoon), in which the Professor finds a way to send people over the telephone since your body is mostly empty space. "Why thank you Professor," Lois Lane coos. A few days after my flight I was again to hear about matter transmission in a somewhat more memorable fashion.

A year before Star Trek began we had something called Lost in Space, a one-hour SF serial on Wednesday night. Scientific exactitude or realism was almost totally absent but some fascinating things, at least for us kids, happened and it was expected to outlast Star trek. The episode which aired the Wednesday after Christmas of 1965 was Number 16 and showed the younger of the Robinson family, Will and Penny, playing with some equipment left behind by an alien race called the Sargons. One item turned out to be a matter transmitter which allowed Will to travel back to earth and return (just barely) before the machine blew up.

From that time on the idea of being somehow "transported" on a laser or maser beam became something of an obsession and the Star Trek phenomenon of course lent further fuel to that fire. One afternoon in sixth grade I designed a sheet metal robot directed by clock work mechanisms, and a matter transmitter. (A highly productive day I thought.) My matter transmitter worked by vibrating something, a piece of wood, a mouse, a human being apart with powerful ultrasonic noise, and the resulting atoms or subatomic particles being directed into the path of a laser beam which was supposed to sweep the particles along like silt in a river current. It was hoped that when the beam reached it's destination the assemblage would somehow just reconstruct itself into a solid body. (Well I was only eleven and much of my scientific preparation had been obtained watching Felix the Cat and My Favorite Martian.)

In truth I had no real idea how transmission was accomplished. I guess I thought that if one could somehow capture and examine the waves emanating from a TV transmitting station, one would see pictures which swept through the air to land in our home sets. It wasn't until the summer following my

9th Grade year when among 20 or so books I read Arthur C. Clarke's fascinating Profiles of the Future that I understood through analogy with television, how a matter transmitter or teleporter might at least in theory, work. As Clarke pointed out, pictures and sounds are not sent via radio waves. What are sent are the patterns from which pictures and sounds can be constructed.

By the time I was perhaps half way through my Sophomore year I'd visualized a bank of ion sprayers which could build up a variety of objects from supplies of constituent elements. It seemed sort of daunting to try and build up a mammal through such a process but perhaps a machine could someday assemble constituent lying cells all supplied with one's genetic coding, into fully functional bodies. Soon I got the ideas of transmitting the Experience of being somewhere via a remote robot and a wired suit which the stay at home traveler could wear, as well as that of cloning someone at a remote distance and sending the original's brain/mind patterns via a radio signal.

From time to time in college I looked at the idea of what I came to call Pantoformation, or making virtually any shape imaginable by means of magnetically deforming a material or depositing streams of charged atoms or subatomic particles onto a build area in order to made tools, utensils, perhaps entire machines.

Around 1988 I conceived a desire to make objects from plastic, to have a single machine or set of processes which could generate any shape I told it to. I imagined describing a shape into a computer using some sort of drawing program then printing out cross sections of the shape on paper. The sheets of paper would then be scanned with a laser, which would burn holes where black ink existed and leave white areas in tact. The sheets stacked up would form something I thought of as a Brissle Mold which might be parked in a vacuum chamber and molten bronze for instance or even glass might be poured into the tiny vertical channels caused by stacking up the lasered holes in the sheets of paper. We'd then have a skeleton, rather like a sculpted hair brush which could either be dipped into plastic then surface wiped or in the case of the bronze option, placed in a solution and electroplated with aluminum until we had a solid artifact.

These and other notions frequented my thoughts and journal entries for a couple of decades then one day in 2006 while trying to find out if anyone had made any progress building up significant objects by means of ion deposition, I accidentally ran across the concept of fabbing, first selective laser sintering then the Reprap Project and Fused Deposition. Since that time my life hasn't really been the same.

Five days ago a couple of my friends and I completed the first of my

3-D fabbers, something called a Cupcake CNC by Makerbot (, It works by forcing molten ABS plastic (what Lego Bricks are made from) through a nozzle and building up line by line, sheet by sheet, a solid object. It's quite a way from transmitting human travelers through space to building up small objects with what's essentially a glue gun with an attitude but it's a start.

If we're to have star travel sometime in our future I suspect it might come about through bodies essentially artificial, part machine, part living, transported to distant star systems on relatively slow-traveling spacecraft without need of life support or elbow-room; to be animated at journey's end by means of mind patterns transmitter by laser, perhaps from persons still living as or long after the starship is launched. Will the minds which inhabit these cyborg bodies be the same ones that were transmitted from Earth, the Moon, Mars, wherever Star Fleet Control may be? Perhaps, perhaps not. However, I can say I've never been to the moon but still feel it's worth going even if the other guy gets the ride.

Ultimately a sort of teleportational transmission may achieve us the stars even if all we send of ourselves is our minds. In the meantime though we'll need 3-D fabbers on the Moon, asteroids in space itself to help us manufacture everything from solar arrays to robots which in return build human habitats, power beam projectors to propel our starships, catapults to move materials around the solar system and beyond and the future itself!


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