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Many traditional space settings feature cloaking devices, which, given what is required for them to work indefinitely against detection in space, imply ability to 'dump' waste heat 'into nowhere' (most common description seems to be 'into subspace') to the point of keeping the external temperature of the craft comparable to that of cosmic background radiation - essentially like a radiator whose irradiated heat never heats up any surrounding objects.

Now, obviously that looks scary from the PoV of conservation of energy, but upon closer inspection, it just means that our universe isn't treated as a closed system, and the 'bottomless heatsink' is acting as a weird radiator pointed 'elsewhere'.

However, like many engineering solutions, surely this invention can be put to purposes other than the above one!

What are those alternative applications and how revolutionary are they likely to be?

A note on jumping to the most obvious answer, power generation: is it likely to be efficient enough to be revolutionary? If yes, to what degree?

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  • $\begingroup$ From our help center: what question should I avoid asking: [...] your answer is provided along with the question, and you expect more answers. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica May 30 at 13:46
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    $\begingroup$ Just to add a little caveat to what @L.Dutch said, you are allowed to answer your own question - which is actively encouraged by the site - just not in the body of the question. You can add your answer, or your attempt to answer your question, in the “answer” section (you’ll have to press a button which says “answer your own question” at the bottom of the page, you’ll get a pop-up box and then, once closed, you can answer the question as normal). $\endgroup$ – Liam Morris - Reinstate Monica May 30 at 14:03
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    $\begingroup$ Quite obviously the primary application of a bottomless heat sink is to build a perpetual motion machine of the 2nd kind which would be able to convert all the thermal energy of the universe into useful mechanical work. $\endgroup$ – AlexP May 30 at 14:13
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    $\begingroup$ I find the question on topic. The OP is making a suggestion but it's not a full answer and would not be counted as an answer if OP put it in an answer format. $\endgroup$ – Cyn says make Monica whole May 30 at 14:14
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site, vicky. Please note that the StackExchange format heavily favors a one-question-one-best-answer paradigm. "What can I do with X?" lacks the objective criteria to be able to determine which answer is best, or even if/how one answer is better or more complete than another. To answer this question, an answer would need to include every possible answer and detail how it would change the world/galaxy/universe. I consider that this fails the so-called book test: writing an answer to this would require a book. As such, I am voting to close as too broad. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre May 30 at 15:21
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If you have a bottomless heatsink you can generate free electricity by using the difference between ambient temperature on Earth and voids of subspace.

Basically an inverse refrigerator that generates electricity by cooling things. As it was pointed out in comments, a Stirling engine will suffice.

Doing this will probably also affect global warming positively. We can cool the planet while generating no new CO2.

So it will be very revolutionary, empires will rise and fall - oil prices will immediately plunge, as well as coal, while billions of people will cut their cords to power grids since they can make their own energy.

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    $\begingroup$ You're apparently talking about a Sterling Engine. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix May 30 at 14:26
  • $\begingroup$ Is there a way to estimate the efficiency of such an application? I.e. would such devices provide starkly more power than a fuel-using engine, or would they be a case of 'infinite energy, but at a slow rate'? Or would the outcome depend on some parameters that can be conveniently plugged into an equation? $\endgroup$ – vicky_molokh May 30 at 15:21
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    $\begingroup$ I would add one of these sinks to my traditional power plant immediately. The Carnot efficiency of my coal plant goes immediately from about 40% to nearly 100%. While running a cycle of ambient temperature would work and be efficient, it would not be nearly as power dense as one based on an otherwise conventional power plant. $\endgroup$ – Gary Walker May 30 at 17:48
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    $\begingroup$ Rodney McKay sends his regards, and would just like to say this was his idea first. :-) $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs May 30 at 20:17
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    $\begingroup$ You can also eliminate one of the largest expenses in residential (and many retail businesses and data centers) electricity consumption: Air conditioning/refrigeration. A lot of carbon dioxide is released in generating this electricity. Imagine alongside your electricity, water, sewer, natural gas, phone/cable lines, a pipe that can carry away all unwanted heat to the municipal Endless Heat Sink (presuming the technology is expensive enough we can't have micro heat sinks in our cooling appliances). $\endgroup$ – Monty Harder May 30 at 21:48
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Directed Energy Weapon Eater

one could armor something we wish to protect with the bottomless heatsink to protect it against directed energy weapons. So long as we can absorb all of the incident energy and the heat transfer rate to the bottomless heatsink is high enough, we can prevent the armor from melting. For more fun, we can use said absorbed heat to generate power. This probably won't protect your crew from getting irradiated by particle beam weapons without impractically thick armor

Industrial processes

Many industrial processes require heat to be removed. In chemical plants we wish to remove heat so that things may be condensed. A bottomless heatsink that can keep the external temperature of a spacecraft at 3K could make attaining cryogenic temperatures easy. We also get nifty things like self powered air separation plants. Because we have cheap cryogenics we could produce amorphous metal like we produce steel.

Keeping superconductors cool

With a bottomless heatsink, you don't need room temperature superconductors. Whether this makes superconductors more common or just a novelty for levitating cup-holders will depend on how cheap the bottomless heatsink is and how fast it can transfer heat. Superconducting power lines and maglevs might not necessarily happen just because of the issues with dealing with extremely cold things. For example, we can't just spray our bottomless heatsink on wires to make them superconduct and hang them up on power poles because they'll accumulate a layer of ice. Although if you can keep a spaceship's hull at 3K then you can probably also keep a bunch of loops of superconductor cool in space to trap antimatter orbiting in planetary magnetospheres

keeping quantum things cool

In addition to superconductivity we can exploit low temperatures for other weird quantum phenomenon like superfluidity, quantum computers, bose-einstein condensates. Determining the applications of such phenomenon is its own question, although I will point out that bose einstein condensates have been used to slow light down to 25 km/h.

Medicine

we can store medicines which need to be refrigerated passively. Blood, tissue, organs, could also be stored this way too. This removes the difficulty with keeping cryonics patients cool.

The ultimate beer koozie

It is said that if you give man the hand of god, he will almost immediately use it to scratch his behind. If the material is cheap enough it could be used to keep drinks cold passively. We can of course scale this up to a beer cooler which can keep drinks cold almost forever. The point here is that if your material is cheap enough, there are plenty of mundane applications. There are likely ample applications in cooking, with ice cream machine being the first thing that comes to mind. Because we can passively achieve cryogenic temperatures, we can make an LN2 ice cream machine that fits in a typical home kitchen.

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Stellar Exploration

Literally meaning coat your ship and go take measurements of the insides of the sun.

If you can do that then perhaps add a layer if to the sun to make it impossible to achieve helium fusion and stop the sun from expanding into a giant and swallow the Earth.

Condense Jupiter so we can suck out Liquid Hydrogen with a simple hose. For fusion fuel.

Would all that energy create a black hole?

Smaller more mobile spacesuits. Temp regulations is big part of current Designs.

Heat wears out critical piece of tools in industrial Machining. This would Increase wear life significantly.

If you can retrieve the heat you have perpetual motion. A loop of pipe with water and a waterwheel. Take heat from one side of the wheel. Pump the heat back into the water on the other side of the wheel. That should cause a flow of water spinning the wheel generating electricity.

Could this device condense the energy into matter?

I hope I have been helpful.

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    $\begingroup$ The water loop is cool, but a Peltier device would be simpler to maintain. $\endgroup$ – Xplodotron May 30 at 19:42
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Supercomputation. If that heat sink could be manufactured on a chip together with the transistors, it would enable Moore's law to continue unimpeded at least for decades - CPU speeds in hundreds of gigahertz, with many more transistors that could be placed much closer to each other, plus chips layered on top of each other.

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    $\begingroup$ Not sure that this is true. Just because the heat sink is bottomless doesn't mean there isn't still some limit on how quickly heat can be dumped from something into it. $\endgroup$ – Shufflepants May 30 at 21:57
  • $\begingroup$ If it can be used for absorbing nuclear meltdowns and exploring innards of the stars as other propose, then surely for this too. $\endgroup$ – Juraj May 30 at 22:30
  • $\begingroup$ Not necessarily. In both the star exploration and nuclear meltdown scenarios, the primary goal is containment. In those 2 scenarios, it doesn't matter how quickly the material absorbs heat, it only matters that none gets through to the other side. In the case of using it as a heat sink for a cpu, the transfer rate matters because you have to transfer it quickly enough so that the cpu doesn't melt. Though, this would be a different story if you could actually make the cpu itself out of this magic heat sink material. $\endgroup$ – Shufflepants May 31 at 15:07
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An end to nuclear meltdowns. If the device can draw off all forms of energy so as to leave an energy-emitting object invisible against the cosmic background, then it can certainly draw off enough energy from critical nuclear core to leave it safe for human handling and disposal. Install one under every nuclear reactor to "catch the core" as it melts down through its containment.

Stasis. For this technology to draw an object's temperature down to cosmic background, it must be actively withdrawing heat, not just collecting what is naturally emitted by the object. If that forced energy withdrawal can be carried to its logical extreme, we can stop all subatomic motion within an object. Larry Niven came up with some really creative uses for matter in stasis including single atom thick blades (which can cut through anything) and perfect cryogenic suspension.

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  • $\begingroup$ I would like to +1 this but I would like to see either an explanation how the stasis works to make things indestructible (cryogenics is understandable) or to have that removed. $\endgroup$ – Demigan May 30 at 16:41
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    $\begingroup$ In all the books by Niven that I have read, he simply stated that objects in a stasis fields have no subatomic motion and are therefore invulnerable to exterior forces. He describe such stasis-held objects as perfectly reflective, returning all exterior energy from whence it came. As a kid, I read this and took it as gospel. Now that you point it out, it doesn't actually work out. I will go remove that part. Thanks for keeping me honest. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor May 30 at 16:48
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I am constructing a story where something similar is used (although mostly to stop space ships and kinetic bombardment from being able to wipe out entire planets). Basically you can throw energy into a few types of dark matter that barely reacts with the universe. But that same dark matter also has energy that can be turned into useable energy for the ships.

So you use this as a type of battery. Your ship would use this subspace as a closed energy system. First it's a heat sink, but you carry this piece of subspace and the energy within with you and can later pull the heat out again and make energy out of it. If you can't concentrate it into directed kinetic energy directly rather than vibrational heat energy.

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Energy

First lemme just say: Peltier device. Uses temperature differences to create electricity.

Weather control/weather weapons?

@alamar mentioned global warming, which I agree with I think. But on a more aggressive scale, and depending on the size and efficacy of the devices, you might be able to use an array of heat-sinks to temporarily break up warm-air fronts or updrafts to dissipate or mitigate certain tornados or even hurricanes and other weather patterns.

Alternately, maybe a fleet (Vogons anyone?) of gigantic cloaked ships could [de-cloak then] use the heatsinks to create massive severe cold-fronts, or freeze an ocean, thus starting some catastrophic eco-disaster (I'm thinking of the super-freeze from DAY AFTER TOMORROW, though that was kinda corny).

Maybe they could arrive in secret, cloaked, then de-cloak under water or in a forest or pose as an iceberg or glacier (or just jettison the heatsinks and leave), and slowly wreak their havoc until they are ready to reveal themselves (or get discovered).

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