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One day, in modern time, the space agencies of the world detect a strange structure drifting through space. NASA manages to redirect the course of this structure, and with their new solid handwavium rocket thrusters, land it safely in Nevada. Closer inspection yields that it is an alien machine that can create portals through space. This machine appears to have infinite range, and violates the speed of causality as we know it. They are able to control the machine, and where the portal leads to. However, the caveat: being designed by at least a class II civilization, the machine consumes something on the order of 30 terawatts whenever running. Could humanity hope to power this machine in the near future, and if so, would it be worth it?

-EDIT- a few nanoseconds is not exactly useful for transporting objects through it, assume the device needs a least 10 seconds to create the wormhole, plus however much time is needed to bring things through it.

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    $\begingroup$ can I ask why the down vote? $\endgroup$ – Phoenix Jul 8 '16 at 4:34
  • $\begingroup$ This is nitpicking, but I don't think we would ever try to land alien space-tech on Earth. Satellites are not designed to handle such conditions, and we could unwittingly destroy the technology. I would think it would be much more plausible to "nudge" it into stable orbit and study it there. $\endgroup$ – Kys Jul 8 '16 at 20:45
  • $\begingroup$ yeah, that's fair. I just thought it'd be easier to power with it on earth. $\endgroup$ – Phoenix Jul 8 '16 at 21:03
  • $\begingroup$ I curious as to how they ever figured out what it does without being able to power it. $\endgroup$ – Shufflepants Apr 4 '17 at 15:26
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It's certainly reasonable. From Orders of Magnitude (Power), one of my favorite Wikipedia pages, the Z Machine outputs a pulse of 290TW when operating. Mind you it doesn't operate for very long (nanoseconds), but it demonstrates that humanity is capable of handling such power requirements. The real question would be how much energy you have to put into the machine, which would be 30TW multiplied by the amount of time it takes to power the wormhole up.

Once the wormhole is up, we could sustain it by using its own causality breaking capabilities to do all sorts of nasty energy producing tricks.

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Sure we could. The Hercules Petawatt Laser at the University of Michigan has reached a power of 300 TW, and that was almost ten years ago. Granted, we would need to keep it open longer than a nanosecond or two, but that's less of an issue than it would seem.

Since we can control where the portals go, all we need to do is set up a portal to the sun, and boom, free energy. As long as the first time you use it, you use it to get access to more energy, you're fine.

EDIT: Looks like @CortAmmon had a similar answer, but I'll keep this up since it's a difference source.

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    $\begingroup$ "And how did you melt the machine, and turn the surrounding city into a smoking crater". "um, we opened a portal into the heart of the sun for approximately 2.3 seconds" $\endgroup$ – Murphy Jul 8 '16 at 11:47
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As noted, we can handle far greater amounts of energy for tiny fractions of a second. In reality, the NASA scientists should have left the device in space (bringing unknown alien technology and possibly biology to Earth is incredibly dangerous and stupid to boot).

In orbit, access can be controlled, protecting the device and preventing unauthorized people from doing something stupid. As well, once the principles of the device are understood, it would be easy to build solar panels or bring up a nuclear reactor dedicated to powering the device and not creating a massive brownout across the continental United States.

As an added bonus, the orbiting solar arrays could power other space infrastructure, ranging from laser thermal rockets to get around to massive sensor arrays tuned to every conceivable wavelength, in order to search out other evidence of alien life and provide some sort of warning for Earth.

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  • $\begingroup$ Building a 30TW power system in space is actually quite hard. The generating capacity of the whole USA in 2014 was only just over 1TW from all sources. So you won't do this with one reactor, or even a hundred that are small enough to launch, and you're going to need an awful lot of solar panels. The best at present are 300W/Kg, which comes out to launching a mere hundred million tons of panels. $\endgroup$ – John Dallman Jul 8 '16 at 6:59
  • $\begingroup$ True, but much of the material to build reactors or solar panels can come from the moon. It is also a bit unclear if this device needs 30 Tw on a conti nuing basis, or in brief pulses like some of the other devices mentioned. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Jul 9 '16 at 0:20

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