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In my Universe, the Colonization efforts and collapse of Earth leads to the rise of organic populations, nations, and cultures all across the Solar-System. Every planet and moon with hydro-static equilibrium and a surface to stand on is covered in independent states and colonies.  After its multi-century hiatus, unification, and re-entry into the space age, Earth finds that only it and Mars possess planet-wide government, making them singularly capable of Advancing beyond Type I civilizations.

Due to the sudden reemergence of Earth onto the Helio-Political stage, their radically divergent political and socio-economic ideologies, and Earth's desire for Ultra-lucrative trans-lunar colonies, Earth and Mars have been in conflict for decades. Given their previously mentioned state of unification, both the Earth and Martian states have an entire planet's natural resources and energy at their disposal, Earth (obviously) having more. This is, however, balanced out by the vast array of Martian colonies in the Asteroid Belt, Jovian Trojans, and Jovian Moons. The nations are both in a complete stalemate, both looking for any advantage that might give them the upper hand.

The obvious solution for both Mars and Earth would be to construct a Dyson Swarm, thus ending the stalemate. However, the creation of such a structure would endow its architecture with such insurmountable power as to never be challenged again, thus altering the aesthetic of my work and handicapping my ability to write realistic conflict for the Victor; Yet I can think of no justification for why either wouldn't just opt for this option that doesn't break the suspension of disbelief.

What logical reason (if any should exist) would be so prolific as to prevent either of two rival planetary states from constructing a Dyson Swarm in an inter-planetary setting?


Hopefully useful information ~

  • The Conflict is one for both Helio-Political and (to a lesser extent) Ideological Dominance

  • It would not require more than earths mass to construct, especially since, unlike other variants, the Swarm would be constructed 1/4 AU away from the sun, requiring less 20% of that Mercury's mass

  • The quality and quantity of Martian and Earth resources roughly balance out (Earth has a far greater human population and energy resources, balanced out by Mars' vast array of mineral resources and Industrial Output)

  • The first state to control the most of the sun's energy would have resource and strategic superiority, along with greater political leverage, allowing them a greater capacity to win both cold and hot conflicts

  • Due to lack of W.M.D's extensive enough to wipe out entire planetary populations, M. A. D. does not exist in the conventional sense, but in the sense that if Both powers engaged in prolonged total war, both would inexorably be destroyed

  • Both Earth and Mars are single state Kardashev Type I civilizations

  • Earth is a Federal Republic with a Single Open-Market Economy, whereas Mars is a Unitary Monarchy with a Socialist Economy

  • Earth and Martian colonies are prolific throughout the solar system, with almost no terrestrial bodies lacking Earth and Martian colonies of some sort

  • Near Future Technology ( ~ 100 years) is the norm, along with Deuterium - Tritium Fusion , Fluorine Batteries, ~ 50% efficient solar panels, etc.


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    $\begingroup$ Whoa, hold on a second.... step back. 1) What is the nature of this "conflict"? Trade war? Economic war? Cold war? Hot war? All out war? 2) Why can the stalemate not be broken as the situation stands? 3) Why would the stalemate be broken by building a Dyson Swarm? 4) Why would either party just sit back on their butts and let the supposed enemy build The Ultimate Weapon™ to defeat them? $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Sep 18 '17 at 8:14
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelK Exactly, the dyson swarm isn't exactly a problem. Really they can just sit back and wait for thier rivals to build it and then steal it after they are done. Ethier through direct assualt, espionage or sabatage. Then they will just have a war over that. It's probably a war of ideoligy and leadership, like between two nations/kingdoms. $\endgroup$ – Necessity Sep 18 '17 at 18:35
  • $\begingroup$ Or, instead of going to all that work, Mars could just push an asteroid into a collision orbit with Earth. They have the gravitational potential, literally the high ground. Use it, destroy the Earth's biosphere, claim it was an accident to their citizens, and mine the blasted Earth for resources. Why win with a Dyson sphere, when you can win with a dino killer? $\endgroup$ – chiggsy Jul 12 '18 at 9:39
  • $\begingroup$ Asteroids probably don't make great weapons. You need stupendous energy to make one of worthwhile size hit Earth, and a project of such scale would certainly be noticed. There'd be years of warning for the Earthlings, and Mars would have to continually defend the asteroid over its flight, because otherwise it could be made to miss with much less energy and effort than it took to make it hit. And if they can defend it, which would mean beating Earth's space military, why do you need the asteroid anymore? $\endgroup$ – Elukka Mar 27 at 12:32
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The issue is that building a Dyson swarm is so overwhelmingly beneficial that there is no reason not to build it, and indeed every incentive to do so to gain economic and military advantages over your rivals.

A very light swarm of "Statites" could be created from the mass of a medium sized asteroid, since the overall mass of each individual element needs to be able to balance the gravitational pull of the Sun by the pressure exerted on the lightsail. Given the relatively tiny mass need, a factory on the Moon or an asteroid could be cranking out solar sails and energy generators and using the sails themselves to deliver the devices to the correct solar orbits.

Unlike the Dyson swarm, the constructs making it up are not in orbit around the star, but would be statites—satellites suspended by use of enormous light sails using radiation pressure to counteract the star's pull of gravity. Such constructs would not be in danger of collision or of eclipsing one another; they would be totally stationary with regard to the star, and independent of one another. Because the ratio of radiation pressure and the force of gravity from a star is constant regardless of the distance (provided the statite has an unobstructed line-of-sight to the surface of its star[11]), such statites could also vary their distance from their central star.

The practicality of this approach is questionable with modern material science, but cannot yet be ruled out. A 100% reflective statite deployed around the Sun would have an overall density of 0.78 grams per square meter of sail.[12] To illustrate the low mass of the required materials, consider that the total mass of a bubble of such material 1 AU in radius would be about 2.17×1020 kg, which is about the same mass as the asteroid Pallas

Given the incentives and indeed relative ease of building a Dyson Swarm, the answer as to "why not" needs to be contained in the situation at hand. Given either Polity has a desire to impose their will on the other, and being able to capture and use an enormous fraction of the sun's energy will provide an overwhelming advantage, the answer must be that both sides fear the consequences of a completed Dyson swarm more than they crave the advantages.

A Dyson Swarm established inside the Earth's orbit will threaten the Earth and Mars with the potential of extinction, due to the blockage of sunlight. This is threatening regardless of who builds the star because the operating crew(s), AI's or other powers could decide to turn on the creators. And this is the crux of the problem. Whoever is operating the swarm becomes the dominant Power of the Solar System, and will have every incentive to declare independence of either the Earth or Mars in order to access the energy resources for their own purposes. No Power or even concentration of Powers can hope to match, much less surpass or overwhelm the energy resources contained within the Dyson Swarm, and once they realize this, no Power or combination of Powers would ever allow such a "third party" threat to become established.

Indeed, going the other way, the real story might be the Swarm is being established by the Earth and Mars in a competitive manner, and tensions are rising between the two sides. On the various construction shacks, calculations are being undertaken when the leaders of the construction teams come to the conclusion that while neither Swarm is complete enough to dominate the solar system, the combined swarms are enough to make a Dyson Swarm capable of declaring independence from both major Powers, and being able to defy them.

enter image description here

Combined, we are unstoppable!

At a single stroke, the Earth and Mars are defanged and the "Republic of the Sun" is born as the premier Great Power of the Solar System.

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The most logical explanation that springs to mind for me is that a Dyson Sphere or Dyson Swarm is not something you can build overnight. It's a gigastructure far beyond anything humanity would have constructed up to that point. Even with your futuristic technology, I wager it would take years, if not decades, to build.

Now, that wouldn't be enough to put either civilization off. Even now, we embark on decades-long construction projects all the time (the ISS is 19 years in the making and still unfinished, IIRC). However, in this scenario, it would give the other civilization ample time to sabotage the whole thing.

  • If the Sphere/Swarm is constructed on-site, gradually covering the Sun, the rival civilization can hijack or destroy the supply ships, or fire RKVs at the unfinished structure to damage it, or try and nudge it just a little too close to the Sun and watch it get torn to pieces and/or incinerated...
  • If the Sphere/Swarm is constructed elsewhere and then moved into place, the rival civilization will find the construction site(s) very quickly (half a Dyson Sphere isn't something you can hide easily) and they will do everything in their power to erase them from existence.

So you will end up with a stalemate, in which both civilizations could theoretically build a Dyson Swarm but neither of them is willing to try, because they know the other civilization will never, ever, ever let them, and they'll just be wasting their resources.

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  • $\begingroup$ Logical, to the point and potentially usable as a further plot point. +1. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Sep 18 '17 at 14:45
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I need to build on @Sty's point because, frankly, almost no supporter of a dyson sphere, dyson swarm, or any other mega-construct has paid any attention to this.

The mass of the entire solar system less the sun (assuming you can convert all that carbon into something useful) wouldn't create a dyson sphere and is highly unlikely to build a dyson swarm.

But, let's assume that mass isn't the problem.

The energy required to obtain all that mass, convert it as necessary, move it into position, and is necessary for continued maintenance and defense of the array is so great that it's likely to rival whatever energy bonus you get out of having it.

OK, let's assume energy isn't the problem.

The economic cost of building the array would be enormous. Enormous on a scale that would rival the economy of the entire described solar community if everyone was living as an idyllic, utopian commune. To suggest that even one planet could pull this off.... Well... the economic ruination of whichever society tried to do this would be impressive. (Further, you're talking about a crisis economy where resources are desparately needed in many locations. The Swarm is but one project, no matter how tempting.)

Finally, let's assume money isn't the problem.

If none of those things kill the deal, time will be the final nail in the coffin. As @F1Krazy points out... the time required to build the swarm is excessive.

Mass + Energy + Economy + Time = dead deal.

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  • $\begingroup$ Like Sty's answer, this is also built on a false premise, it would not require nearly the entire mass of the earth to make a Dyson swarm $\endgroup$ – user15036 Sep 18 '17 at 19:25
  • $\begingroup$ The mass needed is a fraction of what a sphere would require, and I do mention that it's "highly unlikely" you'd need less than a swarm... but maybe you need to start doing the math behind it. How many satellites make up a "swarm?" hundreds? thousands? millions? That mass number goes up very quickly and you need infratructure, defense, etc. They're not small. Everyone I've ever spoken to about Dyson anything has failed to really think about the structural requirements of these things. $\endgroup$ – JBH Sep 19 '17 at 15:12
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The largest obstacle any party would face is likely to be the availability of resources. Using the entirety of matter within the solar system is, as far as I know, not enough to construct even only a significant fraction of a (green-belt-sized) Dyson Sphere, and thus I would also assume that a Dyson Swarm will only be possible to a very limited extent (although there are sources that may claim otherwise, but still name exceeding costs). Considering that most of the matter at your disposal within the solar system is hydrogen, which is not exactly known as a superior building material, you'd have to basically carve up at least one of the major rocky planets (i.e. Earth or Mars) in the process. That alone might be deterrent enough for the governments involved (or a casus belli, perhaps...)

In any case, what a Dyson Swarm is supposed to do is collect energy from the sun, and if you look at currently used production materials for electronics, you will find that they require not only the relatively common materials silicon, iron and aluminium, but also less ubiquitous substances such as arsenic and indium (to dote silicon in order to use it in diodes, transistors and the like), or samarium and neodymium used excessively in magnets, which would be needed e.g. in order to wirelessly transmit energy from a Dyson Swarm to some place the energy is actually needed. And all the other rare earths I haven't mentioned above.

That is not to say that with the amount of such minerals available in the solar system, you wouldn't be able to build a sizeable array of solar-collector satellites. However, since both nations would probably try and run for this option (as @F1Krazy also mentioned, this is not something you do from one day to the next or in secrecy for long) at some point to some degree, it's rather unlikely that any side would be able to edge out the lion's share of these resources at any point, and so the whole situation would only turn into an arms race of sorts.

Also, I find it unreasonable to assume that all these materials can and will be dedicated towards actually building the swarm, as all that energy you gather should also be put to use, namely to power (most likely) advanced electronics.

Lastly, I'd like to emphasise on the point that especially these rare-earth materials will be the limiting factor. Not only because they are not as abundant as e.g. silicon, but even more importantly because they're kind of a pain to mine due to their usually more diffuse spread throughout the Earth's crust. Which is not to say that there aren't e.g. extra-terrestrial bodies where these minerals are more abundant, but then again these asteroids, meteors and however else they may be called, are very diffusely spread all across the solar system, and thus require quite different mining logistics.

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  • $\begingroup$ This answer is built on a false premise, it does not even require a large fraction of the earth's mass to construct a Dyson Swarm m.youtube.com/watch?v=HlmKejRSVd8 $\endgroup$ – user15036 Sep 18 '17 at 19:24
  • $\begingroup$ The mass itself, maybe. But as I said, the availability of some less prevalent chemical elements may become a hindering factor in the long run, as they need to be used beyond proportion in relation to how available they are. $\endgroup$ – Sty Sep 18 '17 at 19:41
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The biggest issue I see here is that you guys aren't considering that these 'advanced' civilizations would most likely have the ability to 100s of these nodes simultaneously. If we are locking the civilization to a permanent industrial era manufacturing system then yes...they are doom to complete the project. I think in another 20-30 years we will still be fighting this type of inefficiencies with education and other areas. But, in the last decade, we are proving to consider this concept to be elementary.

Like others are mentioning, advancement in materials would also reduce the material cost significantly.

I think it is also practical to believe the suns energy could be allowed to radiate towards earth, mars and any other planet/colonized rock.

I think building the dyson sphere would be a point/symbol of galactic peace/unity. Since they already have such a massive mining operation I'd assume the only next viable step towards leaving the current system would be harnessing the sun's energy to start building even more powerful structures and start linking star systems together.

Did you ever complete your story?

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