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Space The Almighty Buck

Space Elevator Prizes Proposed 214

colonist writes "Space elevator proponents are planning competitions for space elevator technologies, similar to the Ansari X Prize. Elevator:2010 will organize annual competitions for climbers, ribbons and power-beaming systems. In other space elevator news, researcher Bradley C. Edwards recently left the Institute for Scientific Research to work at two companies on materials and technology. Also, the space elevator has caught the interest of Google's founders: 'At a space camp in Alabama last year, Brin talked about creating a space elevator to transport cargo up a special tether attached to earth. Also last year, Brin joined Page in proclaiming they should found a nanotech lab at Google.'"
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Space Elevator Prizes Proposed

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  • by mangu ( 126918 ) on Saturday August 28, 2004 @08:35AM (#10095493)
    last year, Brin joined Page in proclaiming they should found a nanotech lab at Google.

    No link to pursue, but one feels that if it's at Google that would be more like a discussion forum than a lab. Unless, of course, they are proposing that Google starts funding a research center. If they follow, for instance, IBM's and ATT's footsteps, that would be a Great Thing(TM).

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 28, 2004 @09:04AM (#10095580)
      Seriously, these guys must be developing some sort of messiah complex if they think space elevators and nanotech have anything to do with their core skills. I met Brin in 2000 and he was getting full of himself then. The last few years of success and money must have convinced these two they're invincible and that any field could benefit from their presence. It's the same "I'm rich because I'm the smartest" attitude that too-young Wall Street traders get after they get rich at the first thing they try.

      The real test if Google is any different from any other flash-in-the-pan will be when they hit some real adversity. Until then, they're just the latest Lycos/Altavista/Inktomi fair-haired boy to make a splash with VC funding and a slightly better idea. The truth is, no search engine has substantially improved once it's been deployed on a large scale. If no one's passed Google on quality, it's mainly because they were the last to get funded before the crash.

      Flame away
      • by twiddlingbits ( 707452 ) on Saturday August 28, 2004 @10:27AM (#10095878)
        Perhaps these guys just want to invest some of that money in a)neat nifty things like nano-tech b) the Elevator as a type of "philanthrophy", which rich people have always done in the USA, but other than Andrew Mellon who founded a university, it has mostly gone to the arts c) e trying to outdo Paul Allen who has invested in the X-Prize entry from Burt Rutan...a Space Elevator would make the X-prize look like a cheap trophy. Oh, and what do these guys care if Google has a rough spell, they can't spend all the money that they have NOW. I don't see Google hiting any bad lows in the next few years, but there could be some technology hiding out there that trumps then.
        • the Elevator as a type of "philanthrophy", which rich people have always done in the USA, but other than Andrew Mellon who founded a university, it has mostly gone to the arts

          Just a minor point but don't forget about Johns Hopkins [] or Duke [] to name a few universities founded by rich men.

          • Good point! These days the wealthy usually do things like buy professional sports teams! IMNSHO, Funding an educational endeavor does a lot more long term good for society than say donating to the local Arts Guild. Of course there are always exceptions to this where wealthy folks donate to very good causes in very big ways, but that rarely get any press coverage. The only really big one I can think of is the Gates Foundation which seems to get lots of press.
      • Well, they _do_ have the money to fund something similar to the X-prize. Now, I tend to agree, they would do _much_ more good putting together some decent prizes of that type than some of the alternatives. They might in time develop skills outside their "core skills". The problem is that they have so much money at this point that they much may get an illusion of success by simply going into an area that other folks with similar fortunes have ignored.
    • by KE1LR ( 206175 ) <> on Saturday August 28, 2004 @09:40AM (#10095685) Homepage
      last year, Brin joined Page in proclaiming they should found a nanotech lab at Google.

      [sarcasm] Today, General Motors announced they were launching a chain of fast-food resturaunts called "MotorEaters" and Coca-Cola began construction on a new factory to produce cruise missiles for the US military. [ /sarcasm ]

      Whatever happened to sticking to what you do best? Perhaps all that IPO money is going to fund an attempt to make Google into a frankenstein conglomerate of all the founders' whims.

      • Sooner or later, they will probably, like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs did, start to seperate their private enthusiasms from Google. Gates and Jobs both own private stakes in a number of companies and organisations, Jobs most famously with Pixar and Gates with an images company which I can't recall the name of just now.
        • I believe you're thinking of Corbis, a stock photo agency.

          His investment company is called Cascade Investment LLC, and needless to say, he's all over the place.

          Some other investments of his (or at least of cascade investment):

          ICOS Corporation
          Seattle Genetics
          Pain Therapeutics
          Alaska Air
          Boca Resorts
          Liberty Satelite and Technology
          Canadian National Railway
          Otter Tail Power
          Schnitzer Steel Industries
          Avista Corp
          Cox Communications
          Newport News

          Like I said, he's all over the place, s
      • "Whatever happened to sticking to what you do best?"

        Think about it this way; they will never spend huge amounts of cash on the search agent - it's not a job that throwing gobs of money at will help all that much. So, if they're going to have billions burning a hole in their pocket, why not let it serve the greater good?
  • by Barryke ( 772876 ) on Saturday August 28, 2004 @08:36AM (#10095498) Homepage
    Aliens will enter earth via Google. I told you.
  • Haha! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 28, 2004 @08:37AM (#10095503)
    And in other news, The RIAA has donated a large collection of hit music tracks [] to the prize pool.
  • by cflorio ( 604840 ) on Saturday August 28, 2004 @08:38AM (#10095505) Homepage
    According to the Space Elevator Book [] it will only take ~ 5 Billion to build the first one. After their IPO, they can afford it!
    • it will only take ~ 5 Billion to build the first one

      And a few hundred dollars to buy a small bomb to bring it all down, miles upon miles of it crashing to the earth. The space elevator is a cool idea but not in this hate-filled world. Too dangerous.
      • The best solution to that i've heard is making it in sections that separate in an emergency and all burn up during re-entry. I still wouldn't want to be withing a mile or two of the base station though...
      • Moron! (Score:5, Informative)

        by leonbrooks ( 8043 ) <SentByMSBlast-No ...> on Saturday August 28, 2004 @10:09AM (#10095804) Homepage
        You don't have the first clue how it all works [], do you?
        • > The space elevator is a cool idea but not in this hate-filled world.
          You don't have the first clue how it all works, do you?

          In many ways, I think that your answer makes the gp's point. s?he makes that point that security will be an issue. The faq, that you point to, says as well. In this day and age of 911 and GWB's generation of 1000 of new recruits for Al Qaeda, security will be an issue.

          Now, that does not mean that we should not build it, but security is an issue for anything from the USA.
          • Security here's a joke. You can't carry a screwdriver onto an aircraft, but you have a clear path to drive a vehicle laden with explosives straight into the international or either of the two domestic air terminals. There are also many clear paths for driving a vehicle onto the strip, impeded only by a pipe-and-cyclone-mesh gate - and of course you then have a choice: do I drive under a stationary but full aircraft and blow it up, or chase one out onto the tarmac, or wait until one's ready to land and then
      • by powerlinekid ( 442532 ) on Saturday August 28, 2004 @03:15PM (#10097713)
        Examples of voodoo science masquerading as legitimate science are all around us: time travel, wormholes, black holes, dimensions curled up into little balls so tiny as to be undetectable, parallel universes, continuum physics, quantum computing, symbolic intelligence, machine consciousness, etc... It is all worthless crackpottery. Yet a few voodoo scientists have managed to amass small fortunes selling some of this stuff to an unsuspecting public, a public that continually thirsts for mysterious things to worship. Hopefully this site will wake a few people up.

        You have to be kidding me. The above is from your site and is absolutely rediculous. Yet at the same time as arguing that black holes don't exist, you make the extraordinary claim that the bible contains the blueprints to an AI system?

        You sir need to get a new tinfoil hat. I believe the old lead one you're using has leaked into your brain.
      • This really doesn't happen. A bomb near the bottom does very little, because the bottom of the elevator isn't in tension. Also early models will not carry passengers so bomb checks will be pretty easy.

        A bomb higher up will cause quite a lot of the elevator to come down, if you can find a way to get your bomb to geostationary orbit and explode it close enough to cut the really very strong cable. However: (a) it comes down really slowly, over the best part of a day and (b) atmospheric resistance will, depend
    • All the things you could have done with the Iraq $150 billions...You could have easily built five such elevators, plus ITER and the two next generations of fusion reactors to get rid of oil need. Prizes are good and all, but these things can also be fully financed by doing intelligent political choices.
    • After their IPO, they can afford it!

      If you have a viable design for a space elevator, you can have your own IPO and raise plenty of cash. That's why there's no real need for artificial prizes. The revenue generated by the thing would be the real prize.
      • There already is a viable plan [].

        It's raising the several billion dollars when any revenue is 10-15 years off that's proving to be the problem.

      • It's highly unlikely that anyone will be able to build such a thing without the blessing of a major world power for the following reasons:

        • Strategic Value. A device like this is the ultimate edge in warfare if you can protect it. It lets you put large quantities of mass in orbit allowing things like the infamous space crowbars plan. Every nation is going to want to be part of this - they're going to want it badly. And they won't really want anyone else to be in control of it...
        • You need somewhere to pu
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 28, 2004 @08:41AM (#10095521)
    I'm almost 40 so I'm probably halfway through my life, but the space elevator is one thing I'd like to see, along with a manned landing on Mars, true artificial intelligence, proof of extraterrestrial civilization, and a Libertarian president.

    If we can get that far without destroying the hope of future generations I think mankind might have a chance to be more successful than the dinosaurs were.
  • by Paulrothrock ( 685079 ) on Saturday August 28, 2004 @08:57AM (#10095570) Homepage Journal
    Would it have the 'o's going up the side of the tether?

    I heard people complaining about how Google's a one-trick pony, but that kind of diversifying probably isn't what they're talking about.

  • by m1kesm1th ( 305697 ) on Saturday August 28, 2004 @09:09AM (#10095596)
    If a space elevator is built, what music will it play?

    I suggest some calming Thievery Corporation or maybe Air might be more appropriate.
  • by AndroidCat ( 229562 ) on Saturday August 28, 2004 @09:10AM (#10095600) Homepage
    From a link from the FA link: []
    In 1895 a Russian scientist named Konstantin Tsiolkovsky looked at the Eiffel Tower in Paris and thought about such a tower. He wanted to put a "celestial castle" at the end of a spindle shaped cable, with the "castle" orbiting the earth in a geosynchronous orbit (i.e. the castle would remain over the same spot on the earth). The tower would be built from the ground to an altitude of 35,800 kilometers. It would be similar to the fabled beanstalk in the children's story "Jack and the Beanstalk," except that on Tsiolkovsky's tower an elevator would ride up the cable to the "castle".
    Depending on how it was written, wouldn't this cover at least part of Arthur C. Clarke's idea (and patent) for using geostationary orbits? To fully cover it, the castle would have needed radios, but Marconi hadn't stolen the radio yet... Did it have semaphores?
  • Cool...but (Score:4, Insightful)

    by deanj ( 519759 ) on Saturday August 28, 2004 @09:11AM (#10095604)
    I've always like this idea, but I bet some whack-job will try and bomb the thing. :-( ...on the other hand, some other whack-job will probably try and *climb* the thing.... wonder how far he'd be before he'd realize that it wasn't as good of an idea as he thought?
    • Re:Cool...but (Score:3, Interesting)

      by caswelmo ( 739497 )
      Not that it would be fool-proof, but I'm willing to bet that access to space of this type would be an incredibly precious commodity, both militarily & commercially (not to mention tourism!). As such, I'm betting there would be a no-fly zone 50 miles wide around this thing, with military air support from an internationally diverse force. Plus, I'm sure there would be incredibly hefty ground security as well.

      All I'm saying is, I can hardly imagine some nut getting close enough to do damage (or climb :^
      • Re:Cool...but (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Jeremi ( 14640 )
        But then again, if it's used for tourism, we would be hard-pressed to keep some suicide-
        murdering nutjob from find some way. So perhaps no tourism. Damn!

        You're probably right -- the world's only space elevator would be too valuable to let the general public near. Fortunately one thing our first space elevator would be really good at is lifting into orbit materials for the second space elevator. Once there are a few dozen space elevators in place, it would be less catastrophic if one or two of them were

    • Re:Cool...but (Score:3, Interesting)

      by CmdrGravy ( 645153 )
      Why would it be any easier to conduct a terrorist attack against a space elevator compared to against the Space Shuttle launch facility ?
    • Re:Cool...but (Score:5, Insightful)

      by isorox ( 205688 ) on Saturday August 28, 2004 @10:43AM (#10095941) Homepage Journal
      I was thinking of going outside, but some whack-job will try to kill me :-( So I stay in my basement. Trouble is it's in a city, so some whack-job might try to blow up a CBRN bomb near me. Perhaps I'll move to nepal.

      If your attitude is that of the rest of the U.S. Your status as world leader ended on September 11th.

      Do people stop going to Spain on holiday cause of ETA? Did people avoid British cities, train stations, and Norther n Ireland, while the IRA were busy murdering people? Do you avoid driving as you might die (afterall, more americans died in 2001 from car accidents then terrorism)?
      • If your attitude is that of the rest of the U.S. Your status as world leader ended on September 11th.

        Thank goodness. It was really starting to annoy me having to be in charge of the world like that. :)

        Actually, this whole "threat level orange" silliness is just the way our lizard overlords keep us too worked up to realize that we are ruled by lizards. The only terror Sept. 11th brought into my life was terror that my own government would reinstitute the Dark Ages as a matter of law.

        The U.S. isn't a hype
    • That would be like bombing a nuclear reactor: don't try it. You won't get near it.
  • Rotovator(tm) (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Baldrson ( 78598 ) on Saturday August 28, 2004 @09:19AM (#10095623) Homepage Journal
    Such prize awards might have a wonderful side-effect.

    Hans Moravec's Rotovator(tm) [] picks up hypersonic (near mach 12) payloads from an altitude of 100km and slings them to orbit.

    Current proposals for implementation of the Moravec's design [] rely on a hypersonic air-breather of advanced aerodynamic design like the Boeing DF-9 (that exists only on paper).

    Is there anything likely come along in the near future that could take paylods to 100km and mach 12?

    Probably the same thing that is driving the bureaucrats to make all this noise about space elevators now:

    The prospect that centralized space programs will be left behind by the emergence of a competitive suborbital launch industry with the emergence of suborbital space tourism and prizes like the Ansari X-Prize.

    A key to the Rotovator(tm) is getting hub mass in place to keep it out of the atmosphere while it picks up mass from 100km@mach12 -- but that mass can be any old space junk (what is the dry weight of the International Space Station?) -- at least at the hub where it counts the most for high strength materials like carbon nanotubes. However, you can do a Rotovator(tm) with off-the-shelf commercially available fibers and still have a factor of 2.

    Nice thing about Rotovators(tm) is that they can be built with much lower capitaliztion over a much shorter period of time using existing commercial materials. All you need is a bunch of mass orbiting near earth, some quite-doable tethers, and sufficient manuverability and speed in the atmospheric leg to hook up with the tether as it reaches the nadir.

    Modest prize awards toward early milestones of a space elevator could end up enabling the Rotovator(tm) as well.

    • Re:Rotovator(tm) (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dargaud ( 518470 )
      I'm very skeptical about this rotovator thing:
      • the end of it will go at hypersonic speed in the upper atmosphere: how many rotations before it falls apart from ablation ?
      • If it picks up an object and raises it, then itself must come down: basic energy conservation. How does it raise its orbit before the next pickup ? Only classic rocket engines would work, which need gas. Back to square one, you could have used that gas to raise the playload in the first place (yeah, yeah, you'll be able to use a more effic
      • I havn't read anything about the Rotovator, nor did I know the idea existed before I read this thread. However, I'll attempt to answer your questions, based on what I know about physics.

        The atmosphere at 100km is very thin, so there won't be nearly as much drag. In fact, the 100km boundary is called the "karman line". It's considered the boundary between air and space, because anything past that limit will not experience very much drag at all. So they would have to beef up the end of the tether, but no
  • by 88NoSoup4U88 ( 721233 ) on Saturday August 28, 2004 @09:22AM (#10095633)
    The 'muzak' in normal elevators is allready driving me crazy :

    Imagine going upwards for alot of miles ; in the meantime having to listen to Julio Iglesias' songs, performed by some guy on a synthesizer. NOOOOOO !

  • by Trailer Trash ( 60756 ) on Saturday August 28, 2004 @09:31AM (#10095663) Homepage
    to Cyberdyne Systems.
  • by Realistic_Dragon ( 655151 ) on Saturday August 28, 2004 @09:33AM (#10095665) Homepage
    They just want to make the Pigeons smaller so they can fit more into a 1U server case and make google faster.
    • I thought google didn't even use cases. Besides don't you think they'd be in a terminal room? That way they can share results in a P2P fashion (pigeon to pigeon) as well as entering the rankings into the terminals.
  • Tell you what; to get things moving, I will start a challenge: The first commercially viable space elevator constructed before August 28, 2005 at a height of more than 100 km will win $1000000 from me.
    • You are going to feel so stupid if someone goes and does it... unlikely, I admit, but it would be funny.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Here we go. Another Space Elevator post. Cue lots of post about

    1) What musak should be playing in the elevator. This is the height of modern humour people, make as many jokes as possible.

    2) Fear of terrorist attacks, despite the obvious difficulty of trying to snap a super-strong cable. And since when did Terrorists attack where they were expected?

    3) Fear of accident, 'what if the thing fell to Earth?!!?!! it would slice through everything!!!". As if the brilliant scientists who are developing the elevat
    • And since when did Terrorists attack where they were expected?

      Guess you weren't among the millions of people who saw a plane attack on the world trade center months before 9/11 -- on The Lone Gunmen pilot episode! You can review the weird prescience of this show here. []

  • by SlashCrunchPop ( 699733 ) on Saturday August 28, 2004 @10:12AM (#10095816)
    I guess I can now break the news that Brin and Page intend to stack up the entire Google data center into the world's largest rack. With the jurisdiction problem out of the way they will finally be able to do what they wanted to do in the first place. Start their X-rated Go-Ogle portal.
    Domain Name: GO-OGLE.COM
    Registrar: GO DADDY SOFTWARE, INC.
    Creation Date: 10-mar-2002
    Glen Analise
    Administrative & Technical Contact:
    Shires, Glen
    Everybody knows that John Glenn is Sergey's favorite astronaut and that Sergey is a sucker for mathematics, so don't tell me you are surprised to find out Sergey uses such aliases.

    Who's your Daddy now?

  • by leonbrooks ( 8043 ) <SentByMSBlast-No ...> on Saturday August 28, 2004 @10:12AM (#10095817) Homepage
    ...all of the details are still up in the air?

    Mods: please don't get too highly strung, go ballistic or hit the roof over this.
  • Brin joined Page in proclaiming they should found a nanotech lab at Google.

    Talk about a huge leap of focus here...

    why doesn't Yahoo! start getting into genetic engineering now? ...same logic...
  • by zenneth ( 767572 ) on Saturday August 28, 2004 @10:29AM (#10095886)
    The only problem with space elevators is those people who like to push all the other buttons for the other floors.
  • A bit premature? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jfengel ( 409917 ) on Saturday August 28, 2004 @10:38AM (#10095918) Homepage Journal
    The Ansari X-prize seeks to reproduce an effort that had already succeeded, and been substantially surpassed, by several governments.

    A "space elevator", on the other hand, is totally unlike anything ever done before. As I read in a Slashdot post some years ago (referring to nanotubes, the favorite among space-elevator aficionados), "When somebody has built a 40,000 millimeter bridge across a creek on campus, then we can start to talk about a 40,000 kilometer bridge straight up".

    The fact that we have not yet achieved one millionth of the task (and in fact fall several orders of magnitude for that) suggests to me that, much as I would love to see a space elevator in place, the job today belongs to materials scientists who are looking at shorter-term goals.

    An eye to the future is great, but experimenting on climbers is like practicing the high jump: if you're jumping twice as high today as last year, I wouldn't start drawing any exponential curves. The ribbon is the really, really hard part, and we're currently so far away from it that research energy is better spent elsewhere for a while. 2010 is way, way too close.

    Maybe with enough motivation we could get that 40,000 mm bridge by 2010, but somehow I doubt you're going to raise $10 million to build a bridge. The X-prize shot somebody into space for that kind of money.

    I'm prepared to be wrong. I'm a software developer, and I've learned that as a consultant I can say, "Your project is doomed" with 95% accuracy before I've even heard your name. Being a nay-sayer is easy. But the real trick is being able to spot the 5% that will actually be profitable, and there are a lot of projects more immediately deserving of this kind of money.
    • a consultant I can say, "Your project is doomed" with 95% accuracy before I've even heard your name.

      You say "your project is doomed" to anyone with a project? :)

    • We've strung many cables much longer than the space elevator across the atlantic. We just have to make one shorter, and a little stronger, and then hang it straight down from a satellite.
    • "When somebody has built a 40,000 millimeter bridge across a creek on campus, then we can start to talk about a 40,000 kilometer bridge straight up".

      The two pursuits are not comparable. The elevator is not like a bridge. A bridge distributes force to the loading points, the space elevator relies almost entirely on tensile strength. They're not even similar structures!

  • busted cables? (Score:3, Informative)

    by positroniumman ( 806254 ) on Saturday August 28, 2004 @11:08AM (#10096069)
    now i thought that the amount of stresses in the cable meant that any type of space elevator would be unlikely without some very strong new material.

    for example, say i wanted to lift a 100kg man up to 380 km (ISS height). This would put a force of 1000N(the man) + 380km *area * density (of cable).area of say 30 cm^2 gives a force of 1000 +1140* density. failure is usually measured in stress (force per area) soooo lets see.....

    material/stress/density steel 250Mpa 7850 kg/m^3 nanotubes 63GPa 3520kg/m^3 calculated stress steel = 2.9Gpa calculated nanotubes = 1.3 GPa

    SO nanotubes may handle the stress, but noone can make 380 km of nanotube rope yet. Even that much kevlar would be tough. and this is without incorporating the added stress of accelerating the man (starting his trip up the rope).

    In short, new materials are needed!

  • Sergey Brin speaks publicly about space elevators. David Brin (science fiction author) speaks publicly about space elevators too. Does anyone know if these two fellows are related? It just seems too coincidental to me.

    Remember, you are special, just like everyone else.
    • I have wondered that myself, but I think it is just a coincidence - Sergey was born in Moscow, and his family emigrated to the US in 1979 according to this []. David was born in the US in 1950. Still could be distantish relations, but if you google (what else?) on "david brin" and "sergey brin" then you only find 4 pages of hits with both names, all of which seem to be coincidental. So if there is a relation, they are keeping it well hidden!
  • Babysteps (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mcrbids ( 148650 ) on Saturday August 28, 2004 @06:42PM (#10099092) Journal
    I think the idea of building a space elevator the instant we can is fundamentally flawed.

    A space elevator would be an insanely profitable project, one that has tremendous implications for things like power generation, communications, space exploration, tourism, and precision manufacturing.

    No doubt about any of those things.

    But, before we go building a space elevator, wouldn't it be a good idea to give it a few thorough evaluations here dirtside?

    There are countless questions that people are going to want to ask - is it strong enough? What if it breaks? Are C-tubes durable enough? Will it conduct electricity and "short out" the ionosphere? What about storms? What about terrorists? Do C-tubes wear out?

    The first, best use of C-tubes would be a good bridge. If you had a suspension bridge built with pencil-thick C-tubes, people would get used to the idea that something to small would be so strong.

    I figure the best place would be to build a suspension bridge over the straight of Gibraltar. Can you imagine how beautiful and spider-web like such a bridge would/could be?

    That would provide major economic boon to North Africa, provide cheap tourism for Europeans, and provide an excellent proof of the viability of C-tubes as a building tool all in one.
  • Or else we're finished would have to be some kind of a geostationary site that collects energy from the sun directly.

    The reason why I surmise this is based on a few reflections I made about modern society and what we're doing. Here are a few starting points (certainly not the defining factors of what makes our present society tick):

    1. Since 1900 our civilization has grown almost completely dependant on fossil fuels

    2. These fossil fuels are not replaceable and the current "replacements" for these fuels cannot
  • It would be cool to climb the space elavator and smoke pot.

"Call immediately. Time is running out. We both need to do something monstrous before we die." -- Message from Ralph Steadman to Hunter Thompson