Part 3: The high temperature challenge
Appart from the well-known, important, spinoffs from the Apollo-project, like
inexpensive personal computers, there was also an excursion into the world of
high-temperature technology. In respond to fears for the consequences of spreading
germs to and fro the moon, the entire system was designed to withstand high temperatures,
something like 725 K (I haven't bothered to look for the precise figure).
The equipment was to be passed through a high temperature quarantine after the return,
before its interior would be permitted to come into contact with the biosphere.
As I understand it, the equipment needed to withstand those temperatures, but it
needed not operate other than in the temperature intervals ocurring normally with
What I have in mind here, is a little different, although it's related. I am thinking
of systems, which are actually capable of stable operation at high temperatures.
Above 3500 Kelvin, no solid material exists(?). So stable operation at such temperatures, would have
to be based on technologies totally foreign to us. It is an interesting fact, that the scientist,
after whom the temperature unit 'K'(pronounced Kelvin) is named, Lord Kelvin, actually beleived
that there might be people on the sun. (At least, I read that somewhere.)
I want to stress, that the discussion here,
is completely independent from the speculations I made elsewhere, concerning the nature of the
sun. Here I am relying on established science. But I am open to the possibility that there might
exist ways of creating stably operating technologies from some kind of high temperature vortices.
And that such things might even come about through random processes leading to some kind of self
organisation. And even if stable operation, in the conventional sense, might not exist, one
might conceive of systems in which conservation of complex memories might be possible even when
the 'hardware' would constantly go through events of creation and destruction.
It would seem probable that the physical size of such memory systems would have to be very large.
For space exploration, systems capable of probing such extreme temperature conditions would
For the spinoffs wanted here on earth, much lower temperatures would seem important.
For instance, for fire service, it would be useful to leave difficult rescue operations to robots capable
of stable operation under the worst conditions existing in a fire. However the quick extinguishing of the fire
would probably be the most important role of such technologies if they come to exist.
I have no intention to provide the solutions of how to actually create such technologies. I am only offering
a challenge for those who like to attack hard problems at the frontiers of knowledge.
Presently existing electronic equipment, is based on very highly purified, usually crystalline forms of matter.
It is possible to generalise from the presently used types of materials, to others, which would be more suitable
for high temperatures, but which would still operate according to the same principles.
Maybe hat kind of technology wouldn't function for very long times, due to the degrading effects of the high
temperature, but perhaps long enough to take out the fire.
But there may be entirely different operating principles waiting to be discovered, and after they have been
discovered, it may turn out that those same principles, would be even more useful, when applied to technology
for the usual temperature range.
Both conventional electronics and biological brains consist of small, highly localized concentrations of
It seems possible that, once entirely new technologies are found, suitable for extreme high temperature
operation, it would turn out that similar phenomena are already present in nature.
According to unofficial sources, an interesting kind of high-temperature tunnel-boring machine, known as
'nuclear subterrene' is being used by the military to create underground tunnels for transportation.
I don't know what kind of controlling electronics such a thing might use, but perhaps that part doesn't need
to withstand the high temperatures used when the subterrene is melting its way through the rock. (And in the
process creates smooth walls, out of glasslike molten rock.)
If the controlling system is based on conventional electronics, this may still not be the kind of technology,
I have in mind. But lets digress on this subject for a while.
I am afraid that the following may sound a bit bombastic. I haven't tried to read this aloud.
In what I am saying below, I am assuming, that the nuclear subterrene exists, because it seems very plausible from
a technological point of view.
I think the nuclear subterrene is a good example of how the military let scientists have the kind of creative freedom,
necessary to make progress. Realizing the possible protest storms, that might have surfaced, had this been a civilian
project, I am not sure this kind of technology would have come to be realized outside the protection of classified projects.
It is my distinct opinion, that the civilian society ought to be a much better host for advanced technology than has so far been
the case. That it should compete effectively with the military side in forming a creative milieu by offering all sorts
of worthy challenges to the scientific community. And that, as the civilian administration is taking the initiative, the
civilian use of high technology will be more interesting to work with than the military applications.
I dont know if I am making my point clear. Essentially, what I am hypothesizing is, that one of the reason for the
oversized military systems of the world, may be that civilian life is too boring for important subgroups of the elites, both the
scientific and the military elites. They need challenges on par with their genetically derived creativity and lust
for adventure and discovery. This is related to Nietzsches idea, Homo Ludens, or the playful human being.
If this is correct, no peace talks will ever fundamentally change the world. If it's boredom that, indirectly, creates wars,
peace may come naturally, if we learn to make civilian life more interesting.
In this light, it seems recommendable that the civilian leaders be richer in initiatives, that they really take the
lead, making the military seem dull and uninspiring in comparison. This sounds as if I wouldn't like the military
very much. That is however a misunderstanding. The military is a part of the human society, and if the latter becomes
more intesting, it is to the benefit of all. In order for the civilian leaders, to come in a better position for taking
this kind of lead, they should try and surround themselves with an inspiring group of advisors.
Both by brilliant minds from all branches of science, but also by the non-scientific actors on the world scene.
People who can inspire us and make us see our own greatness as a species.
Appart from all the benefits for economic development, we can in addition foresee other positive effects.
People, will sense that these are great times to be living in. It will act as a vitamine injection for a lot of people.
No matter what they think about the nature of the current technologies. All branches of human culture and civilisation.
Art, literature, drama, films and their newer computerised descendants, will reflect these processes and reinforce the
feeling that these are great times.
Recently there was a TV program showing a speech held by President Kennedy from around 1961, where he seemed to be acting
in line with this kind of thinking. I think we need much more of that. We're emotional creatures, we need something to
believe in. We need to be inspired.
Return to Introduction