Feedback was delighted to see the spirit of 1950s sci-fi alive and well in our news section last week with a story about building concrete towers that could stretch many tens of kilometres high on the moon.
We are far from disputing the conclusions of the team from Harvard University, that the relative lack of things such as gravity, wind, seismic motions and planning permission on the moon would allow such huge edifices. Still, we look forward to the lively debate a few decades after the towers’ erection on the merits of lunar brutalism as an architectural style. At least if the decision were eventually made to blow them up again, towers on the moon would presumably just float away.
We are slightly nonplussed by another aspect of the story, however. The main purpose of the towers would be to hang solar panels off to generate energy for a lunar base. But with a 17-kilometre-high tower requiring a million tonnes of concrete, we rather wonder where the energy comes from to make the concrete. A smaller tower?
We apologise to any readers left perplexed by our failure to express anything in that last snippet in multiples of Burj Khalifa[s]. After all, reader Gregg Mitchell points out, this is now the go-to unit for largeness in any number of areas: height, mass, volume, hubris.
He cites the example of the controversial Site C hydroelectric dam being constructed in his neck of the woods in British Columbia, Canada, reported by a local newspaper to have used 6 Burj Khalifas of concrete. Site C’s price tag – as Gregg points out, we can only imagine sardonically – has also doubled from 5BK to 10BK.
Rather more homely and human-scale, almost, is the Sky News headline “Iceberg size of Bedfordshire breaks off from Antarctica“. Ceri Brown writes in from Haverfordwest, Wales, presumably in a fit of pique, to ask how many Bedfordshires there are in a Wales. About 16.8, Ceri – do you need that in Burj Khalifas?
Spreading the seed
In considering blowing up concrete towers on the moon, we hadn’t quite considered the full range of uses they might have been put to.
A paper submitted to a virtual session of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Aerospace Conference, “Lunar Pits and Lava Tubes for a Modern Ark”, points out that life on Earth faces potential existential inconveniences, from asteroid impacts to nuclear war. Our response, it suggests, should be to construct a lunar repository of reproductive cells from humans and other species, from which we might reseed Earth after the balloon’s gone up.
Having now reached the relevant point in the presentation, we see that the proposal is to establish the lunar sperm bank not in a tower, but in a natural hollow space beneath the moon’s surface. So do carry on.
Don’t stop moving
“The perpetual motion machine returns!”, Don Simpson shouts joyously. He brings news of the TRIAD power cube, a game-changer in the world of generators whose “zero back-EMF technology allows for unimaginable efficiencies to be obtained”.
Feedback has a rule of thumb for imaginable power efficiencies: start at 100 per cent and then subtract some, because thermodynamics. At least the makers of the TRIAD power cube are upfront about not being 100 per cent sure how their device achieves “Efficiencies in excess of 400%>”, besides negating the law of magnetic induction.
Sadly, the device, a snip at just £5999.99 – keep the penny, thanks – is only available on pre-order pending full development. Don’t call them, they’ll call you.
Shoe boot other foot
An even more joyous throng forms in our inbox at the widely reported news last week that Terry Boot has replaced Peter Foot as finance director of UK retailer Shoe Zone. Other media having exhausted the various permutative puns the story afforded, we note quietly that Foot only joined the company in July 2020. This suggests that, while perhaps good for a bit of publicity, our old frenemy nominative determinism might have its limits as a commercial strategy.
We can only hope that Boot puts his best foot forward and avoids quickly getting the… now, stop it. Thanks to our friends on four continents who sent that one in. Definitely a case of don’t call us – oh, you have.
Mouths of babes
In the UK, Census Day fast approaches – or, should you be reading this after 21 March, has hurtled straight past. Roger Morgan from Presteigne, Wales, is impressed with the confidence that the UK Office for National Statistics shows in the educational attainment of the nation’s youth.
Its “What you need to know” guide sets out questions that those under the ages of 5, 3 and 1 need not answer. The under-3s, for example, are exempted from the question “How well do you speak English?” – or indeed Welsh – although they are, presumably, expected to at least understand it well enough to know they need not answer it. Particularly consequential is the instruction “those under one year old do not need to answer question 13”. Question 13 is “One year ago, what was your usual address?”.
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