Saturday, August 05, 2006

Scotty, Full Power to the Shields!

One of the most daunting prospects of interplanetary travel for our species is finding a way to effectively protect ourselves from high energy particles from the Sun. These cosmic rays, while not much of a problem in orbit because of Earth's magnetic field, or on the relatively short jaunts to the moon, would be dangerous on long trips to, say, Mars.

There are a number of ways we know of to protect the ship, one of the most effective includes putting three feet of water all around the habitat area of a craft. Not the easiest thing to implement.

I was thinking about computer chips. At very short distances, within 100 microns, the magnetic field surrounding the average computer chip is immensely powerful. It's so powerful there have recently been successful experiments creating Bose-Einstein condensates (a collection of super-cooled atoms that condense to an almost fluid-like clump that can be seen with the naked eye) near the surface of a chip (Scientific American, Feb, 2005).

Unfortunately my knowledge on the subject is highly limited, and I don't know if there is some inherent problem I'm missing. But couldn't a space ship be fitted with a shield of simple computer chips, layered outside the habitat, generating a magnetic field so small outside of microscopic distances as to not disturb other equipment but strong enough within to deflect cosmic rays?

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