975: Occulting Telescope
Title text: Type II Kardashev civilizations eventually completely enclose their planetary system in a Dyson sphere because space is way too big to look at all the time.
Cueball takes the useful practice of occulting stars beyond its intended purpose. Occulting is often used to block the light from a star so that the surrounding extrasolar planets (planets outside of our solar system) might be more visible and thus can be more clearly examined. Here instead of using the technique to gain access to less visible stars and planets, Cueball proposes blocking the light from all stars. The rationale is that there are just too many stars and he would feel better presumably if he could look at the night sky without being overwhelmed by the great volume of stars visible, each representing its own solar system.
The joke is that a scientific concept is introduced, followed by a silly, unscientific motivation ("there are too many stars, and it's been freaking me out").
The title text refers to a Type II Kardashev civilization that encloses its solar system in a Dyson sphere not to trap all emitted energy from its star for its own use but because there are just too many stars to look at.
- A type II civilization has trapped all energy from its sun. (Type I has only the energy available from its own planet and a type III would have access to energy from its entire galaxy).
- A Dyson sphere is currently only a theoretical network of satellites that would be designed to orbit and completely surround a star to capture and transmit all of the available solar energy back to a planet. The original theory involved a large number of satellites, and not a solid "sphere" as that was deemed to be impossible, however a solid sphere would better meet the goal referenced in the title text.
- [Cueball is giving a lecture in front of a white board, pointing to a diagram with a pointer.]
- Cueball: The occulting observatory consists of two parts—the telescope and the discs.
- When the telescope sees a star, a disc is carefully steered to block its light.
- [A diagram of a satellite labeled "telescope" with waves going from it on the left, across to the other side of the diagram (labeled "light from star") on the right. In the middle is a small vertical line labeled "disc", stopping some of the light waves from the right traveling to the left of the diagram.]
- This procedure is repeated until all stars are covered.
- [Cueball looks down at a student.]
- Student (off screen): Wait, all? Why?
- Cueball: I'll feel better.
- [Close-up on Cueball.]
- Student (off-screen): I thought the point was to image extrasolar planets.
- Cueball: The point is that there are too many stars. It's been freaking me out.
- Student: What?
- Student #2 (in smaller letters): He has a point...