975: Occulting Telescope

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Occulting Telescope
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.
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.

[edit] Explanation

A relatively simple arrangement of multiple Dyson Rings of the type pictured above, to form a more complex Dyson Swarm. Rings' orbital radii are spaced 1.5 x 10^7 km with regard to one another, but average orbital radius is still 1 AU. Rings are rotated 15 degrees relative to one another, around a common axis of rotation. (from Wikipedia Commons)

Cueball takes the useful practice of occulting stars beyond its intended purpose. Occulting is used to block the light from a star under observation so that adjacent dim objects, such as any surrounding planets, might be more easily detected and examined. Instead of blocking the light of a single star for the purposes of observation, Cueball proposes blocking the light from all stars, for the purpose of making him feel comfortable with the night sky. Cueball feels, some might say irrationally, that "there are too many stars, and it's been freaking me out".

The title text refers to both a Type II Kardashev civilization and a Dyson sphere.

A Dyson sphere is a theoretical construction consisting of a network of satellites that orbit and completely surround a star. The purpose to capture and transmit all of the available solar energy back to a planet.

A Type II Kardashev civilization is a theoretical civilization that has advanced to the point where it has constructed a Dyson sphere.

For comparison purposes:

  • A Type I Kardashev civilization is one that has harnessed the energy of their entire planet.
  • A Type III Kardashev civilization is one that has harnessed the energy of their entire galaxy, which seems a boastful kind of thing to do.
  • We are currently less than I.

The title text reveals that Type II Kardashev civilizations construct Dyson spheres not for the purposes of capturing all solar energy, but merely to block the view of all that hideous space.

[edit] Transcript

[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...
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Discussion

A personal lesson I've learned long ago that I would like to share with Mr. XKCD and others: Don't worry about things you don't have direct control over, try to help people that do have control better understand the challenge they are facing and you will feel great with every accomplishment (similar to remembering to bring that reusable bag of yours to the store). If you don't know anyone with control, but feel you have a lesson to teach about the universe around us, put it in fiction form for future generations to learn from, and we will reward you with riches for it. - e-inspired 98.211.199.84 15:51, 27 February 2013 (UTC)
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