Created By: Frodo Goofball CoTV on August 24, 2009
Troped

Dyson Sphere

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Trope
Launched as Dyson Sphere
A specific subtrope of Big Dumb Object / That's No Moon! with the following characteristics:
  • It is a solar - system - sized artificial object.
  • It is built around a star and is at least in part powered by the star's radiation.

It can be a solid sphere, a partial sphere (a ring for example), a dense cloud of smaller objects, etc.
added: 2009-03-21 10:11:08 by Cryptic Mirror

another Do We Have This?

A Dyson Sphere, an artificial world that surrounds a star. Not always a complete sphere, but that was the original vision by Freeman Dyson Wikipedia Link.

Off the top of my head I can think of examples in Star Trek TNG, Doctor Who, The Culture, Niven's Ringworld is a non sphere variant of course, Scalzi's Old Man's War. I'm sure there are more.

Seen It a Million Times.
Community Feedback Replies: 52
  • March 21, 2009
    TB Tabby
    Halo. 'Nuff said.
  • March 21, 2009
    Glidergun
    This sort of thing is sometimes referred to as a Big Dumb Object, which I think would make a good title for the trope, and we can fold all the other crazy space megastructures in there too.
  • March 21, 2009
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
    Also related to You Fail Physics Forever, in addition to Did Not Do The Research .

    The original "sphere" Dyson proposed is not a single object, but rather a large number of solar satellites, so many, in fact, that they almost completely block all light from escaping them.

    The literal shell around a star is not a particularly useful structure: As gravity always pulls towards the center of an object, one can not live on the inside surface of such a shell, things would just fall towards the star.

    • In at least one Star Trek TNG episode, the enterprise encounters such a sphere that was left abandoned for some reason.
  • March 21, 2009
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
    They show up in Schlock Mercenary. At one point, the characters gather a fleet to assault one.

  • March 21, 2009
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
    Shows up in the final level of Freelancer.
  • March 21, 2009
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
    One of the C'tan stargods in Warhammer40000 is sealed inside a Dyson Sphere. Whether it was imprisioned or sealed itself there is not quite clear (altho the background seems to suggest the latter).
  • March 21, 2009
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
    Schlock Mercenary's versions are called Buuthandi. The author supplies, in The Rant, various quotes about the physics and provenance of them.

    Note: Regular readers no doubt know that "buuthandi" can be idiomatically tranlated to mean "Dyson sphere." Literally, it's the shortened form of the F'sherl-Ganni phrase "Buut go buut-buut nnaa-nnaa cho handi," or "this was expensive to build." (Transliterated, for the linguist: <Expensive and expensive-expensive [expletive] we built.>)

    Regular readers may NOT know, however, that a buuthandi has more in common with a solar sail than with the conventional (and decidedly impractical) concept of a rigid Dyson sphere (Freeman Dyson's concept is not the conventionally impractical one, mind you. His idea will work). You see, the buuthandi does not support its own weight: it is essentially a balloon around a star, with power-collecting substations and giant habitats dangling from the inner surface. Control cables, millions of square kilometers of slack sail material, and some very clever engineering allow the 'balloon' to compensate for (and in some cases mitigate) the mood swings of the contained star.

    This naturally begs the question: how do you blow one of these up? If it can stand up to a solar flare, it can certainly take a few planet-busting missiles.

    There are a couple of ways to do this. The first involves convincing the contained star to go nova. The second involves using far, far more missiles than anyone thinks you can reasonably come up with. Either way, Admiral Breya has been busy.
  • March 21, 2009
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
    Orbitsville and Orbitsville Departure by Bob Shaw featured a solid Dyson sphere. (But in this troper's opinion totally wasted the concept on soap-opera plots.)
  • March 21, 2009
    random surfer
    [nevermind, I decided my suggestion wasn't right for this trope.]
  • March 22, 2009
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
    The Other Wiki has already done our work for us.

    A metric buttload of examples of Dyson Spheres in fiction.

    More similar structures are listed in Theoretical megastructures.

    Add the Kemplerer Rosette, which can be a group of planets set to orbit together in a rotating pattern.

    Literature
    • Larry Niven's Ringworld: the Puppeteers' Fleet of Worlds is a Kemplerer Rosette.

    Tabletop RPG
    • Traveller. A Kemplerer Rosette created by the Ancients exists in the Tireen system in the Vargr Extents.
  • March 25, 2009
    CrypticMirror
    Would Space Megastructure be a better trope name than Dyson Sphere then do you think?
  • March 25, 2009
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
    Umbra, the Big Bad in the 1984 animated series "Mighty Orbots" WAS a Dyson Sphere. He was the core of the Shadow Star, a world so large it contained it's own internal sun.
  • March 25, 2009
    Glidergun
    As I said, call it Big Dumb Object and fold all the megastructure in.
  • March 25, 2009
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
    A Dyson Sphere made of a forcefield holds the Sealed Evil In A Can in Peter F. Hamilton's Commonwealth Saga.
  • March 25, 2009
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
    There's also one in ~Star Trek: New Frontier~ ook, but called a Thul Sphere after the financier. Needless to say, it gets blown up.
  • April 3, 2009
    CrypticMirror
    bump
  • June 7, 2009
    CrypticMirror
    did we ever launch anything like this, if we haven't I'll do it within the next few days?
  • June 7, 2009
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
  • June 7, 2009
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
    I remember a very scary example from a Doctor Who Television Tie In Novel, but I currently can't recall the details. When I get a chance, I'll check and add the example. It's deeply WTF-ish. Something like there's this thin sheet around a sun. And this poor Cowardly Lion Chew Toy character gets dragged along by his neurotic girlfriend to hang out on it with scary aliens and basically hates it with a hatey hate. It's a rather amusing sequence, really - everyone's gone on a trip to somewhere unpleasant full of unpleasant people with someone they're not getting along with while in a bad mood, right? It's like that... with a Dyson Sphere.

    Additionally, I've heard quite a few stories of small children getting the misconception Earth is like this.
  • June 7, 2009
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
    @Seven Mass: Not neccesarily. There are ways around that, one would be a ring rotating, providing centrifugal force to keep objects on the surface. The other would be easy, in Star Trek physics, as they could just use gravity generators, like they use for deck-plating. There's already an abundance of power, so no problem there.

    (Fridge Logic) Not to mention, people don't fall off the Earth when the sun is overhead, so presumably the local mass of the sphere's surface would create enough gravity to hold material to itself.
  • June 7, 2009
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
    BLAME takes place inside of one.
  • June 7, 2009
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
    "presumably the local mass of the sphere's surface would create enough gravity to hold material to itself."

    But from a point on the sphere's surface its mass isn't concentrated beneath your feet as on a spherical planet but spreads out as a very nearly flat plane, meaning that you wouldn't be attracted 'down' to the surface.
  • June 7, 2009
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
    • The titular People of the Doctor Who novel The Also People live in one of these.

    This is distinct from my other Doctor Who example. I still need to refresh my memory regarding that.
  • June 7, 2009
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
    I believe the New Mutants, an X-Men spin off from Marvel Comics, had their own Dyson Sphere for a while there. Those crazy kids.
  • June 7, 2009
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
    Yeah but it's not like Earth only creates gravity because it's a sphere, or that said gravity emanates from a single point in the center. Theoretically, if you were falling down a hole that went straight through the planet, gravity would get lighter as you get nearer the earth's core, not heavier, because the mass above you is pulling on you in the opposite direction. At the core, you'd be weightless, as you're being pulled equally from all sides.

    A structure that was big enough to support itself around a star and keep from collapsing would (barring atypical material) probably have enough given mass to draw objects to its surface. The rest of the sphere does generate gravity, but it's too far away to have any effect on material beyond a certain distance, and the overwhelming majority of the force would be towards the sphere's surface.
  • June 7, 2009
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
    On the gravity issue:

    The surface gravity of the stereotypical 1-AU solid shell is negligible. Gravitational acceleration due to the Sun out here is less than 1/1000 gee. Calculus and physics (the Shell Theorem) give us that the gravitational effect of any spherical shell we're outside is equivalent to that of the same mass as a point source at the shell's center; we can assume that the sphere does not mass orders of magnitude more than the Sun, considering that we have to make it out of locally available materials and the Sun weighs much more than everything else nearby combined, so don't expect much. (Of course, if you want to live on the inside of the sphere so as to have sunlight, which would be half the point of putting it at a nicely-habitable distance, the shell's gravity will cancel itself out at any size for any star.)

    I suppose you could make it smaller; to get any appreciable gravity you'd have to get a few times closer to the Sun than Mercury, but if we're already making ridiculous demands on materials science why not add heat to the mix?

    The other Dyson sphere concepts tend to be more obviously negligible-gravity so I don't think (?) I need to go into detail on those.
  • June 7, 2009
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
    Warlock wrote: 'A structure that was big enough to support itself around a star and keep from collapsing would (barring atypical material) probably have enough given mass to draw objects to its surface. The rest of the sphere does generate gravity, but it's too far away to have any effect on material beyond a certain distance, and the overwhelming majority of the force would be towards the sphere's surface.'

    On the outside of the sphere, I agree, you would be drawn toward the sphere.

    However, Newton's shell theorem predicts that the gravity anywhere inside a hollow sphere would actually be almost zero. So you would actually mostly feel the gravity of the star at the center pulling you away from the surface.

    Unless you have Star Trek - style artificial gravity. Or you rotate like the Ringworld.
  • June 9, 2009
    Warlock
    Bah, you had to bring formulaic theory into it. And here I, a lowly art-major sci-fi nerd, was feeling intelligent on physics for a change. Ruined all my fun.

    But, artificial gravity. So there. :P
  • June 9, 2009
    HeartBurnKid
    The Mystara setting of Dungeons And Dragons had a regular world on the surface, and the "Hollow World" on the inside. Said hollow world is a Dyson Sphere.
  • June 9, 2009
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
    @Warlock: don't worry about it. I was just as surprised to learn this, and I'm a frigging mechanical engineering grad student.
  • June 21, 2009
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
    @ Heart Burn Kid: for that matter,

    • Spelljammer... First, Crystal Spheres as such (e.g. Realmspace has pseudo-stars, walking cursed people and big magical scroll -like writings on its inner surface). Also, while Penumbra's Stellar Well isn't a Dyson Sphere, it's a large enough part of it, and the disk behind it is of Dyson Sphere scale.
  • June 25, 2009
    berr
    I agree it counts as a sub-trope of Big Dumb Object - Is It Tropable ?
  • June 25, 2009
    Jack Butler
    No... these are all examples of the Big Dumb Object. Combine the examples in that trope and discard.
  • June 25, 2009
    bigboy
    well said Warlock
  • June 26, 2009
    adam_grif
    Whoever said Halo is a moron. That was not a Dyson sphere.
  • June 26, 2009
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
    Best Dyson's sphere I've ever read about was in Illegal Aliens. The inside of the shell was covered in solar collectors, and the people lived *inside* the shell, as basically it was a big spherical shaped space station.
  • July 10, 2009
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
    BUMP Strike 1!
  • July 24, 2009
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
    BUMP Strike 2! 3rd strike and I call for a launch or discard.
  • July 24, 2009
    Nate the Great
    It deserves a page.
  • July 27, 2009
    Slartis
    How about calling it "Enormous Big Thing" as this was the trope name coined by science fiction writers for novels about ridiculously large objects like Ringworld or a Dyston Sphere or the asteroid sized ship RAMA etc.

    The mining ship Red Dwarf might qualify on the lower end of the scale.
  • July 28, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Halo is a Ringworld, not a Dyson Sphere.
  • August 11, 2009
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
    BUMP Strike 3! Cryptic Mirror, were you going to launch this?

    Also we are counting ringworlds, dyson clouds, etc., as part of a dyson sphere trope.
  • August 11, 2009
    CrypticMirror
    Actually I'd forgotten all about it, so Up For Grabs
  • August 11, 2009
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
    Iain M Banks's Culture novels have Orbitals, which seem suspiciously similar to Ringworlds.
  • August 21, 2009
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
    BUMP Strike 4! Oops. Starting launch clock.
  • August 21, 2009
    Micah
    If it's going to be launched, this still needs distinguishing from Big Dumb Object. The obvious split is between:

    1. Weird artifacts and wandering things (Rama, the whale probe from Star Trek IV, the 2001 monolith)
    2. Solar-system-scale engineering projects (Ringworld, Orbitals, proper Dyson spheres, Matrioshka brains)
  • August 21, 2009
    arromdee
    Note that the concept of the Dyson Sphere doesn't imply that it's a solid shell. It can be a sphere made up of enough separate orbiting satellites to intercept all of the star's energy.

    Most sci-fi uses solid shells, even though they're far more impractical, because it looks more impressive.
  • August 23, 2009
    Madrugada
    How do you propose to deal with the overlap with Big Dumb Object, Frodo?
  • August 23, 2009
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
    A Dyson Sphere is a solar - system - sized object. It's built around a star. It is a specific subtrope of Big Dumb Object.
  • August 23, 2009
    Mimir
    If this is any Astrscale Engineering thing, rather than just the Sphere, Name should be changed to Enormous Big Thing.
  • August 24, 2009
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
    But Enormous Big Thing sounds so vague. (I'm delaying launching this just a bit.)
  • August 24, 2009
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
    @The Aesthete: The Dyson Sphere in New Mutants belonged to Cannonball's then-girlfriend, Lila Cheney.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

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