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Rate My Phlebotinum: "Photon Capture Engine.":

Math guy
What is it? A power generator. Initially room- or building-sized, later versions probably smaller.

How does it work? Basically, it's invented after the discovery of an extra "layer" of the universe. Energy can be drawn from this space, but it simultaneously drains an equal quantity of energy from the "real" universe. Consequently, while it's running, photons across the universe will be disappearing into the "extra layer, " with each photon having an equal (minuscule) chance of being selected. The total energy of every photon that disappears is equal to the amount of energy the Photon Capture Engine produces, not accounting for inefficiency decreasing the amount of useful energy available.

Most radiant energy in the universe is contained in the cosmic microwave background radiation. Thanks to thermal radiation, all thermal energy also eventually returns to this pool. So you have an effectively unlimited energy supply (albeit not unlimited power), but the total energy of the universe is conserved. It just takes a massive dump all over the second law of thermodynamics.

Could this work as a piece of Applied Phlebotinum? Any blatant problems with using it in a story that I've missed?
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 2 Major Tom, Thu, 7th Oct '10 8:04:05 PM Relationship Status: Baby don't hurt me!
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Apart from telling Newton to fuck off, no. I don't see a Suspension of Disbelief problem at all among general audiences.
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I don't think it plays nice with Relativity's red/blueshifting of the CMBR, but that's less of an issue than the fact you've thrown thermodynamics out the window.
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 4 Deboss, Fri, 8th Oct '10 7:02:37 AM from Awesomeville Texas
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...The hell? Red/blue shifting is an effect of the Doppler effect, not relativity.
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Well, the combination of Relativity and Doppler. My point is that you can change the energy of a given region of the CMBR by moving around.
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 6 pvtnum 11, Fri, 8th Oct '10 10:28:30 AM from Kerbin low orbit Relationship Status: We finish each other's sandwiches
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So - you're tapping off of a layer of energy, but in order to keep that layer in equilibrium, random photons will pop out of normal space and into that layer to replenish it.

Well, photons are generated somehow. So in essence, you have a really roundabout way to capture photon energy, but not in a way that involves solar cells, basically.

If the process results in photons (and their energy) being removed from nomral space and into the layer - wait, here's a question. Rig up your generator to a huge searchlight or other photon generator. Turn them on. Will the amount of photons you generate be equal to the amount of photons that have to be dumped into the layer to make up the difference? Will inefficiencies of the system result in waste heat being generated? (nvmd, you sort of answered that.)

Make it so that the process is inherently inefficient? Limit the system to an area of space where more photons are available to replenish the layer (so the layer recharges faster)? If too much energy is pulled out of the layer at once and in the same area, have diminishing returns after a time as the layer is depleted faster than it can be recharged?

Neat idea, though.

edited 8th Oct '10 10:29:43 AM by pvtnum11

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How does this machine actually tap into that energetic layer? That's what needs to be explained imo.

I think photons phasing back into the energy layer would be fine, it could be described as a kind of dimensional osmosis. Even though it makes zero sense.

Then again, most quantum physics don't make much sense either. That's really the field of what this is.

So how does the machine access the power source? And how is this access kept under control? If you're opening up a rift to an entire dimension of "energy" one might intuitively think you've basically just punched a hole into a bottle of water at best, a pressurized canister at worst.
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Total posts: 7
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