kurthr 23 days ago [-]
Kinda sad that Integral Trees doesn't make the list. Although it doesn't quite fit the definition... I'd say Niven's was almost certainly a derivative twist on the same idea.


tempguy9999 23 days ago [-]
It's at the bottom in the 'see also' section.
disconcision 23 days ago [-]
the list does miss brin & bedfords 'heart of the comet' though
novalis78 23 days ago [-]
This is weird. I am sure “Die Terranauten” discussed this topic at length (one of the main ideas was that a plant based galaxy wide civilization had been one of the first to ‘conquer’ space). However the series ended in 1981.


scandox 23 days ago [-]
It often seems to me that SF ideas and concepts are treated as mere notions, whereas the mere notions of scientists are treated as - grander sounding - hypotheses.
squirrelicus 23 days ago [-]
It really depends. In the 30s and 40s, many scifi [comic books] were largely based on well defined and plausible rocket theory. Hollywood though...

I guess the distinction between scientific hypotheses and scifi that extends beyond well understood science is that you have to have scientifically rigorous reasons to think the hypothesis might be true. So not mere notions, e.g. there is no cold fusion reaction hypothesis anymore.

zaro 23 days ago [-]
Thought the sameaafter reading the article.

I guess it simply shows that atuhtority is the most important quality you need for breakthrough ideas and whether you are doing science or writing fiction is not so relevant :)

laser 23 days ago [-]
Relatedly, anyone know of anybody working on genetically modifying trees to create human-habitats on earth? It’s a fun and crazy concept, but perhaps it’s still far too technically difficult to approach with current tools.

Imagine planting many acres of genetically-modified trees and coming back in forty years to the primary structures of thousands of beautiful forest homes :P

maxander 23 days ago [-]
As far as I understand it, the mechanisms that trees and other plants use to make themselves plant-shapes wouldn’t generalize to other useful things like houses; e.g., the algorithm is something akin to an L-system [0], and there’s only so much one can do with that.

[0] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/L-system

fouc 23 days ago [-]
Well you could program a die off of cells, so internals of a tree could possibly be hollowed out with rooms.
vanderZwan 23 days ago [-]
What if you use multiple trees together? A system of L-systems surely allows for more complexity?

EDIT: Might even lead to interesting "composite materials" if you can get different wood types to (semi)fuse together naturally.

a3n 23 days ago [-]
A step back from that, you can grow trees into furniture and bridges. So I suppose you could grow trees into the shape of houses, or house frames.



sangnoir 23 days ago [-]
The baobab tree[1] is already pretty close - it grows to large circumferences and has hollow trunks.

1. https://www.awesomestories.com/asset/view/Baobab-Tree-Home/

saalweachter 23 days ago [-]
As an aside, every time one of Dyson's ideas comes up on HN, I have to google, and so far have always had the same reaction: Holy crap, Freeman Dyson is still alive.
arvidkahl 23 days ago [-]
And his ideas successfully manage to blow my mind every single time. They are so human-centric, yet so vast and exploratory.
pontifier 23 days ago [-]
I hope he's signed up for cryonics so he'll maybe be able to see his ideas in action.
userbinator 23 days ago [-]
Before clicking I thought it was another odd vacuum for gardening applications, given that there is already a model called the Dyson Animal.
ComputerGuru 23 days ago [-]
And I thought it was a data structure possibly inspired by the idea of Dyson spheres.
416chad 23 days ago [-]
I'm of the same vein, fully thought this was going to be some data structure.
archgoon 23 days ago [-]
Technically it is a vacuum tree (at least initially).
mrfusion 23 days ago [-]
I’m confused. Wouldn’t it be way too cold to grow anything? And there wouldn’t be enough sunlight?
Tepix 23 days ago [-]
Space (without an atmosphere) near the Earth either too hot or too cold. The Moon gets up to 127°C during in the sunlight and -173° when during a lunar night.

My guess is you would use Dyson Trees inside hollowed out asteroids that are rotating, with the axis of rotation constantly pointing towards the sun. The window that lets the sunlight through (and keeps the new atmosphere in) could be adapted so the trees do not get too hot.

You could also have an asteroid on a circular orbit around the Sun at a distance of 1.7AU. There, in constant daylight the temperature should be just right (300°K, 26°C) when constantly facing the Sun.

antisthenes 23 days ago [-]
Yes, I'm not exactly sure how this would work.

Trees/plants still respire, so they would need some sort of atmosphere to be present within the comet. But if it's sealed so that gases don't get out, how does sunlight get in?

Not to mention that the whole plan goes bottoms up if the comet just happens to pass close enough and most of it evaporates into space. There goes your "tree" along with it.

deathanatos 23 days ago [-]
I was trying to envision this myself, and at some point was wondering if maybe the comet had some translucent ice, then light could get through and gases could stay in? Still, if it's cold enough to maintain the ice, I don't see how a tree is going to have a good time with it.
crimsonalucard 23 days ago [-]
Atmosphere isn't even a requirement for life yet they talk about it as if it is... Water is the main requirement and if it's all frozen there can be no life as it exists on earth.
kristianp 23 days ago [-]
I read Swanwicks "Vacuum Flowers", but didn't realise the Dyson colonies were named after a particular idea of Dysons.

I love the idea of a Dyson swarm. Just build some self-replicating factories on Mercury for building sun-orbiting PV arrays and our energy problems are solved for the next million years or so! Short-sighted argument against doing this at[1].

[1] http://www.forbes.com/sites/alexknapp/2012/04/03/destroying-...

taneq 23 days ago [-]
Yeah, that article doesn't make a very strong case against a Dyson swarm. At least it's been updated with an admission that any remotely sane approach is practical after all (rather than the assumed "set up a 1-square-km solar array, in the same orbit as Earth for some reason, and power yourself solely with that while you dismantle an entire planet and stash it in a warehouse somewhere before starting to build more solar panels"). Although the second update shows a continued lack of understanding - who on (or off) Earth would expect a planetary-scale engineering project to take less than 100 years?!

I've skimmed the follow-up article and I'm not going to read it in depth to avoid spending the morning shouting at clouds.

Anyway I digress. Self-replicating factories sound great but eventually they're gonna start evolving no matter how tightly we try and lock them down, at which point we'd better hope the planet we're living on doesn't look too much like lunch to them. (I'm picturing the Greenfly mentioned in some Alistair Reynolds books.)

chr1 23 days ago [-]
Perhaps before building a swarm around the sun we should build one around the earth to gain fine grained control over the weather, and it even doesn't need to be in the orbit, but can be a swarm of sun heated air balloons.
chr1 23 days ago [-]
Would be nice to have a version of this for semi-deserts, a tree that collects and stores large amount of water during rainy season and then secretes it in the dry season.
jwilliams 23 days ago [-]
Succulents and semi-succulents effectively do this. The one that sprung to mind was the Baobab tree, which stores up to 120,000 litres (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adansonia)
d6e 23 days ago [-]
Trees in aggregate kind of do this already. Plant enough trees in an area and you change the local climate.
noneeeed 23 days ago [-]
Yep. This is one of the reasons the current (and past) burning of the Amazon (and other forests) is such a problem. Forests like that create their own climatic systems, and strongly influence the weather on a local or regional level depending on their size. It's kind of like a bigger version of the effect you get when urban areas are "greened".
ianai 23 days ago [-]
It’s more than just that too. Certain types of trees form forests near beaches and effectively act to pull water inland for other species of trees and plants. A lot of the things that need to be done (clean, maybe even desalinate?, water and carbon sequestration) may be done with trees.
WorldMaker 23 days ago [-]
It's easy to forget how old some genuses of trees are and that in some cases they did all of this many times before across many epochs of this planet. It is interesting to wonder what would happen if we just planted a lot more trees. Replaced some of our asphalted parking lots and flattened single crop agriculture fields back with forests.
chr1 15 days ago [-]
Plants did all of these, but they did the minimal amount necessary for them to survive. We can use existing plants as a huge library to mix and match behavior to get what we need. Unfortunately "just replacing" won't produce a very good results, as in many places normal forests won't survive, and in many other places they won't produce enough food compared ti single crop fields. But with gene engineering we can change that.
chr1 23 days ago [-]
Right, but the process of going from no trees to enough trees that can change climate enough to sustain themselves is very hard, and one bad year in the process can reset many year worth of progress.

The linked article made me think that perhaps it is possible to create a new species of a tree that would bootstrap this change naturally. With new gene editing methods, it should be possible to combine features of different plants to do this.

sfink 23 days ago [-]
Kudzu Tree?
antisemiotic 23 days ago [-]
Just remember to remove any baobabs you see, these can get nasty real quick.
quickthrower2 23 days ago [-]
aaron695 23 days ago [-]
A magic device with no known relationship to a current tree just magically transforms a comet.

I don't get it?

There's nothing of substance here. Nothing grounded in reality.

And there's also nothing of creative substance here I can see either.

As compared to Kim Stanley Robinson who used micro-bacteria? to try and start transforming the Martian atmosphere to a more hospitable one. Seems grounded in reality and a fun plot device.

mkorfmann 23 days ago [-]
HenryBemis 23 days ago [-]
Every time I use a Dyson hand dryer (pretty popular in the UK), I think "Dyson sphere"!!!!

Star Trek was, what lately has been, TBBT making people love sciences, space, and dreaming big.

jmah 23 days ago [-]
For the record, that's a different Dyson. Not to say it won’t trigger the thought though!
HenryBemis 23 days ago [-]
How the brain works for non-native speakers.... "Bart" for me will always bring Bart Simpson in mind first, because the first Bart I got to 'know' is from thr Simpsons, and my brain has is bound together those two points.

The same applies for the word "Dyson". I may have lunch with a Bob Dyson, but the word "Dyson" will always bring Star Trek and Dyson sphere in mind :)