Tuesday 23 January 2018

Our €20bn social welfare black hole is a mystery beyond comprehension

THE space elevator is a science-fiction standard. Like teleporters, laser guns and green-skinned ladies with a twinkle in their eyes, space elevators are part of the sci-fi cannon.

A space elevator is a very long tube, reaching up 20,000 miles into the sky, used to move people and spacecraft from Earth without using any fuel to launch them. To get a sense of scale, the elevator would be 20,000 miles up, but our highest skyscraper is 0.5 miles high, and Mount Everest is 8.5 miles high. It would take days just to ascend the elevator.

The elevator would be the largest man-made object ever constructed. If you were standing at the base of the elevator, it would be too wide to see across, and, because it would disappear into the clouds above, you would never see it in its entirety. There would be no way to physically access the scale and complexity of this human construct. We couldn't understand this thing we've built, this thing we've designed. And the elevator, for all its size, is just an elevator. It goes up, and down. And that's it.

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