Nextbigfuture has covered many of the ideas of Alexander Bolonkin. Bolonkin He was a Russian-American scientist and academic who worked in the Soviet aviation, space and rocket industries. He died on Christmas day 2020 at the age of 87.
Bolonkin held 17 patents. He proposed the idea of domed cities as a protection against nuclear weapons. He wrote papers on inflatable mountains, cable space launcher, a hypersonic tube launcher, a kinetic anti-gravitation system, a multi-reflex propulsion device, space towers, an electrostatic space sail, an electric ramjet space propulsion device, and the cable aviation device. He proposed AB-Matter femtotechnology.
Inflatable Mountains for Weather Control
Arxiv – Cheap Artificial AB-Mountains, Extraction of Water and Energy from Atmosphere and Change of Regional Climate by Alexander Bolonkin
Bolonkin’s idea is creating a cheap range of inflatable ‘mountains’ (really immense gasbags) from a thin film whose presence forces humid air (a wet wind) to rise to high altitude. It is well known that air expands and cools at altitude. The air humidity decreases, exceeds the maximal saturation level and superfluous water vapor condenses in various forms, including rain or rain clouds.
The top of the gasbags’ film is located at an altitude of ~3 – 5 km. It is supported at this altitude by a small additional air pressure produced by ground ventilators. The film is connected to Earth’s ground by controlled cables, which allow some change in the height and orientation of the artificial mountain(s). The gasbag’s external surface may require double-layer film. We can control the heat conductivity of the dome cover by pumping an air between two layers of the dome cover and change the solar heating (solar radiation) by control of cover clarity or pumping a warm air between layers if icing-over or show is at the dome top. That allows selecting for different conditions (solar heating) in the covered area and by pumping air into the dome.
The building of a film dome is very easy. The collapsed film is spread out over Earth’s surface, turn on the pumping propellers and the film is raised by air overpressure to the needed altitude limited by the support cables. Damage to the film is not major trouble because the additional air pressure is very small (0.005 – 0.05 atm) and air leakage is compensated for by the air impellers.
The UAE and the Netherlands have given serious study the inflating mountain concept.
Dome Cities Versus Nuclear Weapons and Missiles
Nextbigfuture looked at making two large concrete or nanomaterial monolithic or geodesic domes over cities that could protect a city from nuclear bombs.
Alexander Bolonkin idea was for a cheaper, technological easy approach with thin-film inflatable domes.
It not only would provide protection from nuclear devices it could be used to place high communication devices, windmill power and a lot of other money-generating uses. The film mass covered of 1 km**2 of ground area is M1 = 2×10**6 mc = 600 tons/km**2 and film cost is $60,000/km**2.
Bolonkin also had the concept of placing small stones onto an air-inflated dome. If a missile hit the film, then the kinetic energy of the missile would slam many stones into the missile as it was passing through the inflated dome.
FemtoTechnology Beyond Nanotechnology
Bolonkin tried to figure out ways to bootstrap to the point where we could engineer with protons and neutrons. It was an interesting conceptual exercise.
The necessary condition (prerequisite LAW) of stability the AB-Matter are the following:)
The number of protons must be less than approximately 90 into a local sphere of the radius of 3 femtometers at any point within AB-Matter.
2) The number of nucleons must be less than approximately 240 into a local sphere of the radius of 3 femtometers ( 6 femtometers diameter) at any point within AB-Matter.
3) AB-Matter contains a minimum of two protons.
Bolonkin was intellectually fearless. He was willing to try solve big problems with big ideas. He had a grounding in current engineering, science, physics and aviation. He was willing to see where he could push the limits to generate interesting concepts and proposals. His ideas were also fun and interesting. Even if there were flaws, Bolonkin had explored out-of-the-box solutions that could become the basis for new implemented ideas. Nextbigfuture enjoyed his writings and ideas and will continue to his fearless push for big ideas and solutions.
Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.
22 thoughts on “Big Thinker of Inflatable Weather Modification Mountains and Femtotechnology Ideas Has Died”
Thank you. He was a visionary thinker. RIP.
America isn't going to compete with nations like China in the future. But there is one genuine 'exception' to America – many smart people want to move there. So America needs tons of talented immigrants.
Femto-time scale-technology is already possible today. No need to break any laws of physics there. Attosecond even, the power of which is yet to be developed.
This one hurts. I liked him and Robert Forward
So to make femtotech physically possibly, we just have to change the laws of physics. Easy.
Read a lot of his material over the pandemic time. The electron gas lifted space towers and the fusion reactors were super interesting.
On his imbedded rocks idea. You are essentially correct in how to counter it, but that requires two hits within the CEP – which in the 70s and 80s was measured in miles. Since flying your warhead through a nuclear shockwave and fireball is contra-indicated for accuracy and reliability, you really want two separate strikes a few minutes apart. Now you need two missiles, only one of which he really needs to intercept. And he knows which cities are being targeted, which allows him to concentrate surveillance resources on the approaches. I don't think it would have worked very well, even in the 70s, but it's a provoking thought exercise on how to extend a strategy of attrition to ICBM defense.
Yes! The evil fruits of communism. Advanced nanotechnology will make possible Matter Replicator Assemblers that can give us "compassionate capitalism for all people". Everyone becomes their own producer of capital goods. Everyone becomes a billionaire many times over.
Good ideas. Another idea is to work with the TENSEGRITY DOMES of Buckminster Fuller. Multi Layered Diamondoid Domes based on the Fullerene Molecule. Cover over areas and the heat and energy is super efficient, they can also float under their own power. Much more durable and reliable than any inflatables.
Brett, the key to making stable AB matter, as Captain Quirk said, is not to start (ironically) as Bolonkin thought, at the "top down" (this is ironic because in his eyes he was starting from the bottom-up , the nucleon level. Drexler and crowd use the term Bottom Up to refer to assembling materials and machines and computers from the atoms on up. Top Down refers to the Feynman way of carving things from macro to atom.) In this sense, bottom up in our concept goes deeper: Start at the QUANTUM VACUUM LEVEL and move up from there. Reprogram the virtual state, as Froning and TD Lee showed, to fundamentally control decay and stability rates. Do this, friend, and then you can make CUSTOM MADE MUONIUM that does not decay like normal muonium. You can change decay rates of nuclear particles and all of that, and make MACROSCOPICALLY STABLE QUARK GLUON CHAINS! You can even break the Hadronic Cage of the Confinement Principle wide open because now you can REPROGRAM QUANTUM CHROMODYNAMICS AT THE ROOT.
In the mean time we can make full use of "Gem Gum" Diamondoid Meta Materials (a term someone else on the internet came up with), that are in the 50-600 times or so stronger than strong alloy steel ranges. These never rust/corrode, can be made self-healing, shape-changing, any texture or color pattern on their surface, and can be made heat-resistant with aerogel materials.
I believe you actually "hit the nail on the head", Captain Quirk. I have been studying nanotechnology and femtotechnology, zero point energy field manipulation, and more, for years. I am so glad you are here and typed this. After studying the work of Bolonkin and others, I realized what you did: "Normal" nuclear material could not be stable enough to make fibers, plates, needles, as he envisioned, because of the laws that you and others mentioned. This is why the great nanotechnologist, Eric Drexler, and Ralph Merkle, and others, were skeptical of femto and pico technology, while advocating for mechanical molecular assembly of atoms and molecules into diamondoid. Diamondoid we know is 100 percent stable based on the laws of chemistry. Under NORMAL CONSTRAINTS, as you said, femto matter cannot exist outside of a neutron star enviroment. Here, is the key, as you again said: We must learn to engineer the FOUNDATIONS of the fields. The PRECUSOR ENGINEERING of the QUANTUM GROUND where the fields (electromagnetism, gravity, etc) find their ROOT. The "old way" as in Nikola Tesla of saying this would be "Engineer the ether/aether and the atoms follow." You go to the symmetrical level at the quantum vacuum and once there you can make un-naturally altered patterns of higher level materials like quarks, protons, neutrons, and even new forms of electrons. You can then make unstable things stable. You can happen and unhappen matter as certain people put it. THANK YOU!
Since I read what I could of a book written by H. David Froning ( the parts that are not too technical for me) I began to think that the idea for femtotechnology might involve imposing a SU3 symmetry on the long range U1 symmetry of electromagnetism to engage with the strong nuclear force. Polarization modulation might put a SU2 symmetry on electromagnetism to connect with gravity and thus the shape of spacetime.
3 to 5 km gasbags? and how do you keep them in place in a breeze? Sounds very far fetched.
He went through hell as a dissident in the Soviet Union before he moved to America. RIP to a real one.
One could hang mist nets from tethered blimps into the *cloud* layer and use the pressure of the falling water to generate some current too.
Check out "Shortstack" by Leigh Richmond and Walt Richmond.
Pretty much had the whole idea.
It's a fallout shelter, not a bomb shelter; The dust settles out far enough from the people that the air is adequate shielding. But it theoretically does allow for climate control on whole city basis.
What Bolonkin was proposing was imbedding rocks in the surface, at close enough intervals that an incoming warhead would hit one or more and be wrecked before reaching detonation altitude. Alas, easily defeated by "laddering", a technique where you detonate one warhead over the dome, taking it out, then the next enters through the fireball of the first.
The list of stability criteria was missing an important one: That the configuration be a local energy minima. Basically all of his 'AB matter" proposals grossly failed it.
gasbags of ~3 – 5 km high? Supported at this altitude by a small additional air pressure produced by ground ventilators? Our upcoming desalination technology is going to be cheaper than that for sure, not to mention the environmental damage.
Large concrete or nanomaterial monolithic or geodesic domes over cities that could protect a city from nuclear bombs? You will need bunker grade concrete to start thinking of blocking upcoming missiles, not to mention the cost of blocking the sunlight and the moving air. Not feasible at all. Even building underground cities makes more sense. Our upcoming anti missile technology make much more sense.
Did he grow up in the Soviet Union? Makes sense.
Wow, Bolonkin was the source of many interesting concepts and papers for space launch that enthralled young engineers. He will be missed.
This discussion doesn't sound terribly positive.
It isn't clear how the femtotech thing could work. If you want to pack carbon atoms together at normal pressures, you can't get much denser than diamond.
If you want to pack tighter, such as in a neutron star, you'd need to have incredible pressure, such as in a neutron star. And it would expand again when you release the pressure.
If you tried to make something like a single atom with a thousand protons in a single nucleus, then it would be wildly unstable. It would decay in less than the time it takes light to cross an atom width.
And if you wanted to form a black hole, then the result wouldn't really be something most people would call " femtotech".
So what kind of "femtotech" would the laws of physics actually allow?
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