Humanity could be saved from rising global temperatures by changing the orbit of the earth with the help of space rocks.
Says one mad scientist, who has controversially claimed that asteroids decked out with giant high-tech sails are the solution to our climate problems.
Dr. Sohrab Rahvar, an astrophysicist at Sharif University of Technology in Iran, outlined his hypothetical trick in a paper published online Tuesday.
He told The Sun that the plan would be to move the earth’s orbit away from the sun in a “game of gravity billiards”.
He claimed that scientists could remove us thousands of kilometers from our star by directing objects from the asteroid belt into near-misses with our planet.
This would serve to cool global temperatures, which – in addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions – would mitigate the effects of global warming.
The proposal, which would take decades to complete, has sparked controversy among scholars, one of whom called it “madness.”
It would be astronomically expensive to pull through with no guarantee of functionality, and if it should go wrong it would pose a serious threat to life on earth.
The plan also relies on solar sails, a hypothetical type of high-efficiency propulsion technology that has not yet been invented.
Dr. Rahvar is based on a technique known as “gravity assist”.
It is an approach used by space agencies to accelerate a spacecraft or divert its path by flying it close to a planet or other space object.
According to Dr. Rahvar such close passes can, under certain circumstances, slightly change the orbit of the object providing the “assistance”.
He suggests that solar sails – high-tech reflective disks driven by solar radiation – be strapped to space rocks in the asteroid belt.
These can then be sent towards Earth to make close overflights with Earth that will gradually change the orbit of our planet.
“We need a number of asteroids in order to [pass close to] The earth has an effective temperature loss, “Dr. Rahvar told The Sun.
“For example, to bring the temperature of the earth down to one degree, we have to move it on the order of 250,000 miles from the sun.”
He added, “The result would be a weaker sun in the sky and a decrease in the earth’s temperature.”
According to the physicist’s calculations, it would take over 70 years to complete the hair-raising project.
In the meantime, engineers must invent a working solar sail that can travel deep into space.
Scientists have been debating the possibilities of the technology for decades, but a working prototype is still a long way off.
Dr. Rahvar said he did not estimate the cost of the project. It would likely hit the tens of billions of dollars.
He stressed that the cheapest and most effective way to stop global temperature rise is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“The cheapest way to get rid of global warming is to decarbonize the atmosphere,” he told The Sun.
“However, advanced future civilizations on Earth will definitely have the ability to carry out the project I am proposing.”
The research was published in the pre-print journal Arxiv. It has not yet been reviewed by scientists.
Experts responded to Dr. Rahvar’s paper with a mixture of confusion and contempt.