Tuesday, February 17, 2009

it wasn't raining when noah built the ark

I've been working on a silk painting this weekend but it can get a bit boring waiting for one part to dry so I can work on the next. There came a point when I found myself staring out of the window and thinking about the $4million prize that was offered by NASA for some problem solving.

Since the 1950's, people, animals and hardware have thundered into orbit, shoved skyward by barely controlled explosions. Now that I have Friday's off work I've decided to do something useful and build my own space elevator.

By adding carbon nanotubes (roughly 10,000 times as thin as a human hair) to very pretty strands of dyed silk, I've invented a fiber strong enough and light enough to form the backbone of a space-elevator system. A sturdy tree in our backyard will serve as an excellent anchor for the thin cable and there's terrific bus service to our neighborhood for all who wish to fly or who just want to come and wave good-bye.

The cars themselves will be made of woven baskets that will be propelled by helium filled circus balloons. Passengers will be able to ride into space in a very relaxed atmosphere all the way to the geosynchronous space station whose design Crow is currently completing. He envisions it being made of stained glass panels so the unhindered light of the sun can make a fabulous display for his guests who've always wanted to see what the world looks like without suffering the agony and inconvenience of riding in a cramped rocket.

It all sounds plausible: my cable will extend up to its station 22,245 miles into space, kept under tension by the competing forces of gravity on Earth and the outward centrifugal acceleration at the platform end. The cable then extends a further 40,000 miles into space to a counterweight that helps keep the whole structure stable. I'm thinking we can use the all the weapons, tanks and SUV's made in the last 50 years for the counterweight and can fill them with the oligarchs of our political and financial systems. Maybe after they've had a few good swings around the planet they'll come to their senses.

“Riding silently into the sky, soon she was 100km high, higher even than the old pioneering rocket planes, the X15s, used to reach. The sky was already all but black above her, with a twinkling of stars right at the zenith, the point to which the ribbon, gold-bright in the sunlight, pointed like an arrow. Looking up that way she could see no sign of structures further up the ribbon, no sign of the counterweight. Nothing but the shining beads of more spiders clambering up this thread to the sky. She suspected she still had not grasped the scale of the elevator, not remotely.”

From Firstborn by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter
Publisher: Del Ray


Lover of Life said...

The silk painting is amazing. I once found an artist out of Montana that did silk paintings and then made the most incredible throw pillows out of different materials such as wool. Beautiful.

Lover of Life said...

Oh, and good luck with the Nasa prize! :-)

Lisa said...

I'm thinking we can use the all the weapons, tanks and SUV's made in the last 50 years for the counterweight and can fill them with the oligarchs of our political and financial systems. Maybe after they've had a few good swings around the planet they'll come to their senses.

I love the idea and one can hope that they have senses to come to.

I love seeing your art in progress. I just had to pull out my piece of silk treasure from you and look at it and touch it just now.

Seraphine said...

and i have trouble getting out of bed some mornings. what's wrong with that picture?
i love the silk paintings. it's def nasa-like in my book. it's beautiful, beautiful.

Pagan Sphinx said...

Yippee! This is definately how I want to orbit! Do you have a basket in reds and pinks?

"the oligarchs of our political and financial systems. Maybe after they've had a few good swings around the planet they'll come to their senses."

Or...just get out of the way. :-)

I love the silk painting you're working on. Oooooooooh, la la.

Wonderful post. So many smiles. So much beauty.

Utah Savage said...

You talent is so wonderful to see in the process of creating.

And what Lisa said, too.

linda said...

susan, what a fabulous post ... both the painting and the space basket car junk pile orbiter fantasy you dreamed up...you need to be writing 7=10 yr. old kid's books ...my grandson would love this whole idea and picture. :)

it's interesting how you have that silk stretched...are you working on some kind of frame?

susan said...

lol - It's a pretty intense hobby.

lisa - There's already a lot of junk up there they'll have to dodge. Maybe that will help.

sera - I only have trouble getting out of bed the mornings I have to go to work. Funny how I can work from a few template drawings and every lady looks different.

pagan - Why yes we do have a basket in red and pink. We also have purple ones and green ones with yellow spots and blue one with turquoise stripes. It will be a colorful and happy way to travel.

So glad I made you smile :-)

utah - I do visual and tactile. All the rest mostly stays in my head.

linda - You know that's not a bad idea. Maybe I'll do it.

In answer to your question, I've gone back to making little silk bags which are about 3x5 inches when finished. I use canvas stretchers when working on these miniatures as well as for most of my pieces. Push pins then elastics to hold the silk pins. Otherwise, the portraits would contort and they wouldn't be pretty.

Steve Emery said...

I loved every word of this - it was great fun to read. Now I have to think whether I go on to any more blogs tonight, or deliberately stop while these images are in my head. I'm leaning towards the latter.

In fact, that's exactly what I'm going to do. Long drive to SC tomorrow, I'll just stop here and maybe tomorrow on the way down in the car I'll dream up the design of my own basket to ride that cable of yours. I don't want to go up to stay; I just want to see the whole globe at once and enjoy the luscious curves of her.

susan said...

steve - What a remarkable coincidence that my last stop was at color sweet tooth. Every so often I've given up on painting for a while to mess around with something else and every time I return able to draw and paint better than before. I hope that happens for you too while you're off on your business trip.

I've been thinking that Linda's idea about me writing and illustrating stories like this might be an enjoyable thing to do. I'm glad to know you liked it since that gives me a little extra impetus. Blogging small is a nice break for me and I'm delighted to know the friends I've made up here enjoy my meanderings.

Take care :-) You have some very important people relying on you.

susan said...

ps, steve - I'd love to just go and look at her too. I've never forgotten the small blue ball pictures.. like a pearl in darkest space. What a miracle.

Anonymous said...

Maybe after they've had a few good swings around the planet they'll come to their senses.

Or maybe we just cut the fucking rope and let the sun's gravity pull them in and roast them. The possibilities with your contraption are wonderfully endless.

Seraphine said...

its the same with musicians. they play the same music over and over, especially when it's a hit record. can you imagine playing in-a-gadda-da-vida for twenty or thirty years?
but everytime its played, it's slightly different from the night before. it is surrounded by mood, attitude, whether they slept the night before, by how swollen their nasal passages are. bones ache, fingers shake.
inspiration is funny. you draw the same familiar line, hold the same familiar face in your hands, work the same template night after day. the result is hardly the same.
nothing is fixed until its done.
nothing done is static.

susan said...

spartacus - Hey, that's not a bad idea.. or maybe they'd swing in a loop around the sun and the momentum would send them off to Arcturus. Now that would be a trip they'd remember.

sera - For convenience sake we like to imagine we inhabit a concrete reality but it's not that way at all. Our senses fill in the blanks.

Randal Graves said...

I have to second spartacus' idea about the death by burning sun gig.

And helium balloons would be cool. I've always wanted an excuse to wear a top hat!

Gary said...

Hmmmm. What to say!

The painting looks great pinched by those blue things. Nice.

ANd yes, I'd give you the money - you're brilliant.

P.S. If you visit Brian Everest's site on my blog, you'll see that sadly, he died. There is a lovely obituary by his partner Joanne there.

Seraphine said...

noah knew rain,
even if it wasn't
raining when he
built the ark.

susan said...

randal - Yes, this is very like my other fantasy about riding in an airship. Meet you on the Promenade Deck with a bottle of Pedro Domecq Amontillado at six.

gary - Now if only you were in charge of the NASA budget we'd be set.

sera - Bob Dylan knew about rain too:

Oh, whatll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, whatll you do now, my darling young one?
Im a-goin back out fore the rain starts a-fallin,
Ill walk to the depths of the deepest black forest,
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty,
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters,
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison,
Where the executioners face is always well hidden,
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten,
Where black is the color, where none is the number,
And Ill tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it,
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it,
Then Ill stand on the ocean until I start sinkin,
But Ill know my song well before I start singin,
And its a hard, its a hard, its a hard, its a hard,
Its a hard rains a-gonna fall.

gfid said...

spartacus and randal have the right idea. cut the cable when you get the war mongers and life leeches up there. i'm a little bit afraid of your destination... like the west coast, i'm afraid to go to space. there's a strong feeling that once i get to either of those places, i'll never want to leave. ....and completely off topic, those pointy grabber things you hold your beautiful painting with look like something i'd definitely hurt myself on.

susan said...

gfid - It remains amazing to me that centuries after feudalism was supposed to be a relic of history that so many people don't recognize its ugly face today.

You're right, the silk pins are very sharp but it's kind of like any rewarding exercise in that you have to risk a little pain.