A fellow theoretician associated with the JPL has pointed out a problem with our scheme to produce lunar power. This problem has nothing to do with the plan to wrap “our” side of the moon with used tinfoil in order to provide reflected sunshine, thus solving, or at least alleviating, the problem of scarce energy sources that dogs our late-industrial society; the problem our man sees concerns the steady filching of the extra moons from the planet Jupiter.
Not that he regards this in a moral or legal light. In his opinion, the Deity would not object to our far-flung project, being unconcerned by minor events in a far corner of His or Her universe. Rather, our colleague’s concern is eminently practical: what would half a dozen moons circumnavigating the earth do to our ocean tides? (In the interest of full disclosure, I must report that he and I are fellow fishermen, and many of our younger colleagues are ardent surfers.) Would all those extra moons cause huge or unpredictable tides, perhaps even the dreaded tsunamis that occasionally bash our coasts and disrupt our marine trade and cruise ships?
An afternoon at our sophisticated computers alleviated our concerns about this potential hazard. Working together, we were able to devise several alternative models of multiple satellite orbits (MSOs) that would allay all irrational fears.
These models were built on the simple idea that not all the orbits of our “borrowed” moons would be either (1) equatorially aligned or (2) perfectly circular. For example, as many as three moons could orbit our planet around the two poles; at least two of them could follow an elliptical orbit. With attentive fine-tuning, any and all of our models could even provide us with completely placid oceans, in which all tides would vary as little as .678 centimeters on a calm day. Not that this would be desirable, we were quick to point out to our young surfer assistants; only that it would be possible.
Pleased with our resolution of this potentially disastrous problem, we sat around one of our laboratories at MJTT and sipped our evening port.
Next morning, however, I must report that I awoke with a dreadful premonition that there was still a major flaw in our theoretical work. Tides, I reasoned, are caused by the gravity that the present moon exerts on the earth we have grown accustomed to call home. Would not a plethora of moons be unsettling to our current arrangements—for example, apples that fall from trees to the ground instead of leaping skyward?
I called my colleague at JPL to discuss this problem. That afternoon we held an extensive consultation over the net. To be short, we concluded that it was theoretically possible to continue our budding joint project, under the auspices of the U. S. Government, the United Nations, the Pan-Arab League, the International Olympic Committee, the American Farm Bureau, and the Eagle Scouts. That is to say, we became convinced that our initial goal of providing lunar energy to the world would not necessarily be compromised by the problem of gravity. In fact, it was clearly possible for us to concoct a multi-moon model that would both preserve the advantages of present gravity and provide extra benefits of which we are presently deprived.
Let a pair of examples suffice. With the proper alignment of half a dozen tinfoil-coated moons, apples would fall more gingerly to earth, thus avoiding bruises; and world records would be set in practically every Olympic event. (The major exception would be in downhill skiing, a sport that would have to change its emphasis from speed to grace, thus freeing the skier from the fear of disastrous tumbles and careers shortened by repetitive-stress knee and ankle injuries.)
All in all, we believe, our initial plan, properly qualified, will make the world a better place in which to ski.