from August 24, 2003
We at the Myles Junior Think Tank were not surprised by the recent blackout of 9,300 square miles in the Northeastern U.S. and parts of Canada. In fact, we were near completion of our study of the problem of the world’s inadequate power supplies when the event overtook us.
Here, in a word, is our long-range plan for solving this nettlesome difficulty: lunar power.
Solar power has, of course, received a great deal of attention by other seers and think tanks. It has had modest success, powering tiny student-made autos from coast to coast for years. Yet the general public has regarded these annual races, not as a serious answer to the problem of the growing lack of energy, but as a curiosity.
There is a reason for this absence of enthusiasm. Though in principle solar power is the definitive solution, far outstripping its major competitor, wind-generated electricity (nobody minds having the sun around, but most of us would take to the streets to protest the construction of a huge windmill in our own back yards), there is, sadly, only one sun, which shines on any given spot on earth less than fifty percent of the time. Given the nature of things, it cannot be expected to provide energy (1) all of the time and (2) in sufficient quantities for our growing energy needs.
In proposing lunar power as the solution, we are not so simple as to believe that the present moon, as constituted, has not carried its fair share of the energy burden. What we propose is a change in the moon itself.
Inspired by the example of the artist Christo (1935- ), who has draped Australia’s coast, a Colorado valley, two California counties, several Florida islands, even Berlin’s Reichstag, in fashionable cloth, we are suggesting that the moon—or at least that part of it that faces the earth—be wrapped in tinfoil. Thus the rays of the sun that hit the moon would be reflected onto the earth, increasing our solar power by as much as ten percent.
A quick phone call to our colleagues at NASA confirmed our surmise that this project is feasible within two years, given adequate federal funding; moreover, the folks there agreed that this plan seems to be an efficient, environmentally responsible use of the discarded tinfoil that presently litters our garbage dumps. However, they pointed out that the moon goes through phases. In the jargon of the energy industry, it does not always run at full capacity.
After this conversation, we at MJTT repaired to the drawing boards and, working feverishly yet coolly, came up with what we dare say is a brilliant reformulation of our theory. Is there any reason or intergalactic law to prevent us from borrowing a moon or two from our more plentifully endowed fellow planet, Jupiter?
To our knowledge, there is none. In fact, there is a precedent for just such action. Astronomers now believe it likely that eons ago, Neptune snatched its renowned moon Triton from empty space.
Another quick phone call to the folks at NASA again bore fruit. They referred us to their co-workers at the JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory), who were near-ecstatic about this general schema and, after only a moment’s hesitation, promised to come up with the technology for sending a space vehicle to the far side of Io and pushing it out of its orbit around Jupiter and into an orbit around us, this in such a way that when our native unnamed moon is in its new phase, Io will be in full mode, and vice versa.
The rest would be easy. After plastering our borrowed moon with used tinfoil, we would, by our mutual rough calculation, have enough energy to last the entire earth for the remainder of this century. This would provide humankind with plenty of time to filch at least half of Jupiter’s remaining moons.
Scoffers will undoubtedly scorn this plan on the grounds that it would deprive us of night and thus of romance. But let it never be said that we at MJTT are behind the curve. Research assistants at the University of Alaska have verified our guess that the mating habits of moose, elk, and caribou are not affected by the long summer days in that part of the world. We have every reason to believe that this behavior will be replicated among humans.
If this surmise proves to be erroneous, the problem of unmanageable population growth will be resolved, and with it, that of insufficient energy.