Taking as its starting point a rather speculative account of projects to colonize cosmic space and the sun from my book Solar Politics (2022), this essay drifts towards a reflection on the nuclear futures of humanity and the dialectics of the atom between war and peace.

In 1895, Russian cosmist and theorist of rocketry and astronautics Konstantin Tsiolkovsky published a science fiction novel, Dreams about the Earth and the Sky, which alludes to the idea that humanity will eventual colonize the Milky Way galaxy. The novel describes, among other things, the belt of asteroids around the sun inhabited by colonists from bigger planets, who had overcome gravity and developed into a new, highly intelligent form of life. Proximity to the sun allows them to control the power of its rays and enjoy it as they wish. For the most effective use of the solar energy, these post-human communities decompose planets and turn them into a “necklace” that consists of rings dispersed in space and rotating around the sun.

In 1960 a similar idea was popularized by theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson. He suggested that the growing energy needs of advanced technological civilizations would inevitably lead to the formation of artificial megastructures around the sun, which would capture a large amount of its energy output. If we found traces of such megastructures somewhere in the cosmos, this would prove the existence of intelligent extraterrestrial life. There can be various modifications to the so-called Dyson sphere, but the main principle is that there must be a piece of technology that could surround the sun and consume its energy at a maximal scale without being burned by its radiation.

In 1964, Soviet astronomer Nikolai Kardashev proposed measuring the level of technological development of civilizations by the amount of energy they consume. On the Kardashev scale, there are different types of civilizations. The first is called planetary civilization, which uses only the energy available on its planet. The second is stellar, which uses and controls the energy of its planetary system. The third is galactic, which makes use of all the energy in its galaxy, like the Milky Way. There are two further, even more speculative levels: the fourth type of civilization is universal, and the fifth, multi-universal, which is so powerful that it can even create universes itself, just like God. For the time being, humanity has not yet fully reached even the first level. It has not yet become a planetary civilization, which would be technically equipped for colonizing other planets. The perspective of colonizing Mars already looks realistic, but further expansion into outer space would require much greater amounts of energy.

If we consider the future of humanity, the question of energy consumption is crucial. Today, there exist three types of energy sources: 1) fossil fuels (oil, gas, coal); 2) renewables (wind, sun, water); and 3) nuclear energy (atoms). Each of these brings its own risks and harms, and each plays its own role in the drama of the apocalypse now being staged in the theater of human history: the burning of fossil fuels results in carbon emissions and climate change; renewable energy infrastructure contributes to biodiversity loss; and the threat posed by nuclear energy is associated with radioactive waste and techno-genic disasters such as Fukushima in 2011 and Chernobyl in 1986.

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