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Old 29 March 2017, 02:46 PM
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Ponder Firm Floats Plan to Hang Colossal Skyscraper From an Asteroid

Don't expect it to go up anytime soon, but a New York City-based design firm has floated a mind-bending plan for the erection of a skyscraper it bills as "the world's tallest building ever."

http://www.nbcnews.com/mach/space/fi...teroid-n739601
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Old 29 March 2017, 02:56 PM
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I'm thinking "plan" is not the right word here. I'd go with "fantasy drawing".

Quote:
The plans don't say exactly how people would get on and off the building, though one illustration seem to show people parachuting from the tower to the ground.
Pretty sure no one wants to be parachuting from a building in a 500 mph wind.
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Old 29 March 2017, 03:01 PM
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Presuming that it's even possible --

I wonder what country, if any, it would be presumed to be in? and on what grounds? -- pun intended.

You'd suddenly have an entirely new area of law. And, if the answer is "none", then each such building would need its own laws. And they might be wildly different.

-- there'd also be a significant air traffic problem, wouldn't there?


thorny -- this post has too many dashes in it -- locust
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Old 29 March 2017, 03:20 PM
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The article says that Dubai would be the most likely starting point.

This is not a new concept - I've seen it in science fiction for quite a while. Star Wars had buildings on Coruscant called 'sky hooks' that was the same concept.
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Old 29 March 2017, 03:30 PM
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But it wouldn't stay in, or even over, Dubai.

Would it be under NY/USA law when over NY, but under Dubai law when over Dubai? Or neither? Not to mention all the other places.

(let's see, it's going to be legal to smoke a joint between 10:31 and 11:05, and then next between 3 PM and 3:12, but what time is it, anyway? -- I'm reminded of William Buckley, who was curious about the actual effects of marijuana, so took his yacht far enough out to sea to be out of USA jurisdiction and smoked one there. I don't remember whether he managed to get it delivered to him in mid-ocean, though.)
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Old 29 March 2017, 08:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thorny locust View Post
I'm reminded of William Buckley, who was curious about the actual effects of marijuana, so took his yacht far enough out to sea to be out of USA jurisdiction and smoked one there.
If memory serves (and it may not), and keep in mind I am not an admiralty law expert, a US citizen operating a US-flagged vessel in international waters would still be subject to US jurisdiction. In fact, I think it doesn't even have to be both of those conditions: just one would suffice. This was an important point in a course I took about boarding/searching vessels and the various legal frameworks available to do so, if it could be done at all, without the consent of the Master. It's all very fascinating, really.
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Old 29 March 2017, 09:21 PM
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Ah. It's certainly possible Buckley was mistaken about the law. I don't know if he would have had to be caught in the act of possession, as opposed to its being possible to charge him based on his own public statements made afterwards; and he might well not have been charged even if it was theoretically legal to do so.

But I still don't know whether law applicable to a ship on the ocean would be applicable to a city tethered to an asteroid. The closest existing comparison I can think of would be the space station; but that has a small population of temporary residents, all of them very carefully selected. I don't know whose law would be considered to apply if one of them, while on the station, committed an act illegal in one country but not in another -- or, for that matter, even if the act committed was illegal in all countries. I don't think the situation's ever come up; or, if it has, it wasn't publicized.
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Old 29 March 2017, 09:36 PM
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The designated commander of whatever Expedition crew is on station is responsible for law and order of the ISS. He or she can certainly ask for guidance from ground support, but otherwise has the final word on any disciplinary actions taken on station.

That being said, the countries who built the various modules have influence on what goes on in their sections of the station. When a millionaire bought his way onto the station several years ago via a Russian offer, the US wouldn't allow him access to the US-built sections of the station. He was mostly confined to the Zvezda and Zarya modules.

~Psihala
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Old 29 March 2017, 09:56 PM
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I would suspect that, if nothing else, US law would apply to the American astronauts on the ISS. For anyone else, I would imagine the principle hurdle would be extradition on return to Earth. The Achille Lauro hijacking may provide a good example of what can be done vs. what another jurisdiction will allow. It's fairly clear that the US felt it could try a Palestinian of ambiguous citizenship in a US court for murdering an American citizen on an Italian-flagged cruise-liner and it almost managed to do so. The only trouble was, after managing to force an Egyptian airliner to land on a NATO base in Sicily, the Italians made the arrest and refused to extradite, though they did try the case themselves.

So, like I said, I suspect it would be more a question of extradition than jurisdiction.
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Old 30 March 2017, 03:04 PM
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But how much of that would apply to a floating city? It probably wouldn't have a military commander in charge of everyone on it. And people on the space station are there only temporarily; it's clear that their citizenship remains what it is when they're at their primary residences. If the primary, or possibly sole, residence is the floating city: would people who lived there be citizens of the city itself? of the place they had lived previously? What about children who were born there -- possibly eventually to others who had been born there? Would the city be able to have its own extradition treaties? What happens if it winds up in the airspace of a nation it has no treaties with, or which has cancelled those treaties?

Nobody lives, long-term, on airplanes or the space station. People do on ships, sometimes. Maybe some of that law is applicable. But I think the law for such cities, if they ever proved practical, would need to be written for them; and I think it would have to be written as international law. I don't see how having it originally take off from Dubai would mean that Dubai law would then be binding on it forever.
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Old 30 March 2017, 08:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thorny locust View Post
Nobody lives, long-term, on airplanes or the space station. People do on ships, sometimes. Maybe some of that law is applicable. But I think the law for such cities, if they ever proved practical, would need to be written for them; and I think it would have to be written as international law. I don't see how having it originally take off from Dubai would mean that Dubai law would then be binding on it forever.
I agree, the law, in its current form may not contemplate a floating city and might require some modification/clarification in some cases. I do not, however, believe it would have to be international law, at least not a written law. If enough nations choose to treat it as a vessel or aircraft, for instance, then that would become customary international law, something generally recognized but not codified.

Even if there is no international consensus, it will come down to what nations are willing to enforce and to what extent other nations will permit them to have their way. So the UAE (of which Dubai is an Emirate) could pass legislation insisting that the city is subject to its laws. Whether or not it would be allowed to exercise those laws would depend on how outraged other nations might be. I'd find it hard to believe that other nations would object, at a minimum, to the UAE applying its own laws to the city in international waters/airspace. Outside of that, I suspect the only objection other nations would have would be that they believe their OWN laws ought to apply while the city is in their water/airspace.

I will also note that, if nations do choose to treat it as a vessel on the high seas, then their armed forces would be permitted to "inspect" a nationless vessel under both customary international law and, for those nations that recognize it as binding (not the US) the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Article 110 seems apropros, provided enough nations are willing to consider such a city a "ship":

Quote:
Article110

Right of visit

1. Except where acts of interference derive from powers conferred by treaty, a warship which encounters on the high seas a foreign ship, other than a ship entitled to complete immunity in accordance with articles 95 and 96, is not justified in boarding it unless there is reasonable ground for suspecting that:

(a) the ship is engaged in piracy;

(b) the ship is engaged in the slave trade;

(c) the ship is engaged in unauthorized broadcasting and the flag State of the warship has jurisdiction under article 109;

(d) the ship is without nationality; or

(e) though flying a foreign flag or refusing to show its flag, the ship is, in reality, of the same nationality as the warship.

2. In the cases provided for in paragraph 1, the warship may proceed to verify the ship's right to fly its flag. To this end, it may send a boat under the command of an officer to the suspected ship. If suspicion remains after the documents have been checked, it may proceed to a further examination on board the ship, which must be carried out with all possible consideration.

3. If the suspicions prove to be unfounded, and provided that the ship boarded has not committed any act justifying them, it shall be compensated for any loss or damage that may have been sustained.

4. These provisions apply mutatis mutandis to military aircraft. (so I can also board a "ship" with a military aircraft, not just a boat)

5. These provisions also apply to any other duly authorized ships or aircraft clearly marked and identifiable as being on government service.
So, if I come upon your ship (or floating city that I have decided to treat like a ship) and see that it has no nationality (and is not subject to the laws of any nation), I may board that ship and "inspect." From there, whether I can arrest you or not, is really just a question of what my government is willing to let me do. And what your nationless floating city is willing to put up with. Of course if you interfere with me performing my inspection, using violence to do so, there's a term for that sort of thing in UNCLOS and customary international law: piracy. In that case, I actually have a duty, not just a right, to seize your "vessel" (floating city) and bring its crew to justice.

I don't think a majority of nations would suffer the idea of a nationless city: at a bare minimum, the city would have to either be subject to another nation's laws (and hope the nation it flies over will permit such an arrangement) or it would have to subject itself to inspection and interference from other nations at a whim. Unless, of course, it gained recognition as a nation unto itself. But, again, that depends on what other nations would be willing to grant.

A nationless floating city would be subject to the whims of whichever nation should choose to board and inspect it. It would be, in effect, an outlaw in the medieval sense, one who is "outside the protection of the law."
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Old 30 March 2017, 08:45 PM
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What would you be arresting them for? Is it illegal to command a vessel without a nationality? Or do you mean arresting them for something illegal found during your inspection?
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Old 30 March 2017, 10:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GenYus234 View Post
What would you be arresting them for? Is it illegal to command a vessel without a nationality? Or do you mean arresting them for something illegal found during your inspection?
That last one. You wouldn't arrest them if everything was in order. It's not a crime to operate a nationless vessel. I'm just saying it is acceptable to board such a vessel and search it. And that, depending on what you find, applicable international agreements/treaties, the citizenship of involved persons and the laws of the nation doing the searching, members of the crew could be detained.

I guess my point is that there is only slightly more validity to the idea that you can ever truly be beyond the reach of every nation's laws (or your own nation's laws) than you can be a Sovereign Citizen. Only slightly more validity.
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Old 30 March 2017, 10:52 PM
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I wasn't suggesting that such a city could declare itself free of all laws. I was saying that I think if such cities become possible, law will have to be written to account for them; and that there probably needs to be more to such law than "we all agree to treat such cities as if they were ships on the ocean". But even such an agreement, it seems to me, would have to be a matter of international law.
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Old 31 March 2017, 12:33 PM
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Let's get back to the practicality of such a structure for a moment. The plans are for the asteroid to be in geosynchronous orbit. But the building itself would be much lower than the 22,000 mile altitude of the asteroid, meaning it would need to have a much faster orbit - which is just plain crazy - or cause a lot of drag (in addition to the aerodynamic drag it must also cause). The asteroid would have to be pretty big to counter this, and even then you'd want some way of correcting the orbit to avoid disaster after the eventual decay.

Wouldn't it be simpler to build a space station in geoSTATIONARY orbit, anchored to Earth with space elevators, and build some buildings along the elevators' path? Anyone out there want to do the calculations?
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Old 31 March 2017, 02:21 PM
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The building plan is a standard space elevator where the center of mass of the entire assembly would be in a geostationary / geosynchronous orbit. In such a plan, there would be no east/west drag since the building would be orbiting at the same rate as the earth's atmosphere (IE, 1 orbit per 24 hours). There would be north/south drag since the plan is for the building to orbit in a geosynchronous orbit.

ETA: The biggest issue (aside from massive cost) is that the cables required to support such a structure would have to have something like 1,000 times the strain strength as the strongest materials we have.
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Old 31 March 2017, 07:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GenYus234 View Post
The building plan is a standard space elevator where the center of mass of the entire assembly would be in a geostationary / geosynchronous orbit. In such a plan, there would be no east/west drag since the building would be orbiting at the same rate as the earth's atmosphere (IE, 1 orbit per 24 hours). There would be north/south drag since the plan is for the building to orbit in a geosynchronous orbit.

ETA: The biggest issue (aside from massive cost) is that the cables required to support such a structure would have to have something like 1,000 times the strain strength as the strongest materials we have.
This would not be a standard space elevator. A space elevator is in geostationary orbit and anchored to the earth somewhere on the equator. This thing would dangle below an asteroid in geosynchronous - but not geostationary - orbit, tracing a huge figure 8 from NYC to southern Peru.

The non-atmospheric "drag" I referred to was the weight of the building and cable, which would add to orbital decay sooner or later. A larger asteroid would be less affected, but would require more power when orbital correction was needed. A more precise way of looking at it is, as you said, the center of mass of the whole thing is in geosynchronous orbit. But tidal forces would be an issue because the asteroid itself experiences less gravity than the center of mass. Essentially the same problem.

Then there's the problem often cited with an elevator: the cable will get in the way of anything in a lower orbit (again, sooner or later) as well as aircraft. The proposal's own web site has a passenger plane and the ISS in harm's way. There's also the "tallest obstruction", a mountain that wold destroy the transfer station and the dining & entertainment module.

I also don't understand how it can be built "over Dubai", since there is no stationary orbit possible over Dubai.

Last edited by ChasFink; 31 March 2017 at 07:28 PM. Reason: Rephrased tidal problem.
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Old 31 March 2017, 07:51 PM
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The standard space elevator is anchored to the earth because its purpose is a cheap (once you build it) method of moving things from the surface into orbit. The same thing could be accomplished if a significant weight were at the end of the cable.

The mass of the building and cable won't contribute to orbital decay because they are balanced by an equal moment of mass farther away from the earth. Tidal forces would be a huge problem but they are a problem of strength in that no material exists that is strong enough to withstand them.
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Old 31 March 2017, 08:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GenYus234 View Post
The standard space elevator is anchored to the earth because its purpose is a cheap (once you build it) method of moving things from the surface into orbit. The same thing could be accomplished if a significant weight were at the end of the cable.

The mass of the building and cable won't contribute to orbital decay because they are balanced by an equal moment of mass farther away from the earth. Tidal forces would be a huge problem but they are a problem of strength in that no material exists that is strong enough to withstand them.
I defer to your obviously superior understanding of the physics involved. I continue to agree that strength of materials is the big problem.

Have you any thoughts about the hazard of the cable or what they meant by being built "over Dubai"?
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Old 31 March 2017, 09:16 PM
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Nothing more to add on the hazards regarding aircraft or lower orbit satellites (most of them). On the issue with mountain hazards, I'm not sure which mountain that is. If it is Mt Everest, there shouldn't be an issue as it won't pass near it. If that is Mt Aconcagua, it could be an issue if the orbit strays beyond the plotted point.

Since it would be a floating building, they could build it over Dubai, then float it towards the Western Hemisphere where it would reside. The amount of energy that would take would be within an order of magnitude of the amount of energy that it took to move it into earth orbit in the first place.

ETA: What you'd do is build the cables in orbit, then lower them down as you raise the asteroid up to counterbalance them. As you add mass by putting up structures, you'd move the asteroid farther out to compensate. If you had god-like planning and mathematical abilities, the amount you moved the asteroid up would be the same as the rate of building, allowing the building to climb up as you build "down". Once the overall structure was done you'd fire (using a magnetic accelerator) a specific amount of asteroid mass to the west. This would cause the entire thing to move eastward. Then you'd fire a specific amount to the east to stop it in place. Note that we are moving the "wrong" way around the earth and have to travel 3/4 of the way to get to our destination. This is because if you travel east, you are moving in a faster orbit and would climb during the trip, raising the building to its final height.

Of course, the slightest miscalculation could result in a billion tons of building and cable wrapping almost all the way around the equator with the icing on the cake being the asteroid smashing into earth at high speed. Basically it would be like those videos where a guy nunchucks himself in the face on a global scale.

If we are lucky it would merely go sailing off into deep space.

Last edited by GenYus234; 31 March 2017 at 09:34 PM.
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