Working the science

During this deliberately fallow period, as I muse on a variety of concepts for Sequel, I’m reading Novacene, James Lovelock’s latest concept book. Published to celebrate his 100th birthday, he seems to begin with a riff on our naturally over-heated planet, which is cooled by the effects of life. A brief reprise then of his essential Gaia hypothesis.

For the purposes of my Biome NE47 series, however, the reminder of heat entrapment was salutary, because I’ve had a persistent worry about the greenhouse effects of the nano-carbon sheets making up the biome bubble. I realised that I would have to re-jig my bubble concept to allow for heat dissipation, and thinking this through brought me back, at last, to one of the most pervasive of science-fiction tropes: force fields!

Ella Anderson, writing for, has contributed a timely piece on the challenges involved in creating force fields. Her article used this amazing image from the television series Stargate: Atlantis, which shows the incredible impermeability a force field might exhibit.

The city of Atlantis encapsulated within a force field that prevents water ingress.

While the predicted provenance of such force fields is at least centuries hence, in human terms, the development of an Artificial Superior Intelligence sometime during the singularity (circa 2040-2050) should provide opportunity for conceptual engineering feats that would boggle mere human imagination. Since, however, my biome bubbles need to exhibit limited permeability (my fictional device has been to limit permeation through the bubble barriers to anything smaller than small molecules: methane for example should slip through nicely) that’s another grand call on the ASI’s capacity.

So the bubble ‘walls’ are now, in my active imagination, a lattice-work force field, preventing any human excursions, but allowing the free flow of water and air and, crucially, heat.

I hadn’t realised, until I looked it up, that most of the electrical energy generated and used within Biosphere 2 was required for the huge air conditioning plant that kept, and still keeps, the flora and fauna within the dome under temperate conditions. My modest contribution to the force field barrier conceptology then, is to offer a leaky one.

The purpose of the biome ‘walls’ in my Biome NE47 series is not to re-create new and independent biospheres, but rather it’s the ASI’s commitment to arresting and reversing climate change, while maintaining such biodiversity as is left, that initiates its plan to entrap most of the human population within separate biomes. By preventing travel between biomes, and by regulating energy input and output, the ASI will, in my vision, save humanity from self- and planetary destruction.

Which, I understand, is James Lovelock’s essential point, towards which I’m driving in my reading, that the Gaian self-regulating dynamic also includes the intellectual capacity to create a system that will limit human excess and greed.

By Larry Winger

Retired scientist, devoted diarist (, community-minded aspirant novelist, I've lived on a smallholding in the East Allen Valley for the past 30 years, delighting in watching our family grow up, in experiencing the development of our grandsons, and in taking care of our small flock of chickens and garden.

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