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1960
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Dyson sphere
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A Dyson sphere is a hypothetical megastructure that completely encompasses a star and captures a large percentage of its power output. The concept is a thought experiment that attempts to explain how a spacefaring civilization would meet its energy requirements once those requirements exceed what can be generated from the home planet's resources alone. Only a tiny fraction of a star's energy emissions reach the surface of any orbiting planet. Building structures encircling a star would enable a civilization to harvest far more energy.

The concept of the Dyson sphere was the result of a thought experiment by physicist and mathematician Freeman Dyson, when he theorized that all technological civilizations constantly increased their demand for energy. He reasoned that if human civilization expanded energy demands long enough, there would come a time when it demanded the total energy output of the Sun. He proposed a system of orbiting structures (which he referred to initially as a shell) designed to intercept and collect all energy produced by the Sun. Dyson's proposal did not detail how such a system would be constructed, but focused only on issues of energy collection, on the basis that such a structure could be distinguished by its unusual emission spectrum in comparison to a star. His 1960 paper "Search for Artificial Stellar Sources of Infra-Red Radiation", published in the journal Science, is credited with being the first to formalize the concept of the Dyson sphere.

However, Dyson was not the first to advance this idea. He was inspired by the 1937 science fiction novel Star Maker, by Olaf Stapledon, and possibly by the works of J. D. Bernal, Raymond Z. Gallun, and Edgar Rice Burroughs, who seem to have explored similar concepts in their work.

Although such megastructures are theoretically possible, building a stable Dyson sphere system is currently beyond humanity's engineering capacity. The number of craft required to obtain, transmit, and maintain a complete Dyson sphere exceeds present-day industrial capabilities. George Dvorsky has advocated use of self-replicating robots to overcome this limitation in the relatively near term. Some have suggested that such habitats could be built around white dwarfs and even pulsars.

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Freeman Dyson

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Freeman John Dyson FRS (15 December 1923 – 28 February 2020) is an American theoretical physicist and mathematician, of British origin, known for his work in quantum electrodynamics, solid-state physics, astronomy and nuclear engineering. He is professor emeritus in the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, a member of the Board of Visitors of Ralston College and a member of the Board of Sponsors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.