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Vermont City Almost Encased In a 1-Mile Dome 456

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the yeah-it-could-happen dept.
destinyland writes "A Vermont city once proposed a one-mile dome over its 7,000 residents. (They paid $4 million a year in heating bills, and HUD seriously considered funding their proposal.) The city's architectural concept included supporting the Dome with air pressure slightly above atmospheric pressure. (Buckminster Fuller warned their biggest challenge would be keeping it from floating away...) There would be no more heating bills, fly-fishing all year, and no more snow shoveling. And to this day, the former city planner insists that 'Economically it's a slam dunk.'"
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Vermont City Almost Encased In a 1-Mile Dome

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Monday November 09, 2009 @09:46AM (#30031862) Journal
    I saw a Discovery channel special on mega-engineering and the plans to cover Houston with a dome [discovery.com] were quite a shock to me (here's a brief non-flash writeup [greenpacks.org]). I'll bet you're wondering what those panels are made of:

    But the answer comes from German city of Bremen, from a company dubbed Vector Foil. Vector Foil manufactures an innovative strong, lightweight, transparent polymer known as ethylene tetra fluoro ethylene (ETFE). At just one percent of glass, ETFE is described as 99 percent nothing. And considering that it can withstand winds of 180 miles per hour, it could be the breakthrough for the Houston Dome.

    I'm not a mechanical engineer nor did any of my college coursework overlap with that but my gut feeling was pure skepticism and doubt. At least it's a long long way off if they follow through.

    • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday November 09, 2009 @09:49AM (#30031902) Homepage Journal

      You can't do this without outlawing combustion. While it's a nice theory to say that you'll be able to blow enough air through it, in practice the airflow in a dome is not like the airflow without a dome. And anyone who has been to Houston knows just how bad the air quality is, in fact, it is some of the worst in the USA [nasa.gov]. If you could remove Chinese pollution from the Jet Stream, it probably WOULD be the worst. Then again, if you put a dome over it, the city's residents could just gas each other to death, which would effectively stop them from polluting.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 09, 2009 @09:52AM (#30031920)

        Then again, if you put a dome over it, the city's residents could just gas each other to death, which would effectively stop them from polluting.

        Your ideas intrigue me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

        --Heinrich Himmler Jr.

      • by wisty (1335733) on Monday November 09, 2009 @09:57AM (#30031972)

        The town from TFA was about 7,000 people. They said they would just use electric cars. Or a monorail.

        Monorail!

        Mono ... duh!

        • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday November 09, 2009 @10:18AM (#30032240) Homepage Journal

          The town from TFA was about 7,000 people. They said they would just use electric cars. Or a monorail.

          That's nice. I'm talking about Houston, which has a lot more than 7,000 people... Although it probably wouldn't if they put a dome on it. Please try to keep up. In any case, there are numerous combustion sources besides internal combustion engines. Also, heavier-than-air combustion gases of all types (e.g. from cooking on the stove... there is no way I'm moving to Electric) would congregate in low places without winds to redistribute air. So now, you'll need air circulation fans installed on every street corner, as big as wind turbines; or they'll need to be installed in every house, and engineered to actually produce airflow instead of leaving dead pockets like most central air systems do. And unless you're planning to outlaw all combustible gases (like butane and propane, welding torches, et cetera) those fans had better be explosion-proof.

          It's a fucking stupid idea on any scale. It would work on Mars, because you can reasonably outlaw combustible gases. You won't want to use them anyway, because you will have a limited supply of oxygen for the foreseeable future. It won't work here on Earth, at least not until we grow up a little more, and develop power storage technologies which can actually rival chemical fuels.

          There is a similar idea which actually carries some currency, though; put a greenhouse below a house and vent it into the house, then vent the exhaust from the house through a chimney. When the greenhouse is too hot, the air is just vented outside. Convection will draw air through the house, and the greenhouse can act as a particulate filter (and a CO2 scrubber/oxygen plant.) Periodic water washes (a rain system would be ideal) cleanse the dust from the plants; if it's soft-set on dirt then mycelium can handle fixing toxics captured this way. This doesn't get you away from weather, but it can dramatically cut heating costs in certain environments. It's not a one-size-fits-all fix, but nothing is.

          • by Again (1351325) on Monday November 09, 2009 @10:35AM (#30032442)

            There is a similar idea which actually carries some currency, though; put a greenhouse below a house and vent it into the house, then vent the exhaust from the house through a chimney. [...]

            I don't really know but it seems to me that if you put a greenhouse underneath another building then not much sunlight would make it into the greenhouse.

            • by djdavetrouble (442175) on Monday November 09, 2009 @10:52AM (#30032726) Homepage

              There is a similar idea which actually carries some currency, though; put a greenhouse below a house and vent it into the house, then vent the exhaust from the house through a chimney. [...]

              Pot growers have been already been testing this for decades. You use HPS for overheads and fluorescents on the side. Solar panels on the roof. See, this certain crop isn't exactly "legal" in most states yet.

              It would work on Mars, because you can reasonably outlaw combustible gases.

              But, wouldn't you want to test it out on earth first before you built one on mars?

            • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday November 09, 2009 @11:39AM (#30033444) Homepage Journal

              Sorry, I meant downslope. I used "beneath" to mean "at a lower elevation."

              By the way, I also advocate replacing roofs with greenhouses. Even polycarbonate panels (let alone fiberglass ones) can last better than ten years at a cost dramatically lower than "traditional" truss-and-shingle roofing, and with a lower replacement cost when viewed from almost any angle, including shipping, labor, and materials. Using bare-root aeroponics keeps weight to an absolute minimum and solar panels and their associated equipment (both for water heat and electrical generation) can be mounted over load-bearing exterior walls. These walls could as easily be the walls of a currently standing house as they could be made of straw bales, rammed earth, earth bags, adobe, or some other highly durable minimum-energy material.

              In tropical climates you can put a little (okay, a lot) more effort into load-bearing in the roof, and implement a "green roof" with soil. So long as no deep-root crops are grown (careful weeding may be required!) food can be produced here. But this is a substantially higher-maintenance option and probably not really advisable for most of the Western world even where the climate permits.

              If you are constructing the entire dwelling, in many parts of the world it is also possible to gather most or even all of your yearly water needs in a sub-floor cistern with the same footprint as your house, collected solely from roof runoff. If you are building with adobe or rammed earth, this can be achieved at relatively little additional cost.

              The issue of local food production is only going to become more relevant to all of us interested in eating nourishing food as time goes by. And even if it were not necessary, it would be wise to implement some or all of these means to simply reduce the environmental cost of food production.

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              That's nice. I'm talking about Houston, which has a lot more than 7,000 people... Although it probably wouldn't if they put a dome on it.

              Simply implant crystal "lifeclocks" in everyone's palms at birth, and terminate most (in practice, all) people at age 30. Problem solved.

        • by nomadic (141991) <.nomadicworld. .at. .gmail.com.> on Monday November 09, 2009 @10:34AM (#30032424) Homepage
          Or a monorail.

          Is there a chance the track could bend?
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by jellomizer (103300)

          Lyle Lanley: Well, sir, there's nothing on earth
          Like a genuine,
          Bona fide,
          Electrified,
          Six-car
          Monorail!
          What'd I say?

          Ned Flanders: Monorail!

          Lyle Lanley: What's it called?

          Patty+Selma: Monorail!

          Lyle Lanley: That's right! Monorail!

          [crowd chants `Monorail' softly and rhythmically]

          Miss Hoover: I hear those things are awfully loud...

          Lyle Lanley: It glides as softly as a cloud.

          Apu: Is there a chance the track could bend?

          Lyle Lanley: Not on your life, my Hindu friend.

          Barney: What about us brain-dead slobs?

          Lyle Lanley:

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by mysidia (191772)

        Hm... only Hydrogen-powered cars allowed to enter or leave the dome.

        Only electric yard equipment allowed.

        The trouble is the difficulty enforcing that..

        I suppose hidden surveillance cameras and combustion detecters could be mounted to the underside of the dome at regular intervals to detect any infractions.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by poetmatt (793785)

        I still don't understand how this is considered to be a slam dunk when people will essentially be polluting in a closed space upon themselves.

        Not to mention that issues of runoff + rain will affect other areas.

        I don't get why people think they can live in a vacuum.

    • by Xiph1980 (944189) on Monday November 09, 2009 @09:52AM (#30031926)
      A couple of buildings in the Beijing olympic park (Bird's nest, water cube) uses ETFE as roof and/or wall covering. It's pretty much as they state, very light, very clear (if you want it to) and it shrinks in close proximity of severe heat, like fires, so it'll retreat itself away from a flame, so it doesn't light up in a fire.
      • by xaxa (988988) on Monday November 09, 2009 @10:10AM (#30032116)

        The Eden project [wikipedia.org] in Cornwall, England contains the world's largest greenhouse (panorama) [wikipedia.org], and it's made in a buckminsterfullerene-like way with ETFE.

        It's definitely worth seeing if you're in south west England (relative to the rest of England it's quite remote area).

      • "it shrinks in close proximity of severe heat, like fires, so it'll retreat itself away from a flame, so it doesn't light up in a fire"

        and when it burns: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ETFE [wikipedia.org]

        Combustion of ETFE occurs in the same way as a number of other fluoropolymers, in terms of releasing hydrofluoric acid (HF). HF is extremely corrosive, and so appropriate caution must be exercised.

        awesome: nothing like the smell of hot HF to really get your day started

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Xiph1980 (944189)
          In that same article:
          "Another key use of ETFE is for the covering of electrical wiring used in high stress, low fume toxicity and high reliability situations. Aircraft wiring is a primary example."

          So it's probably not that toxic if a film that thin starts to burn in (what is then) open air.
    • by Cornwallis (1188489) on Monday November 09, 2009 @10:05AM (#30032048)

      At just one percent of glass, ETFE is described as 99 percent nothing.

      Then why didn't they name it "Congress"?

    • by motorcyclemaintain (1674658) on Monday November 09, 2009 @10:08AM (#30032096)
      So did Walt Disney. The original plans for EPCOT [economicexpert.com] in Disney World included a massive translucent dome covering the "community" and its twenty thousand residents.

      EPCOT "would be a testbed for city planning and organization. A giant dome was to have covered the community, so as to regulate its climate (this idea was later seen in the 1998 movie The Truman Show). The community was to have been built in the shape of a circle, with businesses and commercial areas at its center, community buildings and schools and recreational complexes around it, and residential neighborhoods along the perimeter. Transportation would have been provided by monorails and People Movers (like the one in the Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland). Automobile traffic would be kept underground, leaving pedestrians safe above-ground."
    • by radtea (464814) on Monday November 09, 2009 @10:16AM (#30032204)

      I'm not a mechanical engineer nor did any of my college coursework overlap with that but my gut feeling was pure skepticism and doubt.

      I just get a blank page when I click on the link, so I'm not sure what the physical footprint of the town is, but when you consider modern sports stadia the ability to cover an area say 1 km across doesn't seem out of place. Modern materials are incredibly strong, and I would expect this dome would be designed as something like a kevlar rope net with panels in the holes to seal it. The internal atmospheric pressure will then keep the net under tension, and everything is good.

      There is one big problem with it, which is that any failure is a catastrophic failure, albeit a catastrophe in slow motion. Unexpectedly high snow load, hurricane force winds, rocks falling from the sky and human error can all take structures of this kind down. I've seen two soccer domes fail under snow load (one was patchable and reinflatable) and know of another that was in the general vicinity of a tornado (nothing remained, although it was not actually hit by the tornado, it was just in the general area.)

      As every engineer knows, if something can fail, it will. Domes like this can fail, therefore this one will. If the mean time between failure can be made long enough, it could still be worth-while, but I'd want to be sure that there was a re-inflation drill once a year or so (which policy would last for about a decade until some idiot in a suit realized they could pay themselves more today by leaving the people of tomorrow unprepared.)

      There's also an interesting ecological twist: the ecosystem under the dome obviously can't be the local one, so you would have to replace a lot of vegetation with stuff that can survive without winter, and since the dome would inevitably become home to various exotic plants and animals it would be a continual source of invaders into the local ecosystem (which wouldn't survive the winter, but which would make every spring and summer a new surprise.)

    • Sounds like Aerogel [wikipedia.org] to me.
      Yes, that stuff exists. Yes it's at least 99% nothing.

      And yes it costs a fortune of fortunes! ^^

      But hell, that's some really cool material!

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by dprovine (140134)

      Actually, you missed the bit from the Discovery Channel episode which made it clear the Houston Dome would never happen: they said that the foundation ring would require so much concrete it would be equal to the entire production of all US concrete plants for 10 full years. So before you can even start on the dome part, you have to sink billions of dollars into the project for 10 years; enough billions that you outbid everybody else in the entire country who wants some concrete. Unless Congress passes a

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MrNemesis (587188)

      Nothing is incredibly strong stuff though - witness that it's almost impossible to tear toilet paper or a cheque book along the perforated lines, clearly indicating that less matter means a stronger material. I hypothesize that if we could find a way to remove 99.999999% of the matter from, say, common or garden steel we'd have something as tough as neutronium whilst weighing the same as a dried Mexican Staring Frog.

      However, I'm convinced someone has stolen my idea and already incorporated it into modern bl [penny-arcade.com]

    • by Shotgun (30919) on Monday November 09, 2009 @12:21PM (#30034044)

      I'm not a mechanical engineer, but I have built most of an airplane and studied a lot of aerodynamics in the process. The one thing I can say for certain is that ETFE cannot withstand a wind of 180mph, nor can any other "material". Materials don't withstand forces. Structures do. I can stick a cube of this stuff on the nose of an SR-71 and claim it survives Mach 4.5. Or I can make a sheet so thin that it comes apart in a slight breeze.

      The statement you quoted is quite as meaningless as you surmised.

  • So... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday November 09, 2009 @09:47AM (#30031882) Journal
    I'm not sure that going from heating a few thousand little boxes to heating one giant dome really qualifies as "no heating bills". Similarly, while shoveling snow off your driveway kind of sucks, it sure beats having snow build up on your habidome until the whole mess comes crashing down.
    • Re:So... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Interoperable (1651953) on Monday November 09, 2009 @10:04AM (#30032034)
      TFA suggests that it would be held up by air pressure. That means that, not only do you have to worry about snow, but there's also the problem that if enough panels break to lower the interior pressure the dome could collapse. Or in a high-wind scenario the Bernoulli effect could burst it. You're also right that obviously the surface area of the dome would result in truly absurd heating costs and I suspect really terrible AC costs in the summer (greenhouse effect!); Vermont really does get a lot of summer.
      • Re:So... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by LWATCDR (28044) on Monday November 09, 2009 @10:26AM (#30032324) Homepage Journal

        Actually the dome would have less surface area than the town. Take all the surface area of all the buildings and add it up. You will find that at makes a pretty good heat exchanger compared to a nice smooth dome.
        Rain water? What a great resource. You would catch it falling all the dome and and use it. I could even be used for the drinking water. Same for the snow melt from the dome. If nothing else it could be used for irrigation.
        Air Quality? Yes you would should ban cars from inside the city as well as fire places. You might not need to but it would probably be for the best if you did. For the dome to work you would want to have some pretty powerful air blowers to keep it pumped up. That should provide enough airflow for the air quality to be as good as a none domed town. Us air to air heat exchangers to allow for even more air flow when needed.

        The one huge danger I see is fire. What is a building catches on fire? Is the dome fire proof? That risk could be reduced but if you are doing to dome an existing town you would have a lot of older buildings that may not be as fire safe as you would like.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by AntEater (16627)

        Vermont really does get a lot of summer.

        I live in VT and you don't know how badly I really do wish this were true. Most years we have snow on the ground from mid-Nov through early May. It isn't unusual for frosts occur in June and August.

        This dome would also end up trapping in a lot of pollution unless they would prohibit cars and trucks from driving inside.

      • Re:So... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Xest (935314) on Monday November 09, 2009 @10:47AM (#30032640)

        The heating costs wouldn't be as bad because you get a lot of thermal energy stored in the ground from the sun during the day.

        Effectively you are just manually replicating the greenhouse effect.

        It's something I've experimented with my greenhouse (as I live in the UK and grow tropical plants which must be kept at a minimum of 15c all year around). It's suprising how effective storage of heat in the ground and such actually is and I also now keep water cooler sized bottles of water around the greenhouse walkway and under the staging through the winter to hold sun during the day which is then released through the night, it's not a massive change, but it has certainly made a measurable difference to my electric heating costs- my thermostat based electric heaters now need to come on for much less time through the night.

        I'm sure there's actually probably a better substance than water for the purpose, but this was really just a small experiment. I can certainly see though from this how harnessing natural heat storage of pavements, ponds, roads, rivers, outer walls of buildings and so on could all hold heat built up during the day from the sun to drastically help heat such a dome through the night.

    • Re:So... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by uncledrax (112438) on Monday November 09, 2009 @10:06AM (#30032058) Homepage

      i think it's not so much about the need to heat the whole dome, but rather the fact that the dome would trap all the heat (and pollutants) inside the dome. The lack of air exchange would trap alot of the heat, pretty much exactly how a greenhouse works.

      Frankly, I encourage these people to complete their dome. It'll reveal insight into how bad (or maybe good too?) the idea is and what can go wrong with them.
      Also, it'll be good practice for when/if we decide to colonize extra-terran bodies. I don't think anyone has tried a larger-scale enclose ecosystem like this before (yes I know it won't be entirely enclosed.. but gotta start somewhere).

      If you want to make little science, occasionally you have to break some beakers.

    • Re:So... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by vlm (69642) on Monday November 09, 2009 @10:20AM (#30032254)

      I'm not sure that going from heating a few thousand little boxes to heating one giant dome really qualifies as "no heating bills".

      Study up on the square-cube law and get back to us.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Square-cube_law [wikipedia.org]

      Similarly, while shoveling snow off your driveway kind of sucks, it sure beats having snow build up on your habidome until the whole mess comes crashing down.

      If the outside surface temperature never drops below freezing, due to above square-cube law... Also it seems no great challenge at all, to design buildings, even domes, that don't collapse under heavy snow loads.

  • Stephen King (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Doches (761288) <Doches.gmail@com> on Monday November 09, 2009 @09:49AM (#30031890)
    They'd better wait and read Stephen King's Under the Dome first...
  • by sherriw (794536) on Monday November 09, 2009 @09:53AM (#30031928)

    And how much will it cost when ALL their water needs for lawns and parks and such need to be piped in? Not to mention that many plants need some of the water to fall on the leaves not just the roots.

    What about insects and pollinators? Birds that fly south?

    This is not very well thought out.

    • by Farmer Tim (530755) <roundfile.mindless@com> on Monday November 09, 2009 @09:55AM (#30031952) Journal

      Birds that fly south?

      Ah, the gentle thud of the returning swallows....

    • No rain (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rastilin (752802)
      No rain though, that's a plus if you live in the city and don't have a lawn. I'm sure you can have birds and insects inside the dome.
      • You can get rain in large enclosed spaces. it's condesate. You might not want that raining on you. everything from evaporated dog urine, to aerosol diesel exahust, to flu viruses coming back down. Of course that happens now, but it's dillluted and also purified by the UV.

        Now that said. I don't see why a dome has to have an impermeable ceiling. You could arrange things so that natural rain could be let in.

        You could make the roof like a salmon ladder on a dam. there is some exchange with the outside a

        • by rastilin (752802)

          You can get rain in large enclosed spaces. it's condesate. You might not want that raining on you. everything from evaporated dog urine, to aerosol diesel exahust, to flu viruses coming back down. Of course that happens now, but it's dillluted and also purified by the UV.

          True, true. But the dome is curved right? If condensation happens, won't the droplets flow down the sides instead of falling straight down? I'm assuming the dome won't be so big that there will be a huge cold spot in the top for the droplets to reform in mid air, since one of the main points is for the dome to trap heat. Otherwise this is another engineering problem for the planners to think on. I think the main reason something like this should be done is because it hasn't been tried before, it will give u

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by mysidia (191772)

        Absent the proper climate controls, under the right conditions: it can rain inside a huge dome like that, as water vapor collects near the roof.

        It'd be nasty rain though, polluted no doubt.

      • by vlm (69642)

        I'm sure you can have birds and insects inside the dome.

        Why would you want them? I wouldn't. I have no need for black widow spiders and mosquitos. And if no birds crapped on my car, that would be OK with me.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by c_sd_m (995261)
          Pollination? What would all the old people do when they can't grow flowers? Any farms that you're driving out of business? There's the whole ecosystem thing too: which bugs can you manage to exclude and what they did eat that's now running rampant? But if it means no raccoons assaulting garbage cans, I suppose it's worth it.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by danbert8 (1024253)

          Birds would likely still live within the dome, and they would be able to perch ANYWHERE, so you wouldn't just be able to avoid parking under trees or lights.

    • by youroldbuddy (539169) on Monday November 09, 2009 @10:07AM (#30032084)
      Why would they have to pipe all the water in? You can just as well channel it through the dome? Even channel it throught at night. What about insects and pollinators? They live fine in greenhouses. Why shouldnt they live in a dome. And who cares about migrating birds for such a small area?
    • by MrBulwark (862510) on Monday November 09, 2009 @10:08AM (#30032102)
      Remember, it is still raining, just above the dome. It should be trivial to put collectors at teh base of the dome. I would hazzard a guess that it would provide the city with more water than they have currently. My concern would be the long-term durability of the "glass". After 20 years, will it yellow? Will it be so scratched up that everything outside will be a blur? Who is going to climb up there and clean all the bird poop off of it?
      • Remember, it is still raining, just above the dome. It should be trivial to put collectors at teh base of the dome.

        For certain large values of trivial, yes. You're trying to collect all the rain that falls on the dome at the edge of the dome - which, for even a light rain, is going to be a considerable quantity of water. New England also occasionally get smacked by hurricanes, which mean you have to be able to handle torrential rainfalls as well.

    • by HawkinsD (267367)

      Water needs? A river runs through downtown [google.com].

      Plus, as the owner of a house with a leaky roof and a lawn that needs mowing, I say FUCK the plants.

    • by confused one (671304) on Monday November 09, 2009 @10:27AM (#30032334)

      large cisterns collecting water runoff at the perimeter would solve the issue of sourcing the water. piping it into the dome could be gravity feed. Then all you need pumps for is the lift to the sprinklers.

      Insects could be brought in as needed. Birds could be supported as well. Migratory birds would be excluded; or, simply stay as they do here in south-east Virginia now that they've found the artificially warmed climate to be to their liking. (plenty of Ducks and Geese can't be bothered to fly south here)

    • And how much will it cost when ALL their water needs for lawns and parks and such need to be piped in? Not to mention that many plants need some of the water to fall on the leaves not just the roots.

      Well, this is a town of 7000 people in Vermont. If they don't have their own wells, the central utility does. Water is generally not a big deal there. I imagine the people would start to need sprinklers.

      What about insects and pollinators? Birds that fly south?

      Well, the birds aren't going south very far, but t

  • Dupe! (Score:5, Funny)

    by lloydsmart (962848) on Monday November 09, 2009 @09:54AM (#30031942) Homepage
    Didn't they try something like this in Springfield? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simpsons_Movie [wikipedia.org]
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by PinkyDead (862370)

      I know that they've been around for so long that the mistake is easily made - but you are aware that the Simpsons is only a cartoon?

  • Come on now, this was already done in the Simpsons movie... Nothing new here!
  • From what I remember, this idea didn't go over too well in Springfield...

    Seriously though, this sounds like a great setup for a huge disaster. Can you imagine a dome like this falling?

  • The could have had the dome in place for the premier [usatoday.com].

    I almost feel like someone's pulling our leg here.

    myke

  • by HawkinsD (267367) on Monday November 09, 2009 @10:02AM (#30032022)

    A couple of years ago [scenesofvermont.com] Burlington, VT received 25.7 inches (0.65 m) of snow in 24 hours. I don't know what the density of snow is (I imagine it varies wildly), but that seems like a lot of weight.

    OK, maybe the warm air can support that... but if that were the case, then on days when there wasn't 89 grillion kg of snow on top, there would be some pretty huge upward forces on the tent-pegs.

    OK, well, then, there are vents, to let our some of the hot air. But then you waste all that energy heating air that you're venting.

    But maybe it all works out somehow.

    • by wireloose (759042)
      keep in mind that the heat of the warm air rising in the dome would be sufficient to maintain it well above freezing. therefore, snow would not collect. there would have to be some allowances made in the design for water runoff during winter, which would cause some ice buildup around it from even light snows.
      • by tomhudson (43916) <.moc.nosduh-arab ... .nosduh.arabrab.> on Monday November 09, 2009 @11:47AM (#30033554) Journal

        keep in mind that the heat of the warm air rising in the dome would be sufficient to maintain it well above freezing. therefore, snow would not collect.

        Absolutely not true. Here in Quebec, the roof of the Olympic Stadium is a similar deal, and huge hot-air guns are needed to try to melt the snow - and when it's not fast enough, it has to be removed mechanically, or the roof fails (and then they have to get out these huge mechanical "clothespins" to hold the edges together until it can be fixed.

        Go by any ice rink in the summer and look at the pile of snow outside from the Zamboni ... snow just doesn't melt as fast as you think, even in 80 degree heat. Also, snow's a half-decent insulator (trapped air), so good luck melting a foot of snow.

  • Well, I had plans to do so, isn't that the same thing as almost doing it? No?

  • by smitty777 (1612557) on Monday November 09, 2009 @10:15AM (#30032178) Journal

    I think this is one of those things that look good on paper, but...

    There are so many ways this could go wrong. It might be a way to breed viruses into an entire city, or keep carcinogens trapped for all to breathe. The Biosphere II [wikipedia.org] was a fairly disastrous small scale experiment along these lines. Just imagine having an "oops" moment for a city of 5.7 million.

    • by argent (18001)

      How do you figure Biosphere II was a "disastrous" experiment? Its termination was political, not technical.

      Are you thinking of the CO2 sequestration in the concrete structure? That was such a small effect that if it hadn't been hermetically sealed to the point where opening a door was considered "vandalism" it'd never have been noticed.

      • by smitty777 (1612557) on Monday November 09, 2009 @11:18AM (#30033108) Journal

        There's a cool book out by Bill Fawcett called "It Looked Good On Paper" that gives a lot of good (and generally unpublicized) information on Biodome II. Some of the issues:

        - Failing air supply (almost immediate). Some outside air had to be pumped in. The levels reached 14% 02 enough to cause brain damage.
        - Food shortages.
        - Animal extinction: 19 of the 25 vertebrae species became extinct in the BDII.
        - Infighting among the crew.

        According to Fawcett, the scientists "acknowledged making 10,000 mistakes."

        You should check out the book. It's a highly entertaining read that covers disastrous designs from a wide number of areas.

  • by redelm (54142) on Monday November 09, 2009 @10:16AM (#30032192) Homepage

    Alongside other problems (air exchange, summer disassembly, wind loads) Bucky's problem is real -- think hot air balloons.

    Back of the envelope, if there's a 20'F difference on a 1 mi dia hemisphere, there's 16,000 lb lift per peripheral foot. That's not easy to anchor (10 x 10 ft foundation cross section.) And you definitely will need lots of steel or kevlar if you want the bottom wall be be under 1/4 inch.

    • by Culture20 (968837)
      "these tomatoes are reproduced synthetically, with only the memories of the sweet flavor from the original. If we keep repeating the process, this fruit will eventually become the real thing."
  • you'd probably use off-site mechanical systems to transmit power to the dome for air exchanging and de-icing. when big storms overwhelm the systems (and they would) you'd need a soft failure mode to reduce catastrophic collapses. doable perhaps but i have no idea what that would be. i'm just not sure it would be cost effective in vermont. alsaka maybe.
  • The simple fact is, that a dome may not only be cheaper, but provide the large mall atmosphere that so many ppl want. Personally, I wish that several areas would dome up and then perhaps we would see larger population density in these locations. In addition, ppl will work towards keeping their area clean.
  • by Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) on Monday November 09, 2009 @10:39AM (#30032494)

    Given that I actually live about 5 miles from where the whole Winooski Dome was planned to go this is all pretty well trodden territory here in this part of Vermont. The real killer problems are twofold. One is just that nobody has ever done it before and who wants to be first? In theory its a great idea, but its always the problem you didn't consider that bites you in the end. The second and more practical problem was always snow load. As anyone that has lived in Vermont can tell you, we get plenty of snow. Now pile it up a few feet deep on top of that dome, it adds up real fast. Nobody was ever sure exactly what would happen with all that snow or how long it would stay up there, etc. Roofs regularly collapse around here from snow load. You REALLY don't want to have that happen to your dome. That brings up what was the real final issue. What happens if something goes wrong? Its not just like you wasted a bunch of money. Having that dome come down on top of a whole town? That would be a big mess indeed...

    Basically if the concept is ever going anywhere someone needs to build one way out in the middle of nowhere and figure out the basic problems first. Winooski residents wisely decided that being guinea pigs maybe isn't such a great idea.

  • It would be much cheaper to just move everyone south.

  • Even if it failed, we'd have gained a whole lot of practical know-how about undertaking a project like that. Even if it ended up way over-budget and required tons of maintenance and so-on, I'd bet that the tourism revenues would have offset that in time.

  • by cstacy (534252)

    When town resident Ethyl Silane was asked her opinion of the dome, she inexplicably ran from her porch screaming "Eee-pah ee-pah eeepaahh!"

  • by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Monday November 09, 2009 @10:59AM (#30032834)

    -One punk with a gun decides to piss on everybody's day.

    -Even if you manage to deal with the weight of snow issue, how does everybody feel about living under artificial lighting for a couple of months each year?

    -The expenses of building such a thing would be astronomical. Before even taking into account the dome itself, just building an air-tight wall around the city would pose ridiculously complex (and expensive) engineering challenges. Just managing water, waste and air control for an entire square mile contained environment would require exotic technologies, or billions of dollars worth of scaled up existing technologies. I've seen cities fly billions of dollars over budget trying to do relatively simple things like bury an ugly highway running through the city, or prepare to host the Olympic games. (Or *cough* build domed stadiums.) And then you've got your yearly maintenance costs. Parts wear out and you'd need a dedicated staff whose job it is to manage this thing. I wonder if that would be comparable to a heating bill?

    -And in the Summer time. . . Well, guess what? That nice greenhouse effect (if you solved the snow cover problem) which kept you warm all Winter doesn't go away. How did the inventors plan on keeping all the residents from baking?

    No doubt, it's a super-awesome idea and every single one of these problems could be cleverly solved and even turned to advantage with brilliant engineering. But it wouldn't be cheap, and frankly, unless the exterior environment was downright toxic or otherwise horrible, it doesn't seem like a particularly necessary idea. If all you're worried about is the cold, then that can be dealt with by spending a fraction of the same budget on the admittedly un-sexy idea of retrofitting buildings with improved insulation and more efficient heating solutions.

    And don't forget. . . With the state of corruption in the country, if the energy companies felt that a source of revenue was threatened, domed cities would be, if not outlawed, killed with red tape and bought-off votes. You know it's true.

    But I have to admit, the child sci-fi geek in me would certainly love to see at least one domed city of Utopian wonder constructed in my lifetime!

    -FL

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Alsee (515537)

      I certainly agree that it would be quite difficult to make it cost effective, however most of your comments are pretty far off base. It may be impractical, but it's not nearly as absurd as you indicate.

      One punk with a gun decides to piss on everybody's day.

      And no one cares.

      You would probably have to put a few hundred thousand bullet holes before it became danger. A hundred thousand bullet holes works out to one hole per 270 square feet - about two-thousandth of one percent of the surface area. Or more signi

  • by RoccamOccam (953524) on Monday November 09, 2009 @11:38AM (#30033428)
    This would just lead to big arguments between the men and women of the town.
  • Cheaper solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WormholeFiend (674934) on Monday November 09, 2009 @12:00PM (#30033712)

    Just cover all the streets with linear roofs

If I'd known computer science was going to be like this, I'd never have given up being a rock 'n' roll star. -- G. Hirst

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