Welcome back! Last time we tackled the initial stages of the ‘Green Lantern Problem’ and came to the conclusion that willpower alone would not be enough to accomplish some of the things Green Lanterns do. But we left out a large chunk of the Green Lantern’s typical M.O. Those of you who are familiar with comics, may realize that I’m talking about the concept of a power battery.
The rub is that the Green Lanterns do not rely on willpower alone. Instead, their power must be re-charged via their own personal power batteries every 24 hours, or whenever they overrun their power budget.
But those power batteries themselves aren’t infinite. They’re connected to the Central Power Battery on the Planet Oa: home to the Owners and Proprietors of the Green Lantern Franchise: the Guardians of the Universe. Long story short, they’re a bunch of blue guys who sit at the “center of the universe”.
So these guys have the Central Power Battery, which–you guessed it–just looks like a larger version of a power battery. Now what we need to figure out is how much energy this power battery can produce. Based on our analysis in Part One, if it takes 5.4 x 1017 Watts to produce one fist for one Green Lantern, it’s gonna take much more to produce one fist (of varying biological specifications) for the 7199 other lanterns. Not to mention the excess energy necessary if they want to make things other than fists, or, y’know, be able to breathe and fly in space. So we know this battery has to produce an ENORMOUS amount of power, beyond anything we’ve seen before.
This is where we’re going to have to bend science and start getting weird with it.
This handsome fellow is Max Planck. Like the Guardians of the Universe, he was a franchisor, sticking his name onto a bunch of different limiting factors of the quantum universe. There’s a Planck™ Length, a Planck™ Time, a Planck™ Mass, a Planck™ Temperature… you get the point. If there’s a unit of measurement, this guy’s name is probably on it. He’s the Tyler Perry of Physical Constants. Thing about these Planck units is that they’re pretty small. In fact, individually, they’re the smallest instances of those units that make sense in the physical universe. The shortest length, the shortest time, the coldest temperature…etc.
Planck Brand™ Energy and Power are derived from these constants, and aren’t necessarily the smallest of their lot. For example, the Planck Energy can be easily found with, yup, the mass equivalency equation.
Just take the Planck Mass, multiply it by the speed of light squared, and you have the Planck Energy… which is actually a pretty reasonable number. About 2 x 109 J, which is the energy in one tank of gasoline or, depending on how you fuel your car, half a ton of TNT.
Taking this a step further, we come to the Planck Power, which is just the Planck Energy divided by the Planck Time. The Planck Power is 3.6 x 1052 W. So instead of producing a lower bound for power, we’ve produced an upper limit.
Since this is the absolute upper limit of the power of anything in our universe, it is an absolutely idiotic, STUPID amount of power.
Sounds like a great place to start.
Let’s say the Central Power Battery produces this much power. In the comics, it’s run off of the collective willpower of all sentient life in the universe. Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, every being produces the 6.25 W we derived for Hal Jordan in Part One. So we would need 5.8 x 1051 individual beings in the universe to produce this amount of power. Spreading the entire mass of the universe across this many beings would result in about 18 kg per person, which is drastically low, unless you’re Christian Bale from The Machinist.
Another solution: in order to generate this much power, the Central Battery would have to be purely annihilating 4 x 1035 kg of matter every second. The estimated mass of our universe is about 1.5 x 1053 kg. So the Power Battery, through some sort of trans-dimensional link (it’s a comic book), could be burning up an equivalent universe every 3.7 x 1017seconds or 11.7 billion years. Which is just about 2 billion years less than the age of the universe. 2 billion years would be more than enough time for the Guardians to engineer a device that runs on burning universes and get the zoning permits to build it.
Okay, so the Guardians generate the power and wirelessly broadcast it to the smaller batteries, which the individual Lanterns use charge their rings. So when you think about it that way, the rings are just further storage for the Lantern’s power, charged from a battery. It’s a very simple electrical circuit.
For those of you without an electrical engineering background, I’ve simply hooked up a battery to a switch and something called a Capacitor – which is a circuit element used to store energy in an electric field between two plates until it’s ready to be released.
So the ring is a storage element that can hook up to a battery and charge. When you’re ready to use it, you flip the switch (by focusing your 6.25 W of willpower) and release the amount of energy stored in the capacitor!
That’s it! The Green Lanterns just put a capacitor:
On a ring:
If you have a ridiculous sci-fi question you’d like me to attempt to answer with real science, please e-mail me at NairForceOne@Gmail.Com, with “[BACK OF THE ENVELOPE]” in your subject line.