21 May 2009

Seasteading Institute Project: Engineering

I have been informed by Patri Friedman of The Seasteading Institute, that detailed engineering information about TSI's "Clubstead" project is available at the TSI website. The Clubstead project is a scaled-down seastead for 270 people (200 guests and 70 staff) meant to serve as a hotel and casino. It would also serve as a "proof of concept" of the underlying design platform.Looking over the engineering designs and specs for Clubstead at TSI, I see that there is a great deal to admire about the design -- details which you could not, of course, detect from the design contest winners pictured here previously. As you can see in the drawing above, the cantilevered portion of the seastead platform is supported by support cables. You can also see the outline of strong horizontal steel trusses that connect the four steel columns that support the structure.

You can download the engineering reports in PDF format as a single file or individually from links at this location. The graphics showing the assembly of the platform and columns, along with the ballasting and de-ballasting of the columns in final assembly, are worth checking out, once you download the PDF file.

Although this design is for a much smaller seastead than would actually serve as a micro-nation, it would serve as a test platform for some of its unique ideas. In short, Patri Friedman and his group have made a good beginning in exploring some of the potential approaches to seastead engineering. With the financial backing of Peter Thiel and other contributors, they should be able to proceed to more testing. The PR promotional aspects of TSI are also important for the overall movement.

Now, without having seen the engineering specs, my first impression of the TSI platform was not favourable. After looking over the specs, I can see that many vital details that I thought neglected, were considered after all. Not all, but quite a few. Even so, the Clubstead design would likely not survive a full year in the Pacific Northwestern open waters. And you would not expect it to be able to do so, as an untested design.

Modifications that are made to the design with further testing should make Clubstead more seaworthy, and resistant to the unexpected problems that inevitably occur, courtesy of Mr. Murphy. As larger and larger scale models are tested against harsher and harsher conditions, the computer model will be proved or falsified. The full scale Clubstead itself will necessarily be tested in milder waters over a period of time, before the ocean ocean is dared.

Then, if the Clubstead -- which is itself a scaled down seastead -- is able to withstand the rigours of the open sea, the lessons learned from Clubstead can be applied to the design and construction of newer versions of the same and larger scale.

The Seasteading Institute has always had the support of the Al Fin blogs. Thanks again to Patri Friedman for spearheading this important movement.

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