Large glass domes are popular in pulp science fiction, covering alien cities, protecting the last cities of man from a ruined and scorched earth, and providing sky lights for space stations and habitats.
The Fish Eye
The common illustration of the sci-fi dome is a great clear lens sitting atop some cluster of man made structures. Fish Eyes do exist, but they are exceedingly rare. Such domes are engineering feats, but they are difficult to manufacture, difficult to place without damaging, and even as durable as they are, they are easily damaged, and difficult to repair. Fish Eye domes are generally only found in very secure places, and are limited generally to 50 meters in diameter.
The geodesic dome is the more common dome design found in the Cosmic Era. Assembled from struts and panels, the domes can be built in place, and with reinforcing struts, spars and other components, they can be much larger, and can be overlapped in design.
Water Dome - The Water Dome isn't hydroponic or underwater, but rather mimics the shape of a water molecule. The structure has a central dome and two 'wing' domes that are half the size and built into the side of the larger dome. These overlapped domes give additional strength and allow for internal partitioning. While the one large and two small dome layout is technically the only 'water' type, any multi-dome complex, be it a three in one or an ornate almost gothic 13 dome system is now commonly referred to as a water dome.
Molecule Complex - A Molecule complex is a series of connected domes. They don't overlap, but are connected by tunnels, causeways and tubes. These are the 'domed cities' on other planets. A complex, lacking arcologies, will typically be composed of several to several dozen 100 meter to 500 meter domes, with 25 meter links between them.
Domes and Where to Find Them
Underwater: Most seacologies have multiple domes, most being used for agriculture. Even 20 meters underwater, there is enough sunlight to foster plant growth, and lacking terrestrial pests and an enclosed environment, the plants can grow without outside threat. Seafarming is highly dependent on hydroponics domes, and the square footage of such domes can easily be 70% of seacology space use. Seacologies also maintain a number of recreational domes, underwater parks with open space to relax and play in. These domes are reinforced, and often have optical tricks to hide the struts and spars holding them up.
New Themyscira has the Asherah Complex, a seacology on the coast of the main island. Asherah has a central standard residential housing unit, and five hydroponic domes each 600 meters across. These domes are dedicated to growing biomass, such as algeal based protein and other fast growing plants.
On Earth: Terrestrial domes are relatively uncommon, and a sign of older generation construction. As the arcologies were being built, there were concerns of pollution, contamination, and then the depletion of atmospheric oxygen. These very large domes, some of which are amorphous in design, grew to enclose wealthy populations. The lumpy domes used skyscrapers as pillars. Most of these domes are no longer functional, with their pressurization systems and filtration systems no longer functioning.
The legacy of Riyadh is the Crystal Mosque. The structure flows over the ruin of the city and was not completed. Time and the desert is taking the city back. Most of the panels in the dome are broken or missing, and a section is sagging as one of the pillar towers has collapsed. It is one of a dozen city sized domes, and engineers routinely visit the ruins to explore repair options to support the other city domes, which are currently too expensive to remove, and slightly cheaper to maintain and repair.
Biodomes are also found in terrestrial locations, with the domes containing artificial environments, and these domes are very commonly used for biocreches, environmental restoration projects, and bioprocessing facilities. On a more recreational level, similar biodomes are used to recreate holiday environments in hostile locations, such as water parks in desert areas, or tropical jungles high in frozen mountains.
The Armisael Dome in the Philippines is a biorestoration facility that has been operating for close to forty years. Through it's work, the damage done to Polynesian fauna is being repaired. The main work done at the facility is de-extincting birds and reptiles that were wiped out from the European colonization era through the Resource Wars. It has sister facilities in Hawai'i, Guam, Nippon, and New Zealand.
Domes are very common in space. Geodesic domes are easy to assemble and have a high volume to surface area, making them ideal.
The Lunar Colonies are all hybrid dome geofronts, with the bulk of each colony buried under the lunar surface, and with large geodesic domes over their surface features. These domes are biospheres containing gardens, agricultural zones, and are a major feature of each colony. The image of the Earth rising over a lush paradise on the moon is the poster of the Lunar colonies. To offset the cold and stark nature of the Moon, the colonies have largely adapted a Polynesian motif, and flowers and flower images are common on Lunar items, ranging from the hibiscus on the seal to the orchid on the Tycho convention document.
The Martian Domes are straight out of science fiction, and don't exist so much to hold in an earth standard atmosphere as much as they are shields against the Martian sandstorms. The domes do hold earth atmospheres, and there are farms on the red planet, but they are considered transient. The domes will eventually come down, as the terraforming of the planet progresses. The farming domes are mundane, the real fascinating domes are the geoengineering and biosculpting centers. These installations are doing the work of genetically engineering plants to survive on Mars, to thicken up it's atmosphere, and provide a food source and oxygen that doesn't have to be shipped in, or grown under one of the domes. There are strange new plants, tiny trees and thick grasses that are vibrant reds and purples growing on the Red Planet.
Asteroid Domes are short lived affairs, armored carapaces that are erected on or even around asteroids being mined out. They don't hold pressure or air, but provide protection from micro impacts and most are polarized to protect the mining crews from deep space radiation.
I was struck with writing this submission after doing some personal research on building a geodesic dome out of PVC pipe for a backyard greenhouse. The structure is demonstratably cheap and easy to construct, requiring a minimum of skill and only basic competence with power tools. This transferred over into the Cosmic Era because that's how my imagination works.
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? Responses (6)
One of the things I really liked about Planetes was it's depiction of people that were born and raised on the moon. Does the Cosmic Era have any of those side effects?
I had to Google Paletes, and read up on the anime and manga from wiki. In the Cosmic Era, people on the Moon, or Mars, or any of the offworld colonies do not grow to extreme height because of the lack of gravity. They can and do alter their physical appearance, including height, weight, etc, but this is a function of genetic manipulation and deliberate augmentation.
I enjoy minutae like this because I am not an expert on how 'sci-fi' domes actually operate or the different types. Thanks for the knowledge. Now I can use domes in my futuristic games and stories, without just saying 'umm, it's a dome. What more do you want to know?!'
Satisfying education on domes!
Excellent. Did you ever build a dome greenhouse?
I looked into it, and ended up getting a pre-fab greenhouse that was on clearance