When I built the domes over Baltimore, I thought I was pretty darned clever. I had invented a machine that I nicknamed the “Dome Crawler.” It probably has a real name like, “Polymer Deposition and Forming Machine” or something like that, and I’ve forgotten I already named it. But I’ve started to wonder if building one standalone dome was the right thing to do. Maybe what I should have built were two nested domes. The outer dome would be the structural dome, formed of a much thicker material. But there should be an inner dome, perhaps much thinner, and connected to the thicker outer dome with a webbed membrane between them, serving to bind the two layers and also maintain an air space. Why? Glad you asked.
Temperature. When I started this whole dome business while writing UNDERCURRENT, there were some problems I had to solve just to make this wild idea even a remote possibility. How would people survive underwater? They’d need to have air to breathe and water to drink. This is very much in line with how submarines operate, so that’s what I based my dome’s systems on. But I hadn’t considered the temperature. I believed the wonderful city of Baltimore should be covered with around 300-400 feet of water. I presumed the very top of the dome might be about 100 feet below sea level. The temperature would vary with ocean currents and waves, but at the base of the dome, it could be around 30-40 degrees Fahrenheit. Nested domes would provide an airspace between the domes that could provide an insulating benefit. I could also pump unwanted excess heat from the electrolysis process used by the oxygen generation systems to fill the space with warm air.
Strength. Would I put 50,000 people under a single-shelled dome? What do you think I am, some kind of animal? No, of course I’d build the nested domes, because the webbed membrane that connects the two domes would provide structural benefits. Let’s say that a dome that is a few miles in diameter but only a few hundred feet tall, might appear somewhat flat. How would I support the dome at the center? It’s always bothered me. Now, I’m investing in this nested dome concept. The compressive strength (the opposite of tensile strength) would have to be very high, since the curvy arch concept that’s present in all the dome pictures you might have seen would be almost non-existent. I wouldn’t rule out a tall structural support at the center of the largest dome that might also be a habitable structure. Too bad I put Schaefer Plaza right in the center!
Maintenance. If you’ve read UNDERCURRENT—the first book in the Undercurrent Series—then you know that the Environmental Dome has had its share of problems with faulty photonic lighting panels. This is how I brought “daylighting” into the dome. The seamless electronic panels that line the dome provide sunrises, sunsets, stars, clouds, and a whole array of spectacular lighting effects… when they work. How they would be repaired has been somewhat of a mystery. But now that I have nested domes, I’ve created a service corridor over the entire surface of the dome. It would be creepy as hell in there, but crews would have access to all the panels, the surveillance system, and break detectors or earthquake sensors, and the cleaning systems that provide the occasional rain showers.
So next time you’re walking through the streets of Baltimore, try looking up and imagine a dome covering your city. If you are in the Inner Harbor area, you are under the highest point in Central Dome, which is maybe 350 feet over your head. Hopefully, you’re all cozy and warm because of my masterful concentric dome design. But if you’re local, I know what you’re thinking now: How is the Domino Sugars sign being illuminated? Don’t worry, hon… it’s still there.