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"...the people dealing with these new technologies will still be derived from the human stock we're familiar with today."
- Charles Stross

Monopole Mining  
  Looking for natural sources of monopoles.  

Good work for belters - if you can find them.

Nick Sohl was coming home.

...He had gone mining in Saturn's rings, with a singleship around him and a shovel in his hand (for the magnets used to pull monopoles from asteroidal iron did look remarkably like shovels)...

A century ago monopoles had been mere theory and conflicting theory at that. Magnetic theory said that a north magnetic pole could not exist apart from a south magnetic pole, and vice-versa. Quantum theory implied that they might exist independently.

The first permanent settlements had been blooming among the biggest Belt asteroids when an exploring team found monopoles scattered through the nickel-iron core of an asteroid. Today they were not theory, but a thriving Belt industry. A magnetic field generated by monopoles acts in an inverse linear relationship rather than an inverse-square. In practical terms, a monopole-based motor or instrument will reach much further. Monopoles were valuable where weight was a factor, and in the Belt weight was always a factor. But monopole mining was still a one man operation.

Nick's luck had been poor. Saturn's rings were not a good region for monopoles anyway; too much ice, too little metal. The electromagnetic field around his cargo box probably held no more than two full shovelfuls of north magnetic pole. Not much of a catch for a couple weeks backbreaking labor... but still worth good money at Ceres.

From Protector, by Larry Niven.
Published by Del Rey in 1973
Additional resources -

As Niven points out, the idea that a magnetic monopole, a particle that is a magnet with only one pole, actually exists has been around since at least the early 1930's, when Paul Dirac showed that magnetic monopoles were consistent with Maxwell's equations if electric charges are quantized, which is what is observed.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Protector
  More Ideas and Technology by Larry Niven
  Tech news articles related to Protector
  Tech news articles related to works by Larry Niven

Monopole Mining-related news articles:
  - Magnetic Monopoles Detected?
  - Artificial Magnetic Monopoles Created

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