In his latest io9 thought-for-naught piece he asks the literally earthshattering question, What Would the Earth Be Like If It Was the Shape of a Donut? The answer is "not Earth," obviously, but Sandberg only gets there by way of a whole hell of a lot of charts. Science! io9 helpfully catalogs the piece under the heading "Physics."
Now, I find more than my share of mirth from the stylings of The Journal of Irreproducible Results, quite as much as the next hopeless geek, at least, and I will say that Sandberg is one of the more affable, brighter bulbs of the Robot Cult milieu -- he hobnobs with the Oxonian transhumanoids, who are too N.I.C.E. by half. But this sort of thing bears watching.
I still think io9 is at its best when it offers up more than usually multicultural sf-literary fandom enthusiasm and critique and when it isn't indulging in reactionary pseudo-scientific futurological marketing hype. I wouldn't be surprised if Dvorsky himself was the one who nudged his cultic colleague into the light in a bit of logrolling (he often draws attention to fellow Robot Cultists, after all, describing them as "experts" rather than fellow faithful), but io9ites more generally do exhibit a vulnerability to transhumanoidal religiosity, so one never knows.
Ask yourself how you would respond if Dvorsky and his friends were Scientologists (which is, after all, what transhumanism wants to be when it grows up, just as Scientology wants to be Mormonism when it grows up, and Mormonism wants to be the Vatican) offering up quirky little trial balloons under a "physics" tag at io9, sprinkled here and there with unobtrusive classically robocultic gambits such as the following:
"It looks like a toroid planet is not forbidden by the laws of physics... So if we decide to assume it just is there, perhaps due to an advanced civilization with more aesthetics than sanity, what are its properties?" followed by reams and reams and reams of the science of angels dancing on pinheads (with computer simulations) culminating in the usual brave admonishment to techno-transcendence: "Torus-worlds are unlikely to exist naturally. But if they did, they would make awesome places for adventure. A large surface area. Regions with very different climate, seasons, gravity and ecosystems. Awesome skies on the interior surface. Dramatic weather. Moons in strange orbits. We better learn how to make them outside of simulations [emphasis added]."
Setting aside all the saucers spinning on polls there is a bit of ideological pleading there: Because toroid technoplanets would be cool if they were made they can therefore be made? Says who? "Physicists," apparently? Such roboworlds would be fun so "we better learn how to make them"? Or else what? No fun? Or worse, we'll have to admit and reckon with the fact that we are stuck on this earth we are poisoning with our profit-taking and our war-making?
In the absence of Banksian or Eganonic themes, characters, and plotting to invest this sort of blank scenery/scenario-spinning with an actual world to care about it in, these futurist hyperventilations always seem to me rather weirdly earnest little nothings, missed opportunities for literary worldbuilding or at least to make a good joke.