- Had been thinking I might have the thoikh be nitrogen-fixers. Maybe do that and breathe oxygen, instead of in lieu of it; it's entirely possible they could have mechanisms to sequester their nitrogenase(-analog) from O2. One of the major nitrogen-fixing bacteria is also photosynthetic, meaning its cells produce oxygen; either the same or a different one is protected by a kind of hemoglobin produced by the plants it's symbiotic with, that transports oxygen away from the tissues rather than to them. The reason they might still breathe oxygen is because nitrogen-fixation takes energy, which the bacteria that do it photosynthesize for.
Whether the thoikh fix nitrogen in lieu of aerobic respiration, or in addition to it, they would probably exhale ammonia (possibly along with CO2 if they also breathe oxygen). It's a gas at room temperature (the stuff you clean with is actually a water-solution, like CO2 in soda). Presumably plants on the thoikh homeworld use gaseous ammonia, rather than absorbing it through their roots. But them exhaling ammonia made me realize two problems with the idea, so I probably won't go with it. The first is that zledo and to a lesser extent khângây couldn't stand to be around anyone that exhaled ammonia, they both have very strong senses of smell. And the second is that C. J. Cherryh's kif smell strongly of ammonia, and the thoikh were already pale gray, sepulchral, and wrapped in dark robes—too similar by far.
But nitrogen-fixation for aliens, as an accompaniment or substitute for oxygen respiration, is a cool idea, just one I can't use because I can't wedge it in.
- The recent kerfuffle about "the gender binary" in science fiction, got me thinking. As far as I know, all attempts to portray an alien species with more than two sexes are actually portrayals of alien species with two sexes, plus hermaphrodite and/or neuter. And occasionally, alternatively or concomitantly, of a fluidity to the binary that is more assumed than demonstrated with regard to any vertebrate more "derived" than certain fish and frogs.
I'm sorry, did you maybe learn some weird system of symbolic logic with which I am unacquainted? I ask because, well, "A, B, both A and B, neither A nor B, and/or A becoming B quite easily or the reverse"...are none of them C, you idiots! You're incapable of even conceiving of a third sex; you can't even really conceive of another "gender", you just sometimes claim that people get to pick which one they are, or that they aren't one (apparently when you say "science" fiction you mean Mary Baker Eddy).
There are very good reasons organisms on Earth have two sexes, even when they combine them in one organism like roses and snails do. All neuter organisms reproduce by budding or fission. I don't object to you trying to depict an organism that does things another way—but I have a serious problem with you saying that you are trying to do that, and then, instead of giving it an actual try, doing something else entirely.
- An idea I like is aliens with different senses—e.g. Niven's kdatlyno and their radar. I don't know that something like that would evolve, on a planet that the Thrint would've colonized and whose inhabitants Kzinti can eat, but it's still a neat idea.
When my setting was going to include space-borne life (which it was, once, though I don't think I've mentioned it here), the space-borne creatures were going to use radio both as their main sense, and for communication. They can't hear, of course, but they can mimic any sound they hear broadcast over analog radio (I think they might even be able to send images from their heads as analog video). They could even focus their "voice" sufficiently to use it as a weapon—imagine "fus roh da" causing all the asymmetrical molecules in the target to heat up (okay, so that's more like "yol toor shul", but it's not like anyone knows the names of any other Thu'umme).
I had a whole plot about their dealings with one of the other species (which I hadn't yet decided, although probably not humans, at first), but not even I—who went to the Quentin Tarantino school of "cram in everything you think is cool"—could fit it into my larger plot.
- On that note, there's some silly idea going around that "Starscream", as a name in Cybertronian culture, has something to do with wind. Maybe solar wind, but what the hell do stars have to do with wind otherwise? No. Many if not most if not all Cybertronians/Transformers/Autobots (which may be the original name of their species—depending on the continuity, but in the current one Orion Pax got the name from unspecified ancient records) are born with radio and radar as a sense, and all of them eventually learn to incorporate it into their physiology. Therefore? They can hear the stars (and "naked eye object" is a term with no meaning for them). My theory is that "Starscream" is the Cybertronian word for "sunspot" (there is a Decepticon named "Sunspot", but he only exists in the Bayformers continuity and thus can be safely discounted—even there, he's only a toy, not in the films). It's probably a similar name in their culture to, well, Solarflare.
- I just discovered, on the 27th in fact, that I can't use 59 Virginis for the zled star. It's too young. The Internet Stellar Database lists it as 4.5 billion years old, but apparently the newer calculations say it's only about a tenth of that, much too young for life. I'm moving their home star to 18 Scorpii, which is a trifle more sun-like than I like but otherwise okay. I spent most of the 27th coming up with a new calendar for them; I decided this time around not to have months, but to base the divisions of their year (now much shorter—383 Julian days instead of 653) on the seasons. They still have a lunisolar calendar, but now their two moons (which I decided have a Trojan orbit) define their week(-analogue), not a "month". I'm a little impressed with myself, redoing...crap, twelve years of work in a single day, with only what wailing and gnashing of teeth was strictly necessary.
I don't have to change too much of the actual books; most of the stars that are remote from 59 Virginis, and thus good places for the frontier colonies most of the books are set in, are also remote from 18 Scorpii (they are also roughly as remote from Sol). One that I am changing is instead of γ Serpentis-Tianshìyòuyuán (I also use the Chinese star-names), one of the books will now be set on a planet orbiting σ Boötis-Gěnghé-èr; given its Chinese name means "celestial lance", I'm changing the colony's name from "Iron-Crutch Li" to "Èrlángshén", since he uses a spear and all. It's a cooler name anyway.
I might have to come up with another Pole Star for them. I know I want Orion to be an important constellation (I checked, it still pretty much looks like Orion from where they are, although the Belt is squished to one side), either on their equator or on their ecliptic; Muphrid no longer works as a Pole Star from 18 Scorpii. The math to be certain is hell, but I'm probably eventually going to do it, that's just the kind of man I am. (First I have to determine the galactic coordinates of some star in Orion, like say Alnitak, relative to 18 Sco, then I have to convert that to RA and Dec, then I have to essentially stick that star at the coordinates of something on the ecliptic, like say α Leonis, then I have to figure out what c. 90° declination away from that would be, then I have to convert that to galactic coordinates and find a star nearby to be the pole-star).
- Might redo some of their constellations, which will entail renaming some of their stars. Sol is now in a constellation consisting of part of Taurus and part of Canis Major, which I could easily see as a monster Orion (which they also imagine as a hero, though not primarily a hunter) is killing. Gliese 570 (where my short-story "Fine and Fitting" takes place) is now in Orion. ...Actually it's significantly further from 18 Scorpii than it is from Sol, I might have to change the location of that story. HR 4458, or 289 G. Hydrae as 24th-century people prefer to call it, is half again as far from 18 Scorpii as from Sol, but the zledo have had space-folds for longer so that's okay. It's now in a constellation containing pieces of Monoceros and Puppis, as well as β and γ Canis Majoris, a bit behind Orion (if he's facing toward Sol); think I'll have it be his steed. The description doesn't change much, it just has one less red dwarf companion.
Ξ Boötis is now in a constellation consisting of parts of Taurus and Auriga, seeming to hover over the head of the monster-constellation Sol is in. Don't know what that'll be yet, maybe a bird-analogue (in an unrelated capacity to the hero-monster fight happening on the zodiac). Σ Boötis is in a constellation consisting of several of the brightest stars in Ursa Majoris. Actually it kinda looks like a bear (though not in the way UMa is usually thought of), so maybe I'll name that one after a stughõ, which is a vaguely ursine zled domestic animal, used something like an elephant. 61 Ursae Majoris, which is where the first-contact story takes place, is now in a constellation mostly consisting of Gemini and Coma Berenices stars, as well as a couple Ursa Major ones (including Talitha Borealis, ι Ursae Majoris). I think I'll have that constellation be a ship.
Given they put south at the top of maps and have Orion with the same orientation we in the Northern Hemisphere do, I think Lhãsai still rotates backwards, like it did when η Boötis was its pole-star. ("East" is defined by rotation and "north" and "south" are defined relative to it.)
- It's kinda funny to be alive now. In between February of 2011 and October of 2013, the "scientific consensus" went from "Earthlike planets are exceedingly rare" to "between 20% and 33% of sunlike stars have Earthlike planets in their Goldilocks Zones". That one little datum (pretending for the moment that we actually know that, and we don't, it's an estimate) makes three of the seven terms of the Drake Equation "we have an educated guess" rather than "we pluck the numbers from the air". Admittedly, we already had a guess for the first, "the rate of star formation in the galaxy".
The Drake Equation—N = R★ × fp × ne × fl × fi × fc × L—is, as its critics often point out, complete BS. It is an attempt to dress up wishful thinking as science, at best a framing for a problem of whose basic framework we know, more or less, nothing. Having an educated guess for three of its seven terms doesn't actually change that...in real life. For a science fiction writer, though, the Drake Equation was always useful, because setting the values certain ways said how many alien civilizations you had to plan around. Three of those terms now being "known" (albeit only in the form of a Scientific Wild-Ass Guess—YOLO!) greatly simplifies things for the science-fiction writer.
- Example of how nuts I am: remember how in the last part of "Fine and Fitting", Dhêmãshlek mentions that zledo can process methanol (this is then translated by Léih Sèuhndíng)? Well, I figured out what, in general terms, that entails. The reason methanol is toxic is because it is metabolized into formic acid and formaldehyde. Zled metabolism has some mechanism (which I do not specify) that allows their bodies to safely remove these chemicals. The net effect, however, is that their crap smells like embalmed ants the next day.
Their alcohol intoxication is different in other ways—they don't use GABA because their biosphere uses an entirely different set of amino acids (they do use an amino acid as their main inhibitory neurotansmitter, though). They also don't use acetylcholine, whose nicotinic receptors alcohol has a "facilitatory" effect on. I decided on that because of another characteristic of their chemistry, one that I decided on during the initial writing of the second book several years ago (although I determined its precise nature just now): zledo are immune to sarin nerve-gas (although if you pump a facility full of it they'll still die, just by suffocation—would've been cheaper to use CO2). Even I don't know what they do use for a neurotransmitter; I don't know if it's a different choline or something else entirely. Maybe a glutamate, some of those are used in the muscle-cells of cephalopods (vertebrates only use acetylcholine in their muscle-nerves, although they use glutamic acid as a neurotransmitter in other parts of their nervous systems).
Maybe have them use the methanoic-acid choline—formylcholine? That might have some connection to the fact they can metabolize methanol ("methanoic acid" is the more systematic name for "formic acid"). Maybe the propanoic-acid one (methane-ethane-propane, their derivatives follow the same convention), propionylcholine? That's found in cow livers, apparently, though not as a neurotransmitter I don't think. I probably won't specify, I don't have the chemistry background to be sure I won't embarrass myself.
Speculative material culture, much of it designed for unfriendly purposes.
- The advantage of digital is the ease with which it's stored and transmitted; its downside is that you lose quality as an unavoidable part of the process, although if you're careful you never lose any quality after the first digital encoding (because your jaggy MS Paint drawing of a sound-wave—which is what digital audio is—can be reproduced indefinitely, the same way as when you first rendered it as a jaggy MS Paint drawing of a sound-wave). Analog wears.
But...what about optical-media analog storage? The chief downside currently is the sheer size necessary (compare LaserDiscs to DVDs), but, what if you use a very small-wavelength laser and some sort of nano-material storage medium? I wouldn't be surprised if a future society switched to something like tiny LaserDiscs, their surfaces marked on the nanometer scale and read by blue, violet, or even near UV lasers, for audio and video storage, at least for "master" copies. The future versions of hardcore "audio snobs" and photography (and cinematography) geeks would probably trade exclusively in analog.
We can blow up old photographs, taken with ordinary commercially-available cameras, and read newspaper headlines reflected on people's shiny brass buttons; anyone who tells you that's within the capabilities of even the state-of-the-art, "professional" grade of digital cameras is a liar or a delusional idiot. And remember how, before the shift to all-digital, you could adjust your "rabbit ears" just so and get a serviceable TV picture? Well when you have bad reception with a digital signal, you get nothing, just jagged blocks of scrambled color and screeching noise.
- A shift to analog optical-storage for audio and video would put copyright law back to before the days of file-sharing. Analog is much harder to transmit (although as I just mentioned it loses less when transmitted imperfectly). The digital copies that can be transmitted, with their layers of white noise to act as "dithering" for their MS Paint jaggy sound-waves, might come to be viewed the way we used to view bootleg records. Admittedly the widespread adoption of an analog optical storage medium would presumably involve the invention of efficient ways to record to that medium, which would allow some analog copying (as there always was), but since you'd still have to move physical objects (since you'd have to digitize to transmit over computer networks), it'd put things back on their "pirated tapes" footing rather than the file-sharing one we have now.
- If you wonder why zled laser weapons are powered by springs, the answer, aside from "I thought it seemed cool", is "reliability"—there's a reason survival radios and emergency flashlights use them so often. Also, a mainspring might, conceivably, slice your head clean off if it pops out just right, but it's nothing like as volatile as a chemical battery. I had considered having the springs charge ultracapacitors, from which the lasers are then charged; I also discovered that the energy density of a normal metal mainspring may be prohibitively low, and is definitely hard to figure out. All the numbers I could find would seem to indicate that that "4 Watts for 25 minutes" windup radio would need a 20 kilo spring, if not 43, and we know that's not the case (I may be misconstruing something about the thing's power-output). But I found that, with the technology to make much longer polymer molecules than we currently can, you can make "molecular springs" out of polymers like polyacetylene (AKA polyethyne) and the helicenes, with energy densities from .1 megajoules/kilogram all the way up to 10. Apparently molecular springs can also release lots of energy at once, so this also solves another problem. And even the low end of that range gives us 100 kJ/kg, which comes to 64 grams per four shots, and 256 grams for all sixteen shots (decided not to bother with multiple springs). That's 17 grams lighter than the ammunition, alone, in a Glock 21 (13 rounds of 45 ACP, 21 g each), and that's not counting the mass for the Glock's magazine. 'Course, the casing on the spring adds a little weight, too—the total weight might well be about the same, since a spring is something you want a nice heavy-duty casing on.
That's a civilian and police "hand laser". Their military "long laser" fires 10 kJ shots. Unfortunately at that 10 kJ a pop, 48-shot springs at 100 kJ/kg equal 5.5 kg per "magazine", which is way too big. Even the kind of elephant-gun cartridge that has comparable muzzle energy (laser wounds are basically bullet wounds with no bullet in them)—say .585 Nyati since I can find the stats for those rounds—weighs 3,034 grams when you get 48 of them together (most elephant guns are single-shot or double-barrel for a reason). Maybe have the military springs made of some different material, that can store more energy? ".1-10 MJ/kg" is a pretty wide range; if we say the military's springs have the energy density of, say, a typical rechargeable battery, we get 288 kJ/kg, which brings each spring to a kilo and two-thirds. I think I might actually at least have two springs in the long guns, that'd probably be a big disc otherwise. (Maybe they sell military-grade springs for the hand lasers, more expensive or more regulated or both, that give 46 shots for the same weight—SMG lasers, maybe?)
- While the zledo are wandering around with spring-loaded lasers, the Peacekeepers have bullets propelled by octanitrocubane. This allows each round to require only 67.2% as much propellant as is used in the G11's caseless rounds (which use RDX), and 42% as much propellant as the equivalent nitrocellulose-propelled round.
What that probably translates to is that the caseless rounds no longer have to be rectangular, the way the G11's are. A circle has 78.5% the area of a square whose side-length is its diameter, meaning that even with cylindrical rounds, the octanitrocubane propellant nets an 11.3% increase in power. If the length remains the same, after all, then the difference of volume between a cylinder and a rectangular prism is the difference between the area of a circle and that of a square.
That's assuming all other things being equal, which they aren't—the PK rounds in my book are 6.8 mm compared to the G11's 4.7, and have muzzle energies of around 2,300 J, comparable to, well, 6.8 mm Remington SPC, as opposed to the G11's 1,406 J, comparable to the 5.45×39 mm round used in the AK-74.
- Peacekeeper sidearms, meanwhile, are probably in the equivalent of 10 mm Auto, which is much stronger than 9 mm Parabellum but not on par with the 1.6 kJ lasers zledo use for a sidearm, which is the equivalent of .44 Magnum. I'm not sure if the Peacekeeper pistol round is 9 or 10 mm; I vacillate back and forth. If it's 9 mm (which I lean toward), I might have it be 9×22, like .357 SIG, rather than 9×19. Of course, "caseless"—that second number is the overall length of the caseless round, including the cylinder of propellant, rather than the length of the casing.
I imagine that 24th-century CIP/SAAMI/NATO EPVAT or their successors ("Peacekeeper Small Arms Proofing", maybe, to translate the full name of CIP literally?) might designate caseless rounds with a C, or maybe with an E to indicate electronic firing, the way they indicate rimmed cartridges with an R. Actually, more likely, late-21st- or early 22nd-century CIP/SAAMI/NATO EPVAT successors would designate caseless rounds with a C, and later ones would stop. The "Nitro Express" seen in some cartridge names refers to nitrocellulose ("express" because of the higher muzzle-velocity it can produce)—those rounds were first made in the early days of smokeless powder. Nowadays nobody bothers to mention their round uses smokeless powder.
- It occurs to me that the spring-cartridges would occasion a difference of design, for zled weapons. Rather than looking like Tanegashima matchlocks, they would probably—since they have a big, probably disk-shaped, spring somewhere on the weapon—look like wheellocks. Like this pistol, from this Finnish antique site:Metropolitan Museum of Art:
- People sticking the genes for bioluminescence into just about every organism they can get into a laboratory, plus various other plans for ways to make plants glow, makes me think, what if an alien species came from a planet with plants (or, well, "vegetative autotrophs", but same difference) that were already bioluminescent? Maybe instead of the UV "landing strips" on our flowers, that help pollinators, they glow at night, to guide some similar symbiotic species. And what if the sapient inhabitants of such a planet bred those plants selectively, the way we've bred food crops? Bet they could get some very respectable light out of 'em after 25,000 years.
I realize that everybody in fantasy from the drow to the people of Quarmall to the Falmer (who are blind...) grows glowing mushrooms, but you don't see it much in science fiction. Why shouldn't some alien species' streetside trees become streetlights, at night? I'm giving it to the khângây, they're crepuscular (the zledo are too), and I haven't written enough about them for this small amount of rewriting to be a hassle (which is why I can't use this idea for the zledo). Each khângây clan has its own breed of lighting-plants, and the precise shade of the light will tell you whose territory you're in. (Since they also have a fourth color-receptor, for near-UV, they can distinguish ten times as many shades as species with only three.)
- It seems unlikely to me that anyone would ever use particle beam weapons, except in space. The least likely use is the anti-personnel small arms one. First off, they use far more power than a laser with the same applicability. Second, and I hope more importantly, they pretty much always give you radiation-poisoning—whether it's a lethal or only "most likely lethal, eventually" dose is determined by whether it's a direct hit or not. Aside from the moral considerations, there are heaps of treaties that'd get in the way.
No, I know, "science fiction is about the 'Englightenment' worldview"—the worldview that debated giving the Indians smallpox-laced blankets (though there is no evidence they ever actually did it), and also gave the world mustard gas, Zyklon-B, and sarin, and firebombed Dresden and nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But unless you are going to write a story about callousness and inhumanity of that caliber, and give us a believably amoral setting to back it up—when the whole trend of war in the last 50 years has been away from that kind of thing, especially since the end of the Cold War (where the amorality was limited to nukes, and the whole point of those was having them but never using them)—I'm not buying it. Particle beams can punch through very large quantities of most matter, letting them penetrate armor (at least if it's not protected against ionizing radiation—which a spacefaring civilization's armor might be), and thus might be thought of like depleted uranium. But you still mostly die from the actual impact of depleted uranium (and the fact it catches fire on impact), and are quite unlikely to die from the radiation. You always die from particle beam radiation, or very nearly always. Poisoned bullets are illegal for a reason.
As for particle beam artillery, the power issue goes away, since vehicle-scale weapons don't need their power systems to be man-portable. But on the other hand, the backscatter from a large particle beam is as deadly as the fallout from a nuke. You'd have to completely radiation-suit all your personnel, and still couldn't use the particle artillery anywhere near a friendly population. While particle-beam weapons might see some use in space, on a planet they'd be too power-intensive and morally fraught to be good for an anti-personnel role, and too dangerous to friendly personnel for an artillery role.
Reference to the last part of Wisdom 11:20 or 11:21—different versions seem to divide the verse in different spots. It was a very popular verse in the Middle Ages (because there was a reason they invented science), and led to illustrations like this one, in the Toledo Bible.
Thoughts upon, well, measures, and numbers, and weight.
Thoughts upon, well, measures, and numbers, and weight.
- In light of those newer numbers for the Crusades, I've redone that comparison I did a while back, comparing the Crusades' death-toll to that of World War II. They still would've had to kill 8.25 million people to depopulate the world to the same extent; 2 million instead of 1.5 million brings them to 24% the global-depopulation rate of World War II, and 163 years instead of 300 means the Crusades took 27 times as long, not 50 times. That means our optimism, as people that fought World War II, is only 112.1 times as naïve as that of the medievals, as people who fought the Crusades, not 275 times.
But again, human life is not subject to economic scarcity, since every person that dies is unique (i.e., scarcity is always total for every human being). If Alice lives in a city of 50,000 people, and Bob lives in a city of 6 million, it's not 120 times worse if Alice kills someone than if Bob does. The fact is that 35 times as many people were deliberately or negligently killed by World War II as were killed by the Crusades, and the Crusades were 163 years long, vs. six, so that "35 times as much slaughter" actually translates to "950 times (!!) the rate of killing".
While I'm at it, 2 million dead in 163 years of Crusades plus 3.3 million dead in 116 years of Hundred Years (Rounded Down) War, comes to 5.3 million dead in 279 years. Meanwhile the Thirty Years (On the Dot) War killed about 7.25 million (taking the average of the estimates). I.e., the definitive "Enlightenment" conflict killed 37% more people, in 10.75% as long, i.e. at 12.7 times the rate, as the two biggest medieval wars, combined.
- Speaking of death tolls, apparently the Mongol conquest estimates should be revised sharply downward, since a lot of the assumptions involve "reductions between Chinese censuses" and it's obviously difficult to take a census of territories you lost to the Horde. Apparently a more realistic number is 15 million between 1206 and 1368, which still comes to 7.5 times as much killing as the Crusades. It's 2.83 times as much killing as "the Crusades and Hundred Years War combined", in 58% as long, which comes to 4.87 times the kill rate.
The Mongols were actually less killtacular than Hideyoshi's invasion of Joseon Korea—half as killtacular, in fact, they killed 13 and 7/11 times as many people in 27 times as long, which comes to 50/99 or just under 51% as much killing over time. Which means the old number is only 1/99, or just over 1%, higher than Hideyoshi's kill rate! (Well, half the dead in that war, c. 90% of them Koreans, were killed by the Chinese—who were Korea's ally at the time—but still, it shows that the Mongols weren't unusually kill-crazed for Asia. Hideyoshi's ambition was to march roughshod over China and put a Japanese dynasty in place, if it'd taken him 162 years he would've done it, except the Chinese and Yi Sunshin stopped him at Joseon.)
Suddenly Hideyoshi's treatment in Sengoku Basara doesn't seem so over-the-top. "The world you would create has no room for anyone but soldiers."
- Remember couple years ago, when I said the decimal equivalents of the sevenths-fractions don't matter to anyone but Bungee employees? It's true, but hang on a minute.
I found out, the sevenths, as decimals, have a very weird property. Namely? They all have the same digits. Having a denominator that's a prime number that is not a factor of the numerical base (in base-fourteen they'd be expressed the same way the fifths are in decimal), their decimal expression is repeating. But they always repeat the same six digits, and five of them are "7", "14", and "28" (the last one is "5", for some reason, possibly having to do with the numerical base being 2×5).
1/7 is (0.)"142857" repeating, 2/7 is (0.)"285714" repeating, 3/7 is (0.)"428571" repeating (every time after that, notice, the "4" is preceded by "1", i.e. "14"), 4/7 is (0.)"571428" repeating, 5/7 is (0.)"714285" repeating, and 6/7 is (0.)"857142" repeating (again, every time after the first the "8" is preceded by "2"). And like I said, in base-14 they'd be .2, .4, .6, .8, .A, and .C (or however you write "ten" and "twelve" when "10" and "12" represent fourteen and sixteen, respectively).
- A search of the blog suggests I haven't mentioned it, but I changed the zled measurements to be based around 120, rather than 144, "long hundreds" instead of grosses. Because zledo have ten fingers and therefore will also like fives and tens, and 120 is divisible by almost every number 144 is (except 9 and 16, since it's not the square of the product of their roots), but 144 isn't divisible by 5 or 10.
- One thing that always strikes me as odd is that often, the "older", more "primitive" ships in many SF settings are smaller. But, look at Project Daedalus or Longshot or the Frisbee antimatter-rocket—these things are huge! They have to carry everything along with them, they're civilization-defining works on par with the Great Wall of China or the entire US Interstate highway-system. As space-travel gets easier, especially if your setting includes FTL, ships won't have to carry as much, since they're no longer setting up in the Great Unknown with no help available for decades. The newer ships would probably, in general, be smaller.
Size, of course, would ultimately be determined by function. Entry vehicles are space-planes, system-ships have to be able to hold the tankage for voyages of several AU (or rather, to accelerate to a speed where those voyages are relatively convenient). Starships' size will be determined by how you have interstellar travel work—in mine, for instance, there's FTL, but you have to get out to a given range from a star (roughly the semimajor axis of Pluto's orbit, for Sol) or your space-fold will cause topological defects. So the starships are huge, with massive tankage, so they can get out to a distance of dozens of AUs in a timely manner.
- Remember a few posts back, when I said a zled the same size as a human would weigh 104 kilos, thanks to his extra muscle mass? Yeah, but, some of you probably thought (I would've), zledo aren't the same size as humans, they're bigger. So what're the real numbers?
An average male zled stands 194 centimeters with his heels flat, and weighs 147 kilos. That is the average height and weight on the Dallas Cowboys offensive line. An average female zled stands 175 centimeters with her heels flat, and weighs 97 kilos, which is toward the smaller end of women's Olympic shot-putters, e.g. Elisângela Adriano.
Of course, raw height-to-weight numbers don't tell the whole story; not even percent muscle-mass does that. A male puma, for example, is about the same size as an average female human, and about three-quarters more of its mass is made up of muscle (a bit over 60% compared to c. 36%—we'll say 63% vs 36% to make the ratio tidy). An average woman, however, not only cannot jump over a six-foot fence while carrying a golden retriever, as a puma can, she isn't anywhere near being able to, forget about being four-sevenths of the way there, which is the difference of their muscle-masses.
- Apparently archaeologists actually find all the traces of "behavioral modernity" in Homo sapiens-associated sites at least as far back as the Middle Paleolithic. Details are here. However, the writer of that article seems to try to make the evidence say too much, claiming that the presence of these "modern" traits at older levels means there was no "behavioral modernity" revolution. But...notice how the "modernity" of those Middle Paleolithic (and maybe earlier) sites "appears at a few sites or for a few thousand years in one region or another, and then it vanishes"?
But it doesn't vanish in the Upper Paleolithic. While there are always going to be survivals of older technology (the author of that paper teaches flintknapping), that doesn't affect the fact that "current" technology changes. While the "Upper Paleolithic Revolution" is not the sharp, sudden break it was once characterized as, and it certainly can't be attributed to a physiological change, the fact that what was once done only localized and temporarily was now done all over and on a sustained basis...is pretty much what we mean by "revolution", actually. People had had factories from Roman times, and medieval Europe had mechanical saws and cam-driven automated hammers . But it wasn't the basis of their whole system of manufacture, which is why we call the "Industrial Revolution" a revolution.
One gets the definite impression that article is claiming more than the data actually support, possibly because "there was no Upper Paleolithic Revolution" sounds more like a breakthrough than "behavioral modernity is not an all-or-nothing proposition, but the gradual adoption, on a widespread, longterm basis, of practices that had previously been isolated and sporadic". Nuance is the bane of a press-release, although some claim to find a use for it in academic discourse. Which one is science-writing supposed to be, again?
- The size-difference between the zled sexes, with females c. 66% the mass of males, is unheard of for mammals that mate for life, as zledo and their close relatives do (they're basically jackals, even though they look like cats). But zledo are not mammals—they're only even animals in the Aristotelian sense, since "animals" as modern biology defines the concept have DNA (there is, by the way, a taxonomic level higher than "kingdom"—"biosphere"). Anyway there are monogamous birds, the raptors, with that ratio of size-dimorphism—it's just the females that are bigger. Among the several theories as to why female raptors are bigger than males, the theory that seems most applicable to the opposite size-ratio is that smaller males are more agile, and thus more able to catch birds (bird-hunting raptors have the greatest size-dimorphism), which they bring to their brooding mates. Presumably, therefore, zled males being larger could evolve to let them take more of some type of prey ("which they bring to their
broodingnursing mates"), which thus conferred an evolutionary advantage.
Of course, you can explain anything as conferring an evolutionary advantage, even opposite traits; that facet of Darwinian analysis sometimes leaves a bad taste in my mouth. In one of the short stories on my DeviantArt account, over there on the right, that is explicitly identified as the analysis of the zled scientists, who happen also to be monks; I do not mention it but they do actually add the caveat that that would be a theory of how "males bigger than females" is selected for in a monogamous species, if it is. As Stephen Jay Gould was known to point out—the "cosmogonic 'just-so story' myth" form of Darwinian analysis famously irritated him—some traits that aren't actually selected for may "piggy-back" with traits that are. Gould even had a name for such traits, "spandrels", by analogy with an architectural feature, the triangular area at the margin of an arch. Spandrels are commonly decorated, but they do not exist as a decorative element—they exist because of the nature of arches and domes. (I don't know that any size-dimorphism, in any species no matter what its mating strategy, is or is not a spandrel—but it could be. Bonobos, for example, have an even greater size-dimorphism than chimps, but bonobo males do not fight off rivals, while chimp males do. "Big males fighting off rivals" is commonly offered as the theory for chimp size-dimorphism, but what about bonobo dimorphism?)
Well, he's tied with Vortex and Swindle and, really, I guess, all of them; but this is a post about space, and they're not rockets. I love that he's tsundere—he pretends to hold non-space capable Decepticons in contempt, but he's actually just trying to console himself about being all alone up there. And hey, he probably saved them all, when Bruticus got knocked off the Ark.
Anyway, space thoughts. Oh, I also changed the blog font. I was getting tired of having letters with non-ASCII diacritics show up in Times New Roman.
Anyway, space thoughts. Oh, I also changed the blog font. I was getting tired of having letters with non-ASCII diacritics show up in Times New Roman.
- One issue with the Firefly episode "Out of Gas" that I didn't get to, is that they realistically wouldn't need their main power to keep the air. If your tech is remotely up to it, you'd use passive systems to recycle your air, precisely so you wouldn't have problems like that—some kind of engineered algae in the vents is a popular SF choice. Since these people can terraform multiple planets to Earthlike conditions in less than 400 years, they can build passive air-recyclers. (They can also move the seventh moon of Saturn, but shhh, how dare you suggest that the physical requirements for a physical process are knowable!)
You might still need fans going to circulate all your air through the passive recycler system, admittedly, but they really would have the fans on their own independent power supply (along with, probably, water purifiers). Again: spaceships are not cars. They are nuclear submarines. A breakdown doesn't mean "stranded", it means "dead, in any of several horrible ways", so "redundancy" and "failsafe" are two components of the name of the game (the game has a long name, like a Spanish aristocrat).
- What is the deal with people just randomly taking a traditional fairy-tale, kaidan, or mythological plot, and re-labeling the fairies, yokai, or gods as "aliens"? Space isn't magic. While you could just barely get away with "these 'aliens' are actually descended from ancient humans/hominids harvested from earth by another species", a lot of people seem to think you can have actual aliens that can pass for human in good light. You can't. You want to tell stories about fairies, man up and tell stories about fairies. You want to have aliens, then while "approximately humanoid" isn't terribly unlikely, "can wear our clothes other than hats and sarongs" is.
As I think I've mentioned before, Japan, for some reason, is the worst about this. Their aliens are either giant-monster wholly incomprehensible Eldritch Abominations (which, again, are demons with the VIN numbers melted off) or just humans with maybe funny ears or forehead tattoos. Then again their supernatural fiction also often posits that the yokai are products of the human heart, and that's crap, except for a certain category of ghosts and things-sorta-like-ghosts. Phenomenological anthropocentrism is odious; why do people have such trouble with the idea that there can be things in the world that are like us, but are not related to us?
It might be related to the fact that Japan, while they'll often surprise you with their knowledge of foreign cultures, will just as often shock you with their provincialism. Fundamentally, deep down, it kinda seems like they don't believe the rest of the world is real. (New Yorkers and English people seem to suffer from the same ailment, both with much less excuse—Japan is the only place its language is spoken, for example, that's not the case for Manhattan or Britain—so it might be an "island-dweller" thing.)
- Saw Europa Report. It has a very good portrayal of space-travel, although I wonder about some details of their setup (and their total lack of propellant tanks). But the plot has some glaringly silly choices. E.g., a 2159 space mission is not going to be using inflated pressure suits, they're going to be using mechanical counterpressure suits—that guy whose suit gets cut will have a frost-bitten hickey, rather than having to scrub the whole EVA. Also RE: that scene, we're already investigating replacements for hydrazine, like 2-dimethylaminoethylazide or hydroxylamine nitrate, and besides, as someone on a forum put it, "hydrazine is poisonous, but it isn't VX nerve gas." Getting some on a spacesuit means "you might have some acid burns and respiratory scarring", not "we have to lock you outside the ship to suffocate".
Also, if the radiation from Jupiter is of such concern (although, again, 2159 spacesuit designers don't have any new ideas?), why not go punch the ice on the far side of Europa? You guys do know Europa is tidally locked, right? One side of it always faces its planet, just like Luna, so if you're afraid of the planet's radiation, put 48 quintillion tons of, well, Europa, between you and that radiation. You only have to wait a quarter of a week for the sun to rise, rather than half a month, Europa's period is 3.5 Earth days. And why do they not have any rovers, either of the "schlepping us around" variety or of the "remote-controlled and can examine things" variety?
Actually I know the answer to those questions: Rule of Scary, because Europa Report is a horror movie (maybe, being very generous, Rule of Melodrama). Why do science fiction movies have to be horror (that you might generously describe as melodrama)? When did we all decide that all our movies about space must be about how it's too dangerous and horrible up there, and only a fool would go (admittedly only a fool would do it the way they do it in this movie)? Paying lip-service to discovery means nothing when the actual emotional import of your film is "No don't look! There are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know!" Especially not when you express your lip-service in terms ("Compared to the breadth of knowledge yet to be known, what does your life actually matter?") that sound like something Josef Mengele might ask, shortly before he starts reminding us how he got his nickname.
- An interesting facet of writing aliens is, if they have different senses or sensory acuities from humans, aspects of their science change. For instance, in my own fiction, zledo have as good of night-vision as cats (an average of seven times as good)—which means they can see apparent-magnitude 8 with the naked eye (humans can only see 6). That means, among other things, they would've known about Neptune before the invention of the telescope. They also saw a lot more stars, although I'm not sure how that would effect their conception of the cosmos. E.g., the oft-repeated idea that Australian Aborigines' constellations are the dark areas rather than the light, because they see so many stars, is simplistic—they actually just sometimes list dark areas of visible nebulae as "constellations" (or more correctly "sky objects"), rather than just stars. (So did the ancient Eurasians, by the way, that's why we have a sky-object called the Milk Circle, Silver River, or Sky-Road of the Warriors, in Greece, China, and Hungary, respectively. Hungary totally wins.)
Khângây can see near-UV, so their astronomy probably developed very differently from ours—for one thing, it's a lot harder to make lenses out of quartz, so all their early experiments in optics would probably involve, from their point of view, red-tinted images, since glass chops off half of the hundred-nanometer near-UV range (it can show 400-350 nm, but not 350-300 nm). They probably also would've discovered "Wood's glass" a lot sooner, though, so maybe they incorporated it into telescopes and avoided the red-tinting problem? I've been having a hard time finding out what would be different if you could see near-UV with the naked eye, because most discussion of ultraviolet in astronomy is about far-UV, which atmospheres of Earthlike planets are opaque to (good thing, too), so you need orbital cameras, most of them attached to telescopes, to view it.
- A really cool concept in astronomy, although not as cool as its name, is a "peak of eternal light" (and relatedly, a "valley of eternal darkness"). What is this fantastical-sounding thing? It's exactly what it sounds like. A peak that's always in the light, or a valley that's always in the dark. You only find them near the poles of bodies with nearly no axial tilt.
The Moon has a couple mountains that are close, although not quite (they spend 85% of the time in light, not counting the occasional eclipse by the Earth). Mercury might also have them, although we haven't mapped it well enough to be sure; if it does, they would never experience darkness, there's nothing to eclipse Mercury.
I wonder if it also has to be tidally locked, like Mercury and the Moon are. Maybe not, the Moon has a day-night cycle (we call it the phases), because it's tidally locked to Earth, not to the Sun. Maybe a surface-structure qualifies as a PEL if some part of it is always in the light, rather than the whole thing? A perfectly conical mountain at a planet's rotational pole would probably qualify.
- I've mentioned that space-communications are more likely to involve text than audio, since time-lag gets in the way further out than about Lunar orbit (1.28 light-seconds). Think how annoying even a 1.28 second delay between responses would be, for phones. Hell, most people text more than they call anyway, and social media has become a cornerstone of communication in just under a decade (c. 2006 or so); space-communications are likely to involve a somewhat more-formal version of Facebook status updates and comments.
I say more formal because, again, realistically, spaceship crews will be government employees. The communications of civilian colonists will pretty much be Facebook, with all that that entails, but they'll probably be semi-segregated from the official communications. I think in my own work I might have people call that kind of communication "weibó", the genericized trademark from a Chinese site that's like a cross between Facebook and Twitter—maybe they use it as a verb, e.g. "We weibó once in a while but we haven't spoken in person in a long time." Actually, that only goes for in-system communication. Between systems, due to the limited number of FTL transmitters and the cost of bandwidth on them, people keep in touch by (e)mail, since even a huge mail service involves vastly less server-load than social-networking does.
- Another thing brought to my attention by watching "Out of Gas" is that I very strongly dislike plot-points that only happen because of the writers' liberties with reality. Because a major factor in their air-supply issues, is a fire that started on the engine, and which they had to vent into space (taking much of their non-burned-away air with it). Bully for them, knowing that fire and air-supply are closely related things, and that a fire in a space environment can result in suffocation as well as burns. Give yourselves a big pat on the back.
...Of course, the whole thing would never have happened if they'd just designed the Serenity realistically. A major factor in realistic spaceships, the reason their engine and habitat sections are separated by a half-mile of truss-frame (generally with the propellant tanks attached to it), is so that what ought to be a relatively minor engine problem doesn't jeopardize the life-support! How do the engineers fix the engines, then? Waldoes, caveman, waldoes—your engineer works on the engines with robots, not only because the engine's at the other end of the ship, but because your engineer wants to avoid the radiation that is the reason it has to be on the other end of the ship.
"Why must everyone avert their eyes from reality?"—Itano Ichirô, Gundam Sôsei.
More random thoughts.
- The worldbuilding of the Hunger Games is fail in general, but I realized something. Katniss is a member of a rebellion against an unjustly stratified society, a champion of gladiatorial contests, and associates herself with the memory of one of a group of thirteen that is fallen.
In other words, Katniss is Megatron, Champion of the Pits of Kaon who fought under the name of Megatronus, the Fallen, one of the Thirteen. The Hunger Games is plainly Decepticon propaganda (Suzanne Collins is presumably a hologram generated by Soundwave). The Mockingjay? Laserbeak. Plainly Laserbeak.
- Searching the blog suggests I haven't mentioned this before, but if I have, scuzați. Anyway. The scuttlebutt among the half-educated is that the Grimm fairy tales are all dark and edgy, and all the adaptations bowdlerize them. The adaptations do take out some violence, but actually, the big bowdlerizer of Grimm is...the brothers Grimm. One of them, anyway. Which, I forget. But either Wilhelm or Jakob is the reason for all the evil stepmothers—in the original folktales many if not most of them were actual mothers, and that struck whichever brother as being too dark.
The anthropologist in me wants to point out that those children being abandoned, e.g. in Hansel and Gretel, is a folk-memory of the real things people stoop to during famines. That's also the origin of the Jizô-cult that today is mostly associated with abortion, in Japan; they exposed infants during famines, and Jizô is the bodhisattva of the underworld and special patron both of dead children and of repentant killers. (That they bother to feel bad about infanticide at all puts them head and shoulders above the Greeks and Romans, not to mention many modern Westerners.)
Also, though, if you want dark fairy tales, forget Grimm, Charles Perrault is your man. Several "Grimm's" fairy-tales show up in him first, including Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella—his book, the original "Mother Goose", was published in 1695, the Grimms published in 1812. And seriously, compare his versions with the Grimm ones. In almost every case, the Grimm one takes out lots and lots of sex and violence (and potty-humor).
- Those who would spot sexism everywhere (I've been reading John C. Wright's blog-posts about "Strong Female Characters") are sometimes hampered by their ignorance. Actually, always, the whole point of spotting isms in things is to let you feel superior to other people without actually knowing anything. It's like being a witch-smeller without even the heavy lifting of knowing the Malleus Maleficarum.
But, for example, it is often considered sexist to refer to a group of women casually as "girls"—supposedly, specifically, it is "infantilizing". It may be sexist to speak more informally of women than of men (you will hear it said that the reverse is also sexist, if not more sexist, but I invite you to find East Asia on a map), but "girls" certainly is not "infantilizing". Because, hey? Linguistic illiterates? "Girl" is not only the female equivalent of "boy", it does not only mean a child. It is also the female equivalent of "guy"—it also means "a person, as such"—or didn't you notice? ("Guy", by the way, could be argued by the Men's Rights weenie to be not merely infantilizing of men, but fully dehumanizing of them, coming as it does from the effigy of Guy Fawkes burned on November 5; it also happens to have meant "butt of a joke" in British English till well into the 20th century.)
The thing usually called sexism does exist, although I also think most people who use the term "sexism" are ideologues, using a class-war narrative that makes hash of anything it analyzes, and mean by the word mostly "doubleplus ungood crimethink". Sex-discrimination (in the bad sense of "discrimination") does exist; it's also not a good thing. (It exists against men too, but frankly, it has to be much worse before men are allowed to complain about it. Man up.)
- Michael Flynn, who comments on seemingly every blog I read as The OFloinn, had a series up, about how the shift from geocentrism was nowhere near as simple as everyone, even the ordinary well-versed layman (which is basically what I am, regarding science) wants to paint it. E.g., Copernicus, it seems, didn't simplify the model—the reverse, he needed more epicycles than Ptolemy.
One thing Flynn points out is that the humanists, not the scientists, wanted Earth out of the center—because being in the center put Earth at the bottom; they wanted to put Earth in the heavens, where the Sun had been. It's important to remember how many of the alleged rationalists of our own day, despite claiming that religion is anthropocentric, and caricaturing geocentrism as an example, will turn around and call themselves "humanists", unironically.
Of course, they also claim to be rationalists and then put everything but math and physical science beyond the reach of reason, which is an odd way of being reason's partisan, I feel. Maybe they're Little Englanders.
- There are people who will tell you it is wrong to call the smallest wavelength of visible light "purple", and insist it's called "violet". One, though, "common usage"—the average person considers "purple" to cover both that wavelength and that wavelength's partial interference with red, therefore that is the correct name for both.
And two, the name for that color in English has always been either "purple", or "blue". "Violet" is the French name for a flower known in English, probably, as "stepmother" (since that's what it's called in Scotland)...which also comes in the shade of magenta considered the only proper referent of "purple"!
Again: linguistics is a science. The second you tell me about words, no matter what you know about the field that uses them the way you want them used, you are stepping out of your science and into mine, because the other field is by definition not linguistics, therefore it has no authority to discuss language. Next you'll be telling the Chinese what is or isn't "qing"!
- Series-wise, of course, the very premise of Firefly is an Idiot Plot, because the opposition are pitiful strawmen in sad need of Emerald City's neurosurgeons. But episode-by-episode, too, it has Idiot Plots. Consider the case of "Out of Gas", which I had occasion to watch recently.
If your ship's main power-plant is disabled, but your shuttles are not, why not just run the auxiliary life-support off the shuttles' power-plants? If you're at risk of freezing,1 and you have spacesuits,2 why not just wear the spacesuits?3 Which of course raises the issue that a 26th century spacesuit is very likely to have air recyclers, so losing the main power is moot, at least for a period of several days—and a spaceship would also have water-recyclers, among its emergency equipment,4 raising the survivable period to "until the food runs out". Realistically the only issue would be whether they could risk manhandling the wounded Zoe into a spacesuit, or hope there was enough air for her5 till she was well enough to put one on.
Answer to why they don't do those several obvious things: because then the plot doesn't happen. Again, though, if your plot only happens if everyone involved makes very, very stupid decisions, your plot is bad, and you should feel bad.
- Apparently the consensus is that the death-toll of the Crusades is closer to two million than to the one-and-a-half I'd always used. Still, that's over 163 years (1091-1254)—not the 300 I usually quote, but stil. Shaka Zulu killed the same number of people in his rise to power, and that took twelve years (i.e., Shaka killed at 13.6 times the rate of the Crusades); the Mongol conquests, which took almost the exact same amount of time as the Crusades (1206-1368), killed thirty million people (i.e., 15 times the rate).
One thing you seem to get a lot, in historiography of the Crusades, is blithely-stated counterfactual assertions about what was or wasn't "the custom of the time". What happened when a siege broke is the classic example. You get lots of writers saying that sacking was routine, and that it was routine because this gave besieged cities incentive to surrender. But the reaction of the lords in the First Crusade, RE: the sack of Jerusalem, and the reaction of all of Latin Christendom in the Fourth, RE: the sack of Byzantium, suggests that sacks were anything but routine, and that the people of the time regarded sacking as a terrible failure of discipline and morals and "common decency". (Of course, that enemy soldiers' discipline, morals, and "common decency" might fail them, in the event of a prolonged siege, would be common knowledge—we are the only culture in history that doesn't understand that soldiers' ability to keep discipline is a function of their morale, and morale lags the longer a siege, or any other campaign, goes on—and that would be the incentive to surrender. That's still different from the idea that medievals sacked as a matter of course, or thought that doing so was good, because we know for a fact they didn't.)
Of course, as in the case of the Maarat cannibalism, a part of the problem is that people will tell what an account says, but blithely ignore how the account says it. Chroniclers talked about the cannibalism at Maarat the way we talk about the cannibalism during the Holodomor; they talked about the sack of Jerusalem the way we talk about the Japanese Internment. They talked about the sack of Byzantium the way we would talk about the Soviet Army raping and looting its way across countries it was supposedly liberating, except we don't, because our historians put everyone who opposed Nazism in a white hat (and then they talk about the medievals writing history as hagiography!).
- In the vein of the question I often ask, "Why do they continue to base fantasy stories on lies about medieval Europe, when there's so much else in the world?", there are certain developments in the prehistory of the American southwest that are a smorgasbord of fantasy ideas. ("Smorgasbord", you will note, has no H in it. It's Scandinavian, not German, so stop pronouncing it "Schmorgasbord".6) There's a particular type of Mimbres pottery, for example, that they don't appear to have traded; the archaeologists suspect there may have been something about those pots that other cultures didn't like (although it could also be that the Mimbres liked them too much to sell them, rather than their neighbors disliking them too much to buy them).
There's a settlement, Yellow Jacket Pueblo, in Colorado, which is very largely made up of kivas (pit-house temples)—it has at least 195 kivas, to as many as 1200 surface rooms (i.e., it might have more kivas and fewer surface rooms). It dates from around the time that we find cannibalized corpses in Anasazi sites, although I don't think there's any cannibalism there. If the Anasazi are the Hopi's ancestors, I shouldn't have to tell you what cannibalism would mean to them. The fact such things were done on a large scale at one period, suggests a significance to their settlement having such a high kiva-to-house ratio—a significance you'd have to be an idiot not to be able to get fantasy stories out of.
- Eliminating thoikh funerary cannibalism. Funerary cannibalism is actually an idea I find intriguing, and apparently the fact many human populations are resistant to kuru, which by rights would be called "mad human disease" suggests it was once a widespread practice. But the thoikh (all of whom are psychometers) cannot abide to be in the same room with Foucaultian transgressivists, so having them practice any kind of cannibalism weakens the theme. Also cannibalism is over-played (e.g. the Bosmer in Elder Scrolls, although how they can still join Namira's cannibal-cult when for them it's the worship of an Aedra is never explained), which is kinda a freaky little fact about our pop-culture.
Had considered maybe having the thoikh have evolved as an apex predator (which, again, are the only things that can become sapient—which is not the same thing as saying all apex predators will become sapient), but then become herbivorous. There's a bear and a...mustelid, -ish, that did that. Because they're still Carnivora (capital-C is a particular order, not just "any meat-eating animal", T. rex is a carnivore but not a Carnivore), though, they can't digest cellulose well and pretty much spend all their time eating and sleeping, which is why the bears are too dumb to breed and the mustelid-ishes are so dopily adorable.
Instead I'll have the thoikh have an African wild dog/Asian dhole type of social structure, where instead of having a dominance hierarchy they have a submission one—dominance isn't marked but submission is. That's not actually terribly unusual. On the flip-side some animals do it in reverse, cats for instance have absolutely no submission postures, a cat "submits" by ceasing to offer threat-postures. But I don't know of any gregarious animals with that behavior. (Incidentally, blind cats, who can otherwise survive okay due to their other senses being so good, tend to get the crap kicked out of them by other cats, because visual cues are very important in feline social interaction and a blind cat is the definition of "kûki yomenai" and "nunchi eopseumnida", literally in that second case, "nun" is Korean for "eye".)
- Been watching Almost Human with my dad. It's, what, six episodes in? And it hasn't once pissed me off. Me being me, I begin to wonder, "what are they planning to spring on us?"
I kinda like how they have very Vangelis electronic pseudo-sax, and people walking around with neon-lit umbrellas. I mean hell, they were ripping off Blade Runner either way, they might as well do it with some freaking style.
I'm a call this thing right now, though, the captain is the real villain of the piece. She told Kennex he's special. Nobody but a villain tells your protagonist he's special unless he's obviously an alien or some such thing.
- I haven't talked about it here (now it's ending), but I liked this anime season. "Kyôkai no Kanata"/"Beyond the Boundary" takes a little getting into, but your time is well rewarded. I like the siscon dude's sister, like when she replaced everything on her brother's iPod with yaoi drama-CDs after he signed her up for not-AKB48-at-all auditions without her permission. "Yûsha ni Narenakatta Ore wa Shibushibu Shûshoku wo Ketsui Shimashita"/"Unable to Become a Hero I Reluctantly Got a Job"/Yûshibu for short is also good, although its fanservice is inelegant and its girls' figure-drawing needs work. I just love the whole "trained to become a hero, now works in retail because he has a degree he can't use" aspect. Also the magic runes that look like circuit diagrams.
Probably the best series out this season was "Ore no Nônai Sentakushi ga, Gakuen Love Comedy wo Zenryoku de Jama Shiteiru"/"My Mental Would-You-Rather is Really Interfering with My School Love Comedy"/Nôcome for short. I enjoy a good severely messed up raunchy comedy, and this one probably had a higher rate of laughs than Baka Test (although Baka Test was stronger in other areas). The girl with the short silver hair is a new type, which I shall presume to name the "hendere".
- Occasioned by something else similar, but there are people who complain when, e.g. during a D&D game, you describe something by reference to something modern/this-worldly. "My character wouldn't know what a freight-train is," they say, after you've compared some monster to one.
The only response is, "Yeah dude, but your character also doesn't need the thing described to him, he's there seeing it. Now are you gonna kibbitz my attempt to convey the wholly imaginary to your mind, or can I get back to that attempt?" Objectively, things are like the things that they are like; a person who had never encountered either before would, once acquainted with them, know their likeness.
- Got a fairly recent translation of The Tengu's Discourse on the Martial Arts, the one sold as "Demon's Sermon on etc." (a tengu is only a demon in the original Greek sense, "crow-fairy" would be a better description). It's interesting, basically a collection of fables illustrating a certain number of related points, but one sorta wonders if there has been some mistake, when even the translator refers to the themes the stories illustrate as being "Zen". To my knowledge, Zen, while it may be an odd combination of Pelagian and quietist, is still a type of Buddhism. Yet each of these stories is about not sweating reincarnation and the cycle of rebirth, because the life of everything is just as its karma dictates it should be. "Everything is properly born to the station its karma dictates, and must fulfill the law proper to its station" is not any kind of Buddhism I know of, since it happens to be Hinduism; "did away with the caste system" is something even Americans know about Buddha!
I'm guessing that the actual worldview informing the essays was not Buddhist, Zen or otherwise, but Neo-Confucian. Japanese Neo-Confucianism never persecuted Buddhism, and was almost as likely to quote Buddhist writings as Confucian ones. Part of that, though, was that Japanese Buddhism had already been partly tamed by Kûkai's identification of Amaterasu-Omikami with Mahavairocana Tathagata. To a degree, of course, the main form of Japanese Buddhism avoided being quite that deracinated (most of the Japanese populace has always been Pure Land, which is fortunately as devoted to "What is necessary to be saved?" as any altar-call Evangelicalism), but Kûkai's interpretatio japonensis filtered to other Buddhist sects from his own Shingon. While Pure Land Buddhists are still primarily concerned with soteriology rather than theology, Japanese Pure Land practitioners still thought of Shinto and Buddhism as the same religion (until the actual laws against it, at the Meiji Restoration). Nobody else in Asia ever did that; while everyone in China and Korea who worships the native pantheon will say "Buddhist" when asked what religion he is (because that defines his conception of the cosmos and his place in it), they don't identify Guan Yǔ or the Dokkaebi-daegam as Buddhist figures.
- The Japanese word "shumi" ordinarily means "hobby", but it's also the polite term for "fetish" (I actually get the logic there—fetish-subcultures are made up, if you think about it, of somewhat alarming hobbyists). It sometimes makes people in anime seem crazy, though. For instance, in Fullmetal Alchemist, at some point someone (Sergeant Brosch and Lieutenant Ross?) ask why Al's always wearing armor. Since he can't very well say "We tried to bring our mother back to life in violation of the strongest taboo of alchemy—also the laws of our militaristic police-state—and the armor is actually his body now", Ed says, "It's kinda his hobby." And the others react as if that was deeply disturbing, which doubtless struck most of the American audience as quite an overreaction. But remember: they might interpret it as "It's kinda his fetish." Their reaction is actually quite mild if you interpret it as "Sweet kindly Alphonse with the little-boy voice that belies his huge frame, is also a twisted gimp who goes everywhere in full-body fetish gear."
- I think a lot more aspects of the human condition are explicable by reference to ethology than most analysis seems to think, and without recourse to silly outré Just-So stories. Ownership is territoriality, (romantic) love is the creation of pair-bond, reverence is dominance behavior. Of course, all those things are colored by the fact humans are the only animal that knows it or anything else exists, and that can actually abstract concepts—being an animal, though, humans apply territoriality and dominance behavior to their concepts, exactly as if they were physical places and creatures. Also only humans, in the whole of Earth's biosphere, have a thing called "society", where unrelated conspecifics negotiate their territorial disputes rather than fighting over them.
That is, on the other hand, one of the dirty little secrets of animal behavior—everything we and animals share is transformed by our peculiar ability to abstract and conceptualize, and most of the things put forth as evidence we differ from animals only by degree is, on examination, only very qualifiedly evidence at all (when it's not just outright fake). The linguistic abilities of apes, for example, are generally grossly exaggerated, and often are more a combination of wishful thinking (and innocent pareidolia) with their trainers' insight (insight which anyone gains from interacting with any animal, whether it's been taught sign language or not). Even the most promising of bonobo language experiments have yet to demonstrate sentences more complex than "subject object location"—being very generous with our interpretation of particular juxtapositions of uninflectable symbols—and not even the faintest glimmering of abstract conceptualization has ever been even hinted at.
エスエフの思考、五話。 I don't know what you count blog-posts with, but "話" is used for TV episodes and volumes in a book series.
- I happened to see a National Geographic article about the speed of human expansion. From Ethiopia (origin of H. sapiens) to Tierra del Fuego (last place settled by prehistoric man), is 21,000 miles. It took 60,000 years for us to get there. Do you happen to know how many stars we can realistically reach, with one of the several interstellar rockets proposed in the 60s and 70s, in 60,000 years? Here's a hint: Assuming hydrogen-bomb powered Orion rockets, which we could build tomorrow if we had to, you can do 4-5% of the speed of light (if you're into stopping at the end). In 60,000 years, that's 2700 light-years of travel.
Interestingly, a lot of things about interstellar colonization seem like they'd put civilization back on a Neolithic footing—an interstellar civilization, if possible at all, would not be like even a Bronze Age civilization, let alone an Iron Age or later one. Remember how I compared them to water-monopoly empires? That's something you get in the Neolithic and Chalcolithic (which includes the earliest stages of Egypt and Sumer); people like to claim China is one but that's not really defensible if one analyzes the details of Chinese history.
That sounds terrible, until you remember how many other science-fiction themes are basically trying to put things back on Paleolithic terms, and not Upper Paleolithic, either. Gender feminism and transhumanism are, both of them, attempts to undo Behavioral Modernity, the former by dispensing with sex-role specialization and the latter by modifying the body instead of just making tools.
- Saw Pacific Rim. It's not bad, but man is it dumb. Just one way, that I think other people have pointed out: no way no how is the Gypsy Danger "analog", it's precisely as conventionally computerized—ipso facto "digital—as any of the others. And it being nuclear and it being "analog" are in no way related. What they could and should have said is that, being nuclear, it has lots and lots of shielding on all its electronics that the non-nuclear ones don't.
Of course, the other issue is, why on earth would you hook people's brains up to your giant robots? You can just have them wear mo-cap suits if you're married to the idea of having the mecha ape their motions—like the pilots in G Gundam and Pricilla in GunXSword—and have them train to synchronize, if you're also married (bigamously?) to the idea of having one to control each half. We know exactly how to train mecha pilots to synch, see episode 9 of Evangelion. You probably have to come up with another justification for two pilots, although I can think of a whole bunch of perfectly plausible reasons to need two pilots in any vehicle. (Also, one word: "Gattai.")
And really, the only reason you'd hook the things to people's brains is if you wanted to significantly increase the likelihood of losing two pilots, instead of just one, when things go wrong (see also "you'd only design a ship like the one in Alien if you knew a monster would be crawling around it at some point").
- Do people realize that saying risibly false things about global warming's risks only undercuts the credibility of the policies they favor? You get it a lot in science fiction stories, with the whole world or significant portions of it flooded (Water World being the extreme case). The simple response to that is, "Only if the Earth gets hit by a whole lot of solid-ice meteorites." The other scenarios are equally millenarian (which in practice means "apocalyptic for the sake of being apocalyptic, without reference to facts").
Leaving all questions about anthropogenic global warming to one side, it cannot actually threaten the lives of a large portion of humanity. Newsflash, even if the ice-caps melted completely (which they won't, there are no models of climate change that predict complete ice-cap melt), the planet remains thoroughly livable; its coastlines barely even change. We, uh, do actually know how much water is contained in the ice-caps, and how much that amount of water would change sea-levels.
One thing that I do not think people understand is that we haven't always had ice-caps. Antarctica was in roughly the same place it is now, in the Cretaceous and Paleocene, but it had no ice-cap (there wasn't one at the north pole, either). Animals with the same physiological needs as modern ones lived in both regions. And hey, if you're so scared of global overpopulation (which is far less likely than any form of climate change—including the one depicted here), "10.6% more of the planet's land surface is now habitable" seems like something you should want!
- Similarly, nuclear winter can't happen. It requires that dozens of things about the particular dust at the point of impact and the particular way the particular bomb's particular blast hits it, all simultaneously be in their absolute pessimal condition. It is an absolutely textbook spherical cow, and people cite it like it's "Storey's Guide to Raising Beef Cattle".
Carl Sagan made up nuclear winter because he didn't like Mutually Assured Destruction, and wanted to hide behind clericalism and authority because he was incapable of ethical reasoning ("it's wrong to take each other's civilian populace hostage even if it prevents a shooting-war"—how freaking hard was that?).
And, seriously, "clericalism". Sagan's conception and portrayal of science is pretty much dedicated to denying any human failings on the part of an elite class that wears white robes. The narrative he peddles isn't even run-of-the-mill Catholic or Jewish clericalism, though, it's full-blown Calvinist or Cathar clericalism, with scientists as the Perfect members of the Spiritual Elect.
- RE: "animals with the same physiological needs as modern ones", another thing that irked me about Pacific Rim is that the dinosaurs are said to have been a test-run of the Kaiju. Uh...please explain how the creatures with the blue acid-blood are served at KFC and nobody noticed?
Of course then again, they repeat the "dinosaurs with two brains" thing nobody has believed for at least twenty-seven years, so maybe we should just assume they're going by children's books about dinosaurs published while we were still doing moon landings. (Also, the flying kaiju would've been much scarier if it'd been built like an azhdarchid rather than a vampire bat, but that, too would require some actual knowledge on the part of filmmakers.)
- I saw "Impostor", or rather about the first fifteen minutes of it, and then I had to turn it off. It lost me with its "Oppenheimer saw nuclear weapons were evil and was branded a Communist sympathizer". Two things. One, Oppenheimer has been proved to be a Stalinist agent (he was also a sexual predator and attempted to poison at least one person that annoyed him). When one of the guys at General Atomics was trying to start an international coalition of scientists who refused to work on nuclear weapons, he expected Oppenheimer's help, because of Oppenheimer's much-publicized remarks about nuclear disarmament. Oppenheimer begged him not to start the group...probably because an international group might include Soviet scientists.
But two, and much more important, why would a guy in a dystopian police-state bring that up while looking out at the bomb he's building? Aside from the fact you're beating your audience over the head with your symbolism, the war is different—the Soviets were not regularly air-raiding US cities, the Centauri were doing that to Earth. Also, if the state in your setting is so all-fired evil, they don't have to elaborately frame the dude. They can just liquidate him without a trial, or with proceedings that aren't so much a trial as an expression of contempt for the concept. And they will, the second he starts comparing the weapon he's working on (for the regime) to other weapons in history whose designers "realized" the "madness" of their weapons. The fact you think a state needs to frame people is what separates us from the Soviets, it's kinda ironic that you undercut your moral-equivalency allegory with your moral-equivalency allegory.
- One thing I've recently been getting into (all that fooling around with batteries led me to some interesting places) is non-nuclear explosives. Like, say, if you need a bomb-plot in a science fiction book? A hypothetical one that's 5.47 times as strong as TNT is "octaazacubane", although really we should just call it "metastable nitrogen", because that's what it is (metastable anything is weirdsville, and often a pretty dangerous part of town, too).
Then, not so hypothetically, there's RDX, also known as cyclonite and hexogen (I like "hexogen"). It's 1.6 times as explosive as TNT, and we've been using it in military applications since World War II. There's also HMX, AKA octogen (the main reason I like "hexogen" for RDX), which is 1.7 times as explosive as TNT, and yet can be disguised by mixing it with flour—and you can even cook it and eat it, it's not toxic. It was also used in World War II, we supplied Chinese guerrillas with it disguised as flour, under the codename "Aunt Jemima".
If "only 2/3 more powerful than TNT" doesn't cut it for you, how about hexanitrobenzene? It's 1.8 times as powerful as TNT. DDF ("4,4'-Dinitro-3,3'-diazenofuroxan"—your guess is as good as mine how to pronounce those numbers) is 1.95 times as powerful as TNT; something called MEDINA (methylene dinitroamine) is apparently 1.93, but it apparently doesn't keep very well. And then there's always octanitrocubane. A cube of carbon with an NO2 at each corner, it's 2.38 times as explosive as TNT. It's also currently so difficult to make that it's more expensive than gold, but in a science-fiction setting it would presumably be easier and therefore cheaper (same goes for metastable nitrogen).
- Did some calculating, to have realistic numbers for the zledo. Apparently the portion of a cat's mass that's muscle is 59-63% (i.e. the average is 61%). It doesn't vary by sex; cat dimorphism is mostly just a matter of brute size, not proportions. The portion of a human that's muscle is, on average, 42% for males and 36% for females. I decided to go with (36/42*61=)52% for zled females, since they do have different builds between their sexes.
What this means is that an average human male (mass 70 kilos) has 29.4 kilos of muscle. A zled male the same size as him (who would look a lot smaller, because their proportions are different—when I say "humanoid", I mean "four-limbed biped with a head") would mass 104 kilos. In both cases, 40.6 kilos is the amount of the body that's not muscle, it's just that it's 58% of a human's mass and 39% of the zled's.
What that means in terms of mass is, assuming similar proportions for the individual muscles, a zled's muscles are ((61/42)1/3—also as it turns out (52/36)1/3) c. 13% thicker than a human's. That results in 27% greater cross-sectional area, which is the main determinant of strength (assuming identical performance in their muscle tissue). They come from a planet with 8% higher gravity than Earth, though, so their muscle tissue is actually slightly better, performance-wise—but that's a good baseline.
More power-source thoughts.
- That last post, and a Facebook discussion on a thorium-powered steam-driven car (which actually heats its steam by pumping a laser with the radiation from a heat-boosted thorium sample), gave me occasion to look around radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs).
I'm not sure where, if at all, my humans will use RTGs; their rockets are designs whose main problem is what to do with all that extra energy, and you'd have to be nuts to put most RTGs on a ground- or air-vehicle. Then again I don't really go into teeny-weeny space station outposts (all the space-stations I mention are colonies along the lines of "O'Neill Island" designs), maybe some of the smaller ones use RTGs. I imagine the big colonies use some mix of solar and fusion, maybe some fission (presumably thorium-fueled).
- Another thing I realized is that zledo would probably have made much more use of strontium-90 in their RTGs (back when they still used 'em), since the main danger of strontium-90 exposure (if you don't physically crack open the containment capsule in an RTG with your hands, or aren't nearby when the capsule is opened by an accident) is that it gets into the soil, where it is incorporated into plants and water, where you can eat or drink it—and then your metabolism incorporates it into your bones. Their bones are made of a type of biogenic silica, so they don't have to worry about that.
Of course, they probably have to worry more about tin-126 (since it's in the same line as silicon on the table), albeit chiefly as a nuclear-fallout component, since it doesn't really form in ordinary fission power-plants, and they never used nukes on planetary surfaces. They did use them in space, both for weaponry and to ignite Orion rockets—actually, I'm considering making them have used Orion rockets from planetary surfaces, since you can do that relatively safely by putting an even bigger armor plate under the rocket, and coating both armor plates in a thick layer of graphite. (The one flaw with that link, by the way, is it says we're "more than prepared" to use nuclear bunker-busters, when in actual fact absolutely nobody seriously considers doing that.)
- One other thing? I think I'm going to have zled equipment powered by regular mainsprings, rather than "dilaton alternators" or Planck-scale mainsprings. Cool as the dilaton alternator is—it gets around the relative inefficiency of gravity as a power-source (consider how much water has to move through typical hydroelectric plants) by going down to the scale where gravity's force is much greater, before it leaks into other parts of space-time geometry—I'm doubtful as to whether it would be very portable ("giant lab apparatus", etc.).
The mainspring of a windup-radio provides 4 watts for 25 minutes, which translates to 1 and 2/3 W/h...which is six kilojoules, meaning (the power of a spring is proportional to the change of its length i.e. to the tightness of its winding) a just slightly longer or more tightly-wound spring is enough for four shots of 1.6 kJ laser. A little research into windup phonographs reveals they often had multiple springs in their motors, so maybe zled lasers just use regular, non-nano-material springs, with, say, four extra springs in the hand-laser and a big ol' stack of, say, twelve in the long one (reducing the number of shots per magazine—or "barrel" as the housing of a mainspring is actually known—from 18 to 16 and from 50 to 48). Don't know if they're gonna call 'em "barrels" when they're being used to power what is basically a gun, that's just likely to cause confusion.
Material culture thoughts, chiefly as it turns out concerning power-supplies.
- Someone might (you see it happen often) take exception to me saying that things like anti-gravity might be used in buses and airships, after I explicitly compared that kind of ultra-tech to nuclear fission. We'll leave nuclear-powered spacecraft, which have already been fielded, to one side, not least because the Soviets were less than meticulous in their disposal of the scary pieces. But the thing is, fission is a special case; we need weird radioactive substances to pull it off and it's easy for the reactions to get away from you. That's not the case for, e.g., fusion, which simply stops happening when you stop making it happen (which is why we can't use it for power yet), although other issues with fusion probably require a certain minimum facility size. It probably wouldn't be the case for most things involving the Casimir effect. (Antimatter, on the other hand...)
I was thinking that all those hand-held ultratech devices in our fiction would probably strike a future society much like the Ford Nucleon strikes us, but then it occurred to me that a lot of science fiction still seems not to understand that fusion is incredibly dangerous—just because it doesn't go critical or require uranium doesn't mean it's not a nuclear reaction that involves loads of lethal radiation and megakelvin temperatures. It's extremely doubtful fusion can ever be produced, as a power-source, in anything much smaller than a fairly good-size fission facility. Fusion power-plants almost certainly require lots of room and lots of sheer brute mass, between the fact fusion produces temperatures beyond any process that ordinarily happens on a planet, and the radiation, both EM and particle. (Even if aneutronic fusion were remotely feasible right now, and it's orders of magnitude less so than many things we still don't actually know how to do—even helium-3 isn't wholly aneutronic unless you fuse it to itself instead of deuterium—you'd still need huge facilities to magnetically contain the protons).
- The space-requirements of fusion, of course, means that the planes and buses (and mecha) in my books use some kind of battery. I've reexamined AMTECs (alkali-metal thermo-electric converters), and decided that their energy-density (2-3 kW·h/kg) isn't really that great. Think I'll go with silicon-air batteries, since they're almost as energy-dense as lithium-air (8.47 kW·h/kg for Si-air vs. 12 kW·h/kg for lithium-air) and yet made of the eighth most common element in the universe (second-most in the Earth's crust), rather than an element rarer than platinum, palladium, neodymium, and cerium. Those are theoretical energy densities, mind, not the ones we're gonna actually get for the foreseeable future, but it's set in the 24th freaking century, so I figure I can get away with that.
An electric motor is three to four times more efficient at driving a propeller than an internal combustion one. If we assume an average improvement (3.5 times as efficient), then to propel, say, an Ilyushin Il-18 transport plane, which has four Ivchenko AI-20M internal-combustion turboprops with a power of 3,170 kW each, would require only (12,680/3.5=)3,623 kW. If we assume the same mass of batteries as the Il-18 carries fuel (30,000 liters, which has a mass of 23,850 kg given the density of jet fuel), then the battery provides (8.47*23,850/3,623=)56 hours of operation, which is plenty respectable. Dividing its listed max range by its cruising speed gives 10.4 hours, for which you'd only need 4,448.5 kg battery.
An electric motor is 2.5 times as efficient as an internal combustion engine in powering a car—again, electric motors spin, and what does a drive-train do? To propel a Prévost X3-45 bus (the kind used by both the current and previous US Presidents, as well as by bus-lines like Greyhound), which has a 324 kW Volvo D13 engine, you need (324/2.5=)129.6 kW. If we assume the same mass of battery as it currently carries fuel (787 liters, which masses 582.4 kg given the density of gasoline), the bus gets 38 hours of operation. Dividing its tank by its fuel economy (1.58153 km/l) gives a range of 497.6, which takes 6.63 hours at highway speeds. To power the bus for that time with batteries takes only 101.4 kg of battery.
- While we're at it, an M1 Abrams tank has a power-plant of 1100 kW, which an electric motor could replace with 440 kW; at 1406 kg of battery, the mass of its 1900 liters of gas, it gets 27 straight hours of operation. Dividing its range by its top speed gives 6.36 hours operation; the silicon-air batteries to power that are only 330.4 kg.
A, say, Honda Accord, has a 138 kW engine (=55.2 kW electric), and carries 65.1 liters of gas, which masses 48.2 kg. Carrying a comparable mass of Si-air battery means it gets (8.47*48.2/55.2=)7.4 hours of operation, which translates to over 550 miles range at highway speeds. Dividing its tank by its fuel economy of 14.88 km/l gives 4.375 hours activity, which can be powered by 28.5 kg of battery.
- Of course, a mecha is not a car. Let's take the example of, say, TOPIO, the Vietnamese ping-pong playing robot, since ASIMO is a poor model for military hardware. TOPIO uses a 48-volt, 20 ampere-hour battery, which is probably derived from an electric scooter battery. All the scooters I can find with that battery have 15 horsepower engines, so we can assume that it's got an effective 11.2 kW power plant. If we scale the 188 cm, 120 kg TOPIO 3.0 up to 10 meters tall, we get a weight of 18.1 megagrams, which presumably needs 1,686 kW to power it. If it carries as much battery as the similarly sized (17.7 megagram) M18 Wildcat anti-tank armored gun carried gas (624.6 liters, massing 462.2 kg), we get...2.3 hours of continuous operation.
Whoa, I guess they weren't kidding when they said a bipedal design is power-intensive! Hang on, though, y'all, I got this. I never put a ring on silicon-air batteries' finger, we maybe can go with something else. Lithium-air gives us (12*462.2/1,686=)3.3 hours. Maybe do the whole "the mecha never go far from some other form of transport" thing? ...Come to think of it, Asimo's battery is a whopping 1/8 its mass; just stick 2,262.5 kg of lithium-air battery on the thing, that gives us 16.1 hours. We can go half that to get 8 hours operation, which is all anyone expects of a tank, as the Abrams demonstrates, above. Plus, 1,131(.25) is only 3.07 times the weight of the Tesla Roadster's battery, and the Roadster only masses 1,235 kg.
- Androids, I think, might have to use something a little weirder, since if they use a battery the size of ASIMO's (7.7 kg), then, even if it's lithium-air, they'll only get eight and a quarter hours off the charge. Then again 22.4 kg, the amount of lithium-air battery you need to get a day's activity, isn't unworkably heavy. It's basically slightly more than the mass of an average human's torso, but androids don't have organs or need to make sure that tubes running through their body (one of which opens at both ends) aren't interrupted.
Maybe they'll store the power supply in structures more like those sticker-batteries, but presumably thicker, all over their bodies, under the skin—since we're just now beginning to work with lithium-air batteries, it's possible we'll have figured out how to make them work like that in the mid-2300s. The reason I suggest they'd have a "battery" layer is that, well, humans store our energy like that—it's called fat. If we assume an android with an overall mass of 120 kg, like TOPIO 3.0, 22.4 kg is only 18 and 2/3 percent its body mass, which is right between the male and female recommended body-fat percentages of humans. Maybe some lighter-duty models only mass 60 kg and have enough battery for 12 hours (or only need half as much power since they're moving half the mass).
...Holy shit. So a little further reading reveals some lithium-air batteries aren't solid, but use gel-polymers based on, basically, polyvinyl, both to separate their cathode from their anode and as an ion-transport medium. And the way metal-air batteries work is they need to be oxidized. My androids need to breathe! Even better, when they get injured? I have something for them to bleed that's not only more directly important than coolant (or hydraulic fluid, which I hadn't used but had considered), it pretty much actually is blood!
- Finally, I think I mentioned that mecha weapons carry their own power-sources. The rail-rifle I conceived of, that operates like a tank gun, would propel a projectile much like a modern KE-penetrator. Assuming tungsten carbide (in a ferromagnetic discarding sabot), and comparable dimensions to modern penetrators (an average of 2.5 cm diameter, an average of 55 cm long—volume of c. 270 cm3), it would have a mass of 4.22 kg. With a muzzle velocity of 2,000 m/s (very modest), each shot takes 8.44 MJ. That's the equivalent of 2.34 kW·h; a single-kilogram lithium-air battery gives sufficient energy for five shots (tanks usually carry around 40 rounds, which is the equivalent of 8 kg of Li-air battery). A total mass of c. 300 kg, counting the magazine and its battery, seems reasonable—and puts the rail-rifle more in the size-range of an anti-tank cannon like the 25 mm Hotchkiss Mle. 1934 than a tank gun. Except its bullets are twice as long as a typical anti-tank cannon's.
- All those people who think robot, or, God forbid, cyborg arms could have whatever number of times greater strength nanowires offer over muscle? Uh...what's powering that?
If they're moving hundreds of times as much mass as a human can, or a humanlike mass hundreds of times faster, they're going to be using hundreds of times that much energy, and as I've just demonstrated, it takes the whole weight of an average human's torso to power a robot of normal strength for just one day, with the theoretical optimum of a currently-experimental battery.
Also, of course, good luck finding materials to make those robots out of. A robot that has to be made of materials as costly as wholly-hypothetical orbital insertion structures like space elevators just to resist the strength of its own muscles...doesn't sound like a good idea to me, how 'bout you?
- If you think about it, the scale of outer space essentially (lacking FTL) puts space-expansion on the same time-frame that humanity's original expansion over this planet was. It took myriads of years for humanity to leave Africa; it took several more for them to leave Eurasia. The great civilizations of the New World, in the Renaissance, seem to have been roughly comparable to where Europe was 13-20 millennia ago—because it took them that long just to get over there. The Maya, whose last major center fell into decline in the 1200s AD, were not measurably superior to the Epi-Olmec (neither had anything over the Olmec but writing), and the Olmec began in the 1500s BC—much as many Neolithic Old World sites were inhabited by recognizably continuous material cultures for thousands of years, compared to the rapid upheavals of the Bronze and Iron Ages.
We think of space-travel as slow only because it is only possible to people whose material culture has given them the ability to circumnavigate the globe in a bit under a day and a half. But what if you could give Neolithic people interstellar rockets? Would they think of reaching Alpha Centauri in forty years with Project Longshot (which I think would have an average speed of 12% lightspeed) as very long? How long did it take to settle Polynesia, or the Valley of Mexico? Two generations to reach a new place is pretty typical, actually, in prehistory. Admittedly that's mostly because foragers and pastoralists (not to speak of subsistence farmers) have to travel much slower than the actual top speed of humans on foot, but the point is that "we arrive in a new place and set up our new center generations after we left our old one" is not, taking the broad view, actually some new phenomenon for the human race.