Chiefly Concerning Space

More random thoughts, but mostly on the theme of space; I'm prolific of late.
  • So a bunch of people discussing Firefly always say "I don't like Westerns" and, often, "I don't like SF in general." Really? Why I had no idea, considering you like Firefly and it's not science fiction. Far too many of the haters often say it too, when frankly we actual SF fans have more of a beef, if anything.

    As I said before, what really clinches it for me is that the Alliance, if they can terraform multiple planets, would have to be at least somewhat over Kardashev II. And it's doubtful the Independents, as portrayed, would've been able to survive long enough to enter battles, let alone win any.

    Suppose, to draw an analogy from real science fiction, that, instead of being oppressed by the descendents of their colony ships' crew, the insurrection on Mt. Lookitthat were oppressed by Pak Protectors, the builders of the Ringworld. Know what they'd be? Tanj out of luck, that's what they'd be. To be a titch less obscure, what if, instead of the Covenant, the UNSC were fighting the Forerunners in their hayday?

  • Firefly-haters are on more solid ground when they snipe at Whedon's pointlessly cute dialogue. Aside from his trademark snark—which is basically unknown outside Whedon's specific socio-economic, regional, and largely even professional demographic—it's anachronistic. I could see an increase in formal diction arising due to the Alliance with China, but Whedon got lazy, and just recycled 19th century diction wholesale, nevermind there've been dramatic shifts in the dominance of dialects. How about you make 'em talk like they're literally translated from Chinese? "Die out of my way" (screw off) and "naked in daylight" (completely boned) not colorful enough for you?

    Then again he doesn't know Chinese has its own profanity, and feels he's allowed to make up profanity for them. Yet he'd probably be the first to get in a snit if someone just swapped in a bunch of random, vaguely jive-esque nonsense in a black character's dialogue.

  • I still don't get why he went with the terraforming. Habitat domes and orbital colonies, Whedon, there's no need to make Star Trek's tech look like Quest for Fire! You could even work in such things to the Western setting—"Cletus, go help your pa patch that leak in the dome over the back 40, in another six hours the cattle'll suffocate." But that would've required that he care about the world he was building, and he's plainly not interested.


  • That's something I really like about Gundam, by the bye—when I cut my teeth on Gundam Wing on Toonami's Midnight Run (yeah, that's how long ago it was), it was the first time I'd seen a Stanford torus/Von Braun habitat ring in anything. It quite fired my imagination, I can tell you. Another thing I like about Gundam series is how the gravity, being rotational, doesn't work quite like the real thing. I still wonder why the ships have the floorplans they do—most of them don't seem to have rotating sections—but it's still a nice touch.

    Now if only the ships didn't have obvious 'bridges', which may well be the most boneheaded "space is an ocean" feature after long corridors. What's the problem there? During accelaration, a corridor running the length of the ship is no longer a corridor at all—it's a drop.

    Just one of many reasons inertia-compensation is a timesaver for writers and set designers. I'm torn as to whether to mention it in-text, but the ships in my book (which have inertia compensation based on the same tech as their gravity generators) have bulkheads that divide up their corridors if they lose the inertia compensation, keeping falls to survivable sizes. They also shut down their main rocket if they lose the compensation, though, since its acceleration is 25 Gs (half the lethal limit, and still doesn't feel pretty if you're not cushioned and restrained).

  • Speaking of things with rotating sections for gravity, I'm pretty sure the BeBop's rotating section is too small, and/or spins too fast. If its rotating section is its widest point—internet stats say 69.2 m—then to generate 1 g it needs to spin at 5.08 rpm, which is probably too fast for health and comfort. Though then again it seems to spin rather slower, though even I'm not nerd enough to count.

    Yeah, there's a neat little Javascript spin-grav calculator called Spincalc. Takes the guesswork right out of nitpicking SF shows.

  • Similarly the widest part of Babylon 5's rotating section is 950 meters in diameter, which means it must rotate at 1.37 rpm, quite comfy. A very real danger of using SpinCalc for utilitarian reasons (yes, I'm an SF writer, I actually have a utilitarian need for a thing like that) is that you'll get distracted, and start checking every fictional rotation-gravity system you can think of for realism.

    Maybe that's just me, though, the ol' ADHD flares up now and then.

  • So, heat radiators. Oy. Why doesn't anyone stick 'em on? They're important! The only person who does is Cameron, it's the only real SF in Avatar. Well, actually the Babylon 5 station has them, but the ships don't. Grrr.

    I shall not reveal the innovative touch I use, for heat dispersal; suffice it to say it takes the concept of the Liquid Droplet Radiator to a whole 'nother level. I'll also say that one limiting factor of radiators—that everything in existence will melt, and indeed vaporize, before it reaches 6000 K—is rendered entirely moot.

  • Someone had the interesting point that the probable maximum range for space combat (other than with smart missiles) is one light-second, c. 300,000 km. See, with one second's burn, any ship with decent rockets will be kilometers away from where they were when you aimed at them. Now, for ship-to-ship you'd probably use something that affects a volume of space anyway, either radiation or shrapnel, and missiles that home are another story entirely (since it wasn't fired until the other guy had a lock). But isn't that cool?

  • Thought of "don't fire unless you have a lock", which is basically a modification of Dicta Boelcke No. 3, makes me want to write space-war versions of the whole thing. Ahem:
    1. Try to secure as much advantage as possible before attacking. If possible, keep the sun or other large radiation source behind you.
    2. Always continue with an attack you have begun.
    3. Open fire only within one light-second, or only when you have a firm targeting-lock.
    4. You should always try to keep your eye on your opponent, and never let yourself be deceived by ruses.
    5. In any type of attack, it is essential to keep clear of your opponent's exhaust.
    6. If your opponent engages, engage countermeasures and, if possible, counterattack, rather than simply fleeing.
    7. When in enemy space, always remember your own line of retreat.
    8. Tip for groups: In principle, it is better to attack in groups of four or six. Do not simply attack en masse, but defend each other from counterattacks.

1 comment:

penny farthing said...

Space Dicta Boelke makes me squee! Yay! I predict that if we ever do end up fighting in space (I've got my eye on you China) experts will say "dogfighting is dead" and next thing you know, they'll be dogfighting. Happens every time.

You know have an awesome job when you actually have a practical need for Spincalc.