Welterfindung Drei

  • I had thought I'd need to specify something else, rather than gold, for the black-market medium of exchange, in my setting. Gold is 47.74 times as abundant in the Solar System at large (I like that number), as it is in the Earth's crust, .148 parts per million to .0031; assuming all other things being equal, that drops its value down from $45,644.41 per kilo ($1,419.69 per troy ounce) to $956.10—$29.73 per troy ounce, gold's price somewhere between 1933 and 1934. But reading stuff about post-Civil War bimetallism leads me to think the really old numbers aren't adjusted for inflation? If not, we're actually talking $585.78 per troy ounce or $18,838.33 per kilogram, its value in April of 2006. So maybe never mind?
  • This was brought to my attention by the blithering idiocy of Malthusian ignoramuses and their apocryphal population apocalypses, and their incredible rudeness to people who have more than two children, but the fact a "replacement" fertility-rate is 2.1 children per woman, means that every tenth woman needs to have three kids. Every woman who only has one child, however, means every fifth woman needs to have three, or every tenth one to have four; every woman who has no children means that three women in ten have to have three, or every fifth to have three and every other one of those, to have four, or every tenth to have five. So you can see the utter imbecility of freaking out every time someone has more than two kids: you need them to have that many, especially with your modern-Western welfare state (which needs the tax-rolls to stay large to remain funded), even if infrastructure and innovation was not very largely a function of population.

    When a significant proportion of your society's females choose not to have children, whether by becoming nuns or choosing to have marriages or other sexual relationships that are childless, your society needs a certain portion of its people to have large families. If you can't understand that, congratulations, you know less about how these things work than Robert Heinlein and Josef Stalin, i.e. less than a braindead ideologue and a shortsightedly amoral monster. (Stalin, like Bismarck but unlike Hitler, kept the fourth crack propaganda commandment, and never got high on his own supply. Though the Nazis did understand that aspect of these matters; it was things like "strategy is about more than taking important cities" that they didn't understand. Stalin's famine was almost certainly at least as much a deliberate pacification-measure—same as the Irish potato one—as it was incompetent policy; he wasn't Mao.)

    Speaking of famines, Churchill's half-Holocaust in Bengal was explicitly based on Malthusian malarkey. He actually said, while refusing no-strings-attached, free-of-charge food aid, that the Bengalis had brought it on themselves by "breeding like rabbits".
  • Decided to move the main city and cosmodrome (with space elevator) on Mars, in my book. I had had it at Tuscaloosa Crater, right at 0° latitude, and name it Nergal City (Nergal being the Sumerian god they associated with Mars). But decided, no, it'll be at Endeavour Crater, and be named Opportunity City. Because Oppy rocked. Endeavour Crater is still within the 10° of the equator required for you to put a space-elevator there, being at 2°16′48″ S, 5°13′48″ W. You can make the crater into a sweet lake to put seaplane entry vehicles on.

    At first I was worried I wouldn't get to use the Mars variant of the Groucho joke ("because in Alabama the Tuscaloosa"), but then I discovered I had not actually written that joke in the dialogue—I come up with a lot of ideas for material that I then forget to actually use. Maybe I'll have them make a joke about not using Tuscaloosa Crater because of something to do with that. Like, say, that they couldn't keep the crews organized ("task are looser").
  • Relevant to worldbuilding, sort of, but a thing I was thinking about: I read this thing by a deaf special-ed teacher complaining that their hearing coworkers would straight-up refuse to sign during off-hours, because they didn't want to have to "think about communication". Dick move, but it occurred to me that rustic villagers, who supposedly hate and fear anyone different from them, would never do that. Most modern sign language developed from "village sign", a recognized classification in the linguistics of sign languages, e.g. ASL is specifically from villages in New England. Villagers may think in terms of "us" vs. "them", but if you're a deaf villager, guess what? You're "us", not "them".
  • You often see idiot libertarian SF fans who think believe, in real life or in worldbuilding, that legalizing prostitution makes human-trafficking go away. It doesn't. Germany and Netherlands are neck and neck for highest rate of human-trafficking in Europe, not only despite both having legalized prostitution but after they legalized prostitution.

    Why does legalizing prostitution not reduce trafficking, but appear to increase it? Legalization increases demand (a lot more people "demand" something if they won't go to prison for getting it), and it also lets traffickers operate more openly. Which is harder to cover up, a whole brothel, or the fact the workers in the brothel aren't there willingly?

    On sexual matters, libertarians are naive hippies who think people are basically good, just like socialists.
  • Was reading a review of the game Stellaris, and the thing it says about "sectors"—"Paradox figured the name 'sector' sounds spacey enough, and they're right. The Such-and-such Sector. It has a nice ring to it. You can imagine a starship captain telling his navigator to go there."—reminded me that I hate that kind of thing. What the hell is a sector and why would that be a meaningful unit of a space-government? Most of a "sector" is going to be empty space, for one. More importantly, the idea of an entire, meaningful subdivision of interstellar territory dedicated to the kinds of things sub-planetary governments get from particular regions ("Ukraine grows most of the USSR's grain"; "the US gets most of its copper from the Four Corners") is ludicrous. It's goofy and bizarre for one star system, let alone an entire chunk of interstellar space containing multiple star systems.

    You'd much more likely divide an interstellar government into individual star-systems, and then administer each planet within the system (you'd also have regions of the planets administered by descending levels of government, down to at least the level of a single county or municipality). Whether you'd admin the system itself separately from the planets, or have whoever governs the most significant planet also govern the system as a whole, is up to you, depending partly on how important planets are to your setting's space-colonization methods. You might then have certain star-systems combined under some higher-level administrator, but they wouldn't be anything as regular-sounding as a "sector". A "region", maybe, but it wouldn't exist as the kind of economic unit a region of a continent does, unless one is the only place where a resource is produced. But that's still not the whole region.

    It also occurs to me you could do something interesting with people or activities taking place in interstellar space, something like (the fictional version of) international waters, and then some—though the energy costs of actually living there are pretty steep if you don't periodically raid or trade with the people who live closer to the starlight.
  • A bunch of people claim that robots-being-oppressed stories make no sense, because people treat Roombas like pets, but here's the thing: people also treat pets like pets. But consider how they treat other people. Pets don't make the kinds of demands on you that actual people do—or that strong AIs would. Roombas do not "need to be taught their place" because they can't get "uppity" in the first place. Strong AIs could and would. We commodify other people all the time, treat them like appliances or industrial products; people who are actually industrial products would get it even worse.
  • It is often remarked—I might've done it here at some point—that it's dumb how Star Trek describes all wars on one planet or within a species as "civil wars", even when the planets don't have world governments. But…is it? A civil war isn't just a war within one state; the US Civil War in fact was not one, but only a secession attempt. No; a civil war requires something else: war over control of the central government.

    So possibly, what Star Trek calls "civil wars" are wars where people are fighting not over the usual things nations fight over, but specifically over control of the central government…of the planet. Or, to establish a central government over the planet—wars of world conquest. Maybe each of the "civil wars" the Enterprise gets involved in (because the Prime Directive is a quantum event) is fomented by that planet's equivalent of Khan.
  • I noticed this watching Krypton, which is mostly pretty cool (Superman theme for the win), but: make sure, in your setting, that your characters' social mores reflect their society's values. E.g. in some of the second-season flashbacks about Seg-El and Lyta Zod, it's implied that there is some concern over her being unfaithful to her eugenically arranged marriage, if she hooks up with him. But…why would there be? Kryptonians are clearly a super-decadent semi-transhuman society with a more or less perpetual sexual free-for-all—and they aren't fertile. They breed by test-tube.

    Adultery taboos are so strong largely because uncertainty as to parentage screws up successions; since your heirs are only going to be artificially produced in the first place, thus there are no succession concerns, you wouldn't care who your spouse goes to bed with. (That was part of why homosexuality was valued in Greece and China—though their misogyny was a bigger concern—and the main reason it was, among the Maya. Homosexual relationships let the adolescent sons of the aristocracy fool around with the help, without siring bastards who might complicate their alliance-marriages.)


De romanicorum theoriarum XIV

SF and fantasy thoughts. Many concerning my own writing and DMing.
  • No sooner did I say monks are useless than I decide to make their style-feats and vows the basis of naming for my Tainish-Egyptian culture. Why not Egypt with warrior monks? They totally had some Taoist-like elements in their culture…and liked to shave their heads. Now they also worship a dozen heroes who sacrificed themselves to form a sort of spirit-barrier and allow their people to use clerical magic (albeit with only four domains each instead of the five of full deities); decided they're a married couple for each of the six "mythic paths" from Mythic Adventures (which I'm otherwise not really using).

    Based their clan-names, though, on the types of basic familiar listed in the Core Rulebook and Advanced Player's Guide, plus the abilities that familiars acquire—the familiars in question being those available to the adepts that were the main priests of human society without clericalism. Even on the first continent I decided there weren't even oracular or druidic priests, just adepts—until one of the human nations became witches and started subjugating the others, who eventually covenanted with gods and became able to wield clerical magic, which gives energy-channeling.
  • Decided the Hyksos/Sea Peoples language that's based on Le Guin's Old Speech will just work like Chinese, grammatically. (Maybe Old Chinese, which had a few affixes, like a fricative suffix indicating a participle, and a nasal or fricative prefix that de-transitivizes verbs—basically shifting between the two senses of the English word "smell".) Also gave their culture names based on two groups of mesmerist class-abilities (from Occult Adventures), to reflect their having once been enslaved by the snake people (whose magic is all psychic, remember). Anyway while I was researching it, I noticed people are dummies—though it's probably selection bias, since we are talking about people who are big enough fans of Le Guin to care to catalogue her languages (zing!).

    See, a bunch of them said that one of the languages descended from Old Speech (Hardic) having "hundreds" of runes must mean it's logographic. But no, if it's hundreds rather than (tens of) thousands, you're probably talking syllabary. A syllabary for Mandarin Chinese would be 300-something characters, something between 1000 and 2000 if each tone of each syllable is a different character (compared to the circa-50,000 logograms there are in Chinese, the 20,000 you'll see listed in a typical dictionary, or the 3000 to 8000 a literate Chinese person usually knows). A syllabary for Cantonese would be two to four times as big as Mandarin's, since it has a bit more than twice as many possible syllables—mainly ending words on more consonants—and has more tones. (I would just mark a syllable's tone with a diacritic, because I'm not a masochist. Though some people count a letter with a diacritic as a separate grapheme.)
  • Here's how Hollywood could save two franchises it's utterly wrecked, at a blow.

    You start with a large person chasing a young man, who hits it with something, scraping some skin off the face to reveal the iconic "hyperalloy" skeleton. Barely fazed, the Terminator corners the young man—who is identified, either by its words or by the display through its eyes, as John Connor. Suddenly, though, a pair of jagged metal claws punch through the Terminator's torso from behind, instantly rendering it inert. A seven-foot figure, with a mane of dreadlocks and a glowing-eyed mask, flickers into visibility behind the now-dead cyborg, and a raspy voice, not unlike a parrot's, says "Come…with me…if you want…to live."

    That one's free, Hollywood, you can have that one.
  • Recently decided that my SF setting's Japan, Taiwan, and Korea all learn Australian English, where nowadays they learn American. See, a major part of my future history is a decline in America's global influence, and also an end to various regional hegemonic ambitions. Without the economic or military need to cozy up to a superpower, East Asian countries often learn the language of a regional neighbor, instead. (They also learn Chinese at least as often as English, since they're both UN official languages that also make economic sense.) Mainland China, of course (including Hong Kong) still learns British, as do Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia, and most points west of those like India. Think Vietnam might go either way, the way Thailand does now.
  • Disney's laughable bungling of Star Wars is, indeed, as many have said, because they're American liberals. But not because of anything directly ideological; just because their party-loyalty as Democrats has them want to make it so that, when people think of huge Kennedy-Johnson blunders, the Vietnam War is not the first example that comes to their minds.

    Actually I kid. In reality, Rian Johnson the Taken King, father of Master Codebreaker the Eater of Hope and the sisters Rose Tiko the Unraveler and Amilyn Holdo the Weaver, Deathsingers, has done all this to chase the idea of heroism, which he calls the Lying God, down galactic arms in a howling pack of moons. Hence why he corrupted the wielder of the Light, Jake Skywalker, once the hero Luke, whose new name means "The Eternal Abyss" in languages forgotten but not dead—using Rey the Nobody, formerly Rey the Secret-Parented.

    But I kid again. Or rather I exaggerate very slightly for comedic effect. Nevertheless, was I the only one amused by how Disney-Marvel Avengers: Endgame has Thanos say "As long as there are those who remember what was, there will always be those who cannot accept what can be"? Oh, you mean like Star Wars fans? Irony is ever the weapon of Nemesis.
  • Speaking of franchises they killed, entirely unnecessarily, I know that I've said I think Jurassic World should've been a hard reboot, not a soft one. But here's an example of what I mean by that: suppose you have the scene in the kitchen, only instead of the raptors Deinonychus making that weird chainsaw noise, they make no noise—the kids just turn around, and one is just there, having approached entirely soundlessly. See, we think, based on their eye anatomy, that many if not most dromaeosaurs were nocturnal. They also had feathers. So you could be talking about something like this:
    A barn owl the size of a large jaguar. Owl skulls don't have the facial disks (which are basically ears); I think they're cartilage, and that means dinosaurs could've had 'em too, if they lived anything like owls. If you're going to make dinosaurs out to be monsters (rather than, what they are, just dangerous animals—really Jurassic Park is the same basic movie as The Ghost and the Darkness), why not go with the most monstrous of extant dinosaurs as your model?

    And if you wanted to make them super-intelligent—which, so far as we can determine, they weren't—why not some corvid DNA splicing? Maybe to make them more tractable, since corvids are indeed trainable—in the same sense that cats are. Similarly you could get your pack-hunting dinos (we have no evidence actual dinosaurs did that), by the simple expedient of giving them Harris hawk DNA. Those are popular for falconry because they hunt in packs (!) and therefore are much easier to train.
  • I love being right, especially because the poor bastard didn't deserve what happened to him. Kinda seems like Mara is doing something stupid, like she believes she has to go and side with the Darkness (the ones who did all this to the Awoken) because the Traveler's getting too strong.
  • Crunched some numbers for my Pathfinder setting's population. Decided that there's one 20th-level human of each PC class, two 19th level, four 18th-level, and so on; the NPC classes in the NPC Codex only go up to 10th, so I only gave them that progression. But once I have all that, I then make there be 19 times the total number of PC-class members (because they're only 5% the population), and the remainder is 1st-level commoners.

    Things are more complex with civilized nonhumans. Elves, dwarves, and gnomes have no commoners; instead, the 95% are all 1st-level members of the PC classes. This gives them a somewhat smaller but much more powerful (like, CR 1/2 vs. CR 1/3) population. I did the same for bugbears and hobgoblins, except in fewer classes, and bugbears start out at 3rd level (1st- and 2nd-level bugbears stat as hobgoblins), then gave goblins a setup similar to humans except instead of commoners, the 95% are all the NPC classes they belong to (hobgoblins and bugbears don't have NPC-class members, in my setting). Ogres and orcs both work like goblins, but with a somewhat different class makeup.

    Still have to work up my beast-people and reptilian humanoid numbers, and gotta figure out if my giants should have markedly lower ones than the other humanoids (ogres are not giants in my setting, but slot into the subtype formerly known as orc). But I think I'm looking at a total population on par with some point in the 19th or early 20th century, but distributed very differently. Supportable with late-medieval tech? Maybe not, but late-medieval tech and magic? Now I think we're talking.
  • Borrowed Detroit: Become Human from my sister's friend, and…wow. What a pretentious cliché-storm, huh? They should've called this thing "Detrite: Become Humdrum". Or even "Lifetime: Television for Women presents Blade Runner Meets AI: Artificial Intelligence"; that would've been more honest, anyway. Like, that lady (Amanda) that you meet, the first time you have to have to get rebooted as R. Daneel Olivaw Connor? That is a woman who plays chess with J. F. Sebastian and is going to get murdered by Roy Batty sticking his thumbs in her eyes; nothing you say can convince me otherwise.

    Every single depiction is tired and shopworn, without a single original concept or story-beat in the entire thing. From the alcoholic cop to the out-of-work abusive dad to the "ride in the back of the bus" nonsense to the ridiculous idea that defunct androids would not be stripped for their incredibly advanced and almost certainly both expensive and proprietary components. Nothing in this series of cutscenes separated by clunky quicktime events game happens for any other reason than because it's a cliche of the robot genre, whether it makes any sense at all in this setting or not.

    I don't even know if I'm going to finish it, but I'm super glad I'm only borrowing it.


De fabularum mirabilium VII

Fantasy thoughts.
  • Decided to add some human civilizations to my Pathfinder setting, from the other side of the world—they warred with the ancient "Atlantis" analogue (so, Mu/Lemuria, I guess, except I think they're not also a fallen civilization). I already used Valyrian as a model for the evil Atlanteans' language (and Númenorean as the basis of the other human languages); I had thought I might model it on Marc Okrand's Atlantean ("Adlantisag"), from the Disney animated Stargate Atlantis: The Lost Empire, but then I thought no, Tainish from Unsounded (which has orthography decisions that make hanyu pinyin look intuitive). Obviously I need other human societies for the other side of the planet, but it's super hard to find conlangs for fictional humans. I could possibly use something from Earthsea as a model (yech)? Maybe Edgar Rice Burroughs's stuff?
  • Thought I might give 'em an Egyptian feel, make 'em super proud and more than a little warlike but not witches (I wonder what the Egyptians thought of Carthage, given they didn't even like Greco-Roman pragmatic infanticide?). Maybe some Incan or Mound-Builder elements, too. (Though those both did practice human sacrifice—the Inca one mainly of children. The Inca were just generally a deceptively unpleasant society, the more you research them.) The evil Atlanteans are kinda more like Sumer and the rest of Mesopotamia, with some Chinese (especially Neoconfucian) elements.

    Not sure how the people on the other side of the world will look; maybe Australian Aboriginal facial features and hair texture with brown hair and amber eyes? (On the first hemisphere they're African—thinking specifically Sudanese?—facial features and hair texture with red hair, ivory to terra-cotta skin, and green eyes, and Asian/Native American faces and hair with blond hair, alabaster to dusky skin, and blue eyes—though the two are now often intermixed.) I'd had the first hemisphere have brown hair and amber eyes as variations of the blond-blue group, but no reason I can't change it.

    It's not weird to have everyone have one main phenotype in a whole hemisphere; the New World does, after all.
  • I find the reactions to the ending of Game of Thrones absolutely hilarious. For eight seasons they crowed about how this was a show with "no heroes", where "anyone can die", and looked down their noses at any work of fiction with characters who weren't either psychopaths or ineffectual, or whose story did something other than "subvert expectations" (never mind things are usually the "expectation" because they are the most narratively satisfying and make the most internal story-sense). Then Daenerys started sacking cities, and they whined that she was supposed to be a hero; she got shanked and they whined that she wasn't supposed to die. Like…wasn't this what you liked?
  • Maybe, in keeping with using Valyrian for a villainous society because I hate George Rape-Rape, I should have the culture that speaks something based on Old Speech be evil somehow. (Okay so Le Guin is just pompous, miseducated, and overrated, as opposed to Martin's utterly disgusting. Though some have recently reinterpreted "Those Who Walk Away From Omelas" as a rationalization of fandom's conspiracy of silence about child predators like Walter Breen and Marion Zimmer Bradley. Nevertheless.) Maybe Sea Peoples/Hyksos, if the Tainish-based guys are Egyptians?

    That would be an interesting parallelism to the first continent, since there, the ancient civilization is evil and it's the people who began as "barbarians" on its margins who are the protagonists. The Egyptian idea is also interesting in view of the fact the planet's in an Ice Age: maybe they're tundra Egyptians rather than "normal" desert, and their calendar is organized around a fertile period caused by glacial runoff? (Ancient Egypt's calendar had three seasons, inundation, growing, and harvest.) I'll have to research some more about ice-age climates.
  • People complain about "homogeneous" nonhuman races in fantasy settings, but it's a "justified trope" in the case of many of them. They live many times a human's lifespan, if not forever, so why would their culture shift? E.g. in my setting, where elves live twelve times as long as humans: the time separating us from the late form of Proto-Indo-European, about 10,000 years, is only the equivalent of the time since English replaced its dative and instrumental cases with prepositions. (And most languages don't undergo a Great Vowel Shift; the 12th-century version of most languages would be fairly comprehensible to their modern speakers.)

    Even the time separating the elves from their ancestors who left the moons is only the time separating the modern Hellenic Republic from the lifetime of Pericles and Democritus. And unlike Greeks or Englishmen in almost all of that time-period, elves are not only all literate, but have the magical equivalent of multimedia recording, so their speech, dress, and other habits will change a lot less than humans have in similar periods. (Our dress and social mores shifted since the introduction of recording media, but those changes have to do with external factors; our speech has certainly changed much less than it would've without recordings.)
  • I recently got about three-quarters of the way through Ordination, first book of the "Paladin Trilogy" by Daniel M. Ford. I stopped because I suddenly realized I didn't give a damn about the story. There were two issues.

    The first is the aggressive genericness of the setting. It reads like D&D tie-in fiction, carefully purged of anything that would make a D&D setting worthwhile. There isn't anything particularly unique or interesting about any of the three main locations. The fortress the protagonist leaves at the beginning, the muddy-gritty port city he tracks the enslaved villagers to, or the dirt-farm village he takes them back to, all feel like generic locales from an RPG.

    The second, though, is the religion the protagonist is tasked with (re)founding. Ford is at such utter pains to assure us that it won't offend our modern Western secular sensibilities that he makes it in no way interesting. And the blinded monks are just ridiculous, an ugly caricature of asceticism. Actually I guess these are just one issue: shallowness. Shallow generic setting, shallow stereotyped religions—come to think of it the characters are pretty one-note too.
  • Remember how, on the basis of "twentyscore", I said you might (and my dwarves and elves do) call 1728X/1000XII "twelvegross"? You can (they do) also call, say, 36X/30XII "threedozen". Gotta leave 288X/200XII as "two gross", though, since "two hundred" isn't one word. (3456X/2000XII would likewise be "two twelvegross".) I also realized that 8000X/1000XX can just be "onescore twentyscore", the way 1000 is (sometimes) "ten hundred". Still have no earthly idea how they'd say 160,000X/10,000XX, though. "Twentyscore twentyscore"? You could call, say, 3 million "three thousand thousand", though normally "thousand thousand" is only poetic.
  • A trope in fantasy that I do not care for, particularly, is the "ancient things are better" trope. Ironically it's the Renaissance in a nutshell: "forget your cutting-edge warship design, we're just going with a reconstructed Roman quinquereme". You don't get that in the actual Middle Ages; though the medievals rightly admired Roman roads and aqueducts, and their pop culture depicted Vergil as a wizard, they didn't restrict themselves to Roman knowledge in things like agriculture, manufacturing, or building stone chimneys instead of open firepits in the middle of wooden houses. (Nor in philosophy, medicine, what we'd call "science", or law.)

    Especially common with swords, in fantasy, and I can see it when the sword is both historically significant and magical, like Narsil-Andúril. But something mundane, like "Valyrian steel", would be mostly Valyrian rust by just a few centuries later, if not very, very carefully maintained anyway. The medievals not only didn't bother trying to use Late Imperial spathae, they didn't even copy them. They innovated, changing the design of the fuller (e.g. stopping it several inches short of the tip, to improve its strength for stabbing), the taper of the blade, the proportions of the hilt and the shape of the guard, the angle the cutting-edge was sharpened to.

    And while I love me some "sealed ancient evil awakens" plots, you could change things up once in a while. Like, have some wizard's new research be the plot driver. (IIRC Warcraft strikes a good balance there.) Always remember, "modern progress" is a medieval concept.
  • An idea I had is to have the cities of the elves, dwarves, and gnomes in my setting have something a bit like a mythal from Forgotten Realms, and a bit like a Superintendent AI from Halo: but have it be a celestial. I'm thinking have it be one with a CR equal to a character who can cast the highest level spell available in the settlement in question (e.g. a CR 15 celestial, or a CR 16 one like a planetar anyway, for a "metropolis" where 8th-level spells are available). Like the city's priests bargain with the celestial, à la the "Binding Outsiders" rules from Ultimate Magic, and it becomes something like the tutelary spirit for the city. I'll have to work out the specific game-mechanic effects.


Playing with Fantasy XII

Fantasy RPG thoughts.
  • I realized, elves' weights can be, more or less, attributed to them having muscle like a bird, requiring only 25% as much mass to do the same amount of work as human muscle. (An elf otherwise proportioned exactly like a human would be slightly heavier than the rules say, but the difference is probably within the range of variation between human body-types, too.) That would also explain their Constitution penalty—"robust" means both "resilient" and "opposite of gracile", for a reason. A lack of sheer mass can account for a lot of things; that's why even small amounts of alcohol are often fatal for birds, for example.
  • Had an interesting idea for my Draconic: have it, in written form and in things like sayings and aphorisms, always be three words long, or in sub-units of three words. There are two reasons for this. One, of course, is thu'umme, which are always three words long (except for "Devour Dragon Soul"—the shout only Miraak can use and only during the boss-fight with him—which is four, Zii los dii du); the other is four-character idioms. China is, after all, also associated with dragons, and given dragons in my setting mostly do their writing by scratching runes into boundary-markers, they would probably develop the same preference for terseness that Classical Chinese has.

    Also thought dragons could give two-part names to their wyvaran ("wyrm-kin") servants, which have no ties to either wyverns or kobolds in my setting, but were just made by the dragons based on the model of humanoid races—something between dragon-kin and draconians (I'll acknowledge the 4e/5e "dragonborn" when I get back from my dogsled tour of hell). Wyvaran names derive from the gems listed in Ultimate Equipment, and the precious metals you can make coins from. (Slightly changed my dragons' names so now the third element is types of treasure rather than their energy type. For most purposes, though, they go by an honorific consisting of their energy type and their age-category.)
  • Another thought I had for dragons is to give them "teeth" like a placoderm, e.g. Dunkleosteus. See, the reason birds lost their teeth, and replaced them with beaks, is that teeth are heavy. A placoderm does not, exactly, have teeth, but the cutting plates it uses instead make a shape much like the teeth of a carnivorous mammal, and if made of horn (I think those of the actual placoderms were just bone and maybe enamel) would be as light as a beak.

    So my dragons have chameleon pupils in eyes otherwise like those of a raptor, placoderm mouths—and the short face that goes with it—and Archaeopteryx wings, except with weird scale-feathers (I'm calling them "plates"). They use their wing-hands for manipulation; their other four feet are, I think, like those of a wolverine or (other) marten, with semi-retractable claws. I kinda wanted them to have a head-shape like a blunt-nosed shark, like tiger or bull sharks, but it would look goofy.
  • Was worried that elf swords, being a single leaf, gripped by the stem, would be dangerous to stab with, since you need a guard for that (though a shashka appears not to really need one—it's better for stabbing than most other sabers), and I couldn't think of a cool way to do one. Realized, though, if you put a cloth loop at the top of the hilt, where the guard would go, you can stick one finger through that and it'll keep your hand from sliding too far forward. (I'd already decided they wrap the hilt in cloth, made from the bark of the same tree the blade comes from.)

    Decided you maintain an elven, dwarven, or gnomish weapon (which are made from leaves, coralline algae, and fungi, respectively) by rubbing it with a nutrient-rich oil—because they're alive. Among other things, this lets them resist nonmagical rust without any other maintenance, by metabolizing the air away from the metallic portions of the weapon, like how some plants with nitrogen-fixing root nodules have hemoglobin, for keeping oxygen away from their symbiotic cyanobacteria. (Though even if they weren't alive, oiling the weapon regularly would probably prevent rust…)
  • I decided not to even have monks; they're possibly the least worthwhile class in the whole history of D&D. If I recall, Gygax admitted they were a mistake all the way back in 1st Edition, that's why they weren't in 2nd. If you were gonna have them, you'd pretty much have to go qinggong, and even then "unchained" only, with the fighter's hit die and attack progression. And really, if you want a barehanded martial artist, why not go with the unarmed fighter archetype? Or, if you like the "disciplined, mystical warrior" aspect, the enlightened paladin archetype from one of the Golarion books?

    About the only worthwhile thing monks contribute in Pathfinder (they contribute basically nothing in D&D proper) is the mechanic that makes the ninja rogue-archetype work. Well, and maybe the drunken master archetype from the Advanced Player's Guide and the elemental monk from another Golarion book, but the ability to play a drunken kung-fu practitioner or a bender à la Avatar still isn't worth it. Not least because the Avatar one is already available as the kineticist class from Occult Adventures, in a much more robust form (like the water one being able to armor themselves).
  • Speaking of archetypes that don't really justify their parent class's existence, I'm not going to use vigilantes, from Ultimate Intrigue—I've said D&D is "sword and sorcery superheroes" but that's a bit on the nose. Nevertheless, one of its archetypes does something that I respect. Namely, the magical child. It's a vigilante with some nerfed skill-points and fewer armor proficiencies and vigilante talents, in exchange for having a familiar and spellcasting like a summoner (also not using those, too complicated)…and the ability to transform in half the time, using magic. (No word on if they have to say "Htaed htrof sllac ohw eno eht ma i tub gnimrahc dna ylevol" to do it…)
  • Since I'm getting rid of monks, I had to redo my giants' names. They had been (I mentioned this before) named after cavalier orders and monk vows, but aside from how I'm getting rid of monks, it never really made much sense for giants to have cavaliers—certainly not so prominently as to name their kids after their orders. (I'm also still not sure which cavalier orders I'm having in my campaign.)

    I decided instead that Giantish names would be the various things you can make with the Craft and Artistry skills, plus the four quality-levels you can get locks in (presumably you could list those four levels for every item in the game, rather than only some of them having a common vs. masterwork distinction). I had been thinking of my giants' culture as based on tools and craft for a long time.
  • I apparently haven't mentioned it here but I realized, a good "hook" for my orcs and ogres, is to have them live or die by the audacity of their deeds. A chief who can win against overwhelming odds attracts more followers and wives, while one who fails loses them. (He's also likely to get Starscreamed by a follower, who may be one of his sons—that "knock off the old man, have a ready-made harem of all the wives except his own mother" thing I've talked about before.)

    Notice I say one who fails, not one who runs away. Every ogre or orc chief has a complex calculus of whether the payoff is worth it, in terms of how it affects him (and indirectly his followers, since you're not a chief without them). Fortunately for everyone concerned, they're also utterly shameless, so they have no qualms running away if they don't like the cost-benefit analysis; both fortunately and unfortunately, though, they're also not very bright, so they may do the calculations wrong and wind up getting killed. But usually only after making a lot of trouble.

    The interesting thing about this is it makes the orc penchant for cruelty a side-effect of their pure-ego mindset; they can't resist to gloat and power-trip over captives. (Here too it's fortunate they're not too bright, so they tend to accidentally kill their captives before they can get too creative tormenting them.) Another aspect is females gain prestige by the status of their husband and sons, by bearing sons, and by the status of their daughters' husbands—and each of a chief's wives is constantly backstabbing the others. (Females also gain status by being "wise women".)
  • My goblins, on the other hand, are fundamentally "lawful evil" even when individually they may be more neutral or even chaotic evil. A goblin (or hobgoblin, or bugbear) chief, like an ogre chief, is able to attract wives and followers by his deeds, but those deeds are more than just audacious slaughter—actually being able to maintain plans and infrastructure is a big part of them. Of course, so is ritual hunting of intelligent beings (which intelligent beings are not eaten). The wives usually at least tolerate each other, and often regard each other as sisters (if they aren't actually sisters or half-sisters—and they don't have the "Ottoman succession" murderous sibling-rivalries the ogres have).

    Thus, I went back to goblins being neutral evil, hobgoblins lawful evil, and bugbears chaotic evil. Or, rather, hobgoblins lawful evil, goblins neutral evil with lawful tendencies, and bugbears neutral evil with chaotic tendencies but dependent on lawful hobgoblin vassals. All three have similar familial arrangements, but goblins are much less ambitious or organized than hobgoblins (because survival is a more pressing concern for a weaker race), whereas bugbears are so strong they attract followers of the other two goblin races, and can completely devote themselves to hunting. Thus, except within their own families, bugbears are "chaotic".


SIerra Foxtrot 15

SF thoughts. Mostly concerned with my attempts to work out zled astronomical nomenclature and related astrogational matters, and some military stuff.
  • Turns out 37 G. Gruis is too young, with the high estimate for its age being 4.1 billion years. So it won't work for the khângây sun. (I started looking into it because it's a double star and I don't know if those can support life, though the other is just an M-type red dwarf.) Considered putting them at 5 G. Capricornis, sandwiched between its two Neptune-like planets. But then decided no, I'll put them at α Mensae, the dimmest α-star in Earth's sky. The latter is a bit old at 5.4 billion years old, but mÕskoi, now being λ Serpentis, is 5.25 billion years old (taking the average of the estimates). That's not that much older than 4.54 billion years; both planets are drier than Earth, so maybe it took them longer to form life.
  • Decided to continue pursuing the zled celestial-coordinate naming after all. Realized I can express everything in microradians. At first I considered writing them in base-32, AKA duotrigesimal. See, there are 32 letters in the Zbin-Ãld alphabet; their normal numerals are letters of the alphabet—because they use acrophonic numerals, where each digit is represented by the number's first letter, except marked to indicate it's a number, the way Greek numerals are. Duotrigesimal, with only letters and not numerals (because it would be too confusing to use both), is a natural binary-derived code for them, the way hex is for us.

    The entire sky can only ever be up to 6,283,185 microradians, a full circle rounded to the nearest whole unit. That's only a five-digit number in base-32. And the Third Fundamental Catalogue of 1937, compiled to create a celestial reference-frame, is only accurate to within an arcsecond, so for "traditional" (i.e. "pre-space colonization") names of stars I think a microradian's nearly 5 times that precision is plenty. (Incidentally, I was actually wrong about the Bonner Durchmusterung system; it actually just gives the declination degree and then the order the stars were counted, starting from 0 right-ascension. Anyway, see below.)
  • But then I tried it out. The numbers were horrible, complete gibberish, like reading off the default password of a wifi router. Thought better of the whole duotrigesimal thing; now it's just decimal.

    I had had them calling the stars by the names of constellations I worked out—when they were at 59 Virginis, though, I think, not even 18 Scorpii (it's been a while since there's been a convenient tool for generating alien sky-maps, like the now sadly defunct "Extrasolar Skies" website was)—and then a number. Given how the Durchmusterung designations work, I just list the stars by one of fifteen constellations (or asterisms?) that occur at various points along their celestial equator (like a zodiac, but that's the ecliptic), and then by their declination; there are fifteen because 6,283,185 is divisible by both three and five.

    Given how zledo arrange large numbers (paired digits, not trios or quartets like most Earth languages), the number of microradians in the declination sounds okay—Sol's declination, for example, is 1.939186 radians, or 1,939,186 microradians. In speech that comes to "one million ninety-three myriad ninety-one hundred eighty-six", or, in practice usually, just "one ninety-three ninety-one eighty-six".
  • Turns out I might need the zled artillery to start using the topological defect warheads at a smaller scale than I'd planned, what with militaries now already working on plasma shields to protect things from the concussive force of explosions. Then again you might just have to get somewhat closer hits, because the plasma shields don't stop anything except the pressure-wave from blasts; with anti-tank fire (the context the shields are usually mentioned in), you probably want a relatively direct hit anyway, since the main thing we use against tanks nowadays is "long rod" explosively formed penetrators. (Actually you'd probably be protecting things a lot less armored than tanks, like AFVs, with the shields—we don't lob ordinary, big-blast artillery shells at tanks, it's not a very efficient way to destroy them.)
  • Oddly, English actually has a vocabulary for dealing with vigesimal (base-twenty) and duodecimal/dozenal (base-twelve), as well as decimal (I actually realized this working on my Pathfinder setting). For vigesimal, the numbers are the same from one to nineteen, and then you say "onescore". Forty is twoscore, then threescore is sixty, fourscore is eighty—all the way to nineteenscore, three hundred eighty. Then, four hundred is "twentyscore" (yes, real term), and then eight hundred (for example) is "two twentyscore". Things are a bit clunkier in duodecimal/dozenal, because the term for one thousand seven hundred twenty-eight is "great gross", which is inelegant. Personally instead I'd go (on the model of "twentyscore") with "twelvegross". E.g., three thousand six hundred twenty-four—3624X, 2120XII—is "two twelvegross one gross two dozen".

    I'm not sure how either one goes for powers above score squared or dozen cubed—the dozenal equivalent of a myriad might be "dozen twelvegross", though, the way the thousand-superbase equivalent is "ten thousand". (In a D&D setting it's not an issue since numbers above the thousands come up very seldom in practice.)

    Interestingly there's a system halfway between dozenal/duodecimal and decimal, the "long hundred", where a "hundred" is defined as twelve tens not ten tens, and a thousand is twelve times ten times ten (or ten "long" hunreds, I guess?)—with ten tens being "tenty" and eleven tens being "eleventy". Tolkien did not coin the term "eleventy-one". That was actually the norm in West and I think North Germanic languages up to quite recent times; there are medieval glosses of Latin documents, for those languages, that specify that Latin defines one hundred "tenty-wise". The advantage, of course, is that incorporating the twelves increases the number of factors you get to work with; if I had my druthers the metric system would be ten long hundreds ("long thousands", an actual term) not ten "short"/"tenty-wise" hundreds. (Incidentally, sixty has most of the same advantages in this regard that the long hundred has—which is probably why Mesopotamian numbers are sexagesimal.)
  • Of course, for actual astrogation (I am very pleased that Blogger or my browser, whichever one is checking my spelling, knows that word), zledo don't use anything as provincial as equatorial coordinates derived from their homeworld: they use galactic coordinates. Those are the same between Earth and Lhãsai, except they actually center theirs at Sagittarius A*, and their longitude is 273,957,125 nanoradians (15°41'47.7126") to the west of ours (through λ Serpentis not Sol), and their latitude plane ("equator") is 2,094,395 nanoradians (0°07'12") south of ours. That, and their coordinate system does rotate over time—the way a planetary one does—because it's utterly bizarre that it currently doesn't. (I would dearly love to know the intellectual pedigree of that decision.)

    I think in my future the humans will also have decided that their galactic coordinate system should rotate; I'll have to figure out the year they decide that. Then I just go with the number of years separating that from 2000 and multiply it by 5.7 milliseconds-of-arc (no not "milliarcseconds" that's stupid). I like 2140; if it's 2140 then the zled longitude is 273,957,122 nanoradians (15°41'46.9146") west of ours, because its coordinate changes from 0°07'12" S, 15°41'47.7126" E, to 0°07'12"S, 15°41'46.9146" E.

    The only other issue is what unit to express their "altitude" from the galactic center in. For that I figure I'll define something as a "unit circle" and then express distances as a fraction of that. Unfortunately the size of a galaxy is quite literally nebulous, but I could for example work with the current estimated radius of 129,000 light-years. λ Serpentis is 29,346.864055 light years from the galactic center, which is 0.22749507019 galactic radii, or, say, round it down to 0.227495 (a precision of about an eighth of a light year), which is 45,499/200,000—"four myriad fifty-four hundred ninety-nine twenty-myriadths", in zled terms. (I could also maybe do some multiple of the thickness of the thing; the galaxy is very far from spherical, after all.)
  • In a star-system, on the other hand, zledo just project a latitude/longitude system out from the star, with its equator at the system's ecliptic, and define north, south, east, west, up, and down relative to that (up and down being "away from the star" and "toward the star", same as they are when longitude and latitude are defined relative to a planet instead). Though they measure latitude and longitude in a full circle not a half one, and in radians not degrees. Think they just define altitude in actual length units, though they could treat some distance (say, the astropause or the inner termination shock) as a unit-circle and express distances as a fraction of that. But it's really hard to find information on the astrosphere of other stars, so I'm not doing it that way.
  • Realized I need some way for zled armor to dump the energy when it gets hit. Decided to have a series of fans suck air through, on planets (doesn't have to be breathable air—the suit's respirator-system is completely separate), and sort of "wings" with radiators, in space. The latter has the advantage of looking cool and science fiction-y, with an actual justification. You could probably lower the efficiency of the armor by hitting it with something that'll gum up the air-intakes, but zledo aren't going to sit still while you do that (plus it's still composite metal foam wrapped in boron nitride nanotubes, as far as human weapons are concerned). The radiator "wings" are more vulnerable, but they presumably mainly use those for EVAs, not fighting. (If you're getting shot at by small arms in a vacuum, odds are something is very pear-shaped anyway. Most of the things someone's going to shoot you with in space will vaporize you, no matter what armor you have.)

    Might also need to work in that the zledo came up with this metamaterial armor because they switched to lasers to defeat composite metal foam, since lugging around the kind of ammo that can beat it ballistically is a hassle; the new foam is still only effective against lasers out to the ranges where full-powered rifle rounds are effective against our highest levels of body-armor. I'm also switching the graphene layer of their armor (and uniforms) to boron nitride nanosheets, for the simple reason that graphene's strength decreases when you stack multiple layers of it, while that of the BN nanosheets doesn't. The BN ones also have, I think, higher thermal conductivity, and seem to be less chemically volatile than graphene. (Also apparently BN nanosheets can be used for adsorption of chemicals—like odors, which give away zledo's feelings, which they consider immodest—which means they don't need a separate layer for that, just for anechoic effect.)


True Places Never Are

Queequeg was a native of Rokovoko, an island far away to the West and South. It is not down in any map; true places never are.
—Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chapter 12: "Biographical"
Damn but space coordinates are confusing. I was trying to figure out how zledo work the galactic coordinate system; I wanted to rename their stars so they're their actual coordinate (i.e. something like the Bonner Durchmusterung—"Bonn Observatory Perusal," roughly—star catalog, which lists each star as "BD" followed by its declination). The center of the galaxy, Sagittarius A* ("Sagittarius A-Star"), is 26,673 light years from Earth, give or take 42; our "galactic" coordinate system puts the sun at the center and runs one of the planes not through the actual equatorial plane of the galaxy, but through the sun, which is about 56.75 (give or take 6.2) light years above the equatorial plane.

That was only one headache; I also think that coordinates for anything round (like a galaxy) should be polar—especially for the zledo, who conceptualize orbits as movement in the sky of the center object (in this case, Sagittarius A*), and refer to distance from the center as "altitude", just as one might exactly describe an object's location on Earth in terms of its longitude, latitude, and elevation. So, what this means is that first I have to convert all the galactic coordinates of each star from the Sol-centered one to one centered on Sagittarius A*, and then convert those units to polar ones. (You remember that, from trig, right?) One piece of good news, I was worried that the galactic-coordinates' equatorial plane was tilted to go through Sol, but, mercifully, it's only shifted upward by 56.75 light-years. There's also the question of where to stick the prime meridian; that, zledo will stick on a line through mÕskoi (as we stuck Earth's through the Royal Obervatory in Greenwich).

Further credit given where due to our galactic-coordinate system, it appears to define north correctly, as being on your left if you face spinward (east) with your feet pointed at the center (nadir).

I worried about what units to express the distances in (spherical coordinates have polar angle and azimuthal angle, and then a distance, as two-dimensional polar coordinates have the angle and then the distance), but I actually don't have to. I can just treat, say, the virial radius of the Milky Way, which seems to be about 258,000 parsecs, as a unit circle, and then express distances as a fraction of that. Or, since the actual important part of the galaxy is more like half that many light-years—and whatever idiot called them "kilolight-years" instead of "light-millennia" should be pistol-whipped—I might use that definition of the galactic radius as my unit-circle, and express "altitudes" as a fraction of that.

But then it occurred to me, most of the West's more recognizable, systematic star names come from 1603 (Bayer designations), 1725 (Flamsteed designations), or 1879 (Gould designations); Chinese ones date to the Han (206 BC-220 AD) and Jin (266-420 AD) Dynasties, but were truly put on a systematic footing by the Jesuit missionary Ignaz Kögler, who compiled the Yíxiàng Kǎochéng between 1736 and 1744, with a revision, the Yíxiàng Kǎochéng Xùbiān, a century later, in 1844. Meanwhile we only even had our Sol-centered "galactic" coordinates starting in 1932, with a major correction in 1958.

So zledo could use an older, more Lhãsai-centered coordinate system, analogous to our right-ascension and declination one (but radians—they didn't always use radians, of course, but rather fractions of a circle, but radians' advantages eventually became clear), for naming stars. That's…not much easier, though, if any, because now, I have to define a celestial coordinate system relative to a planet whose ecliptic lines up roughly with Orion. (I checked, in Celestia: λ Serpentis does indeed have a recognizable Orion in its sky. There's probably someone who can actually tell me how the ecliptic plane of λ Serpentis is oriented, but since I can't find any such thing on the interwebs, neither can my readers—yet, probably, damn the inexorable march of science.)

Oh well. This kind of research is a necessary part of my creative process. I'll eventually hash it all out.


Swords and Plowshares IV

Material culture thoughts, though also some language ones. Hey, languages are classed as tools in Swahili (and I think other Bantu languages)—kiSwahili "coastal language" is the same noun-class as kitab "book". (Both, incidentally, are Arabic loan-words, though interestingly kitab treats the first syllable of the Arabic word for "book" as if it was the Swahili classifier-prefix for tools.)
  • Decided to redo my zled units so the dhaelã is 1.2 billion Planck masses, or 26.1174 kilograms. Sounds big, but it's very close to the Attic talent of 25.86 kilograms. This makes the heigõsu equal to 6.188627 newtons, the yadhõplai equal to 0.392984 joules, and the dothã nal-yadhõplai to 0.759143 watts (oddly close to 1/1000th of a horsepower).
  • Turns out that the animacy system in Navajo (which ranks nouns according to something like nine degrees of animacy—weird feature, gods and babies are less animate than adult humans) is a part of its direct-inverse system, also known as a "hierarchical alignment" because nouns are classed (usually in relation to transitive verbs) according to a hierarchy of things like saliency or animacy. Apparently even the linguists are still researching this stuff, but keep abreast of it, it could be cool for conlangs.
  • While reworking zled armor I've decided that their inner and middle suits are different. The innermost suit is just a mechanical counterpressure spacesuit; their skin is so loose that they don't need to stuff any extra padding in anywhere. Then the middle suit is artificial silk (or rather "cocoon-protein fiber", since silk is a specific one from Earth) soaked in a dilatant gel, with a heat dissipating lining—but that one's just graphene, which also has antiballistic properties. Then the outer suit is the metamaterial foam with both the second-sound and CMF properties, sandwiched in a layer of boron nitride nanotubes coated with a diamond-hard organyl-protected peptide (since zledo aren't from Earth, they don't use phenylalanine).

    Think the zled uniforms are the same stuff as the middle layer, artificial silk ("cocoon-protein fiber") soaked in dilatant, with a heat-dissipator graphene lining. The uniforms also have a layer that adsorbs (not absorbs) odors, so as to conceal the wearer's emotions. I also decided that zled soldiers wear cloaks made out of auxetic foam, to protect them from blasts—that had been what the middle layer of their armor was, but being under the hard outer layer would probably prevent it from expanding properly, which is how auxetic blast protection works (and would probably actually channel the force of explosions directly into the body).

    Their civilian levies (something like our National Guard) wear the same middle layer, but not the pressure suit—their civilian spacers do have a pressure suit and they can put levy armor over it, which is also what pirates do. The outer layer of civilian armor is just an advanced CMF armor, so it doesn't have the laser resistance of the military's stuff. (Most military body-armor is designed for shrapnel rather than direct small-arms fire, remember.)
  • Both civilian-levy and regular military armors' outer layer is powered, though only enough to negate its own weight—zledo don't need any particular help beyond that, what with being able to throw a small car, split a skull with a single slap, leap 10 meters horizontally or 5 vertically, and run 40 kilometers per hour (11 and 1/9th meters per second, in the space colonies where only SI is used), and all.

    Human troops (not the VAJRA powered-armor wearers) also have power-lifting systems, worn under their armor, to let them "hump" their packs and armor more easily, and also boost their strength a bit—enabling them to do a four-minute mile (6 and 2/3rds meters per second, in the colonies). Not sure exactly how much raw strength boost that gives; probably enough to let them control the recoil of a SAW without a tripod, though.

    And yes, my human space-colonies express their traffic's speed-limits in meters per second.
  • Damn but boron is important in my setting though, eh? Boron nitride nanotubes in zled armor and the springs that power all their stuff, boron carbide as the backing of the plates in humans' VAJRA armor; maybe I should add boron filaments in something like a civilian armor jacket or something, round out the list. I guess, like, leave instructions for your descendants to invest in boron, on the commodities exchange, starting around the 2200s. Make a killing.

    Lot of foams, too—composite metal foams, quasi-crystalline metamaterial foams, anti-blast auxetic foams—and gels, like the dilatant and magnetorrheological gels used in armors, and the gel that is the metal-air batteries. (The composite metal foams are like "styrofoam", incidentally, not, like, soap bubbles; the auxetic anti-blast foam is like "foam rubber", except not as fine-textured—and some auxetic foams are made of metal.)
  • I really need to get down to brass tacks about my robots' batteries. I keep seeing wildly conflicting reports for the energy density of silicon-air batteries, from 8.47 kilowatt-hours per kilogram to 14.23. Might have to go back to lithium-air ones, at 11.14 kilowatt-hours per kilogram, which is comparable to gasoline's 12.2. (Silicon-air being 16.6% better than gasoline was probably a pipe-dream, actually. Maybe by the 24th century, but still.)

    I had actually done my computations of the battery-requirements for my bots based on lithium-air, I think; and 24 hours of activity on a single charge is actually unnecessarily strict, not least because the bots can eat to extract chemical energy à la EATR, and then use the energy gained that way to breathe, and re-oxidize their metal-air battery. (EATR reminds me: have I mentioned lately how much I hate your society's "we don't know fiction from reality" panicking over every robotics development that comes along?)
  • I try to make it clear in my books that the five major zled languages are not their only ones. One of the characters occasionally talks to members of his nation (mostly country people) in their pre-imperial language, and their major language is not the same language as the one the empire speaks even though it derives from it. (Zled linguists theorize their old language is related to one of the big ones, but the similarities could just be areal.)

    Two of the other zled civilizations/ecotypes have an official language and then a bunch of related languages, which I should probably make clearer. Think something like Hindi plus all those other Indic languages, or Arabic plus Berber, Neo-Aramaic, Hebrew, and the Ethiopian languages. Or Mandarin and all the other Chinese languages, only the northern examples of which are "dialects" (here we repeat the mit an Armey un Flot quote).
  • I honestly should probably rewrite my whole setting to use something slightly more realistic than the topological confinement fusion drive, since those airframe materials as light as aerogel now make it feasible to have a ship with almost any mass-fraction you want. (Though the big determinant of a ship's top speed is exhaust velocity—but a high exhaust-velocity, mediocre-thrust engine, like magnetic confinement fusion, suddenly gets a lot more feasible.) A ship's mass can be little more than that of the crew and environment systems plus the engine and propellant tanks (and any armor its role might require), with the rest of the structure accounting for a tiny percentage of the whole. I'm not going to rewrite that part, though, partly because it's a huge headache but also because topological confinement fusion is a Cool Idea. I like those in science fiction.
  • Turns out that the khângây use of tone, as grammatical rather than lexical, is the typical use of tone in African languages. Where languages like Chinese, Thai, or Vietnamese use a difference of tones to distinguish words, languages like Maasai, Igbo, or Dogon use it to distinguish things like case. Of course, nobody couples that system with a Mesoamerican style agreement system (where verbs are a chord of their subject and object notes), because humans cannot produce chords with their mouths.


De fabularum mirabilium VI

Fantasy thoughts. Two in a day, yo.
  • Both Skyrim and Kingmaker have this trope where you go to a place—Avanchnzel and Labyrinthian in Skyrim, the Abandoned Hut the Stag Lord used to live in in Kingmaker—and a bunch of spectral apparitions re-enact the place's past, without a word of explanation as to why this happens. (I'll make an allowance for when you see Nyrissa's past in Kingmaker, because "it's Fairyland" is an adequate explanation. You could probably make the case that Nyrissa is showing you the Stag Lord's, too, but that's fudging the Author's Saving Throw for him.)

    In general it's just very lazy. Much better is the Resident Evil, finding journals everywhere, approach. You could easily find journals of Savos Aren's friends in Labyrinthian, the way you find those of the Nchuan-Zel expedition in Markarth; or those of Watches-the-Roots, From-Deepest-Fathoms, Breya, and Drennen in Avanchnzel; or the Stag Lord and his father. You even do find some scraps of the latter's journals. It's even easier if it's some kind of ancient thing—fill in the backstory in monumental bas reliefs as the characters explore a ruin. (You get a bit of that in Vordakai's tomb.)

    If you must do it in visions, have it be in a dream as they camp out near the ruins. Come on. (Also games should make "having to sleep" a thing again.)
  • In George "Rape-Rape" Martin's continuing quest to do exactly everything wrong, his dragon-eggs have scales. You know, like how bird eggs have feathers. And shark eggs are covered in denticles. And Gila monster eggs are beaded. Right? I had thought it was one of the many stupidities of the show (like its "keyboard on demo-mode" opening theme), but nope, that's in the book. I really ought to have known; the prop people, like the costume people and David Peterson in his capacity as conlang people, actually do their jobs. It's the writing and music people who are phoning it in, and the former are constrained by the source material.

    It occurred to me, though, that I kinda want my dragon eggs to be something weird. I considered something like shark eggs (or rather egg-cases), but shark egg-cases are such weird shapes due to being laid underwater. But it occurred to me, what if my dragon eggs are transparent, like many mollusc eggs are, but with a hard shell made of a gem-mineral? D&D dragons, after all, eat gems, so they can probably also put gem-mineral shells around their eggs. Maybe color-coded, with the wholly transparent shells being ice-dragons, the ruby ones being the fire-dragons, etc. (I don't exactly have chromatic dragons, in my setting.)
  • I realized that I can get a subjunctive into my Elven language by just adding a prefix to another prefix. And since my Elven verbs, like Tibetan ones, are marked for volitionality, the subjunctive-as-order can be readily distinguished from the subjunctive-as-wish. (I think the volitionality also gives something like a passive voice, which most ergative languages haven't got—though Mayan ones do. That's certainly one of its functions in Tibetan, the other main one being distinguishing something like "hear" from "listen" or "get X killed" from "kill X".)
  • There was another silliness in Game of Thrones. (The show; I don't know about the book but I wouldn't be surprised given Martin was shocked how high a 500-foot wall is, when he saw it in the show. Meaning he never looked at a 500-foot building in a photo, and drew lines to see what it'd look like as a wall.) Anyway, the silliness in at least the show, is that (people have crunched the numbers) the only way a certain scene of shooting down dragons would work, given the depicted ranges, is if the ballistae had a "muzzle" velocity of 2000 meters per second.

    I did some digging. The bolts of the kind of siege-engine that shoots bolts typically weigh about 2.4 kilos. (They also usually have a "muzzle velocity" of 60-150 meters per second.) One of those, at 2000 meters per second, is a "muzzle energy" of 4.8 megajoules. Given recoil force is 10% of "muzzle energy", that means every bolt launched from the device subjects it to 480 kilojoules of recoil—the equivalent of 114.7 grams of TNT, or, basically, two hand-grenades, set off inside the ballista (or whatever), every single time it's used. The thing would explode into splinters with one shot.

    Incidentally, 150 meters per second is an energy of 27 kilojoules—almost exactly half again the muzzle-energy of a .50 BMG round.
  • It occurs to me that a good way to explain the alignments, in D&D, is not so much "law vs. chaos" (a stupid idea unreflectively ganked from Moorcock) but "law vs. charter"—that is, whether the individual or society views things in terms of obligations, or in terms of rights. And then "good vs. evil" is simply whether they're going to use their rights or obligations, toward their proper ends, or abuse them, for their own gain. (Or respect others' rights and keep their obligations toward others, vs. ignoring others' rights or exploiting others' obligations.)

    Then ethical neutrality comes down to favoring neither rights and obligations (whether respected or exploited), but respecting or exploiting either as seems most prudent. Moral neutrality would be neither taking pains to respect rights or obligations, nor specifically exploiting or ignoring them—or possibly doing both in (roughly) equal measure.
  • Ballistae actually aren't tension weapons at all—they aren't giant crossbows. They're torsion weapons. Their two arms are separate, each sitting in the middle of two big twisted springs, and their "bowstring" is just suspended between the arms to hold the projectile in place. Interestingly a lot of ballista variants (e.g. the scorpio and the onager—though apparently the onager is considered a kind of scorpio) often shot catapult stones, not bolts. Then there was the polybolos, a repeating ballista that also holds the distinction of being the first use of the chain-drive. (Though not quite the first repeating missile weapon, that honor going to the Chinese repeating crossbow, invented in the 4th century BC—its association with Zhuge Liang, 181-234 AD, notwithstanding—whereas the polybolos was 3rd century BC.) China actually did use giant crossbows—repeating ones, in fact—as artillery, though.
  • Thinking I might change the settled rural culture's weapon familiarities from heavy pick, lance, and whip-as-martial to longsword, lance, and whip-as-martial. Though the heavy pick is a great cavalry weapon, in Pathfinder (for some dumb reason) it's not bludgeoning-or-piercing, it's only piercing. And the only thing the pick has going for it is a high critical multiplier.

    (Also the two main kinds of undead mook, zombies and skeletons, have their damage reduction defeated by slashing and bludgeoning, respectively; no undead mook loses its damage reduction to piercing, only rakshasas do, and they're not in my setting.)

    Might give the heavy pick to the nomadic horse culture, actually, since it's somewhat similar to Plains cultures' "war clubs" (which were really hammers), and replace the hooked lance. I'd had their main melee weapon be regular clubs and greatclubs, but those are simple weapons, so almost all of them will know how to use them anyway.
  • I considered using the spiritualist emotional focuses (anger, dedication, despair, fear, hatred, jealousy, and zeal), from Occult Adventures, as the names of days of the week; the rationale for such odd weekdays being that the serpentfolk named them, as they named the months after the creature subtypes—I decided to have some of the barely-humanoid humanoids (serpentfolk, araneas, sahuagin) use psychic magic, instead of normal divine or arcane magic.

    But then I realized I can go with the energy types—acid, cold, electricity, fire, force, negative, positive, sonic—and just combine negative and positive into one day. Obviously they'd be named something other than "Acidday"; I'm thinking the English translations would be something like "Vitriol, Frost, Lightning, Flame, Distortion, Life, Ringing". But I'll probably translate them into my Common for my actual calendar, the way the Elder Scrolls setting does.

Sierra Foxtrot 14

SF thoughts.
  • Had considered using the parallax microradian as the zled equivalent of a light-year, and then maybe the picoradian for in-system measures and then "ten yoctoradians" for a day-to-day one. But, I hadn't considered that the "parallax" in question is from Earth's orbit, so I'd need to calculate what a parallax radian is from Lhãsai's orbit, instead (from Earth's you just convert arcseconds to radians). Apparently I never wrote down the orbital distance I had decided for Lhãsai around mÕskoi, and while trying to re-calculate it online, I discovered that science had determined 18 Scorpii, which I'd been using as mÕskoi, to be too young, by at least half a billion if not a full billion years.

    Fortunately I found that λ Serpentis is a similar star not that far from 18 Scorpii, so they don't have to move that much. And it has a nice Bayer designation with a Greek letter—lama in the Greek radio alphabet, which, for extra cool, means "blade". Its Chinese designation, similarly, is (Tiānshìyòuyuán)Shǔzēngyī, the First Shǔ Addition (to the Celestial Market Enclosure). That'd be Shǔzēngyāo on the radio, and thus in space-colonies. It's definitely old enough, at 3.8 to 8.7 billion years; I can also still fit Lhãsai's old orbital period inside its habitable zone, which saves a huge headache in rewriting.
  • Self-driving cars won't be. They will be driven by an algorithm, by the existing traffic and road conditions, and to a large extent, by tech conglomerates like Google. It will be like if you could get into a carriage and tell your horse your destination, but had no reins—and your horse is controlled directly by the goddess Epona or Demeter in her guise as Great Mare. (You might be able to take the wheel, but I wouldn't count on that being the normal procedure.)
  • Still wanted to give the zledo some sort of 'natural' unit. Turns out the zled "parsec" is just the semimajor axis of Lhãsai's orbit in AU, times our parsec, which means their "parallax radian" is also that much bigger. The old "parallax microradian" was 0.67275 light-years, or 6,364,666,884,499.273 kilometers; the zled parallax microradian is 7,078,947,990,186.918 kilometers. The parallax picoradian would be 70,789,479.902 kilometers, and the parallax yoctoradian would be 7.079 millimeters, ten of which would make 7.079 centimeters.

    But having realized that the parsec (or any other unit based on a parallax angle) isn't exactly a natural unit, it occurred to me that 100 million Bohr radii is 5.291(772) millimeters. Obviously that's not a very useful unit on its own (half a centimeter), but multiply that by 12 (1.2 billion Bohr radii) and you get 6.350 centimeters, which is about half the old zled unit, the bãgh, which was 12.87. 100 of them is 6.350 meters, a good length for e.g. surveying. And then 10,000 ("one myriad") bãghã, 12 trillion Bohr radii, is 635.01 meters, roughly comparable to a kilometer. A million-bãghã, 1.2 quadrillion Bohr radii is 63,501.265 meters, comparable to the Byzantine "day's journey" of 47 kilometers. A hundred-million-bãgh/120 quadrillion Bohr radii is 6,350.127 kilometers, and then a "myriad million"-bãgh/12 quintillion Bohr radius one, 635,012.563 kilometers—the latter two useful for things like low planetary orbit and lunar orbit.

    For larger ones I'd go with a trillion-bãgh one, which is 1.2 sextillion Bohr radii and 63,501,265.296 kilometers, or 0.424 AU—not quite three-fifths of a zled AU. 100 trillion bãghã is 120 sextillion Bohr radii, 6,350,126,529.6 kilometers or a little over 42.448 AU—38.165 zled AU. "1 myriad trillion" bãghã, 12 septillion Bohr radii, is 635,012,652,960 kilometers, 4,244.797 AU (3,816.488 zled AU) or 0.067 light-years; finally a quintillion bãghã, 1.2 octillion Bohr radii, is 6,350,126,529,600 kilometers, 424,479.740 AU, or 6.712 light years, just a little over two parsecs.
  • Come to think of it, the zled mass unit, the dhaelã, is 2.22 kilos. But the Planck mass is 21.7645 micrograms; 100 million times that, is 2.17645 kilograms. So I guess I can "metricize" their mass unit, too. Maybe 120 million, so it divides by 12 more easily? That's still relatively close at 2.6117 kilos—also almost exactly 7 Troy pounds. Then 100 of those, 12 billion Planck mass, is 261.174 kilos.

    Deriving the equivalent of newtons, joules, and watts from all this was a bit of a headache, but the result was interesting. Even though the mass unit was bigger than the kilogram, the length and time units being much smaller than meters and seconds made the derived units a lot smaller. Their newton is not quite two-thirds, closer to seven-elevenths, of ours, and then their joule is like a twenty-fifth of ours. Their watt's something like three-fortieths ours.

    I'm just naming their derived units "thrust", heigõsu and "work", yadhõplai, and then I'm just calling their power unit "dothã of work".
  • I'll leave their time units, the dothã, the aech (120 dothã'o), and the zbeihõlt (120 aecho, alone; in their colonies they derive those from the rotation-period of the planet they're on. The "standard" dothã is 1/172,800th of a Lhãsai day, because they make it twelve zbeihõlto each of 120 aecho each of 120 dothã'o (and, again, their "stellar" aech is the same length as a "stellar" minute).

    Though 1043—10 tredecillion, or, if you're continental Western European, 10 septillion—Planck times is a similar length, at 0.539121 seconds. But just like how we define the second as exactly 1/86,400th of a Julian day (1/60th of the minute that's 1/60th of the hour that's 1/24th of the day), because it's useful to astronomers, zledo define the dothã relative to their "standard" day, and don't worry about anything else. (The zled day is about 166,000 of the "10 tredecillion Planck times" unit.)
  • Turns out there are contact-lenses you can wear for up to 30 days without taking them out, now, so you probably wouldn't need to do nano-bot eyedrops all that often while wearing the filter ones. That certainly saves on rewriting, though I am gonna add zled military and police occasionally being glad of their filter-contacts. (Presumably they're a form of photochromic lenses, since they don't stop you from seeing color—maybe they're like ballistic ear-plugs and kick in instantly when they're hit with sufficient intensity of light.) Also occurs to me that zled signalers, their computer techs, might wear similar ones, but for filtering out certain light-wavelengths from screens.

    Another bit of safety equipment that's widespread in my setting, is suppressors: decided all my firearms are integrally suppressed. The sonic boom from supersonic ammo still makes a gunshot noticeable (though I don't think it's loud enough to be a hearing-loss risk), but it no longer gives away your position as much. (A big deal, fighting zledo.) Even their revolvers are suppressed, by just sealing the cylinder gap in such a way as to allow the cylinder to still rotate freely—presumably they have to be lubricated regularly. I was worried they might not be able to suppress shotguns, but as it turns out, we actually have suppressed shotguns now. (You'd still want shooting earplugs for blast noise, though.)
  • Apparently the projected energy density of carbon nanotube springs is 3.4 gigajoules per cubic meter. But apparently boron nitride nanotubes are an order of magnitude stiffer than carbon ones. 34 gigajoules per cubic meter is slightly higher energy density than gasoline, which is 32.4 gigajoules. Um…do zledo actually need to power anything smaller than a spaceship or a city with anything other than springs? I think I might have 'em even power their powered armor with springs now. Certainly their semi-feudal, subsidiarity-preserving social order would likely prefer to power things like cars with BNNT springs rather than with beamed power, since BNNT springs preserve privacy so much better. (Though they don't have quite our concept of privacy—with their hearing it's not really a custom you'd acquire.)

    Anyway. At a laser efficiency of 85%, the hand laser's sixteen shots, which are now 3,143.825 Joules (80,000 yadhõplai'o) each, requires ((3,143.825×16)÷.85=)59,177.882 Joules. That, with BNNT spring energy density, has a volume of 1.74052 cubic centimeters, and, with a cross-section as big as the hand laser's lens, is 0.220 centimeters high. Meanwhile the long laser's 48 shots of 10,060.240 Joules (256,000 yadhõplai'o) each, comes to ((10,060.240×48)÷.85=)568,107.689 Joules, which comes to a spring volume of 16.70904 cubic centimeters; with a cross-section as big as the long laser's lens, that's 0.528 centimeters high. The hand laser's spring cartridge (the proper term is "barrel", but in the context of weapons that would be confusing) is much more casing than it is spring.
  • Had to change references to superconductors in my descriptions of zled armor, since "superconductor" normally means electricity, not heat. Heat superconductivity is a thing, though, it's called "second sound"—so named because the heat propagates through the material analogously to how sound propagates in air. It occurs in superfluids, like liquid helium, and certain kinds of crystals. Basically zled armor changes its structure instantly, or at least in microseconds, from one like composite metal foam (vs. kinetic attacks) to one like those crystals, presumably somehow without changing its volume. They use lasers because lasers can, from close enough, put enough energy into a small area fast enough that the structure can't cope with it—though a laser shot still takes several hundred microseconds, i.e. an appreciable fraction of a millisecond, so the laser has to be within a certain range, to concentrate the energy into a small enough dot. Lasers can go through CMF like it's not even there; a 1.5 kilojoule laser, in a 1 millimeter diameter dot, having to penetrate a 1-inch-thick CMF plate, is 75,229 megajoules per cubic meter…whereas CMF can stand up to 68.

    Actually leaning toward changing all the references to "adaptive" armor to just "metamaterial" armor. Say, a dielectric foam "quasicrystal" with Umklapp scattering low enough to enable second-sound heat transfer, that can also deal with kinetic attacks as well as composite metal foam? If it's a metamaterial its composition is less important than its structure—because if I knew what kind of dielectric foam had that kind of thermal conductivity and the armor properties of CMF foam, I'd be patenting it. (Also apparently no second sound heat conduction has ever been observed at anything hotter than 120 Kelvin, i.e. -153.15° Celsius or -243.67° Fahrenheit.) And then I think sandwich the foam between layers of boron nitride nanotube weave, the outer side having a coating of n-tert-butoxycarbonyl-protected diphenylalanine, to stop blades (BN also stops neutron radiation). Then after a fight you use a nano-assembler to check for damaged BN nanotubes and fix scratches in the BOC-protected Phe? I think a foam that manages to have both properties, with an outer layer that imparts two others, is somewhat more plausible than an armor that can shift between all three.


Kind of a High End Gift Shop III

Speculative material culture. Mostly military but a lot of it has civilian applications (and implications).
  • I was looking at the absorbency of EM radiation in water vapor, for zled lasers—since one of the main planets in my book is really rainy—and turns out, the optimum wavelength, with the lowest absorption, seems to be in the blue and green wavelengths (which is part, I believe, of why water looks blue-green). At least at "small arms" range, within 5 km or so. Nice thing with lasers is if you can see your enemy, you can basically shoot them, assuming your setup can focus a beam out to their range—they actually do work like Hollywood sniper rifles.

    Of course, using visual-wavelength lasers means eye-protection becomes important, though of course even human medicine let alone zled medicine can repair retinas. Prevention is still preferable to cure, though—and presumably needing your retinas regrown means you have to redo all your biometric logins. (Not an issue for zledo, who use the pores in their noses, of course.) I may have to add in mention of all their combat personnel (which includes their cops) putting in filter contacts every morning.

    Or maybe they leave them in and put in eyedrops every morning to protect their eyes? Ooh, nanobot eyedrops? That's it!
  • Redoing my handgun round. Now instead of 8.16 millimeter it's exactly 8 millimeters, and instead of the propellant going 18 millimeters up the side, it goes 13.96. I based the revamped version on the 8 millimeter Kurz round used in the Sturmgewehr 44, which can get a muzzle energy of 2,197.55 Joules from a 6.998 gram bullet, using 1.847 grams of propellant—which comes to 776.1 milligrams if you replace the nitrocellulose with denatured ONC.

    776.1 milligrams of ONC has a volume of 392.168 cubic millimeters; the "shoulder" diameter of 8 millimeter Kurz is 11.4 millimeters. A propellant "casing" of that diameter thus has a thickness of 1.7 millimeters around an 8 millimeter bullet, and goes 13.96 millimeters up the side; its designation thus becomes "8 × 14". A normal 8 mm Kurz bullet (pointier than most handgun rounds) is 24 millimeters long, which means the overall length of this thing is 25.7 millimeters, or just over an inch.
  • Since I think I did my handgun round different than I did my rifle rounds, let's double check. My rifle bullet is 7 millimeter by 31 millimeters. The propellant "casing" sticks out from it 1.6 millimeters, for a diameter of 10.2 millimeters—it was 1.85 millimeters and a diameter of 10.7 millimeters, but I'm using the "shoulder" diameter of the model cartridge (6.8 Remington SPC) now. Its 1.497 grams of denatured ONC propellant has a volume of 726.699 cubic millimeters. That, calculated the new way, goes 21.9 millimeters up the sides of the 31 millimeter bullet, resulting in an overall length of 32.6 millimeters; I guess we'll change these to "7 × 22" rifle rounds.

    The antimateriel round is 13 millimeters by 60 millimters and its 15.966 grams of ONC propellant has a volume of 7,750.68 cubic millimeters. Going with .50 BMG's "shoulder" diameter of 18.7 millimeters, we have a "casing" that sticks out 2.85 millimeters on each side and goes 54.4 millimeters up the side of bullet, resulting in a 62.85 millimeter-long round, which I guess would be called "13 × 54".
  • Apparently power of a cartridge rises with the fourth power of propellant mass. Which is interesting, because another thing that rises with the fourth power of something else, is the efficiency of a heat-radiator, which increases with the fourth power of temperature (but only linearly with area, so you really want to make your radiator as hot as possible—hence why I make mine out of magnetically-constrained plasma).
  • Some impressive people at MIT and the Lawrence Livermore National Lab are working on a metamaterial that's only as dense as aerogel, but thousands of times stronger. What this will eventually mean is you can replace a lot of the structural parts of a space vehicle or aircraft with something 17.56 times lighter than aerospace aluminum alloy (0.16 grams per cubic centimeter vs. 2.81).

    Now, you can't replace everything with this stuff. Armor, for example: density is at least partly non-negotiable, for that—especially for armor against energy weapons. But you can make all the other parts of a vehicle out of something that weighs only 5.7% as much, which means you might as well just have to pay for the fuel to move the armor and engines (and fuel/propellant tanks—aerogel is highly porous, so you can't really use it for that).

    Occurs to me that another application is the frames of tanks, including the walking kind. You might well be able to have an M1 Abrams-equivalent tank with the mass and therefore mileage of a Bradley (given the armor alone on the Abrams seems to be over 20 tons).
  • Let's crunch the numbers for a walking mecha. Atlas, the Boston Dynamics walking robot, masses 150 kilos and is 1.8 meters tall; scale it up to 10 meters and its mass becomes 25,720 kilos. Except that if you swap out the structural meta-aerogel for the alloy in its frame, which seems to be a titanium-aluminum one (like TC4, density of 4.43 grams per cubic centimeter), you drive the weight down to a paltry 928.94 kilos. Where before it took 634.43 kilowatts to power it, it now takes only 22.9. So basically the only major power-constraint on the mecha becomes the weight of its armor and weapons.

    Suppose we take the Advanced Bomb Suit used by US military EOD as the model of mecha armor, EOD suits being about the only full-body armor we make. That masses 27.2 kilograms when made (almost entirely) of Kevlar; a composite metal foam has one-third the density of typical tank armor, which is made of (among other things) steel alloy with a density of 7.8 grams per cubic centimeter, which yields a density for CMF armor of 2.6 g/cc. Kevlar's is 1.44, so an ABS made of CMF would mass 49 kilos; scaled up for a 10-meter mecha and you get 8,420.97 kilos. Moving that plus the 928.94 kilo frame—total mass 9,849.91 kilos—still only uses 242.97 kilowatts.

    If we give that the equivalent of two M261 rocket launchers, each holding the equivalent of 19 Hydra 70 rockets—each massing 470.38 kilos, so total mass 940.75 kilos—and a 1,282 kilo tank gun like the L7 used on western tanks, plus 40 rounds of the equivalent of M829 anti-armor shells, total weight 744 kilos, we still have a mass of only 12,816.66 kilos, requiring only 316.15 kilowatts of power.
  • Of course, the tank-guns I'm using for a model aren't electromagnetically accelerated, and the ones on this weapon-system would be. A railgun is apparently only capable of about 50% efficiency in converting power to muzzle energy; given the muzzle energy of an L7 gun is 20.9529 megajoules, and 10 of those shots per minute is a net power of 3,492,150 watts, i.e. 3,492.15 kilowatts. You can do that four times when the tank carries 40 shells, which comes to 13,968.6 kilowatts—a power requirement of 27,937.2 kilowatts given 50% power-plant efficiency. That increases the total power-requirement to 28,253.35, of which almost all is the guns.

    Suppose that we give it the same size of power-plant as on Atlas when it has a battery, which (given it can run off a 3.7 kilowatt-hour battery for 1 hour, and the average energy-density of lithium-ion batteries of 182.5 watts per kilo), presumably masses 20.27 kilos—which comes to 3,476.33 kilos on a 10 meter version, bringing the total mass up to 16,292.99 kilos, say 16,293 for simplicity, and an energy-requirement of 401.9 kilowatts (28,339.1 with the railgun). Going with the energy-density of optimized silicon-air batteries, 14.2286 kW·hr per kilo, 3,476.33 kilos yields 49,463.31 kilowatt-hours—21,526.11 not counting the railgun. That's enough to provide 53.56 hours of operation.
  • Hell, 16,293 kilos is far under the 27,400 kilo max takeoff weight of the V-22 Osprey: let's slap a pair of 440 kilo airplane engines (but not turboprops) on there, for a weight of 17,173 kilos and a powerplant requirement of 423.6 kilowatts. You'd also swap out the 2,026 kilos of tank gun and shells for 529.5 kilos of an M61 Vulcan equivalent plus feed system and ammo, but that only brings the total power requirement to move the thing by 37 kilowatts, to 386.6.

    Of course the Vulcan is also electromagnetic, with a muzzle energy of 54 kilojoules and a fire rate of 6,600 per minute, which comes to an energy of 5,940 kilowatts, 11,880 with 50% efficiency. Except it can't fire the full 6,600; it carries a fraction of as many (an F16 carries 511, for example). That brings the actual practical energy requirement down to 919.8 kilowatts, for a total to walk around and fight with the thing, of 1,306.4 kilowatts. That'll let this model walk around for 125.57 hours.

    But, this is the flying one—something along the lines of the OZ-07AMS mobile suit. And its engines would require (assuming an average improvement over internal-combustion engines of 3.5×, and the Osprey's engines having a power output of 4,596 kW) 1,310.29 kilowatts, each, and it has two, so 2,620.56 kilowatts; of course, it either flies or walks, never both. Flying and shooting requires 3,530.36 kilowatts, and the thing can fly around for 18.52 hours.


Mélange V

Random thoughts. Title seemed appropriate given I talk a little about Dune at the end.
  • Recall a few posts back, when I said it's dumb that anyone assumes humans are from a particularly hardcore planet, when it's entirely possible that aliens are from a Pleistocene or even Mesozoic biosphere (or a Snowball Earth glaciation)? One variation on the "humans would be really hardcore" idea, is called "Space Australia".

    Which is appropriate, because Australia? Nowhere near as dangerous as North America. Lazy pop culture stereotypes aren't always (or even often) based in statistical reality. Four people a year die from black-widow bites, in the US; nobody has died of a spider-bite in Australia since 1979. Now, there are 13.3 times as many people here as in Australia, so more chances for spiders to kill someone, but that still means they should be having one death every three years or so—not one in forty. And then there's how they have a handful of deadly snakes, two kinds of deadly croc, one barely deadly spider and maybe a scorpion or two, a couple sharks, and jellyfish.

    The US has almost as many deadly snakes, a couple kinds of deadly gator or croc, one very deadly spider and at least one deadly scorpion, a couple sharks…and then also wolves, wolverines, pumas, bobcats, lynxes, jaguars (though those haven't killed anyone here), three kinds of bear, a couple kinds of pinniped, at least four deadly species of deer (most deaths of any wild vertebrate), peccaries (one of the most aggressive animals on the planet), buffalo, and arguably some wild sheep or goats though those probably haven't actually killed anyone. (We also get the same jellyfish as Australia, the irukandji, but only in Hawaii, which is cheating.)
  • Was trying to come up with something to make my setting's dhampirs stand out, and thus researched the dentition of vampire bats. Turns out, Nosferatu wasn't insane, giving their vampire "buckteeth" fangs: vampire bats use sharp front incisors to open veins. Though they do also have sharp eyeteeth. But it's definitely something to keep in mind with vampires: give 'em six fangs, not two or four.
  • Apparently Anthem is a Destiny clone entirely by accident. This is mentioned in the now-notorious (because extremely important and true) Schreier article at Kotaku: it was harshly tabooed, at BioWare (by their own management, not EA), to compare Anthem to Destiny. Which presumably explains why they didn't, as I noted, move one inch out of their way to reduce the similarities: they were forbidden from discussing the fact there were similarities. (They were also apparently forbidden to compare how other looter-shooters handled things like classes or weapons, or what the MMO "industry" as a whole considered reasonable drop-rates for various types of loot.)

    It actually makes sense that the similarities are unintentional (though some of them are downright eerie, like the backstory involving Iron Lords in all but name, or the midpoint of the campaign featuring the protagonist making a deal with shady characters who have pretensions to royalty). While BioWare are hacks, who mistake middle-school creative-writing tawdriness and hamfisted identity-politics preaching for depth, they're not the kind of hack who would point-by-point copy a competitor's product. At the very least they would disguise the mimicry better. The similarities are so blatant they were almost certainly accidental.
  • Tangentially-relatedly, bunch of people are whining about the SJW-soapboxing on Twitter of developers involved in the fourth Dragon Age game. But if you put up with Inquisition, and fans of the Dragon Age franchise almost all did, you have forfeited the right to complain. They already splashed this slop into the trough once before, and you happily trotted over and gobbled it up. It's a bit late to pretend to have a discerning palate now.
  • I have also used the slop-trough imagery in reference to Star Wars, and how The Last Jedi had managed to alienate people who stuck with the franchise despite the prequel trilogy and the novels of Karen Traviss. Someone on Facebook responded to my use of that comparison by calling me a Star Wars fanboy, which is odd; does one often refer to one's own people with a pig metaphor?

    The fact is that Star Wars fanboys were almost impossible to piss off, until Rian "Taken King" Johnson decided to desecrate a hundred beloved characters from his director's chair, and observe the change in the chair, and how the universe shrank from him in terror. The Worm his god—to give postmodernism its true name—was pleased: "A film-franchise is a fine flesh, oh director ours. Let us feast of it."
  • I considered, inspired partly by the "hand cannons" in Destiny, having my SF setting's revolvers (mainly used only by cops as a backup weapon) use "annular" (ring-shaped) magazines to load their cylinders. Presumably they'd have a "chambering" mechanism, like on a more conventional firearm, where the round is lined up with the barrel in order to be fired.

    However, the idea of firing directly from the magazine actually seems sort of dangerous; I think instead I'll keep it as I'd had it, with there being something that holds the caseless rounds in the revolver-cylinder's chambers—maybe a moon-clip. (I incline to use break-top revolvers; there was at least one chambered in .357 magnum, so it's definitely possible.)

    You know come to think of it, it's sort of unclear how exactly hand cannons work.
  • It's only recently that I got the hang of the romance mechanic in Kingmaker (though I already got the, ahem, Harrim ending). Gotta say, not terribly impressed. I've romanced, in various playthroughs, Octavia, Valerie, and "Kaessi". Octavia is passive-aggressive in the extreme, while Val is more straightforward but still pretty messed up. If you say you want a more serious relationship (which seemed in character for my paladin), she gets mad at you and either ends her "route" or at least stalls it—fortunately you can reload the scene. That's some deeply questionable shit, though.

    And you have to sleep with the lawful evil tiefer twin, Kanera, to get the "flag" for the chaotic good one, Kalikke—whose first flag triggers when her sister changes places with her while sleeping next to you, which is pretty screwed up if you think about it. Maybe things are better if you go gay male (for Regongar) or straight female (Regongar or Tristian)? I mean Reg is at least almost certainly not passive-aggressive; and Tristian is a cinnamon roll. Maybe hold out for Nyrissa's route, but apparently her flags only trigger if you don't go too far down anyone else's route.

    Also it feels like an ulterior motive for a paladin of Sarenrae (my preferred PC) to save someone for any reason other than emulating the mercy of the Dawnflower.
  • So apparently people think the Game of Thrones theme is "epic". Uh…how? It sounds like they left a synthesizer on demo-mode, set to "vaguely medieval". Like, if you had a character humming or whistling it, in something else, nobody would say anything like "oh they're whistling that because there's cutthroat dynastic politcs afoot". They would say "that character is whistling some generic formless tune".
  • Speaking of smutty subscription-TV soap operas, The Handmaid's Tale is, as I've said somewhere if not here, The Turner Diaries for people who read The New Yorker. But it's also a ripoff of Dune—it basically copies the framing device wholesale, and the "Handmaids" are (a boring version of) the Bene Gesserit, but victims of Evil Patriarchy™ rather than agents of their own multigenerational Foundation-esque conspiracy.

    Now I don't know if Atwood actually ripped off Dune, but I think it's reasonable to think she did. Admittedly Dune is probably very challenging (in every sense of the word) for a litfic hack, but it's also one of the very few works of science fiction a litfic hack might be expected to have read. (And desperately deny that it is science fiction, despite the telekinetic FTL drives, energy shields, nuclear-power aristocracy, and genetic-engineering cults.)