All Is Grist 3

Random thoughts.
  • Apparently I haven't mentioned it here, but the Indo-European genders were, originally, "animate" (modern masculine) and "inanimate" (modern neuter). "Feminine" was a set of inflections within the animate/masculine that pertained, originally, to collectives or members of collectives—which is reflected in the fact that most herd-/flock-animals, to this day, are feminine by default (cow, goose→bull, gander) while other animals are thought of as masculine (dog, tiger→bitch, tigress).

    Relatedly but distinctly, whenever people try their Sapir-Whorf idiocy RE: gendered pronouns saying something about a society's treatment of women, I always say, "Find me one difference between Arab and Turkish, or Polish and Hungarian, treatment of women." The first half of each pair has grammatical gender; the second half of each pair doesn't and never did. (Well, Hungarian does distinguish persons from objects, but that's a different grammatical gender-system from the masculine-feminine one that's alleged to be "problematic".)
  • That Transcendentalist legend about "rugged individualism" on the "frontier" always has a negative impact on worldbuilding. A while back I was reading a fictionalized speculation about Mars colonization that portrayed theft of spaceship components as a major component of Martian laissez-faire attitudes, barely even disapproved enough to technically count as a black market.

    But that is not how frontier people behave. On a frontier, transportation can mean the difference between life and death, because being stranded between settlements could get you killed. We tended to take a very dim view of people who screwed with transportation. Dim as in "We lynch you on the barest suspicion of horse-thieving, sometimes even of unwittingly buying a stolen horse".

    And that's on Earth, where the harshest frontier conditions still involved breathable air and living things humans can eat. On Mars? We'd lynch you for not wiping your feet.
  • Saw Snow White and the Huntsman for the first time. This and Frozen lead me to think there might be some sort of thing going on—because that's two movies the last few years where the "true love" is a type of love other than what it has meant since the first "courts of love" in the 1100s. Is this a part of the same bizarre erotophobia that also makes people freak out when you mention that marriage is primarily a sexual relationship? Or just some kind of misguided reaction against the "Prince Charming" narrative as popularized by Disney?
  • Discussion of women in combat (and recent decisions concerning same) brought something interesting to my attention: losing a large number of young women is simply not comparable to losing a lot of young men. Most species are set up to be able to soak the loss of a lot of young males, since testosterone leads to risk-taking; if a bunch of young men die in a war, the young women just seek slightly older husbands. It doesn't work in reverse, though, because there is a time-limit on female reproduction, one that's not present in males.

    I think, given demographic issues are a part of my future history, that the Peacekeepers aren't quite fool enough to field large numbers of young women in ordinary combat infantry. They let them into Special Purpose Units (including Hammershield), since you could lose all of SOCOM and not notice it (demographically speaking I mean, wouldn't be great for the military); also our current SOCOM is arguably over-staffed relative to what "special forces" is supposed to mean. But they don't let women into the combat infantry.

    Even so they probably don't have quite our 14.5% female military; probably more like the 1980s Soviet Army's 11%.
  • Think I won't have the zledo using Casaba howitzer/nuclear shaped-charge warheads. Instead, going with a 3D topological defect, like their defect-gun (except that's one-dimensional, a cosmic string): a "cosmic texture", the 3D equivalent of a cosmic string. Now, textures (if they exist) are not as localized as cosmic strings, so I think I'll call it a "pseudo-texture" weapon, much more localized but, I think, even less stable (you don't want something like that sticking around).
  • Apparently it's not entirely true that predators don't roar when they attack. It's true they don't do it when they attack something they're hunting, but if you're hunting them, they roar when they charge. Essentially the way it works is the charge and roar are designed to say, to another predator, "I am too dangerous to be worth your time!"

    (Incidentally, when you hunt a leopard with dogs, apparently the leopard will often completely ignore the dogs. They are apparently smart enough to know you're their real problem, and go straight for you. Don't mess with cats, basically. They're as smart as they are vindictive.)
  • Sometimes in space opera, and indeed in people who think they're not writing space opera, you get the idea that we'd actually be able to pose a threat to energy beings. It's quaint, like claiming your little tribe's warriors could totally whup a hurricane in a fight. (I don't actually know of any tribes that were ever that stupid, by the way.)

    Let's say that creating a character-actor's body in order to interact with the crew of the Enterprise is only as hard for an energy being as "not dying" is for us. The average basal metabolic rate for a human is 1493 kilocalories over a 24-hour period, which is to say 0.0723 watts. Meanwhile, creating and maintaining the 62-kilo average human body (for a being that has total matter-energy conversion capability)? 5.58×1018 watts. If an energy being is as much "bigger" than the energy to maintain a human body, as the human body is bigger than the energy to keep it alive, then the energy being is 4.31×1038 watts (or joules per second). That's over two million times the energy required to split the Earth in half, every second. Have you got two million Death Stars to shoot the energy being with, all in one second? If not, don't waste your breath. (You'd need to hit it with energy in excess of its total because unlike organisms they're not differentiated, and have no vital organs or tissues—they're a formless energy aggregate.)

    This also has implications for the arrogance involved in the higher levels of the Kardashev scale, which are sometimes compared to "gods" (even I've done it). But one of these energy beings is equal to the entire energy-output of a trillion Kardashev II civilizations, and even of ten Kardashev III ones. Does "each of them packs the throw-weight of about ten entire civilizations, each of which you can barely conceive of" sound like someone you want to mess with?