Lives, Fortunes, Sacred Honor 2

Thoughts on alien biology, speculative material culture, and military science fiction.
  • I might've overestimated the viability of nano-bots as any weapon other than an artificial plague. The things probably can't eat through metal any faster than bacteria, since they're the same size and have to use comparable methods. And bacteria seem to corrode metals at a rate of about 0.8 millimeters per year.

    Maybe couple the nano-bots with micro-bots, spread them as basically robotic Dengue fever? Robots with components at micrometer scale, a few millimeters long (i.e., the size of gnats) would make an effective delivery system, and could target particular people, in a society where everybody's wired in so they can be charged for using your wireless electricity.
  • Turns out I was wrong about why hollow-points are less lethal than ball-rounds. It's not because hollow-points don't leave exit wounds for you to bleed to death out of. There is, apparently, more bleeding from a hollow-point than from a ball round, even with the exit wound from the latter.

    It's just that hollow-points' superior stopping power (whatever the hell that is) means it takes far fewer shots to incapacitate an opponent, so you go down after having to have fewer holes put in you. More bleeding from two wounds is a lot less likely to kill you than less bleeding from six.
  • I don't know if I mentioned it here—searching the blog doesn't seem to think so—but the khângây had had their forearms actually be their metacarpals, and their arms had the same direction of joint as their legs, backwards from us. But I realized that having a forearm made of metacarpals would be very hard to rotate. So now khângây arms, and presumably legs too, are set up like zled legs, with two of the wrist/ankle bones made into a third joint, crossing over so they can rotate (in the case of zled ankles and khângây wrists, but not khângây ankles, since as cursorial predators they probably want more rigid leg-structures). The ankle bones in question are the talus and calcaneus, on Earth at least, so I guess the wrist ones would be the scaphoid and the lunate, or the equivalent.
  • I would dearly love to know what they were smoking when they made d20 Modern/Future. Specifically, the ranges they list for the weapons. E.g., a Barrett M82 "Light Fifty" is listed as having a range-increment of 120 feet, meaning its maximum range is 1200 feet. But the actual (effective) range of the M82 is 5,907 feet, meaning its range increment ought to be 591 feet—118 squares.

    Perhaps they should do like first and second edition D&D did, and have combats that only take place via ranged weapons use yards instead of feet (each square equals five yards). That brings the range-increment down to 39 squares. Or they could have those combats use the d20 Modern "chase" scale, where one square equals fifty feet. That brings the maximum range down from 1,181 squares to a much more manageable 118 squares (which, remember, was the range increment, the old way).

    (While we're at it, the top speed of a Learjet is 4,730 feet per standard round, not 1,100. More importantly, its stall speed is 977 feet—say 980—per round.)
  • I do believe I've pointed out that the alien-sex options in games like Mass Effect, while pace Kevin McCullough they don't actually involve actual porn, do involve "you only put that in for prurient reasons", which is the quintessence of porn. The asari are, I'm sorry, a personal insult to the audience (as well as laughable hypocrisy, from that studio).

    Maybe people should pull their heads out of their ideological sphincters and realize that their sexual ideas don't even hold for most of their own species. What are the odds they'll hold for someone who doesn't have a bonobo for his closest relative? What if they're more like black vultures, with a strict pair-bond and violent repercussions for any straying?
  • I do not know if you object to this in the way that I do (I kid, we both know you don't), but the ruins in Elder Scrolls games always annoy me. They're all supposed to be from the Mythic Era, the time of the Dragon War, or at least the First Era, the time of Ysgramor and the Ayleid Empire and the fall of the Dwemer. But real ruins that are five thousand years old get themselves mistaken for hills; you can't move around in them. I suppose it's justifiable in the games because there are draugr and Dwemer constructs moving around; maybe when they're not trying to kill adventurers they keep the place maintained (it'd be awesome to show that in a game, game-designers). I can't really see it with the Ayleid ruins, though, since the only things in those ruins are mindless zombies and skeletons, and imps.

    I suppose in a way the same goes for the ruins on Installation 05, in Halo 2, or the Sangheili ruins in Halo 5. But in the former case there's the Sentinels and other Forerunner AIs maintaining the place (plus Forerunners have at least a limited matter-creation capability), and in the latter, the Sangheili might maintain the site. And we don't know when the Sangheili ruins became ruins; Vale only mentions when they were built.

    But I came up with a solution for something in a book where I needed a ruin: the ancient site is actually within a natural cave, a sacred site beneath a city of a vanished civilization on an alien world (not of a vanished "alien civilization" in the sci-fi sense, though—aliens' equivalent of the Sumerians or Indus Valley, basically). I also had to research how you get water in a place like Machu Picchu—the sacred site is a sacred spring, though Machu Picchu's springs are, I think, glacier-runoff while the one in my book is volcanic. I add that, in fact, mineral water and hot-springs are major regional products, down to the "present" day (like how some of those Central European baths probably long predate the Romans—if not the Indo-Europeans).
  • Found out, birds don't have scales. I mean, they do, but they're not actually analogous to mammal scales or those of other diapsids. They're actually modified feather-buds. What apparently happened is they turned their scales into feathers, and then turned some of their feathers back into scales. That's less unusual than it sounds; the hoofed mammals, turtles, and...some kind of reptile...lost their fins, and then the whales, sea turtles, and ichthyosaurs re-evolved them.
  • Decided on how zledo recharge their lasers' CNT springs. They just have an external power-source work the electric motor in reverse, winding the spring.

    They also use springs to power their handhelds; given the energy densities of CNT springs (3400 kilojoules per liter and 300 kilojoules per kilogram), and the 19.62 kilojoule power-requirements of an iPhone (to do the most power-intensive things like the "personal hotspot" function), which the iPhone can do for eight hours on one charge, powering a zled handheld with a similar power-requirement over one standard Lhãsai day would require 60.94 kilojoules. That's a spring with a volume of 17.92 milliliters, massing 203.13 grams; if it's a tenth of a bãgh wide, the spring, wound into a cylinder, would be 42.11 millimeters in diameter.

    For most of the rest of their electronics, zledo just power them wirelessly via topo-comms, either from a home-generator or "grid" power. (They power their handhelds and lasers internally for the sake of reliability, and stealth in that latter case.) My humans also power their consumer electronics (other than military hardware) wirelessly, using ultrasonic power-beaming inside houses but powering the houses themselves pretty much the same way we do (except they have the option of fusion-generation).