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.)