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message 1: by Anna (new)

Anna Erishkigal (annaerishkigal) physics

Greetings Space Opera Fans!

What resources would it take to subdue a colonist uprising on Mars? Which is more efficient in space, a bullet or a nuclear explosion? Is there a difference between the kind of spacecraft that could do battle in deep space versus planetary orbit? How would these ships maneuver and what would they look like?

I found this super-cool article, written by a physicist, that picks it all apart.

What do y'all think? Discuss? Can you think of books that utilized, or failed to utilize, these basic principals of physics?

HERE: http://gizmodo.com/5426453/the-physic...

Be epic!

Anna Erishkigal
SOF Borg Queen


message 2: by Trike (new)

Trike | 583 comments In Protector Niven had some nice physics-based space battles. It was essentially a dogged pursuit across solar systems over many weeks or months with the occasional missile or bullet flung at the opponent. I recall at one point they're doing a gravity sling around a neutron star or something and Brennan fires a rifle at a specific angle so the slugs will impact the star just as their pursuers pass by, causing a lethal radiation flare.

That was the first time I'd seen something like that. Pretty cool. But it's a space battle that's more like a chess match played via sailing ships traveling between international stops.

Planets are soft targets. All it takes is one crazy person with one rocket dropping one rock on a planet and it's a world-ending event. The ultimate suicide bomb.

New technologies developed just in the past few years have rendered some of that article obsolete.

New blacker-than-black wavelength-absorbing materials that you can barely see when you're holding them in your hand would make ships and missiles nearly impossible to detect, even through thermal scanners in the case of missiles launched via railgun. No friction means no heat.

There have also been new propulsion systems proposed, including wap engines and photonic drives that would substantially decrease travel time. Hook those up to robot drones and you have Bolos or killer Von Neumann machines. Fire 'em and forget 'em. By the time you hear the news, the war is over.


message 3: by Anna (new)

Anna Erishkigal (annaerishkigal) Trike wrote: "Hook those up to robot drones and you have Bolos or killer Von Neumann machines. Fire 'em and forget 'em. By the time you hear the news, the war is over..."

Cool :-) I lack the physics / scientific background to sift through the 'real' theories from the 'fringe' ones. I just like a good space story, but I like it even more when people compare different stories I liked and I find out some of it might be plausible :-)


message 4: by Timothy (new)

Timothy Ellis This article is turning up all over the place. Physics has its place for novels written in the here and now, limited to what we know already. Only there.

But, it has no place in Space Opera set in the future. One day, what we understand as AstroPhysics will be taught in primary school, and what we understand now will either be proven to be false, incomplete or just plain funny.

As far as Space Battles in the future are concerned, the one thing that wont apply to them is our Physics, and as a gamer from way back, I'm tired of people poking holes in space battles because the physics doesn't conform to what we know.

Space Opera is the projection into the future of the mind of the writer, and as long as they can describe what happens in a way the reader (or player) accepts, then anything goes.

And for the record, I never liked the games which had physics applied to them. They were the ones which were not "plausible" and never seemed real.


message 5: by M Alan (new)

M Alan Kazlev (akazlev) A fantastic website on rocket science and space science fiction (including the physics of space combat) is Atomic Rockets. Similar to but far more comprehensively researched than the above article, with a wealth of detail. See e.g. http://www.projectrho.com/public_html...


message 6: by R. (new)

R. Billing (r_billing) | 196 comments I write this sort of thing, so I have an interest in getting it right. The first thing to remember (George Lucas PLEASE take note) is that you simply can't do tight fighter turns in vacuum. Changing direction in an aeroplane means reacting against the atmosphere, standing the thing up on one wingtip and pulling back hard while fighting the gee. I've blacked out at +5 doing aerobatics so I know what it's like.

Changing direction in a spaceship means throwing reaction mass which you have brought with you overboard. This is limited, so repeated direction and speed changes are out unless you introduce a reactionless drive.

In this scene Ian Sinclair is using the FTL drive to cheat the laws of motion:

The ion drive twitched nervously, trying to respond to the erratic commands Clifford was issuing. Then he regained control and turned to attack Sinclair again.
This time Sinclair brought his ship out of orthospace almost dead ahead. The Ninevite was already turning onto what would have been a collision course. The drive gave a lurch as Clifford deflected his controls to the stops to reverse the turn.
The Ninevite slewed soggily, the ion drive executing a series of jerks.
"Now!" said Heloise over starline. "He's overcontrolled and lost his hydraulics. Spence, tell the Prince Consort to close up."
With terrible majesty the big ship slid into the battle, reaction motors flaring blue as she matched velocities.
And Ian Sinclair, moving deliberately as if he had all the time in the world, thumbed the safety catch on his sidestick and fired five times, shearing the cables that connected the ion drive to the Ninevite.
For a few seconds the ion drive continued to run, shooting away from the Ninevite like an enraged nuclear bumble bee. Then its onboard computer noticed that it had left something crucial behind, pushed in the control rods, and it became an inert point of light, dwindling into the distance.


However you can point the ship, and hence its weapon systems, in any direction you like, even opposite to the direction of travel. Also there is no depression and no windage so weapons can remain accurate at very great ranges, although a missile will go into a Keplerian orbit of its own once you fire it, so targeting can involve some tricky calculations.

The sort of spaceships I write about http://arcturian-spacefleet.com/the-l... are capable of re-entering atmosphere and flying as aeroplanes. All right, I've had to make some compromises, and on a bad day the handling characteristics scare me. Once in atmosphere the normal rules of combat in the air apply. Incidentally to get the eighty-footer to work at all needs an unreasonable amount of engine power, so I went for fusion and fitted it with a reactor big enough to power a town the size of Farnham.

My ships carry weapon pods, but they are normally only useful in a ground attack role, in space they are unlikely to hit anything. Of course in ideal conditions...

It took about twenty minutes to get back to the station. Jane lined it up in her sights.
"Ms. Birch, you may fire as convenient," she said.
Daff flipped up the red cover on her sidestick as if she'd been doing it all her life, put her thumb on the trigger-
"Er, Daff..." began Tom, but it was too late. Her thumb pushed the contact. Two barely-visible beams lanced out from under our wings and rammed into the station. The docking module began to change colour, to glow, and finally exploded silently in a perfectly spherical cloud of debris.


Note how sound doesn't propagate, and in zero gravity the bits go straight outwards.

I've got lots more on this subject, but this posting is already far too long.


message 7: by Timothy (last edited Mar 06, 2016 03:02AM) (new)

Timothy Ellis I write this sort of thing, so I do what works for what I want to write. :)

Movement in space is about the kind of power plant you have, the shielding you have, the maneuvering jets, how many there are and how they work; and especially the technology behind how they are all tied together.

I write for the 27th century, and Fusion power is an antique. Reaction mass is obsolete. Shields do more than the work of just protecting the ship. I decided what I wanted ships to be able to do, and created the tech to do it.

When you write, you create, and what you create is limited by your own imagination and how much of conventional physics you allow to limit you.

As a reader, we should not be comparing how things work between different authors. They have nothing at all to do with each other, even if the same terminology is used.


message 8: by Trike (new)

Trike | 583 comments Timothy wrote: "As a reader, we should not be comparing how things work between different authors. They have nothing at all to do with each other, even if the same terminology is used."

At that point, though, you are no longer writing Science Fiction but rather Fantasy.

If you want to make a case for your invented tech then you have to incorporate known science. We know how things work, so you have to account for that.

I don't mean this to proscribe storytelling, but there's a world of difference between writing about The Landmaster (Damnation Alley) and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. By all means, write CCBB if that's what you're into, but don't pretend it has anything to do with actual physics.


message 9: by Timothy (new)

Timothy Ellis By that analogy, Physics is CCBB.

And no, I dont mix what I write with Physics.

I will on a book in the future, but only because its set not too far into the future, when physics will dictate the current tech. (For a while)


message 10: by Rion (new)

Rion  (orion1) | 108 comments At our current level of technology and physical understandings of the universe, space itself is a formidable enough adversary. Any fighting in space most likely would be sucidal for all parties involved unless it could be done from a long distance. In a dog fighting situation, lets say you manage to destroy your enemies ship. Now you have to survive the debris field you just created, of which you do not have the energy to out run or the shielding to withstand. Armor? Now there's the issue with mass again and a ship with very limited maneuverability or speed. A sitting duck basically for a lighter faster ship with armor piercing rounds. Once again who'd upon destroying it's target find itself in hell of a predicament surviving the giant flack bomb it just created. So yes, for now let's keep riding on dragons backs to Mars to visit it's little green men and enjoy vacationing on the pleasure planet Venus where one can be dominated by its Amazonian goddesses. We currently have enough problems on earth to survive. The biggest being our innate need to dominate one other for sake of our own egos.


message 11: by Niels (last edited Mar 06, 2016 06:56AM) (new)

Niels Bugge | 141 comments It could be quite interesting to hear a military historian's take on the development of space battle.

Because I think that there will be some very specific archetypical elements which will crop up from time to time, depending on a range of parameters such as

- Stealth vs sensors+manuverability
- Communication
- Power source capabilities and speed
- Weapon range, accuracy, speed and strength
- Length of engagements and stamina (self-repair/armor/shield based)
- AI versus need for human involvement (eliminating the ability to identify oneself with a crew)
- Tactical situation (which assets are you forced to protect, can the enemy drop out of hyperspace anywhere, anytime)
- Strategic time (how long has the opponents know each other's doctrine and do they have time to even the technological playing field through trade or theft?)
- etc.*

So depending on how you balance the parameters in your fictional universe, you may end up with everything from constant draws/tall-ship slugfests, submarine warfare, WW1 battleship slugfests, WW2 Carrier-based warfare, mutual nuclear desctruction, railgun sniping, ramming ships, drone battles, to instant anihilation if one of the parties have an order of magnitude better technology.

* I think that it would be nice to have a complete list of which parameters people find relevant, beacuse you really have to balance them and game them out in order to reach a balance that is actually interesting to read about.


message 12: by Martin (new)

Martin Wilsey | 27 comments The physics only becomes important when you get it totally wrong.

An example is: If you have space ships that can fly at near light speed, relativistic-time-dialiation speeds. You also have planet killing weapons. Even a ship the size on a mini-van, traveling at .99C would destroy the Earth completely.


message 13: by Trike (new)

Trike | 583 comments Timothy wrote: "By that analogy, Physics is CCBB.

And no, I dont mix what I write with Physics.

I will on a book in the future, but only because its set not too far into the future, when physics will dictate t..."


You're going to need to explain that if you want to completely flip my statement to its opposite meaning.

Einsteinian physics did not invalidate Newtonian physics, it added to it. Quantum mechanics did not supplant relativity, it added to it.

So if you're going to postulate some future form of physics like hyperdrives or teleportation, you need to take into account the stuff we know is true. Otherwise you're no longer writing Science Fiction and instead are writing Fantasy.

The Landmaster was beyond our capability to build when Zelazny wrote Damnation Alley, but it was a clear extrapolation of technology. Today we could almost certainly build it, or at least come closer than they could 50 years ago. But Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? We can never build that, no matter how advanced our technology becomes, because it's physically impossible.

What explanation can you come up with for an ordinary car to spontaneously develop sentience and be capable of transforming into an airplane or hovercraft as needs be? Sure, you can invoke nanotechnology or whatever, but you'd be ignoring the words "ordinary car" and "spontaneously develop." The car develops magical abilities despite not having any extraordinary tech in it. Fleming doesn't even handwave it away by saying it's experimental metal or has bits from a UFO. It's just magic.


message 14: by R. (new)

R. Billing (r_billing) | 196 comments Trike wrote: "So if you're going to postulate some future form of physics like hyperdrives or teleportation, you need to take into account the stuff we know is true. Otherwise you're no longer writing Science Fiction and instead are writing Fantasy."

I know it's not what everyone else does, but that's my take exactly. I've postulated that there is exactly one new discovery, and all my future tech works on that.

What I'm suggesting is that in the same way relativity modified Newtonian mechanics, and QM modified relativity, there is still the "Orthodynamic" or "Adjacency Exchange" effect to come. Relativity tells us that NM still works, but space and time are a bit flexible. QM modifies this further by telling us that waves and particles are interchangeable, and that some things are probabilistic rather than relativistic. I suggest that the next big one it that what is adjacent to what is mutable as well. So by applying he discovery to real engineering we have the Orthodynamic Drive that puts FTL speeds next to sublight ones, the teleportal that puts two doors thousands of miles apart next to each other, the fusion reactor that appears to have an infinitely large core, because space loops around on itself and the gas separator that pulls all the stuff the ships need from atmosphere, and that's it.

These things all have their modes of operation, controls that the reader can learn about and ways of failing. Now I have to know all of this to write consistently.

NONE of this ever finds its way into the stories. Jane pushes the big blue switch and the ship goes FTL, or if it doesn't there is s "starcrash" failure:

‘Good. Second point, there's no way I can give you an autopilot. This thing will have to be flown by hand all the time. And it's not going to be easy to control. I'm going to make a little panel with a couple of joysticks on it that will work the drive vectors directly. Don't touch it, or you'll trigger a starcrash.’
‘What's that?’
‘Drive implosion. I've been in a ship that starcrashed once before, and it's not pleasant. The drive gets in a bad temper, and instead of pushing the ship along, it pulls everything inwards. If you're lucky you end up with the drive components reduced to a little shiny metallic ball.’
‘And if you're unlucky?’
‘It takes a chunk of the hull with it. And if you're standing near it a few of your internal organs get pulled in as well. It's messy.’


What I am trying to do is put in just what matters to the characters, and by implication to the reader, no more. I've got engineering drawings and wiring diagrams of the ships. I need them, some of my readers like to see them, but they aren't in the books.

I do allow engineering to advance apart from the new discoveries. I assume some unreasonably strong materials for the spaceship hulls, including the windows... Let Jane explain:

Jane went head-first through the airlock, tore off her coat and leaped like a deer into the command seat, turning on the master switches as she landed. A second bullet smacked into the flight deck window, leaving a long metallic smear. She tapped impatiently on the desk while the panels filled up with controls and displays, then lit the fusion reactor. ‘Come on, warm up,’ she breathed, ‘before he works out which bit of the ship to aim at. Dear God, don't let me take a bullet in a turbine intake.’ The reactor status was still flashing STARTING in yellow.

But that's just engineering.

The real point is that whatever tech you use, and it is a matter of taste, you need what is happening to matter to the reader. That means showing that it matters to the characters.


message 15: by Tobias (new)

Tobias Langhoff (tobiasvl) | 66 comments Although the authors have admitted it's not hard sci fi, Leviathan Wakes has pretty convincing space battles with high g forces and diverting power from the ship to use the railgun and point defence cannons etc. Later books also contain something else that was mentioned earlier in the thread, but I won't divulge what to avoid spoilers.

House of Suns contains a pretty famous chase/battle scene at relativistic speeds.

And Seveneves doesn't exactly have a lot of space battles scenes with pew pew, but its portrayal of orbital mechanics turn make its space-born "battles" fairly accurate anyway.


message 16: by Anna (last edited Mar 06, 2016 12:00PM) (new)

Anna Erishkigal (annaerishkigal) pewpewpew

I always imagine space battles to be like the submarine battles depicted in The Hunt for Red October. Of course, I lack the scientific background y'all have, so I wouldn't presume to weigh in on what is 'right' or 'wrong.' I really do just enjoy a great story with complex characters and lots of pew-pew-pew. 3:-)


message 17: by Timothy (new)

Timothy Ellis Confusion happens when you dont define your terms properly.

CCBB for me is an old car. I'm totally ignoring what it turned into, because that was fantasy, not sci-fi. There was no tech in CCBB, just wishes.

Physics for me is that old car. Going beyond it becomes fantasy if there is no explanation for the tech, but if there is, its sci-fi.

So space drives: Going fast and avoiding relativity BECAUSE...... is sci-fi. Going fast, is fantasy.

Hence Star Wars is more fantasy than sci-fi because nothing gets explained. Trek on the other hand is sci-fi, because the sub-space field is something created by tech, which ignores physics BECAUSE......

Its the because in all of this that we as writers come up with to justify how we want movement in space to work.


message 18: by Anna (new)

Anna Erishkigal (annaerishkigal) In sci-fi your characters follow a plot bunny to the logical end, even if the end-result is terrible (because let's face it, sometimes you screw up and the ship blows up in your face).

In fantasy, when your plot bunny leads you to a dead end, you get magic :-)

I like space opera because it focuses more on the people (as too much technodumping can make it read like a college textbook, not a story). But even if it's total bull$#!t, I like the setting to at least LOOK like technology once in a while, even if it turns out that theory is totally implausible. Kinda like Iron Man soldering the robotics in his iron man boot. Total B.S., but ooh! That technology! The robotics! Those muscular arms!


message 19: by Trike (new)

Trike | 583 comments Timothy wrote: "Confusion happens when you dont define your terms properly.

CCBB for me is an old car. I'm totally ignoring what it turned into, because that was fantasy, not sci-fi. There was no tech in CCBB, ju..."


I took out the stuff I wrote about Star Wars and Star Trek because it got too long.

People like to claim Trek is sci-fi when it's nothing of the sort. It's just as much fantasy as Star Wars. More, if you go down the list of natural laws it violates. Just because they spout some nonsense about "reversing the polarity" and "dilithium crystals" and whatnot doesn't make it more plausible.

I also don't know why anyone would claim there are no explanations for how things work in Star Wars, either. There's plenty of gadget talk. Droids have bad motivators, Han needs the hydrospanner to fix the hyperdrive's motivator when he discovers it's not the alluvial dampeners... yes, it's all nonsense, but so is the technobabble in Star Trek.

The physics in Trek are every bit as imaginary as those in Wars. Sound in space, unrealistic maneuvers, made-up FTL that works without explanation. It's all Fantasy.

Just saying, "The fringajammer's polarity is cross-wired to the abracadandroid's AI to boost the shields" doesn't make it any better. The Enterprise is no different from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: things work the way they do because the plot demands it.


message 20: by Timothy (new)

Timothy Ellis But that IS sci-fi. Adding fiction to science to make a story.

Just because it isn't plausible to you personally doesn't negate the genre.

The debate over if Wars is fantasy or sci-fi will rage until someone goes there and is able to verify it.

Trek on the other hand is mostly referred to as sci-fi. Trying to argue otherwise will attract a lot of attention, preferably somewhere else.

The difference is - the mechanics of establishing a warp bubble are explained (even if it is technobabble), while no-one knows how a hyperspace motivator works because it never has been explained.

Technobabble in and of itself is the explanation of future tech, as it comes out of the writer's mind.

Enterprise works according to long winded explanations of the technology. CCBB sprouted wings and flew. Enterprise is sci-fi, CCBB is fantasy.

In any case, this is all getting off topic. If you want to argue what the definition of sci-fi vs fantasy is, it should really be in its own thread.


message 21: by Anna (last edited Mar 06, 2016 09:56PM) (new)

Anna Erishkigal (annaerishkigal) I'm into a story right now where a stone age character is suddenly thrown onto a galaxy-travelling ship. It's lots of fun accurately describing 'spinning borer thingys' and 'gigantic aurochs pulling the cart' and 'big lightning sticks' from a stone age person's perception and vocabulary 3:-)


message 22: by Timothy (new)

Timothy Ellis That's a good point Anna. Perception and awareness define a lot of things in a story. In this case, current physics is 'magic' to the MC you're reading, while the ship itself would leave physics behind.

Instead of 2 levels, the book has 3. What the MC understands, what the reader understands and will accept, and what the actual tech in the story is.


message 23: by L.E. (new)

L.E. Doggett (ldwriter2) | 60 comments Timothy wrote: "But that IS sci-fi. Adding fiction to science to make a story.

Just because it isn't plausible to you personally doesn't negate the genre.

The debate over if Wars is fantasy or sci-fi will rage u..."


Somewhat following this debate I agree with Timothy here.

I would add one thing though which may have been stated.

Our knowledge of the universe and even the laws of science changes over time. What is to say it won't change, because of discoveries, in the future so what we say now can't happened will be able to happen?

I have read books where there is not real explanation of how the science devices work but there are other books, even a couple space opera, that go to considerable lengths to explain how something works and there are books that are in-between. I am willing to someone Science Fiction even if it doesn't explain, even if at the moment it wouldn't work in real life.


message 24: by Tobias (new)

Tobias Langhoff (tobiasvl) | 66 comments The problem with that is that, so far, new scientific discoveries in the realms of physics have added to the previous ones; they do not replace them. Einstein, for example, expands upon and adds to Newton's original broad and general laws. In my view, if a novel or movie contradicts Newton or Einstein, it's fantasy (or just "soft sci fi"). If it believably builds upon what we know about the universe, it's hard sci fi.


message 25: by Timothy (last edited Mar 07, 2016 02:26AM) (new)

Timothy Ellis But your basing everything on the theory they are both right, and that the future builds on their work.

We know for a fact that much of what was considered fact in past centuries has been proved to be wrong now.

In 200 years, Newton and Einstein may be a joke. Maybe not, maybe so. We won't know.

For all we know now, what you call fantasy is the way it is, and what we call physics now, is simply a simplistic explanation of something we cant even grasp yet.

For myself, I dont write hard sci-fi. I write Space Opera. Hard sci-fi might have a place in SO, but the majority of SO is not HSF. The genres are actually different, and there are categories for HSF, which most SO books dont get included in.

I think that's the problem with this discussion. The assumption that Space Opera is also Hard Sci-Fi, isn't correct. Space Opera isn't about the tech. Its about the people. The tech is just a tool to build a story, its not the story itself.

I love a good infodump, but I actually rarely read HSF.


message 26: by Tobias (new)

Tobias Langhoff (tobiasvl) | 66 comments Indeed, space opera is rarely hard sci fi. The hardness is a continuum, though, not a dichotomy. There are many fairly hard novels with one or two "magical" things that allow the plot to unfold (The Expanse and its efficient spaceship drive, Revelation Space/Pushing Ice and their inertia dampening fields, etc).

And it might only be me, but if an author is going to specifically contradict Newtonian or Einsteinian physics, he or she had better make me suspend my disbelief, or else end up in fantasy territory. But relax, there's nothing wrong with fantasy! Star Wars is great fun too.


message 27: by Niels (new)

Niels Bugge | 141 comments Timothy wrote: "The difference is - the mechanics of establishing a warp bubble are explained (even if it is technobabble), while no-one knows how a hyperspace motivator works because it never has been explained."

I think it is a bit unfair to compare a television series with a limited number of films, because it is much easier to dump some technobabble in one obscure episode from the '70ties and claim that it is explained within canon.

In order to progress with the plot, the Star Wars movies simply didn't have time to get bogged down with that, but you can probably find some Extended Universe explanations to match the ones in old Star Trek episodes


message 28: by Niels (new)

Niels Bugge | 141 comments Anna wrote: "What do y'all think? Discuss? Can you think of books that utilized, or failed to utilize, these basic principals of physics?"

Actually, the one thing that can really annoy me is when authors fail to consider the economy, politics and conservatism of technology.

Personally, I don't care if your spacecraft runs on magic or what kind of magic it runs on, if it looks like a spacecraft and if the equipment and tactics seem plausible.

One of my major nits are mecha. Yes, they can be made, if you develop a stronger power-source to run all those moving parts, but if you make a stronger power-source, you can just as well make four tanks instead spreading the risk and quadrouple the firepower. Yes, legs would be more useful in very rough terrain, but then flying drones would proabably be both cheaper and more versatile.

Some literary examples would be the horrendeous slaughter in the beginning of the Lost Fleet books and most of Honor Harrington - in the first case it may be somewhat explained by being a total war of survival, but the Manticoran Navy is exclusively volunteer-based.
I find it very hard to believe that it would be easy to find crews for such navies, and AI controlled ships ought to be introduced much earlier.


message 29: by Gem (last edited Mar 07, 2016 07:16AM) (new)

Gem Larkspur (gemsl) | 29 comments As I read this thread - I keep thinking about the space battle in the movie Serenity. It is a great example of a Space Opera with some decent 'science-fiction' mixed in with a whole lot of pure imagination. It also has a great space battle along with good old fashioned planet-based combat. Were the physics questionable? Sure, but as long as bullets and laser beams weren't firing around corners - I was okay with it.

As for the article itself - I liked the discussion of launch windows and orbital physics. That would be pretty applicable to a 'near' future scenario. Also that weapons as we understand them would work in space, just with some different limitations.


message 30: by Timothy (new)

Timothy Ellis I thought the physics of Serenity was pretty much spot on. A mixture of imagination in space, and actual in the gravity well.

"I'm a leaf in the wind!"


message 31: by Tobias (last edited Mar 08, 2016 10:39AM) (new)

Tobias Langhoff (tobiasvl) | 66 comments Do you know how Reavers clean their spears?

(view spoiler)

Sorry.


message 32: by Gem (new)

Gem Larkspur (gemsl) | 29 comments Tobias wrote: "Do you know how Reapers clean their spears?

[spoilers removed]

Sorry."


Pretty funny actually. Also, the one bit of physics that really bugged me. This is a space going vessel and they put a spear through the windshield? Have you seen a space shuttle? Do you realize how thick that tempered glass is? I know it was really big spear, but really?


message 33: by Trike (new)

Trike | 583 comments Timothy wrote: "But that IS sci-fi. Adding fiction to science to make a story.

Just because it isn't plausible to you personally doesn't negate the genre."


My opinion has nothing to do with it. Either it obeys natural law or it doesn't. Star Trek doesn't and never has.

Too many people in America treat science like it's just another belief system. It isn't.



I made this some time ago because the insistence that Star Trek is more Science Fiction than Star Wars is annoying. They're variations on the theme.




message 34: by Trike (new)

Trike | 583 comments L.E. wrote: "Our knowledge of the universe and even the laws of science changes over time. What is to say it won't change, because of discoveries, in the future so what we say now can't happened will be able to happen? "

At this point, though, new physics never supplants existing physics, not any more. We are no longer ignorant of the basics of the universe. We certainly don't know everything, but we no longer live in an era where some people believed the world was a flat disk on the back of a turtle, or the solar system was encased within crystal spheres, or the sun orbited around the Earth, and these were all valid notions. Now we have actual facts to base our models on.

We pretty much get how the place works, so you need to take into account the stuff that has been proven experimentally. LIGO just confirmed another piece of Einstein's theory of relativity, just as the observed transit of Mercury proved a piece of it a century ago. You can't simply ignore that in favor of of something you made up and call it Science Fiction.


message 35: by Gem (new)

Gem Larkspur (gemsl) | 29 comments I can't resist, Arthur C Clarke's three laws.

Clarke's first law:
When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

Clarke's second law:
The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

Clarke's third law:
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

The third law is my favorite. Also, I did a happy dance in my office when the found particles that could move faster than light.


message 36: by Trike (new)

Trike | 583 comments The sad (yet expected) part is, many people don't understand the third law. They treat it like a license to say, "Anything I don't understand is magic, therefore science is magic."

Coincidentally, my cousin just posted this on Facebook a couple hours ago:




message 37: by Gem (last edited Mar 07, 2016 02:53PM) (new)

Gem Larkspur (gemsl) | 29 comments Trike wrote: "The sad (yet expected) part is, many people don't understand the third law. They treat it like a license to say, "Anything I don't understand is magic, therefore science is magic."

Coincidentally,..."


It's a fine line, but the line keeps getting pushed. I don't think FTL is as farfetched as it was since we know it is possible. Shooting around corners? Not so much.

We know electro-magnetic portals exist - they're just very limited. Right now.


message 38: by Trike (new)

Trike | 583 comments Gem wrote: "Shooting around corners? Not so much."

Depends on what you mean by "shoot around corners."

The Israelis have made machine guns which fold in the middle and have a camera on the front, so you can stick the muzzle around a corner and shoot.

The movie Runaway starring Tom Selleck and Gene Simmons featured a "smart bullet" that was imprinted with a person's specific heat signature and had little rockets on it to allow it to alter its trajectory and track you down. (A bullet with your name on it.) The folks at Sandia labs thought that was a great idea, so they built it in real life, using computer-controlled fins rather than jets. So there's a bullet that can shoot around corners. Not right angles, but it's early days yet.

Then there is the idea of using spherical projectiles (like the old musket balls) suspended in a superconducting railgun, which can be given a spin and/or an electrical charge to affect its trajectory. This one can shoot around corners up to 60 degrees, and it's theoretically possible to shoot at right angles. It's currently too massive for a human to wield, but with the advent of robots and exoskeletons weight wouldn't be an issue even if they can't miniaturize it to rifle size.

Current sniper rifles (and soon regular-issue GI rifles) are computer controlled. They take into account wind speed, range and all that stuff, so the human merely pulls the trigger. They're essentially auto-targeting the way a computer game does, making everyone a perfect shot. These exist right now. (They can also be hacked, which has story potential right there.)


message 39: by Gem (last edited Mar 07, 2016 04:51PM) (new)

Gem Larkspur (gemsl) | 29 comments Trike wrote: "Gem wrote: "Shooting around corners? Not so much."

Depends on what you mean by "shoot around corners."

The Israelis have made machine guns which fold in the middle and have a camera on the front..."


Right angles - no bending in the middle.

I forgot about the smart bullet in Runaway. I haven't seen that in years.

Although, that's just my metaphor for 'come on? Really?' Like a really big stick going through the windshield of space ship like it did in Serenity.


message 40: by Timothy (new)

Timothy Ellis I didn't have a problem with that in Serenity, once I got past the shock factor.

It wasn't a big stick, it was a harpoon built to go through things, and it was fired with enough force to go through the hull of a ship, which is what it was designed to do. Had it come through the hull from the side of Wash, it still would have gone through both the hull and him.

Remember, no shields here. And the Firefly is designed to keep air in and space out, not built for combat. The hull isn't all that strong. In space, it doesn't need to be.


message 41: by Gem (last edited Mar 07, 2016 07:07PM) (new)

Gem Larkspur (gemsl) | 29 comments Timothy wrote: "I didn't have a problem with that in Serenity, once I got past the shock factor.

It wasn't a big stick, it was a harpoon built to go through things, and it was fired with enough force to go throug..."


It had the structural integrity to survive the g-force needed to leave a planet and not burn up on re-entry. It has been hit by meteors and guns - so it wasn't that fragile.

Mind you, I had no problem at all accepting that a woman not bigger than a ballerina was so well programmed she could kill several dozen crazed marauders with an axe.


message 42: by R. (new)

R. Billing (r_billing) | 196 comments Anna wrote: "I'm into a story right now where a stone age character is suddenly thrown onto a galaxy-travelling ship. It's lots of fun accurately describing 'spinning borer thingys' and 'gigantic aurochs pullin..."

That sounds like really good fun.


message 43: by R. (new)

R. Billing (r_billing) | 196 comments Gem wrote: "Tobias wrote: "Do you know how Reapers clean their spears?

[spoilers removed]

Sorry."

Pretty funny actually. Also, the one bit of physics that really bugged me. This is a space going vessel and ..."


I know that one. I once put another spaceship through the windshield, tail first.


message 44: by Jemima (new)

Jemima Pett | 150 comments Love this thread. Very useful for any writer thinking about inter-planetary conflict not based on current tropes!


message 45: by Gaines (last edited Mar 22, 2016 02:46AM) (new)

Gaines Post (gainespost) | 225 comments The thing that gets me every time, both in movies and TV and sometimes in novels or short fiction, is when an explosion in outer space (like a space ship blowing up, for example) goes "boom" :-p ...despite the near total vacuum, and the resulting lack of air or any other medium through which sound waves could travel.


message 46: by Akshay (new)

Akshay (shelvesofakshay) Nice thread! I need to make more time to go through it, as a scifi fan and aspiring writer, this looks like a hell of a discussion to see!

Gaines wrote: "The thing that gets me every time, both in movies and TV and sometimes in novels or short fiction, is when an explosion in outer space (like a space ship blowing up, for example) goes "boom" :-p ....."

THIS is one of the biggest reasons I used to love Firefly - it was one of the very few shows that actually made you face the painful silence that it was being in space.
Personally that made space more intense for me than something filled with sound effects like an air-battle or flying in an atmosphere.


message 47: by Akshay (new)

Akshay (shelvesofakshay) The previous comment I made actually brought a thought to mind that perhaps some of you could speculate on and answer:

If you were in space and all outside is dead silent, but then there was a gas cloud, i.e, a dense cloud of literally gaseous particles/air, then would there suddenly be sound if the ship were to fly into/through the cloud or nebula?
Yes, immediately OUTSIDE sound would vanish the moment it hit vacuum, but what about within it?


message 48: by Tobias (new)

Tobias Langhoff (tobiasvl) | 66 comments The impacts would create sounds that travelled through the hull. Not that gas creates a lot of impact on its own, though, but you'd get turbulence.


message 49: by Trike (new)

Trike | 583 comments Akshay wrote: "If you were in space and all outside is dead silent, but then there was a gas cloud, i.e, a dense cloud of literally gaseous particles/air, then would there suddenly be sound if the ship were to fly into/through the cloud or nebula?
Yes, immediately OUTSIDE sound would vanish the moment it hit vacuum, but what about within it?"


Yes, you would hear sound within any medium that can conduct vibrations. It would be faint but microphones or someone (or somecreature) with sensitive ears could hear it. If you were caught within an explosion, same thing. The gasses of the explosion would conduct the sound. It would be self-contained, of course, but at some point the attenuation of the gas cloud would make the vibrations impossible to detect even though they'd still be there. However, if you were close enough to hear an explosion, you'd probably be killed by it.

So pretty much we're just talking about people like Superman. Able to withstand an explosion, check. Super-sensitive hearing, check. Flies in outer space, check.

Related note: Astronauts can talk to one another without radio by touching helmets together. The vibrations are conducted through the glass. I've done it underwater with makeshift diving helmets. The words are understandable but muffled and a bit weird-sounding.


message 50: by Jemima (new)

Jemima Pett | 150 comments Trike wrote: "Akshay wrote: "If you were in space and all outside is dead silent, but then there was a gas cloud, i.e, a dense cloud of literally gaseous particles/air, then would there suddenly be sound if the ..."
lol - I remember doing that as kids - same with tin cans and string stretched between them.

I've been puzzling over the problem of having a 'vacuum cleaner' to suck up the detritus from asteroid mining. Ordinary suction won't work, but a turbo thing might get the dust particles moving....like through some 'gills' on the spacecraft? It's a bit iffy, though.

Then again, like using a solar sail, maybe it all happens v e r y s l o w l y ;)


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