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Sci-fi idea's science, not sure where to put it.

Discussion in 'Chit Chat' started by Kevlar, Jan 22, 2012.

  1. Kevlar

    Kevlar Troubadour

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    I have recently started a project (I have too many!) Set in a science-fiction world. Over the years I've had very little exposure to sci-fi: I've seen the Star Wars movies, I've played Halo a few times, and that's basically it. Hopefully that will allow me to create a unique world that isn't grounded in the fake science of other works. I only have to wonder if MY science is right.

    I'll start with Chitin a military service powered exoskeleton commissioned by the Space Age Alliance, the successor of NATO.

    Chitin is a SPAAL commissioned technology. It is service armour made of amorphous metal with an anti-reflective finish. It is worn over a carbon nanotube suit and has modules available for air filtration, oxygen, and pressurization.

    The helmet contains a dry-sensor EEG system for mental interaction with the armour. A HUD is displayed on a transparent alumina screen. This screen doubles as the visor.

    The carbon nanotube suit worn under the armor is insulated with Aerogel, protecting against both heat and cold. This allows its use as a spacesuit with the right modules attached.

    Each part of the suit is able to function at least minimally independent of others. Each part is supplied power by a hyperefficient battery pack, which is recharged through solar nodes, the movement of the suit, and microwaves.

    I have to wonder if it would even work. And if it would work, could traditional weaponry even penetrate it, or would I have to look to alternatives to traditional ballistics?

    As I know of no similar forums for science fiction I thought I'd post this in an off-topic area of this one. I don't know if anyone here has the answers I need. I just thought I'd give it a try before scouring the internet.
     
  2. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

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    Hello Kevlar, I like your idea for this exoskeleton!! It's especially interesting that you mentioned Aerogel, which is already being used for several applications but not widely known yet- I think that it would work (anyway, most of the technology described in sci-fi stories is quite imaginary) and while this Chitin exoskeleton would be resistant to traditional ballistics, perhaps it could be vulnerable to high speed projectiles and different types of energy weapons =)

    Instead of battery packs I would give it an antimatter energy source, why not?? Star Wars is Fantasy, not really sci-fi, and I have too an idea for a story that would be a mixture of a Fantasy world with starships and space battles.
     
  3. Reaver

    Reaver Kwisatz Haderach Moderator

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    My opinion when it comes to both fantasy and sci-fi is "who cares about the science?" To me, that's what makes it fun. It's supposed to be an escape from reality. Take for example, Star Trek. According to the Laws of Physics, nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, yet the USS Enterprise has the Warp Drive. While I'm not a Trekkie or Trekker or whatever the term, I do like the concept and couldn't care less about the science behind it. Personally, I'm more a fan of Frank Herbert's "folding space" employed by the Spacing Guild in Dune when it comes to travelling vast distances, but to me, the most important thing is the characters and the story. I'd much rather have believable characters than a believable universe or world in which they live. Again, this is just my opinion, and I apologize for the digression...my whole point was that you should just have fun creating.
     
  4. Konjurer

    Konjurer Dreamer

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    I have to respectfully disagree with Reaver here. I think that the science behind the story is very important. Sure, a strong MC with an equally strong supporting cast is important, but if the sci-part is lacking, well...then I guess it's just futuristic fantasy. Maybe that's why I detest star trek so much. Transporters? Warp speed? These are only two of Roddenberry's grand flaws in a completely inane universe. The only sci-fi writer worse than him is L. Ron Hubbard.
     
  5. Reaver

    Reaver Kwisatz Haderach Moderator

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    While not a fan of Mr. Hubbard's myself...I have to say you seem a bit angry with Star Trek and its creators. Anything you wish to share?
     
  6. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Depends on what kind of science fiction you are writing. Even in Star Trek I don't think fans would be very happy about an anti-matter powered suit or exoskeleton without an attempt at explaining how it works in conformity with science. If you're writing hard science fiction, there's no way you could do that without explaining it.

    If you are writing fantasy in space, like Star Wars, then that would be fine.

    I don't see any problems with the ideas stated in the original post.
     
  7. Reaver

    Reaver Kwisatz Haderach Moderator

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    Exactly! Game, set and match--Steerpike!
     
  8. Kevlar

    Kevlar Troubadour

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    Okay, looks like even the average educated reader won't notice anything wrong. As for not worrying about the science, I have to kindly disagree as well. In fantasy I say "What's possible? What can I MAKE possible?" As far as science fiction, it really is nothing without the science part. I have been exposed to a bit of Star Trek and even at a young I wanted to find a tire iron. Now I dislike it more because of the faulty science behind it, but my original gripe was the rubber forehead aliens. They all looked like humans with a skin disease or deformity. Yeah, yeah, budget and all that, but... it made me leave the room whenever my dad put it on.

    As far as my faster than light travel, it's all conducted through wormhole gates. These are basically space stations built to enclose a wormhole that is held open permanently through the presence of exotic matter. The wormhole being a warped area of spacetime, nothing entering will technically exceed the speed of light. No warp drive.

    In fact, most of my tech is something that we could feasibly develop within the next 105 years, which is how far in the future it's set. The rest was developed by the earlier species of the Unity, a sort of inter-species United Nations in which only Germany, France, UK, Turkey, China, Russia, Canada, India, Iran, Ukraine, Israel and Mexico represent humans. I can explain the unlikely ones if needed. Other technology has been produced by the Clave, the antithesis of the Unity, or by middle powers who refuse to join either. There are somewhere around fifteen sentient species.
     
  9. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    It is all well and good to bash Star Trek for not taking the science far enough (or failing to consider it in some cases), but the question is one of how far you want to take the science.

    You can always talk about wormholes, as above, and say "Oh, we're using exotic matter (e.g. negative matter) to hold the edges open." But that matter is theoretical, and there is no solid basis on how one would employ it. Further, are the wormholes being created by humans? And if so, how do they initiate the formation? If they're just propping open naturally occuring wormholes (which are theorized to open and close on a minute time scale), how is that being accomplished? The creation of them can be even more complex if you assume people can get to where they want to go. Now you've got to explain not only how the wormhole is created and how the exotic matter is used at the edge to stabilize it, but also how exactly the other end of the wormhole is created at the desired location.

    Or you can do a lot of hand-waving like Star Trek. It's a matter of degrees.
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2012
  10. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    Oh, traditional ballistics can always be effective. All you need is to use a heavier or faster projectile. If nothing else, the sudden acceleration a wearer undergoes when his suit goes from zero to a few thousand kph will seriously mess up his day. ;) (Also, I can't think of any reason amorphous metals would be any more useful against shaped-charge armor-piercing rounds than any other metal is. So far, only composite armor can cope with those, and there you begin running into problems with bulk.)

    As a more general response: it's very difficult to write SF without doing at least some hand-waving—since nearly all of it employs some technology or other that doesn't presently exist, occasionally technology that can't even be extrapolated from existing ones. The trick is to make it as plausible as possible… and part of the trick to doing that is to not egregiously screw anything up. (With the exception of violating the speed of light: there's something of a "gentleman's agreement" that everybody looks the other way on that one. Space opera becomes a lot less exciting when it takes ships hundreds of years to reach their destinations. Usually. I've seen it work, though.)

    So my basic advice would be to thoroughly research anything you do plan to explain, and avoid explaining everything else. Take the wormholes: the problems are even bigger than Steerpike represents. For starters, wormholes are still only theoretical; second, even if they do exist, we have no reason to believe they can be created; third, we haven't the slightest idea what the energy requirements for doing so would be like (you want to alter the topography of space to reduce the distance between two points light-years apart? what's that gonna take?); fourth, even if they can be—or can be found occurring naturally—we have no reason to believe they would be large enough for anything to pass through them; fifth, we have no reason to believe anything passing through them would survive the trip (since we have no clear idea what local conditions within them would be); and sixth, we have no notion as to how much "travel time" they'd actually cut out. And seventh, we certainly have no reason to believe we're going to be able to solve the first six in the next century. And those are just the problems I can think of off the top of my head. I imagine there are plenty of others, once you start going into the details.

    So I'd say explain the armor. Leave the travel to hand-waving. Everything between is pretty much up to you whether you address it or not. You'll inevitably leave more out than put in anyway… or else you'll end up writing a multi-volume textbook, not a story. Personally, I love good "hard" SF that includes some level of justification for its projections, just as I prefer fantasy that isn't arbitrarily fantastic… but I'm also keenly aware that it's easy to overdo it.
     
  11. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Those are good points, Ravana. And as our understanding of physics increases it may well become clear that use of wormholes for faster than light travel is even more implausible than Star Trek's warp drive. That's a risk you run as a science fiction writer. After all, Star Trek's warp drive doesn't technically violate prohibitions against the speed of light, it just takes a short cut around them by distorting space-time and creating a bit of a bubble around the craft. The ship doesn't have to travel through all of the empty space between point A and point B, so by getting to point B so fast it isn't violating c. That's the same rationale behind wormhole travel, except that the mechanism is different. And of course at some point the warp drive explanation also breaks down into handwaving.
     
  12. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    From the bit of scientific reading I've done, the "Warp Speed" concept as explained in the most recent Star Trek film of having space itself be the object which is moving instead of the ship is the most likely method of achieving faster than light capabilities in the real world. As I understand it, the problems with wormholes may realistically be insurmountable. Of course, prior to the new movie, Warp Speed in Star Trek was completely hand waved. And you shouldn't trust my bit of scientific reading for much.

    You can do whatever you want in your book. No sci-fi reader would actually want to think that the problems with wormholes are insurmountable, and the precedent is well-established.
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2012
  13. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    Thank you.

    Just one other quick note on FTL: David Brin—who is a physicist in addition to being a SF author—has commented on his "Uplift" series that, since none of the methods of FTL travel are more than purely theoretical, he didn't bother trying to choose between them… he just used them all. :D
     
  14. Kevlar

    Kevlar Troubadour

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    Your explenations of the warp drive technology are actually more plausible than the typical explenation most people present. Also I did plan some hand wave: the wormhole gate technology was developed by the earliest species to the Unity, some 600 years ago. Before that space travel took years.

    I am aware of the hugely theoretical nature of wormholes. That's why I chose them. That, and to impose a certain restriction on the galactic powers, and to prevent them from conquering the whole galaxy. Their theoretical nature allows me to utilize them as I need them. If a better option comes along I'll jump on it, but I just don't like the classic hyperspeed for this project.

    As far as the armour you're right, composites would be more effective against armour-piercing rounds, but I'm working under the assumption that (depending on where exactly) a quarter inch to an inch or more of amorphous metal can stop more standard ballistics, as composites aren't, by any means, an elegant solution. There is the possibility of a bulletproof vest beneath the armour, I guess, but I'm not sure if it would really do much. Another possibility, if I want to handwave power source, is to use a fine mesh of superconducting wires as a weak "force field" if it works as the research I've done into the subject suggests, or a magnetic field. I do forsee a problem with the second, though, in that it might make even armour piercing rounds ineffective.

    Thank you for your valuable input on this subject, all of you.
     
  15. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    Amorphous metals (or any metal thick enough) can stop kinetic rounds… though they do nothing to the kinetic force, which gets transferred to the wearer. Indeed, the best armor is one that deflects the projectile rather than stopping it, so that the target doesn't need to worry about as much kinetic transfer. Of course, it's really hard to arrange for your enemy to always hit you on an angle.… :p

    Shaped-charge rounds (e.g. HEAT) work on a completely different principle, and can slice through metal 7+ times the round's diameter in thickness… meaning a .30 round could penetrate two inches of steel armor. In theory: I'm not aware of anybody making .30 caliber HEAT rounds. Which doesn't mean it couldn't be done–in the future, even if not presently–only that nobody figures they're worth making. (The smallest reference I'm seeing is to 40mm, for the curious.) But it wouldn't make the slightest difference what kind of metal it was… well, okay, "slightest" is too strong, but basically any single-composition metal armor that could stop a shaped charge would be far too heavy to wear. Look up "Munroe effect" for details.

    (For comparison: saboted rounds–APDS–can punch through about three times their caliber in homogenous armor, and those can be made just about any size: that's essentially what flechettes are, and some rifles firing single saboted flechettes have been developed, though not adopted by any military as far as I know. Even if the amorphous metal were three times as strong as normal steel plate, which I understand at least some amorphous metals developed to date are, that would still leave someone needing a thickness equal to the caliber of whatever he expects to face for a predictably reliable stop.)

    Having a bulletproof vest underneath it wouldn't matter a whole lot, for what we normally think of as "bulletproof." One with ceramic plates in it might stop a HEAT charge from further penetration–essentially, the combination would be a rough approximation to wearing composite at that point–but I'm fairly sure there would still be enough energy transferred to the vest to turn whoever's wearing it into mush inside it. (Though look up "Dragon Skin" if you aren't familiar with it… it's actually pretty impressive stuff, no matter what the biased military testers, who, for reasons most likely having to do with existing contracts, chose to conclude. Perhaps they didn't want to have to admit that the armor they were buying was only rated to stop handgun rounds.… :eek: )

    Also, quarter-inch steel armor would weigh in at around 130-150 pounds, if it were designed along the same lines as historical full plate. Even with lighter materials, you're probably still going to need some strength assist. Keep in mind that the thicker the armor is, the more it's going to bind, too: I can't even imagine trying to move in something an inch thick, not and fight at the same time at least. May work okay for your typical tediously slow-motion EVA work.… That's before considering any other systems you need to include, such as sealing it against vacuum if it's also going to serve as a space suit.

    Any normal magnetic field wouldn't have time to deflect a round significantly, even assuming the round is made of something easily affected by magnetic fields. You would, at a minimum, require a "super-science" version that can meaningfully alter the trajectory of the projectile in the insignificant amount of time and space it's within it. (To take a couple examples that were easy to look up: a .30-06 rifle and an M2 Browning .50 round both cover an inch in about 0.00003 seconds, a yard in just under 0.001 second.) Which doesn't mean you can't use "force fields," but you might be happier not trying to account for their mechanism of function. Especially since a magnetic field that is strong enough is going to cause all sorts of other problems… and since there are easy ways around it–such as using ceramic slugs, maybe wrapped around a nice little depleted-uranium core.

    As for wormholes: not discouraging you from using them, just from trying to explain how they operate. If you say "wormhole," your readers will keep going without noticing; try to explain them, and all the geeks at least will be bringing to mind all the reasons they can't work the way you say they do.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  16. JCFarnham

    JCFarnham Auror

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    When I saw something Science Fiction on here I just had to pounce. I'm sure what I'm about to do is a little bit more cheeky, but honestly its on topic ;) While we aren't a terribly busy place (re: almost non-existent activity) you may want to check out my signature for a place more dedicated to this kind of question. Quite a large number of regulars write Scifi as well any way, so it honestly doesn't matter much where you ask for feedback, but I thought I would mention this anyway just in case it intereste you TS (or anyone else for that matter).


    As with most thread Ravana has graced, he's taken all the good things to mention haha but instead of the shameless plug I feel I should add something none the less.

    Two paths appear to be open to you with FTL travel. You can give it a name (worm holes, sliptravel, whatever ...) and leave it at that, with more left to the imagination. This has its advantages, the top one in my opinion is it doesn't break the book's flow for ridiculous explanations. On the other end of the scale is planning, worldbuilding, planning, making notes, planning and calculations. It satisfies the scientific minded, what more can I say.

    I tend to fall somewhere in the middle. At the core of the FTL method in my stories is a rather questionable leap of science, not once do I fool myself into believing it would actually work. Its quasi-physics at its best. Taking the concepts of tesseracts, multi dimension theory, and of course all the holes that our current understanding of science leaves, I tried my hardest to find a plausible (but totally impossible) way to unify physics.

    The core question I asked is: If we exist in the traditional 4 dimensions (the 3 everyone is familiar with, plus time) then what might happen if we could remove ourselves from them, or exist in one or more of the higher dimensions in addition to our own? To this I added my own explanation for all the "missing" dark stuff in the universe and something about tunnelling and ... well, it's more or less hyperspace with frills. (it would take too much time to explain it in this post I'm afraid, and that's not even considering whether it'll make much sense on the page ;) )

    Really I wanted to put effort into the detail if only for myself to firm up the "in-universe rules". Because as long as I'm internally consistant all the hard sf fans can respectfully suck it. The point is that for most readers if you confidently present your idea with flawless internal logic they'll forgive the fantastic in favour of the story itself (which is after all more important heh).

    Actually thats a good point, if you do try to explain your FTL method(s) you should either go the whole hog and make the story ABOUT the FTL drive, or keep it consistantly vague enough that no one will pay it much attention. There is nothing worse than an idea derailing the story because its either really really bad, or just so much more interesting and well thought out than the rest of the book.

    With a bit of research its surprising how many different ways people have presented to get around the upper limits of speed. I've seen FTL drives that cancel inertia, drives that manipulate gravity, hyperspace, alcubr- warp drives, wormholes, drives to do with the spin of dark matter... you can probably get ANYTHING out there in to the aether of SF if you try hard enough.

    (Oh and I shamelessly use the idea Jump Gates. What's more important to me than HOW it works, is what are the implications?

    If people in ships can travel indescriminately to anywhere in the universe given the right circumstances how the hell can you logically fight a war? And if you limit it and give you FTL method strategic "choke points" then where does this leave everyone? Does someone control every last instance of interstellar travel for profit? Well you get the idea right.)
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2012
  17. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    JC: Have you ever read any of Jack Campbell's "Lost Fleet" novels. Very quick, fun reads and a good view of implications for ship-to-ship warfare when you're dealing with the ability to "jump" from location to location. He even takes relativistic effects, as well as distances, time-delays, and the like into account in the battle sequences, and yet does so in a very engaging and entertaining way. The first is called "The Lost Fleet: Dauntless" and I recommend it.
     
  18. JCFarnham

    JCFarnham Auror

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    Well, I might consider it when my budget allows. If it has a sample on kindle I'll make sure I download it so I don't forget (if I can get into the novels easily that is ;) )

    Might make for good research!
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2012
  19. I've read those! They're quite entertaining, although after the fourth or fifth one you sort of get the idea. There's one or two more out I haven't read yet, but I'm meaning to get around to it...
     
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