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Wes B

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About Wes B

  • Birthday 05/12/1952


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  • Location
    Johnson City, NY, USA
  • Occupation
    Retired Engineer & Programmer, currently giving my wife reasons to learn patience

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  1. Very, very true. Still, it's sad to see it finally come to this, though I suppose the only real surprise is that it's taken so long to happen. I do feel a greater sadness for the few Christians that still remain in that part of the world; things won't likely be getting easier for them...
  2. Now... there you would need to provide a source... I'm not looking to argue, but to get some context for a statement that looks a bit startling. I'm sure you didn't intend it to be so. While I'm sure that someone at NASA could have said something of interest, this is... a little more than that... EDIT: See, if NASA as an organization had made a claim that upends general relativity, the buzz in the scientific community would have exploded into chaos; I haven't seen that. It would be comparable to my missing the headlines that the space aliens have landed and are establishing diplomatic relations. I suppose i could somehow sleep through a "biggie" like that, but the aftershocks would still be felt. In the absence of these, I suspect something a bit different. OTOH, if some individual on NASA's website made a statement that some might consider a bit over optimistic or ill-advised (it's happened...) I might understand that. So i really would like to examine what it is you're referring to.
  3. Good one!!! Those pesky pronouns can really trip us up... The "they" I was referring to would refer to certain people allegedly doing science reporting. If anyone from a physicist, down to a grad student working on a master's thesis makes some speculative assumption about the physical laws of the universe, then runs the math and gets a result that might be remotely interpreted as allowing TT of FTL, said alleged reporters may announce it with great fanfare. Those who read such reporting over the **decades** will notice they never hear anything about it again, except from SciFi authors. One reason we may never again hear about the claims is because once published, they go under the scrutiny of the full scientific community, which proceed to employ legitimate means to tear them to shreds. Any disproof that's presented is of little interest to those who like to report the spectacular claims in the popular press. So while the claims get effectively shot down, no one talks about them, save those who follow the non-layperson-style of science press. There will of course be speculative work involving things that can't be proven or disproven, such as things involving close proximity to black holes and such, and some of the more established "hard sci fi" writers work with these, knowing they have a reasonable shot of remaining speculative for years yet, and so have less chance of becoming quickly dated. But they require doing things on a grand scale. When we get down to putting things in small, convenient-to-the-story packages, like an H G Wells-time machine, or a Star Trek warp drive, we just shut up, enjoy the story, and hold our grumbling about implausibilities. There are times we expect the rules, and times we don't even want to think about 'em...
  4. Okay... now who is this "they" you speak of, and what "it' are they promoting?
  5. That would be perfectly reasonable. The problem comes where we confuse the difference between science and technology. Technology comprises the tools needed to do things. Science defines what technology might be possible, and what technology would need a lot o 'splainin' before trying to put it forth in SciFi. You might posit that the science as we know it is wrong, but the writer has to step carefully to remain believable. For example, ancient alchemists believed that they could convert base metals to gold in their tabletop laboratories. We now know that such a process requires nuclear reactions, and see no way the alchemists could feasibly have accomplished such a thing. Could a writer posit that our science is wrong? Sure, but without some good explanation, it would not convince a reader who expected science fiction. By merely making it clear from the start that the story is fantasy, the writer enters into an entirely different "contract" with the reader, and many more things are acceptable in the story. But the world is rarely so simple. There are exceptions. For example, while we get a regular stream of speculative science, suggesting that things like time travel or faster-than-light travel might somehow be feasible, they get shot down almost as quickly as they appear. As such, few who understand the science are too optimistic that either will ever happen. (Hopeful? Yes! Optimistic? No...) However, TT and FTL get "special dispensation" from most SciFi fans, because they open up such a huge category of story realms that are otherwise unavailable. (We'll bend our own rules for a good yarn...) And so, many SciFi fans will still be willing to suspend their disbelief for these types of stories, while a great many would be uninterested in stories that treat the rest of our scientific knowledge so loosely. In the end, it all boils down to what the readers will buy. It turns out that if the writer is honest and calls the story fantasy where appropriate, many many readers will accept most anything from sloppy science to outright-magic-unicorney, as long as the story is good. (As long as there are so many bad stories, the good ones will be treasured, in whatever form they appear.)
  6. Wes B

    Space 3

    I hope I'm not being annoying here... Moving an O' Neill cylinder could have severe unintended consequences. There are huuuuge mirrors, intended to reflect sunlight into the system. They avoid allowing direct sunlight in, because that would also allow the energetic particles from solar flares to fry the interior... These mirrors will be designed according to the station's distance from the sun, so as not to have too much, or too little. If you move it planetary distances, it'll totally throw the internal environment out of whack. Also, the thing has to be oriented so as to keep the cylinders' axes pointed toward the sun. to keep the interior environment stable. That might make it very tricky to move the thing, anyway.
  7. This is a fine suggestion, and it would be useful in some stories. However, it presupposes that a biosphere already exists, and that elements, like nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon (in the form of CO2) already exist in the atmosphere. They cannot be made from nothing, and the only way to make them from something else would be with a massive nuclear reactor (massive as in big-as-a star massive...) so if they're not already there, they must be imported. Since the OP suggested doing this, we presume that his starting point is a world that doesn't have 'em. Some would put this as the dividing line between SciFi and fantasy, which is more a wide and blurry region, as it should be. See, the more science a reader understands, the more science in many stories resembles Harry Potter's magic wand, with a bunch of blinking lights stuck on. This is not a bad thing; those readers would categorize such stories as fantasy, and move right on. Others will see SciFi, and everyone's still happy. The interesting thing is though, that if you have reasonably deep knowledge in a certain subject, there's something really special about a story in which the author has taken the time to also learn it. It gives a very special sense of deep immersion in the story world. James Michener was astonishing in his ability to do this repeatedly, for dozens of different settings in his various books (more on him in a moment) but with the "hard" SciFi stories, we can have that experience with many different authors. You are kind and gracious to say this, but I hope you won't truly feel a need to ask forgiveness. A good story simply is. if you produce one, it requires no apology. If someone wants more science in their stories, it's no different from someone who wants more mystery in them. If we don't write mysteries, the wise readers will simply go elsewhere, without complaint. (And the unwise readers, well, they can't be helped...) I'm not so sure. It's helpful to have wide knowledge, but good writers work with what they've got. They may do a little research, or like Michener, they can "go huge." If you haven't read Michener, I'd suggest trying one or two, just to see what's possible. (He's not everyone's cup of tea, though.) In the spirit of this thread, his novel, Space, is fascinating. It's an alternate-world story, about a fictional US moon program, in which historical characters like President Johnson and Werner Von Braun appear "offstage," with the story told by the astronauts, scientists and engineers. I've worked in the aerospace industry, and michener caught the whole thing exactly. He got the language, the procedures, the moods, just right. It was truly like being in another world Another of his works that might interest this group is The Source, which is an alternate history about a fictional town in Israel, going from ancient, pre-Canaanite times, up to the present. He caught the mood and details of all the historical periods there from then to now, as well as the details and procedures of archaeology. It's a huge series of short stories from the different historical periods, wrapped within the story of archaeologists, excavating the site. Various real historical characters make appearances, including Eusebius, Josephus, and an elderly King David. I read this once long ago, as a fairly new Christian, just starting an interest in Biblical history, and then again recently, decades later, when i was absolutely floored by the depth of the research he had to do to cover so many historical periods, and for only a single novel! Anyway, I do apologize for the lengthiness, but if you can find a Michener novel that includes some period of history you have knowledge of, it's really worth a read, just to get an example of what real careful and dedicated research can do for a story!!!
  8. But modern manufacturing uses all sorts of noxious, toxic, rude materials, because the manufacturers learn how to control them. (Check out what's needed simply to gold-plate a child's trinket...) For terraforming, we're looking at engineering and manufacturing on a far, far, far grander scale than anything we even remotely have experienced. The complexity of the process would likely be even worse than its scale. Running a process at that scale means controlling a process at that scale. If we can't run a simple process like gold plating with childproofed methods, we'd probably not be expecting to build a world that way. Besides, transporting vast slugs of frozen toxicity just has to be useful in the storyline, somewhere...
  9. Wes B

    Space 3

    It doesn't have to be, though author decisions made for story setting could drive a lot of the outcome: Lots of authors like to visualize a large, hollowed-out rock. While this would be possible to build, it doesn't make a lot of sense, unless the rock is a very special one, and it must be the site of a station. Otherwise, one of the abundant iron-nickel asteroids would likely get chosen, ahead of a rocky one. The choice would likely be driven by... Manufacturing capabilities. The OP doesn't specify where or when said station would exist. In the near future, on-site manufacturing would be limited, but then in the near future, repurposing an asteroid isn't practical, anyway. Go a little further to the future, and on-site manufacturing would likely allow the asteroid's entire volume to be consumed and either remade into station components, or jettisoned as waste. The size of the asteroid would likely to be chosen according to the volume of material needed for construction. Extra mass, reserved for future construction, could complicate the propulsion issue, though. We've been given no constraints on whether the thing is near-Earth, or way out there. The further from "home" it is, the more reasonable to repurpose an asteroid, as local materials could be orders of magnitude cheaper. The closer to earth, the higher the safety concerns for bringing a massive hunk of material nearby, and the cheaper to import materials safely to the station.
  10. For amino acids which you'll need for life, or most biological materials for that matter, you'll primarily want Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, and Nitrogen, sometimes grouped together as CHON. Since water gives a lot of what you're after, you might save transportation costs on the rest by transporting the carbon & nitrogen as the gas cyanogen, all carbon and nitrogen, which can be frozen at easily workable temperatures. A big handling problem is that the stuff is deadly in this form (essentially, it's two cyanide radicals glommed together...) Yet this saves the cost of transporting the mass of the hydrogen in the methane and ammonia (roughly 12-15% "dead weight"), which you might not have much to bond to, once brought to the destination, anyway. Yet if you can break the cyanogen into its constituent elements at destination, you do save big on those transportation costs. Note that, rather than dipping into the atmospheres of gas giants for these materials (low-grade ore...) you might look to large moons of gas giants, like Titan orbiting Saturn in our solar system. It has much more concentrated amounts of ammonia and methane (atmosphere, and lakes of the stuff!!), which you could more easily collect and then transport to destination, in whatever way you eventually like. There are other materials you might posit are already available at your destination world, like phosphorous, sodium, potassium, calcium, etc...
  11. Wes B

    Space 3

    It's possible you're presuming a really massive asteroid, and some story circumstances might require that, but a much smaller one could be selected, if there were some convenience in doing so. If it's a chunk of the standard iron-nickel, I'm not sure there would be any real problem in attaching things to it; it's tough stuff, and it should be possible to bore/drill, and even tap threads, for whatever attachments were needed. I suspect that there's technology to do vacuum welds, too, though as long as we're positing the ability to create a self-sustaining habitat, i suppose we could posit decent welds, too. Also, in real engineering problems,there are almost always big tradeoffs to be made. A fabricated structure can be designed "from stem to stern", and that might make some aspects of installing things easier. However, that problem becomes much harder when it comes to actually importing all the necessary materials to create the thing. So it comes down to which is more costly: transporting everything on site from elsewhere, or outfitting and re purposing the materials already sitting there. Don't forget that, given sufficiently sophisticated manufacturing capabilities, the asteroid-station might look indistinguishable from the fabricated one.
  12. Wes B

    Space 3

    I think that this same thing will be true for any space station. If the mass of the fabricated station were equal to the mass of the asteroid, the propulsion problem should be nearly identical. There would be a difference if only a part of the asteroid were converted into a habitat, or if there were some other reason that the repurposed asteroid included excess mass, above and beyond that of the fabricated station. If you had sufficient manufacturing capability on-station, all excess material could probably either be reused or jettisoned. Unless you have a specific story reason to do otherwise, it should be reasonable to posit this as one feature of your story world.
  13. I'm very much a morning person. When the world is dark, quiet, and peaceful, and my mind is placid and hasn't begun to spin thru a thousand different things, I can focus, and can sometimes work 2 or 3 times as fast as any other time.
  14. In Moby Dick (1851) not only does Ishmael get a room in an inn that has a double bed, he finds the other side of the bed is already "rented out" to another tennant: the cannibal Queequeg! (It's a rough start to a memorable alliance, in which even after Queequeg's death, he will indirectly end up saving ishmael's life...) Don't picture a solid mattress over box springs, though; picture a long, wide sack filled with straw, supported by a mesh of ropes...
  15. Wes B

    Space 3

    If you want to build a space station out of "local" materials, I'd recommend a humongous power source, and 3 (three!!!) asteroids. Sadly, judging from meteoric materials we've gathered, asteroids don't seem to come with all the right materials, in one chunk. You want a big iron-nickel asteroid; this is the one you hollow out. The iron is a workable structural material, though in the interior habitat, it will rust. Sadly, the nickel (expect 5-20%) is toxic, and even repeated exposure to small amounts tends to develop nickel allergies in humans. It becomes severe. Either refine the nickel out, or make up some "magic" technology that deals with nickel sensitivity in humans. Next, for biomaterials, as well as plastics & tougher, protein-like materials, you need lots of carbon. A second asteroid that's a carbonaceous chondrite will supply this, though they seem much rarer that the rest. They tend to have some nitrogen, which is needed for the protein-like stuff, and for various hydrocarbons/carbohydrate-like materials, you need lots of hydrogen & oxygen, best found in the ice of some comet material (the third asteroid). For obvious reasons, you'll want a lot of water, anyway. Other elements might have to be imported, or specialty-mined from various extraterrestrial sources.
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