beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
So, I read a story where the Earth's entire colonisation effort was something like thirty women, and they were going to get implanted with preserved embryos on their first day there because they might be the whole hope of survival for the human race.

... which bothers me on several levels.

Read more... )

Obviously if everyone is women you do what the computer tells you and grow whatever was frozen well enough. Er, whoever.

How long would they keep up the Ladies Only plan?

I mean if the plan is to get as much genetic diversity as possible out of the frozen embryo stores in the ship and there's some kind of time limit on that, you'd want to make sure there's plenty of wombs to go around. Would you get everyone out in a single generation?

If you're aiming for ten thousand colonists, even if you have multiple births routinely and soak the risk, that needs a really big first gen pool. So you'd want to keep up the embryos plan for multiple generations, without losing any of the earlier generations. You could do that with donor sperm and embryos. Or with a lot of social stuff to make sure your great grandchildren are still interested in decanting old world people.

also one of the mathier pieces says "the consequences of the increased medical risks of late childbirth have not yet been considered." It wanted to stretch the generations on a generation ship by having kids around 40, but, wow is that a biggie to leave out of your math. I mean, your chances change substantially over time.

Read more... )

But only the first 200 would be volunteers who up front believe themselves willing to act that way. The future survival of the human race would depend on their reproductive behaviour. Their choices would be severely constrained.

And to get all the embryos out of storage in the shortest generations they'd need to get their daughters to act the same way. Which seems... unlikely.

Read more... )

Hard science fiction that sets out a space colony as that baby focused without thinking through how they're actually going to feed the babies is just bad.

I mean, maybe they all get pregnant before they've got a crop going on the grounds that if they starve to death it's all one anyway, but... no.

Also the science problem in the novellette I read was far less interesting to me than the social consequences of the background setup. Read more... )

I think one big factor for viable colony size calculations is something like, if we send people who act pretty much like people of that cultural background do, how many do we need?

Like, we'd need to include murder rates from somewhere.

You do not get perfectly behaved people. No matter how you filter them at the start.

And the cultural changes would be massive even in the first generation kids. I mean how many immigrants feel like they don't really understand their children?

And if the future of the human race depends on women's reproductive choices, it's kind of more likely to work if you start with what those choices *actually* tend to be. First gen you could filter for people that want big families - though not for people that want big families once they start having them and are surrounded by them - but second gen will do as they will.

How do you design a colony socially so it does what you need genetically?

Clue: you do not stick thirty women on a one way trip and keep them pregnant from the first month they get there.

Hard science needs to at least glance at soft science or it requires the ridiculous.
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
Stories pretty often suffer from a basic lack of understanding how humans work, so lack of understanding nuclear weapons isn't exactly a surprise, but still.

Adding plutonium to an exploding arrow does not make it a bigger explosion. Regular explosives are violently exothermic chemical reactions. Nuclear explosions are, well, nuclear, a whole different deal. To make nukes go bang they put the nuclear material in the middle of the explosive so it'll get squished together to form a critical mass. That means it doesn't go boom while it's waiting and smaller amounts of material can be coaxed into boom. But you still need a critical mass. Which is, google and wiki suggests, somewhere around 5kg for a really worrying element plus explosives.

You do not stick 5kg on the end of an arrow.

Smaller amounts of nuclear material just add radioactivity and poison to your boom stuff. Plutonium is a toxic metal, as dust (like after exploding) it can get breathed in and stay in the body for decades, and once there exposes the body to radiation. And these effects apply for extremely tiny amounts.

So, reading a fic where Hawkeye has souped up his arrows with plutonium?
And, when Cap asks if that's safe for bystanders, is all 'sure!' ?

No I'm not leaving this as a comment, it's comic book fanfic, the bar is set low.

Also my degree is in English so I might have got bunches wrong.

But stuff like this is just distracting.

Also real science makes much more interesting stories cause they have real constraints you have to work hard to overcome, and possibilities with fascinating implications.
beccaelizabeth: dollmaker girl, short and wider than most dolls, red hair, red shirt, red fan, katana, rainbow socks, and converse.  Be. (avatar)
Mum had not previously heard of transgenics. The word. It is a new word, invented in 1980.
First we talked about belt loops on trousers and them being really new, and mum explained that if you hold trousers up with braces you can have them be very adjustable to different size people, and also people were still wearing smocks and stuff anyways. Smocks can be very warm and waterproof because only the outside gets wet, but they're heavy. So then I told her about spider silk clothes, and then spider goats and the new silk worms. And mum was all blinky, because this is all New new to her. And so then I said about pharm goats that make life saving meds in the milk, and also about glowing cats. Mum liked the glowing cats. They totally weirded her out, but in a woah cool way.
I like this stuff because it's new and cool and has all the possibilities, but most of these possibilities had never even as a hint of a suspicion crossed my mum's mind, so she was like, woah *blinks*.

Also I looked up sea slugs, which are coooool and have all the colors, nudibranch they're called and they're all the different shapes. And mum thought they were yuck things but we looked up sea cucumbers and they're quite different things and also they throw their insides at things sometimes and are indeed yuck. And then mum wanted to know about spider spinnerets, and spiders have usually 6 but sometimes 2 or 4 or 8, and they move independently and they can do things together or separate and they're on the back underneath of a spider abdomen. They look right complicated. I do not want pictures of spider parts though. Or spiders. Mum wanted to know if there are glow spiders and there were some with reflective eyes and then I realised I don't want to know if there are glow spiders and also there are too many pictures on this here internet. But it's no surprise that spidergoats don't make the silk just by making the silky milk, if there's up to 8 spinnerets doing complicated things to it after it is goo.

Spider goats video
presenter is all woah dude too
even though they're just, like, being goats.

If you took all this stuff and wrote a story where it all actually just works like planned then it'd look like science fiction but it's all happening now.

Making science fiction sufficiently new is increasingly difficult.
Cause we're living in it.
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
My college units this semester are Dissertation Preparation, National Cinema and The Short Story. Read more... )

ANYway, The Short Story does not look promising, but, I have a lot of books of short stories lying around. And that's without getting into the thirty year solid collection of Analog. So I got a recent SF anthology down that I hadn't started and I've been reading.

I have previously got into arguments about the definition of science fiction. (I spend three hours down the pub every two weeks talking about science fiction, naturally this comes up). I have said that science fiction is all about exploring the way new technology shapes lives. I've said it in a variety of phrasings, but I figured, the tech changes, and people change in response to that, and then we have story. I have been unenthusiastic about definitions that reckon science fiction is all about the props. There are many stories set on spaceships that are not, to my mind, science fiction. I've been known to get sniffy about it.

I might have to revise that quite a lot.

Read more... )

I guess the basic problem has been said long since: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
So any sufficiently advanced science fiction is about magic.

Push my definition of science fiction only a step or two out, and we've run into my definition of fantasy.

I just read a short about how stories about Mars shape how people react to Mars.
That's not the only sort of world we've been dreaming on a long, long time.
As soon as it's technologically possible to make faerie, people are going to do it. Remake themselves or their avs and just... go.

So I'm left with a conundrum. Anything with the trappings of science fiction, the star trek kind with recogniseable humans on big metal starships, I no longer find a plausible extrapolation. And anything plausible isn't exactly what I'd been thinking of as science fiction.

Having twisted my brain in a knot I should probably go to sleep.

Then wave a little surrender flag on my definitions and go back to writing stuff like I've been watching: humans charging around the universe in tin cans.
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
I got stuck on my story again because I am trying to figure out wormhole physics, relativity, and psionics.
I know I can only look up the two of those that exist.
But I need to understand them at least a little before I can decide what the rule is on the third.

I think the rule I've implied on the last 36000 words involves instant communication over light years. I meant it to do that.

But then you get (a) time distortion near light speed and (b) instant travel through the wormhole so (c) you time travel when you go back home through the wormhole. (I was going to pretty much ignore that. As long as ships don't do loops at light speed I figure they would pretty much ignore that. You go through the gate, why would you care if you travelled through time to do it? Nobody goes the way that doesn't involve gates.)
(... not on purpose. I know two lost ships in this story. oh dear.)

So, if she's instantly connected, does she have instant communication with the past / the future?
... do those words actually make any sense once you've got a wormhole network?

I think I broke my brain.

I only wanted to write about the sex.

It grew a plot. It grew a giant plot.

Now I need to understand the rules and figure out if my psionic network is, necessarily, as far as the rest of humanity is concerned, precognitive. Which would suck, because then predestination effects kick in. And then the only reason things happen is that you saw them happen that way and knew they would. And then there is no free will. At least for telepaths.

... I could write that story but I didn't think I was.

Okay, I will make a rule. Telepaths going really fast can't hear their people because of the time distort. When they slow down again they hear them through the nearest gate because it's many times closer than the not-through-the-gate version.

Also, most telepaths can only talk to particular people, and if the time distortion/time travel effect has gone long enough, those people are probably dead at the far (future) end.

There. Tidy.

... does that even make sense?

Bother it.

beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
So I was thinking about starting a colony on another planet
as you do
and trying to plan out what you'd need.

I went looking on the internet for other people's plans, but I think I lack the keywords. I found some very sketch outline stuff about colonies on planets that were not terraformed. I was thinking something more like Stargate where you could go live somewhere that looked kind of like Vancouver. Big, green, lots of trees. So your basic air and water are covered. But nothing much more complicated than trees, so everything humans would use you'd have to bring with you.

I read a Stargate Atlantis fic where the things you need list started with 'olive trees'. And trying to poke the GURPS rules to make sufficient food for a spaceship come out I found a lot of places saying potato and beans are good to eat. And personally I like eggs and mushrooms so I'd take enough to make sure breakfast was sorted. But basing my plans on things I personally eat will come up against that thing where I'm pretty sure I don't eat all the things that are good for humans. I hear green is a good food group.

If you were planning a colony to go to another planet
one way trip
no resupply
take people and supplies and expect to look after yourselves forever after
how would you find out what you'd need?
and what would you take with you?

(The empty planet scenario makes me twitchy in ways connected with the word colonies. On Earth it was never, ever empty. On Earth the story about going to empty places and making them good was a cover for some really foul stuff. Telling stories about the empty planets out there waiting to be colonised gets into some really awkward narratives. But, it's space. Space is big. It might be empty. And if there's any life, it seems to spend a whole lot of time inventing trees. We could go find somewhere in the middle of its tree phase. It's all logically possible. Just... sort of squirmy.)

(Also, intruding on the ecological development of another planet is logically an ethical Thing. But I'm just going to hop over the terraforming phase because it takes forever and doesn't seem to lead to people on the internet talking about how you make a functioning community full of people. People are where all the stories live.)
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
Say you've got a stable wormhole with a gate on either side, your basic stargate. Both sides of the wormhole are having the same day. You talk back and forth, it's like there's a funny looking gate between you, no problem.
Weird relativity paradoxes happen when you start making one end of the gate travel really fast.
Read more... )
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
so far today I have been trying to learn enough physics to bluff a science fiction universe. not the sort like Star Wars, the sort where Newton and Einstein would not *facepalm*

... physics is mind boggling. This is totally rabbit hole stuff. Alice don't know the half of it.

I been trying to understand relativity, time dilation, and how far humans can get at 1g acceleration.
Pretty far, apparently. Like, in one passenger lifetime, other galaxies. And back. But only if you assume superscience to keep pushing us that hard that long.
I glanced at wormholes, which are open in another tab for when I feel like twisting my brain more. And now I'm reading up on string theory for dummies (really, there's lots of pages on

I have concluded: Even for dummies versions of physics is hard.

My science fiction will have a lot of *facepalm* involved unless I go get a whole different degree.

I like stargates. step in, step out, all done. Put a bunch in a row and make a ladder, all sorted. But someone has to go out first and drop off a gate. Hence the trying to figure out real physics.

And the physics will have impact on behaviour. Just the interaction of travel time, communication speed, and relative lifespans shapes whole SF universes.

Throw that together with the speed of tech development and the kind of basically fantasy/horror transformations of 'human' that perfectly plausible tech can lead to and boom, huge conflicts, lasting ages. So it's interesting. If I can get my head around it.
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
I've been wondering about stargates and relativity. Not specifically the Stargate franchise gates, but instant travel worldgates. Is worldgate generic? Stargate has to be tm every which way by now. ANYway: big gate where you walk through it and instantly go from one planet to another.

I was thinking, if you walk across a room, all of you is going at the same speed, and the planet you're standing on is going at whatever speed it's going in whatever direction it's going but you don't feel it because you're going along with it. But if you're walking across a galaxy then you have two planets going at different speeds in different directions that only make any sense at all if you only measure them relative to each other in this one calculation. So you have to assume the worldgate can figure out where it's aiming even with all this movement going on. And since you arrive out the other side at walking speed then it don't matter if the planets are heading towards each other really fast, you don't keep any of that when you go through the gate. Somehow the gate vanishes the difference, or makes it up, or something. Read more... )
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
so I'm trying to figure out something about which way is down in a spaceship with no artificial gravity.

If it's sitting there in space spinning then out is down, yes? The spin makes a down.

If it's pushing with big engines then the engine is down, I think. Because it's shoving the floor up at you.

If it's spinning and pushing... does it break? I have no idea. But, does 'down' go diagonal? Depending on how much the engines are pushing.

Because then spaceship corridors being octagons makes logical sense and not just pretty sense.

You know the more I try and write actual SF the more I wish I hadn't given up on my science a level resits. I could have passed. Eventually. Probably.
... Is there a 'science for SF writers' course somewhere? Or a book...
I realise if I only want to write for Doctor Who then science is optional, but, I kind of miss that whole logic and reason thing where you can figure stuff out. It's all very well going 'reverse teh polarity!' and fixing everything, but it's like a whole set of puzzles you can't play with.


beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)

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