Skeptics Guide to the Universe Forums

Media => Member Creations => Topic started by: Desert Fox on April 19, 2017, 09:07:20 PM

Title: Sci-Fi story help
Post by: Desert Fox on April 19, 2017, 09:07:20 PM
Staring this as a new thread where I may ask periodic ideas

Working on a science fiction story and this came up in my mind:
There are a few series that allow have armed civilian vessels. Good example is the Honor Harrington series where passenger liners carry the weaponry of a heavy cruiser. I believe the same s the case with the Starfire novels. There is also Star Wars which allows armed merchant vessels such as the Millennium Falcon. I don't believe Firefly though however allows such ships, considering them too dangerous.

I am working on a story where the main character are in a converted corvette which while stripped of some of its weaponry, it is still armed. For example, it has light anti-ship particle beams and it has missiles but no warheads on the missiles. The mass and velocity of a connecting missile would destroy any unprotected target. Warships do however have various protections, namely a gravity wall in front of the ship which bends particle beams and in most cases will shred missiles. Nukes try to penetrate the wall in order to damage the ship.

There are semi-lawless areas where a ship might need to be armed and sometimes they might want to visit more settled areas to get cargoes to carry to those more lawless areas. Those more settled areas would need some rules / laws on how they treat such vessels. I am sure some systems would simply not allow them to approach the system and maybe even shoot on sight in some extremely paranoid powers.

What are other options though? Thinking maybe a customs inspection that makes sure that they don't at least have any nukes on board? How close would they allow the ship to get to their world? I can also see that there would always be a risk as well with the visit of warships from other navies as well.
Title: Re: Sci-Fi story help
Post by: Noisy Rhysling on April 19, 2017, 10:54:56 PM
You could have customs "seal" the weapons. If the seal is broken the ship is subject to confiscation. You don't have to explain how that's done any more than you would explain the individual steps required to get an automobile on the highway, people understand the concept of a "seal", truckers have numbered seals on their cargo containers, etc.

Customs would justify their jobs by making a thorough check of the ship and sealing any and all weapons found. (This could be put forth in a grumbled monologue by a crewman who has been to this system before.)

You could also have customs mount a "kill  switch" that disables the ship's drive if the vessel is suspected of being up to no good. Getting around that one would take a few pages of text.
Title: Re: Sci-Fi story help
Post by: arthwollipot on April 20, 2017, 12:16:18 AM
It occurs to me that the fact that a missile, even without a warhead, would cause massive amounts of devastation if fired from space. Sufficiently paranoid civilisations might not want them anywhere near their solar system. They'd probably have this customs check far out in space, which means that they've got that much more space to cover. They'd need to automate it.
Title: Re: Sci-Fi story help
Post by: Desert Fox on April 20, 2017, 01:41:21 AM
I have written some extensive rules. . . .

I just calculated and a missile hitting the target at or after drive burnout would strike with about 1559813.8 joules of energy or about 3.73 megatons of TNT. Missiles are not world killers. That is using the full mass of the missile and assuming that it loses half that mass, it would hit with about 1.8 megatons on energy.
Title: Re: Sci-Fi story help
Post by: Caffiene on April 20, 2017, 05:36:19 AM
I have written some extensive rules. . . .

I just calculated and a missile hitting the target at or after drive burnout would strike with about 1559813.8 joules of energy or about 3.73 megatons of TNT.

Is that including gravitational acceleration, and potential gravitational slingshot? Most sci fi settings would make the calculation of a slingshot-assisted trajectory for a kinetic based weapon pretty trivial.
Title: Re: Sci-Fi story help
Post by: Desert Fox on April 20, 2017, 06:15:24 AM
I have written some extensive rules. . . .

I just calculated and a missile hitting the target at or after drive burnout would strike with about 1559813.8 joules of energy or about 3.73 megatons of TNT.

Is that including gravitational acceleration, and potential gravitational slingshot? Most sci fi settings would make the calculation of a slingshot-assisted trajectory for a kinetic based weapon pretty trivial.

No, that is assuming a launch from rest not from an already fast moving starship. Slingshotting probably will not add much though.  The issue is that starships are far more massive and already make world killer weapons. We have issues already today where airliners and truck boms can be devastating though.
Title: Re: Sci-Fi story help
Post by: Caffiene on April 20, 2017, 07:28:26 AM
The issue is that starships are far more massive and already make world killer weapons.

True. Although I guess in some ways its a different concern than something that would be dealt with by customs, since only a very small proportion of attacks would come from suicide bombers (depending on the cultures in your setting) - crashing a starship would generally be an empty ship or unmanned drone (especially if technological advances in autopilot make suicide irrelevant to the practicality of the attack anyway) so piloted ships wouldnt generally be inspected with that suspicion, an inspection or other preventative measure against manned ships would be more targeted at onboard weapons.

Does bring up the point that with starships being so dangerous, youd expect an unmanned or unresponsive ship moving in local space to be approached with prejudice.
Title: Re: Sci-Fi story help
Post by: Noisy Rhysling on April 20, 2017, 07:54:57 AM
I would think that an (apparently) unmanned spaceship would constitute an emergency until it was proven not to be a hazard.
Title: Re: Sci-Fi story help
Post by: Desert Fox on April 20, 2017, 02:11:42 PM
Merchant ships would almost certainly have beacons transmitting "Here I am." Not having a beacon active would likely be a serious issue.

Ships travel between systems through Wormholes and there is no actual FTL travel except using them. Most wormholes are mapped in such areas - there may be a freak one in a strange place which is unknown.

In major systems, there are almost certainly tracking satellites in position near the wormholes to track targets entering wormholes. A ship would get marked at that point and tracked at all times. If a ship came through a wormhole without a beacon, that would immediately set up a system wide alert.
Title: Re: Sci-Fi story help
Post by: Noisy Rhysling on April 20, 2017, 02:21:43 PM
Merchant ships would almost certainly have beacons transmitting "Here I am." Not having a beacon active would likely be a serious issue. 
I would think they would have beacons that responded to a pre-arranged signal, not continuously. Only the Space Guard would have the key to make them respond. Otherwise pirates could find them easily. (Kimball Kinnison can't be everywhere, you know.)
Title: Re: Sci-Fi story help
Post by: Desert Fox on April 20, 2017, 02:26:03 PM
Merchant ships would almost certainly have beacons transmitting "Here I am." Not having a beacon active would likely be a serious issue. 
I would think they would have beacons that responded to a pre-arranged signal, not continuously. Only the Space Guard would have the key to make them respond. Otherwise pirates could find them easily. (Kimball Kinnison can't be everywhere, you know.)

There is no unified space guard. . . .There are multi-system powers but there are also a number of independent systems as well.
Title: Re: Sci-Fi story help
Post by: arthwollipot on April 20, 2017, 09:28:13 PM
I have written some extensive rules. . . .

I just calculated and a missile hitting the target at or after drive burnout would strike with about 1559813.8 joules of energy or about 3.73 megatons of TNT. Missiles are not world killers. That is using the full mass of the missile and assuming that it loses half that mass, it would hit with about 1.8 megatons on energy.
That's still enough to take out a small city. And ships are likely to carry many such missiles.
Title: Re: Sci-Fi story help
Post by: Noisy Rhysling on April 20, 2017, 09:35:08 PM
Merchant ships would almost certainly have beacons transmitting "Here I am." Not having a beacon active would likely be a serious issue. 
I would think they would have beacons that responded to a pre-arranged signal, not continuously. Only the Space Guard would have the key to make them respond. Otherwise pirates could find them easily. (Kimball Kinnison can't be everywhere, you know.)

There is no unified space guard. . . .There are multi-system powers but there are also a number of independent systems as well.
Wasn't thinking Galactic Patrol, just a way to keep track of ships in-system.
Title: Re: Sci-Fi story help
Post by: Gerbig on April 20, 2017, 10:05:03 PM
EMP lamprey ships.

They magnetically tap into the host ships computer system and monitors all weapons systems, if a weapons system is found to be activated without due permission and approval, an Electromagnetic pulse wave is generated by the lamprey ship, causing the host ships weapons systems to be disabled.
Title: Re: Sci-Fi story help
Post by: Gerbig on April 20, 2017, 10:09:16 PM
Perhaps a Mutually assured destruction lock?

When the ship comes in range a designated satellite is assigned to aim at the ship, if the ship destroys any of the satellite stations on the planet, a deadmans switch is closed and the satellite destroys the attacking ship.
Title: Re: Sci-Fi story help
Post by: arthwollipot on April 20, 2017, 10:28:01 PM
That's reactive, but I think a sufficiently paranoid planet would want something proactive as well.
Title: Re: Sci-Fi story help
Post by: Gerbig on April 20, 2017, 10:51:36 PM
Alright, ready for some super sci-fi babble?


4-dimension quantum trackers.

A technology borrowed from an alien race, in order to track and warn about weapon above class 8 destruction potential (including nukes). These bizarre extraterrestrial computer systems are designed to travel the universe seeking class 8+ weapons, and locking onto them in the 4th dimension when they find them. This ensures ships without 4D access tech cannot detect or remove the tracker once it is attached. They tend to surround solar systems containing organic life or important territories and are able to search new ships that enter the solar system within hours of them entering. A receiver on nearby planets will be updated on all new nearby class 8+ weapons.
Title: Re: Sci-Fi story help
Post by: Desert Fox on April 21, 2017, 04:45:44 AM
I think that idea goes a little far.

One item, while I realize that it potentially violates physics, a ship going through a Wormhole loses almost all of its velocity and the ship's direction on entering the wormhole does not necessarily correlate with the direction exiting.
Title: Re: Sci-Fi story help
Post by: Desert Fox on April 21, 2017, 04:22:40 PM
Ships tend to be on the small side in my universe with destroyers only being around 15 k metric tons in mass.

I am curious if such a vessel should use a customs boat or have to make a hard dock for customs inspection?

In comparison, the US Legend class coat guard cutter (frigate sized) has a special small boat ramp on the stern for launching small boats for boarding. One option I am thinking is a special customs destroyer which gives up a bit of firepower for carrying a couple of customs shuttles.
Title: Re: Sci-Fi story help
Post by: Desert Fox on April 23, 2017, 12:47:55 AM
Question on star systems. . . .Do you think all star systems have a lot left over stuff from star formation? If a ship visits a red dwarf system, there will always be a fair amount of rocks. My understanding is that red dwarf stars did not form in early star formation so there would be some heavier elements at least. 
Title: Re: Sci-Fi story help
Post by: arthwollipot on April 23, 2017, 12:54:38 AM
I think that the universe is big and varied enough that the answer to this question is "if you want them to, sure".

I doubt anyone would complain.
Title: Re: Sci-Fi story help
Post by: Desert Fox on April 23, 2017, 01:25:46 AM
I am attempting to model star systems as well as possible to what current understanding is.

Vast majority of star systems are red dwarf systems and ships have to spend a fair amount of time transiting such systems to get to another wormhole.
Title: Re: Sci-Fi story help
Post by: Noisy Rhysling on April 23, 2017, 07:13:34 AM
Question on star systems. . . .Do you think all star systems have a lot left over stuff from star formation? If a ship visits a red dwarf system, there will always be a fair amount of rocks. My understanding is that red dwarf stars did not form in early star formation so there would be some heavier elements at least.
Depends on the gravity well, I think. Betelgeuse may have sucked up everything around it already.
Title: Re: Sci-Fi story help
Post by: Desert Fox on April 23, 2017, 02:14:14 PM
Question on star systems. . . .Do you think all star systems have a lot left over stuff from star formation? If a ship visits a red dwarf system, there will always be a fair amount of rocks. My understanding is that red dwarf stars did not form in early star formation so there would be some heavier elements at least.
Depends on the gravity well, I think. Betelgeuse may have sucked up everything around it already.

High gravity stars likely to have little stuff in orbit?
Title: Re: Sci-Fi story help
Post by: Noisy Rhysling on April 23, 2017, 05:53:02 PM
Question on star systems. . . .Do you think all star systems have a lot left over stuff from star formation? If a ship visits a red dwarf system, there will always be a fair amount of rocks. My understanding is that red dwarf stars did not form in early star formation so there would be some heavier elements at least.
Depends on the gravity well, I think. Betelgeuse may have sucked up everything around it already.

High gravity stars likely to have little stuff in orbit?
Whatever doesn't have the orbital velocity to stay away from the star would be pulled in. Bigger the star, the higher the velocity  would have to be.
Title: Re: Sci-Fi story help
Post by: Desert Fox on April 23, 2017, 05:55:07 PM
I wonder then if Red Dwarfs would have the most "junk"
Title: Re: Sci-Fi story help
Post by: Noisy Rhysling on April 23, 2017, 06:00:23 PM
I wonder then if Red Dwarfs would have the most "junk"
Smaller star, small well. Anything not in that well would wander off.
Title: Re: Sci-Fi story help
Post by: Desert Fox on April 23, 2017, 06:02:36 PM
I wonder then if Red Dwarfs would have the most "junk"
Smaller star, small well. Anything not in that well would wander off.

Is there any modelling of debris around stars. . . .Interesting if there is a zone of mass likely to have planets or not.

I am sorry but when compared to the Sun, all the planets around it are basically debris.
Title: Re: Sci-Fi story help
Post by: Noisy Rhysling on April 23, 2017, 06:15:03 PM
Is there any modelling of debris around stars. . . .Interesting if there is a zone of mass likely to have planets or not.
It's rather simple. If a mass had the velocity to escape the well then it "moves on". I understand that there may be more planets that don't circle stars than ones that do. If it doesn't have the velocity maintain an orbit it falls into the star, eventually. The lucky ones find their orbit and pretty much stay there.
Quote
I am sorry but when compared to the Sun, all the planets around it are basically debris.
Yeah, either matter with orbital velocity from the original accretion cloud or things captured as they flirted with the star's well.

Fun thought: How many comet made only one dive at the sun? The ones that didn't achieve a long elliptical orbit either got flung out of the solar system permanently or dove into the start.
Title: Re: Sci-Fi story help
Post by: arthwollipot on April 23, 2017, 08:56:16 PM
Question on star systems. . . .Do you think all star systems have a lot left over stuff from star formation? If a ship visits a red dwarf system, there will always be a fair amount of rocks. My understanding is that red dwarf stars did not form in early star formation so there would be some heavier elements at least.
Depends on the gravity well, I think. Betelgeuse may have sucked up everything around it already.

High gravity stars likely to have little stuff in orbit?

Technically, high mass. Everything has the same gravity.  ;D

And though I'm not an astrophysicist, I don't think this is correct. Higher mass stars will exert a gravitational influence over a larger area, but I don't think that the density of debris in that area would be any higher than the density of debris around a lower mass star.

Could be wrong about that, though.

This is why I write fantasy. I don't have to worry about getting details like this right.  :D