Trope-a-Day: Strange Syntax Speaker

Strange Syntax Speaker: Mostly averted by well-programmed translators; of course, this is not the case for relatively recently contacted species (whose linguistic corpuses may not be complete and conclusive, and who may well therefore play this absolutely straight, along with some vocabulary peculiarities) or, of course, cheap knock-off translators.

Also sometimes played straight because many languages include linguistic features not found in others, and if you want a full-fidelity translation, this would make languages like English sound a little strange while all the evidentials and attitudinals and politeness markers and dubifiers and other such qualities are inserted in-band.  This is most evident with the attitudinals, since given differences between different species body languages and expressions, everyone’s playing I Do Not Speak Nonverbal straight, and so a full-fidelity interspecies translation would generally involve everyone talking like Mass Effect‘s elcor (“Grumpy: Inconvenient as it is.”).

Making Sausage: Trope-a-Day Order

This is answering a metaquestion, hence the odd prefix:

More of a “how the sausage is made” question than anything relevant in-universe, but what’s your procedure for arranging the Trope-of-the-Day order?  I’ve been thinking of using the idea for a world-building / possible writing project of my own that I’ve had in my head for a while, and I’m curious as to how exactly you go about it.

Well… mostly, as little as possible.

It’s sort of two pointers chasing each other, with the occasional variation since it’s not like TV Tropes itself is a fixed list…

I mostly obtain tropes to fill up the list by running through applicable indexes (starting, obviously enough, with “Speculative Fiction Tropes“, for me) on the TV Tropes sites, which start out in alphabetical order. That, though, is supplemented by suggestions, tropes I just happen to happen across, and occasional looking at the tropes listed for other works that I perceive as having something in common with mine just to see if I’ve missed anything interesting.

And then as I do the write-ups, I add them to my tropes list, which I keep reordered into alphabetical order so I can find stuff.

For publishing purposes, here, I just run through that list in alphabetical order (even though, per above, that’s not necessarily how they got onto it) and publish one a day.

Except: there are dependencies, in the form of some trope write-ups that mention other trope-write ups, in which case I publish the trope that it depends on first, out of order, if it isn’t already so that I don’t have to explain the missing link or remember to go back and put the link in earlier when I get to the other trope.  (So, for example, despite being in the middle of the letter S, in the next few days we’ll see What Do You Mean It’s Not Political?, because Strawman Political references it.)

In the case of multiple dependencies, I’ll do a depth-first recursion on this principle, so sometimes you’ll see very large digressions – and I’ll end up making whiteboard diagrams – when many tropes reference each other. (At least once, too, I’ve had a dependency cycle, which is just annoying and forces me to pick an arbitrary starting point.)

And then, when they’re particularly relevant to something else I’ve written at the time (like Reactionless Drive) or that’s happening in the world (like Space Marine), I’ll just post them out of order anyway.

So. Yeah. That’s my process. Kind of a plan-of-no-plan, isn’t it?


Trope-a-Day: Stop Worshipping Me

Stop Worshipping Me: Played straight by a large number of seed AI “gods” who by and large find the tendency of lesser orders of intelligence to worship them embarrassing and really quite annoying, not to mention inappropriate.  Really.  Just because something can fit whatever notions of divinity you just made up doesn’t mean you should go around praying and groveling and… ugh.  It also doesn’t help that they are perfectly aware of the images that most baselines have of their gods, and most of them find the comparison… unflattering, to say the least.

Averted in the Empire with the Transcend’s eikone-archai, mostly because (a) the eldraeic mainstream always took the position that they were getting an iceberg’s-eye view of the purely conceptual eikones and should not presume to limit them by anthropomorphic deification; and (b) they never worshipped them (in the sense we’d recognize) even when they were considered supernatural deities, because worshipping is entirely too subordinate a position for them to take with regards to anything.

(Especially any deity that’s worth bothering with.)


Handwavium: Paragravity

Okay, let’s talk about paragravity.

First up, a note on nomenclature. Paragravity is one of the two things that an Imperial habtech might be referring to when they talk about artificial gravity, the other being spin gravity. Unlike spin gravity, which is “powered” by good old centrifugal force, paragravity is produced by ontotechnological space magic that does wonderfully complex things involving information physics and grand unified theories and other such things to poke the universe in exactly the right way – basically, one branch of the mass-inertia-and-momentum manipulating vector control.

Which is to say that it is produced by gravity rotors, suitcase-sized boxes with a power connector, a ‘weave connector, and a thermal management connector on the outside, filled with solid-state hardware that is a proprietary product of Mariseth Gravitics, ICC. And into whose internal workings we shall thus respectfully avoid going.

What we’re talking about here is how they work on the outside.

The field of paragravity (the gravity envelope) can only be created between two gravity rotors of opposed polarity. That gets you a straight field (with perhaps some convex distortion at the edges) between the two, which imposes a force functionally identical to mass-generated gravity (i.e., affecting all atoms, etc., equally) on everything with mass inside it.  This creates a consistent down direction towards what, for the sake of designation, we shall call the “positive” rotors.

(You have to have a closed envelope, and can’t operate an unpaired gravity rotor even if you wanted to: since the universe is functionally infinite in whatever direction you’re pointing it, energy requirements for the half-field head asymptotically for infinity, at which point the circuit breakers save you from a messy ‘splosion.)

Both momentum and energy are conserved, as they would have to be.

The former is the reason that you gravity rotors should be bolted firmly to the structure of the hab; whatever force they exert is, per Callaneth’s Lemma (or Newton’s Third Law, whatever name you prefer), reciprocally exerted too, half to each rotor in the pair.

While difficult to arrange even deliberately, this does imply that if you can get enough mass in one spot and move it just right, you can get the gravity rotors to tear themselves free and leap in the appropriate reciprocal direction.

With regard to the latter: it takes energy to establish the gravity envelope, but once it’s up and running, maintaining it takes only minimal energy physically speaking. (I.e., it still consumes quite a bit of energy in the rotor while it’s up and going, because rooting the universe ain’t cheap; that energy just doesn’t go into the envelope.  It’s this waste that makes paragravity a real expensive thing to run.)

That, however, is only true so long as nothing is moving within it. Falling objects, moving in the down direction of the envelope, take energy from the envelope as they gain kinetic energy.  (Likewise, when you lift an object within the envelope against its downforce, that pushes energy into the envelope, which is a surge effect that the hardware has to cope with. Alas, it’s not something that can be harvested in the majority of applications.)  You could call this paragravitational potential energy if you like, since it sits in essentially the same place in the relevant equations.

While it takes the rotors a little while to initialize from a cold start (although some of this time is self-diagnostics and the like), once up and running, though, you can change the parameters of the gravity envelope very quickly; and you can generate pretty much any amount of gravity you want up to their capacity so long as you’re willing to spend the energy (which varies proportionately) needed to do it.

This is what lets you use the exact same technology for inertial damping; you just have appropriately oriented gravity rotors cancel out your engine thrust inside the starship – while bearing in mind that this will have certain effects on your structural load. (Likewise, you can use them when grounded – but since they don’t block planetary gravity, if you want 1G in the cabin when landed on a 3G world, you will actually be running the paragravity system at -2G.)

The drawback, however, is that the same lack of “inertia” in operation that lets you change your gravity quickly means that they fail equally quickly – and shut down essentially instantly if the power fails, just like an electromagnet’s field collapses – so failing to keep up maintenance schedules may mean being abruptly smashed to the deck with a force of twelve gravities! Caveat engineer.


Question: Stellar Relocation

Another reader question:

A thought hits me: If the Empire has the power to shepherd stars and (at least theoretically) to destroy them, does that mean that it also might have the capability to move them?

Well, now.

The destroying them (in theory, but it’s a good theory) isn’t so relevant in this context. It is a sad reflection of the nature of the universe that destroying things tends to be pretty easy, at least compared to creating them. That’s entropy for you.

As for moving stars. Well, theoretically, there are several possibilities. For example, you could use the Cirys bubble (a solar-sail-material-based dynamic Dyson sphere, similar to this) technology in use at the Esilmúr energy production facility along with the star-stabilizing plasmonics at use in stellar husbandry arrays to build a functioning Shkadov thruster.

Doing this would require solving several of what I believe technarchs traditionally refer to as “interesting engineering problems”, but it wouldn’t require any radically new scientific breakthroughs to make work. Just time, genius, and an Imperial assload of cash.

(In somewhat more radical ideas – a stargate moves mass around, and stars are, well, mass. Given certain constraints on energy requirements (because stars are a lot of mass) and the need to sink rather vastier amounts of kinetic energy (because stars are a lot of mass) than usual to avoid nasty intrinsic problems – and you’ll note no-one’s stargate-jumping planets around, either – this almost certainly involves solving a great many more interesting engineering problems than the former one. But again, nothing fundamental stops you from doing it, either.)

All of which is to say: moving stars isn’t a realized capability, but while it’s currently restricted to the drawing board and wild speculative fiction, it’s certainly a realizable one. Analogically speaking, should the necessity suddenly turn up (“it’s coming right at us!”), they just have to run the Manhattan Project; they don’t have to discover nuclear fission, first.


Trope-a-Day: Sticks to the Back

Sticks to the Back: Both possible, and done, with tiny vector-control emitters sewn into the clothing that can grasp objects you place on top of them and hold them in place against the emitters, or even at a designated range from them.  And, obviously, anywhere, not just the back, including – if you care to be quite gratuitous about it – orbiting around you.  (It should be noted that these are generally double-ended – the emitter grips you at one end and the object at the other, such that it doesn’t strangle you with your own shirt.)

Of course, it’s still usually considered unnecessarily showy much of the time, and they do introduce a dependency on your clothing’s power supply continuing to work, something that holsters, pouches and pockets by and large do not.


Trope-a-Day: Steel Eardrums

Steel Eardrums: As mentioned briefly under Super Senses, one of the modifications included in the current alpha baseline upgrade is a special sphincter for the ear to protect against loud noises, both reflexively and voluntarily operable.  It’s not perfect Steel Eardrums – where exceptionally loud noises are concerned – but it certainly improves matters when you’re running around shooting things and causing merely regular-sized explosions.