functional lightspeed (n.): A curious quirk of relativistics; thanks to time dilation and distance foreshortening, when a lighthugger on a sufficiently lengthy voyage achieves 0.707 lights, the wall-clock time experienced by the crew exactly matches the length of the voyage in the empire-time frame, thus creating the mathematical illusion that the starship is travelling at the speed of light.
While meaningless in practical terms, this has not stopped lighthugger crewers from using it as an excuse to throw a party and hold a “light-barrier crossing ceremony” to initiate those who have never done so before into the Right Honorable and Inebriated Order of the Improbably Celeritous. Such ceremonies include initiation into the “mysteries of the deep black” by the gods of space and stars and their court (played by the oldest Improbables aboard), much drunken horseplay, and the traditional final rite of standing on the foreshield of the lighthugger until one’s nerve cracks, followed by the equally traditional treatment for radiation exposure.
So I’ve been playing around a bit with nuclear reactor design, as one does. Thinking about the gap in the portfolio between the high-performance and high-unfriendliness molten-salt designs mentioned for use in power armor, and the low-power pebble-bed designs used for distributed medium-power applications, and wondering what exactly the sort of fission reactors the Empire used back in the old pre-fusion days for civil power.
Herein is the not-yet-canonical result, and I invite physicists, nuclear engineers, and so forth, to tell me all the places I’ve gone horribly wrong. Behold the LCGCR: the liquid-core gas-cooled reactor!
Basically, it’s a liquid fuel design (I’m considering here solutions of uranium and/or thorium salts, rather than molten salts; probably in water, unless there’s a more convenient solvent available.) to take advantage of their self-adjusting reactor dynamics. The formulation of the fuel solution is such that it only achieves criticality when inside the calandria containing the deuterium oxide (heavy water – ignore the D2 on the diagram, that’s a writo) moderator; elsewhere in the fuel loop it doesn’t have that. (The details of the calandria – such as the precise arrangement of moderator around fuel – and the control systems for tuning the reaction are omitted in this diagram.)
The fuel loop itself is how we keep the reactor running continuously and maximize fuel use. The liquid fuel continuously circulates through the reactor and the fuel regenerator (heat exchangers omitted for clarity). The fuel regenerator is where we filter neutron poisons and stable fission products that won’t burn any more out of the fuel, and top it up with fresh salts as required, ensuring that we can use all of the U/Th we put in and all their useful decay products too.
(As a safety feature, we have the core dump valve located right at the bottom of the fuel loop. In the event of something going horribly wrong with the plan, opening this valve empties the whole fuel loop into a safe-storage system split across multiple tanks, set up so that none of them can possibly achieve criticality and all can handle the decay heat of however much of the core they get.)
We get the heat out for use by bubbling an inert gas (helium seems to be a good choice, given its low neutron cross-section and susceptibility to neutron activation, meaning the primary coolant loop is probably clean enough to run the turbines off directly) through the salt solution in the calandria. After running the turbines, we feed it through a gas cooler and a gas cleaner, which latter removes neutron poisons such as xenon, and other gaseous products of the nuclear reaction, before returning to the reactor.
This is of course a very brief sketch of a design which I haven’t spent all that much time thinking about, but it seems to me to be roughly plausible and to have a few interesting advantages. Your thoughts, sirs?
From: Vorin Telnicev, Archives, Admiralty Intelligence
To: Rilis Tsurilen, Overwatch, Admiralty Intelligence
Subject: The Sixfold Abomination
I regret to say that Archives has no confirmed information on the precise thinking behind the Galian’s abomination of “all that walks on six legs”. It was declared shortly after the Falish Traverse constellation was opened for access, and before a solid Directorate presence had been established; and unfortunately, the Theomachy’s own records are neither complete nor reliable.
Our best surmise is that the abomination in question was a matter of political convenience, developing popular support before the Theomachy’s holy war against the nearby Gardens of Rechesh, the link!n-Rechesh being a hexapedal, matriarchal species. However, due to the resounding lack of success on the Theomachy’s part in prosecuting the war – despite the link!n-Rechesh‘s reliance on purely organic starship technology and the threefold advantage in size and rather greater advantage in industrial production of the Theomachy – any records confirming this would assuredly have been purged.
Regarding your secondary question concerning potential threat capabilities, the latest projections (attached) filed with Archives indicate that while the Navy of the Pure’s light classes are adequate for their usual slaving and raiding, their ships of the plane and their general combat performance against military-grade forces continue to be, as in the above case, barely sufficient to intimidate a troop of Star Scouts on a camping trip. No serious threat potential.
The postal service is not accepting shipments of biologicals, especially live biologicals, for shipment via packet torpedo at this time, or at any other time. Customers are requested not to attempt to bypass this restriction.
Despite the events depicted in the recent Galactic Studios InVid, Fatal Sunburn, it is not possible for biologicals to survive shipment by packet torpedos, which lack all inertial damping and use accelerations well beyond the tolerances and indeed structural integrity of all known sophonts. To be blunt: your package, or yourself, will arrive as meat chutney, and the postal service will bill your estate for the cost of mopping out the parcel stowage.
If you need to be there on time, consider mindcasting. Mindcast and bodily reconstruction data can be sent by packet torpedo quite safely.
Torsk Induts, Postcatalyst General
(This piece inspired by this ST:TNG episode in which someone was shipped to the Enterprise inside a photon torpedo casing accelerated to Warp 9. Needless to say, if you tried the equivalent to this in the ‘verse, it wouldn’t be a case of “sit up and take off your breath mask”, but rather a case of “Please pour organic slurry enclosed into healing vat, and run attached reconstruction program. Stir, and allow two hours to finish baking,” in a similarly gruesome fashion to the Gideon Drives of the Pax in Endymion.
…which is why it’s much easier just to send the mindcast data.)
GAN-LAK-NAK (HANTH CLUSTER) – The capital of the Aklaknak Cluster was in chaos today after multiple issues have wreaked havoc on its governance automation, local correspondents report.
Currently these issues include the deletion of all data relating to sophonts whose names begin with the letter ‘K’ from Revenue Generation Service databases, the replacement of all digraphics in license documents with pictures of as-yet-unidentified small furry quadrupeds, highly localized snowfall despite midsummer temperatures, the designation of all sugar-containing products as Class V restricted toxins, and public-access vehicles driving in circles while unoccupied, singing popular drinking songs.
The Archetype of Security has appealed for calm, blaming the errors on ‘unexpectedly severe systems glitches, currently under investigation’. Outside offers of technical assistance have, thus far, been rejected.
On this day in which we here in the US observe the attempt to make law a 497-page document issued too late to read before the vote, in the form of a non-searchable PDF with handwritten, barely-legible marginal annotations…
…an observer from a far distant land might turn to another, one who has mocked the baroque formality of the Imperial Senate – and in particular the requirement that all Harmonious Proposals of Unquestionable Justice and Incontrovertible Benignity be submitted in the proper formal register of language, poetic form, and exquisite calligraphy with accompanying testimonials likewise, lest they be discarded by the President of the Senate into the Brazier of Insufficiency to the Mandate (and Other Poor Form) at his left hand – and say unto him:
“This, my dear skeptic, is what it is for.”
(It’s not the only Schelling fence against attempted last-minute Senatorial bullshittery, but it is undoubtedly the most beautiful.)