So, it occurred to me that in my comments on sports here I missed one very large elephant in the room that makes competitive sports… difficult.

Namely, the number of species, and then the number of clades of those species, and that’s before we start getting into individual-level modifications, which leads to truly astonishing levels of ability divergence in various areas, many of them qualifying as “special abilities”.

To some degree, as we do, you can try and level that with rules, but that’s limited in the first place unless you go for a blanket “only baselines, or at least only alphas, of one single species, can play” – which very much limits the number of players and amount of interest you’ll get – you’re dealing with an entire culture of people whose natural inclination is to exploit the hell out of loopholes in anything that seems “unfairly restrictive”.

And it’s not as if this “ain’t no rule” attitude wasn’t giving referees plenty of headaches long before there were any other species around. “Yes, the rulebook says that the ball must be in a player’s possession when it enters the scoring zone, but there Ain’t No Rule that says another player can’t PK-throw the possessing player into said zone, right?”

(Minor plot point from the Contact Novel That Shall Never Be Written: the first football team to come up with the notion of hiring a kaeth fullback. After the ensuing (mostly metaphorical) carnage, it didn’t take the NFL long to come up with the “must weigh under 400 lbs.” rule.)

As such, those attempts at competitive sports leagues which do exist tend to have rulebooks the approximate size of the unabridged Encylopaedia Britannica, and add about a chapter to their length every game as people find new, obscure abilities or new, not-yet-forbidden synergies of abilities to exploit.

Or they go the free-for-all route, but that’s less “competitive sport” and more “exhibition grand meleé, specializing in deviousness”.


Natural Legislation

selective ontology evocation system: Known in the vulgar as the reality engine, or even as the god-machine1, and widely acknowledged as the crowning achievement of the ontotechnologist’s art, the SOES is the first general-purpose ontotech effector.

The SOES came from a development and reconsideration of simpler ontotechnologies derived from the three major competing physical hypotheses: information physics gave us matter editation, and with it reality graphics, the matter-handler, and the peeker-poker; matrix theory gave us vector control, the probability kiln, and the subquantum operators underlying the tangle channel; while ontological precedence produced dimensional transcendence, the frameslip drive, and the subtleties of mirithestel architecture. Various ways to bridge the gaps between these theories were suggested by the Liuvis-Lochran-Marukanin-Melithos Partial Unification, and the result, when turned to practical application, was this device.

Put simply, a reality engine permits you to – within a superficies-bounded volume, and for so long as the engine is operating – modify, revoke, or define fundamental constants, physical laws, and other dependent aspects of reality as its operator wishes. (Within certain limits: while even many trivial modifications can easily cause catastrophic information loss, mass-energy decomposition, or even vacuum decay, imposing a self-inconsistent set of principles on even a bounded volume of hard vacuum will cause eschatonic substrate collapse and reversion to cacoastrum. Fortunately, the universe is robust and such phenomena have not proven to be indefinitely self-propagating.

For this reason, commercial SOES tend to be dedicated units, or programmed with a limited number of safe presets.)

1. Although, as ontologists point out, the SOES is unable at this point to bring about permanent alteration in fundamental constants and laws, or to create entirely new universes, and as such the latter term should be reserved for the still-hypothetical universal ontology editation system, or UOES.

– Quandry’s Guide to Technological Fundamentals

(Author’s Note: We again here find ourselves reading a document that fell off the back of a temporally-displaced starship from the Rather Further Future. As careful readers may know, the SOES and certain of its predecessors – the peeker-poker, dimensional transcendence, and the frameslip drive – do not exist yet in the 7900-8000 timeframe in which the majority of these nanofics are set.)


Freight Containers

Since the contract I’m working at the moment has gone into crunch mode, in the interest of keeping up some content this month, have an extra question answer:

I have a question…

As you say: a Hariven’s hold is sometimes cobbled together from eight standard shipping containers.

Are we talkin’ about eight 4m by 4m by 15m units, or eight 8m by 8m by 3.75m units?

Well, it’s not like they use metric. But while the Imperial “foot”-equivalent unit isn’t quite the same length as an Earthling foot, you can assume it’s not too far off when I tell you that they’re – or at least the most commonly seen 4B08 variant are – 12′ x 12′ x 48′ units.

While I’m at it, here are some more fun facts about the standard Imperial intermodal shipping container:

They’re designed to be light structures (typically made from glassboard, which is a sandwich of foam quartz in aluminum, easy to manufacture from regolith and an excellent insulator) with a thin protective coating of hardened steel, and are hermetically sealed (so they can be shipped without needing a pressurized cargo hold). The corners are slightly rounded to better hold pressure; and as a convenient side-effect, if they’re washed overboard on a wet ship during a storm, they tend to float.

Since this is long past the age of the Internet of Damn Well Everything, each one comes with a built-in microcomputer and WDMRP-compliant transponder, which tracks everything inside the container using their v-tags, controls entry, broadcasts a manifest tag indicating what’s in there, and keeps a write-only audit log of all this information. It also controls digital-ink stripes along the side of the container displaying its current routing code, proper orientation, handling instructions both ordinary and special, hazard markings, and so on and so forth.

And finally, there are some little inspection ports on them (which link together when the containers are stacked) designed to allow microbot swarms to enter and exit the container for performing inspections, for the convenience of customs, transport security, and transshippers routinely checking the contents against records and manifest to look for worrying discrepancies.

Also useful if there’s a fire or some other cargo emergency in the middle of a big stack.