Tangent to the Vector (1/2)

If you’re coming to the Vector, your first stop is going to be Axiom Station, the tip of the beanstalk descending to Asymptote, the Vector’s capital, jack city, and safe harbor. Everywhere else in the system, from the solar corona to the Shards, is full to the gunwales with Science!, and until you know what it is, you don’t want to get any on you. Or vice versa.

But let us digress for a moment and consider the remainder of the system. The hot white sun Enlightenment hosts one belt and ten planets of varying size and nature, of which Resplendent Exponential Vector itself is the eighth from the sun.

Closest in is the Fireforge Belt. An asteroid belt with an unusually high orbital eccentricity (0.4), it is believed to be the remains of a planetesimal from outside the Resplendent Exponential Vector System which passed close enough to Enlightenment not only to be captured by its gravity but destroyed by the ensuing tidal forces. While the high temperatures (approaching 900 K on average, and significantly higher during perihelion) and radiation levels here have discouraged settlement, several research stations exist to monitor Enlightenment and study the unusual alloys and minerals formed in this uniquely harsh environment.

The second planet of the system, Linrachlin, a moon-sized rockball, was given over at the Vector’s foundation to an experiment in artificial life and robotic ecology similar to that of Eurymir, but without that experiment’s limiting constraints. However, in 6432, Linrachlin was withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the Vector Science Triumvirate after the apex species of the Linrachlin ecology achieved sophoncy; it is now recognized as the independent homeworld of the chiril. The chiril, however, fascinated by the scientific endeavor which gave them birth, cooperate with the Vector Authority in many of their projects.

The third through sixth are minor rocky bodies with little atmosphere, which serve as overflow laboratory space for the Vector itself. Most are notable in some small way, from the materials complexes of Márasanc to the societums of Lethintrí. but of these, the best known is the fifth and largest. Kaërndúr houses a deep bore leading to a heavily shielded vault at its core; this Kaërndúr Deepness houses some of the most sophisticated and delicate experiments in low-energy-state physics, quantum coherency, and other fields that require the unlit silence of such a vault to prevent perturbations.

The seventh, Anbárad, another tiny rockball, houses the local branch of the Repository of All Knowledge, and is a major storage facility for scientific data. The communications facilities of Anbárad are without parallel, and receive dedicated transmission priority for synchronization with other Repository branches.

The ninth, Resplendent Repose, is the second major inhabited world of the Resplendent Exponential Vector System. Almost as large as the Vector itself, Resplendent Repose is the ice to the Vector’s fire, a Galiné-like world of glaciers and alkane oceans buried beneath hydrocarbon smog. While some scientific work and carbon mining takes place in its remoter regions, Repose is the restful garden of the system; resort colonies scattered about its black sand beaches provide an escape from the laboratory far from the myriad temptations of the Vector itself.

The tenth, Phólarae, is the system’s sole gas giant. The planet itself serves primarily as a gas-mining resource (operated from the atmosphere-skimming pentuple moonlet of Ithmaen) and gravity anchor for the largest habswarm (or, if you’ll pardon the expression, “labswarm”) in the system; much dangerous research – by the Vector’s local standards – that might escape the laboratory is based in Phólarae’s trailing libration point, to maximize the time available to clear it up. Experimental proposals at various times to stellify Phólarae were variously deemed impractical or shot down on the basis of the need for local gas mining, before being rendered moot by the successful singularity-induced stellification of Xavéral, creating an artificial brown dwarf.

Its moons, however, are another matter, being reserved for grand experiments requiring a planetary scale. Most famous of these is Lyréssleth, a paraecopoesed moon leased in perpetuity to the Mythologae Immanentization Initiative. Beneath its glass-garden roof, neogenic mythic beasts of many kinds frolic in the jungle surrounding the laboratories, from radioactive basilisks and nanotechnological phoenixes to such relatively mundane recreations as the roc – a behemoth bird able to fly and thrive in the dense, oxygen-rich atmosphere and low gravity. Safaris through the wilds of Lyréssleth provide a valuable additional income stream to the Vector Authority, although hunting is strictly forbidden – not least because the majority of the mythologae recreated there would find hunting the hunters a trivial recreation.

The eleventh, Amnás, is a small, icy dwarf planet orbiting in the outermost fringes of the Resplendent Exponential Vector System. While the planet itself is the focus of some water ice and ammonia mining, most nearby activity is related to its moon, Marín, which is sealed off by the Vector Authority, since it serves as the home of the Marín Nanotechnological Proving Grounds. In short, the entire surface of the planetoid is a seething mass of gray, red, and blue goo, occasionally burned off in regions by bombardment from Amnás in order to introduce some new test scenario.

(The Marín picket warns off impinging vessels, but concentrates its effort on eliminating anything that might leave the surface of the moon. Since trespassers that land on Marín, however well protected, are invariably devoured with minutes, it is generally considered that they are more of an object lesson than a security risk.)

 

Trope-a-Day: Creating Life is Awesome

Creating Life is Awesome: …do you really have to ask?

Of course creating life, and sophoncy, and sophont life is awesome! It’s the perfect blend of science, art, unfettered seizing of the power of the gods themselves, and kicking entropy recursively in the wing-nuts by creating an ordered order-creator! What could be awesomer! (…yet.)

Just remember, you’re creating living beings and children, not tools – these aren’t bioroids, for example – and minions. We have, um, certain ethical rules (the Prime Rule of Genesis: “You have the right to be created by a creator acting under what that creator regards as a high purpose.”) and laws about that (see Article XIV, for example) – although, one notes, there remains absolutely nothing unethical about the act of creation itself, as long as one’s motives are sufficiently pure.

(Yes, For Science! qualifies as both a high purpose and a pure motive for these purposes.)

 

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: Scale of Scientific Sins

Scale of Scientific Sins: All of them.  Absolutely all of them.

Automation: Of just about everything, as exemplified by the sheer number of cornucopia machines, AI managers and scurrying utility spiders.  Unlike most of the people who got this one very badly wrong, however, in this Galaxy, almost no-one is stupid or malicious enough to make the automation sophont or volitional.

Potential Applications: Feh.  Anything worth doing is worth doing FOR SCIENCE!  (Also, with respect to 2.2 in particular, Mundane Utility is often at least half of that point.)

GE and Transhumanism: Transsophontism Is Compulsory; those who fall behind, get left behind.  Or so say all we – carefully engineered – impossibly beautiful genius-level nanocyborg demigods.  (Needless to say, Cybernetics Do Not Eat Your Soul.)

Immortality: Possibly cheating, since the basic immortality of the eldrae and galari is innate – well, now it is, anyway – rather than engineered.  Probably played straight with their idealistic crusade to bring the benefits of Avoiding That Stupid Habit You Have Of Dying to the rest of the Galaxy, though.

Creating Life: Digital sapience, neogens (creatures genetically engineered from scratch, rather than modified from an original), and heck, even arguably uplifts, too.

Cheating Death: The routine use of vector stacks and reinstantiation is exactly this.  Previously, cryostasis, and the entire vaults full of generations of frozen people awaiting reinstantiation such that death would bloody well be not proud.  And no, people don’t Come Back Wrong; they come back pretty much exactly the same way they left.

Usurping God: This one is a little debatable, inasmuch as the Eldraeverse does not include supernatural deities in the first place.  On the other hand, if building your own complete pantheon of machine gods out of a seed AI and your own collective consciousness doesn’t count towards this, what the heck does?

Question: Technological Development

Another question to answer:

And finally, how much far advanced Imperial science/technology compared with other Presidium Powers?

Well, now, that’s a complicated question, covering a whole lot of different fields and people and… yeah. I probably can’t give you a full answer, but let’s see what I can say (with the additional caveat that this is the publically-known *there* view).

The Empire, by and large, does lead the edge of advancement for several reasons, including but not limited to (a) being ideologically and personally inclined to push the edge of progress For Science!; (b) being entirely comfortable with buying, imitating, etc., good ideas other people have for their own use, unlike more xenophobic cultures which often seem to reject ideas just because someone else thought of them first; and (c) being very flexible in using new technologies (the economy is laissez-faire, the ethical standards don’t wibble about much beyond informed consent, and so forth)…

…but it’s not nearly as far ahead as it might be, because the Empire’s set-up is diametrically opposed to keeping such things secret. Even if its governance could get away with imposing the sort of controls needed to keep technological secrets out of other people’s hands, which it couldn’t, it knows perfectly well that security by obscurity never works in the long term, that keeping technological secrets reduces the total amount of innovation you have to draw on, and, for that matter, that keeping other people mired in primitivism for your own advantage is, well, remarkably morally ugly.

(In relative terms, that is. An Imperial would point out that by giving up the opportunity to be further ahead in relative terms, they’ve actually made more progress in absolute terms.)

Specifically of the Presidium powers, the Photonic Network trails a short distance behind the Empire, and may actually be ahead in certain areas: the difference often isn’t much, because they have similarly sensible policies and are very good at information-sharing. The others make up a clump a little further back, with the League of Meridian bringing up the rear of that clump because their voters often issue knee-jerk moral-panic bans due to what amounts to squickedness; often they get over it when they see that other people have been able to use such technologies without causing whatever it was that squicked them, but the tendency is enough to notably slow the rate of adoption.

(Such is as expected, really: the Ephemeral Worlds, Rejectionists, and people whose planetary economies can’t support high technologies have other reasons to explain why they can’t make it into the Great Power club.)

Trope-a-Day: Nerds Are Sexy

Nerds Are Sexy: In the Empire, almost universally so.  It’s an emergent consequence, and an entirely predictable one, of certain other cultural characteristics: see, for example, For Science, Serious Business, and Wrench Wench.  Also, thereby, self-perpetuating.

Fic-wise and other-reason-wise, see also Nice Labcoat.

Trope-a-Day: Mad Scientist

Mad Scientist: What would be a very large number of the technarchs, in the Empire, and not just them, either… except that the science isn’t usually all that mad (and does involve diligent research, standing on the shoulders of giants, taking advantage of venture capital and selling results to people For Engineering!, which some mad scientists seem to think would be letting the side down).  Well, it’s not to start with, anyway.  (See For Science!)

(Yes, the ones out at Resplendent Exponential Vector are just the long tail.)