Who Are You Calling Exo?

exosciences (also xenosciences) (n.): Including exogeology, exogeography, exoclimatology, exobiology, exoecology, exosophontology, exomemetics, etc.

An archaic series of terms referring to the various sciences when applied to off-planet phenomena, usually used with reference to the speaker’s homeworld.

This terminology fell into rapid disrepute after the first full conference of the Fellowship of Natural Philosophy after the reunification of the Thirteen Colonies, in which, upon entering the nomenclaturical dispute over the proper terminology to describe each individual colony’s branch of the exosciences – then in its third hour – Academician Excellence Corvis Ejava, Dean Pro Tem, declared “it’s a big [redacted] galaxy and none of your homeworlds are that [redacted] special”, adding that the prospect of having to use 300 billion different terms to describe the same studies depending on where you were was “the single most bloody stupid thing I’ve heard in the last 900 years, and I have students”.

The term geography, while possessed of some local bias, persisted for several hundred years after this conference, before being universally replaced with galactography, following representations from the scientific community of the hydrogen-breathing sssc!haaaouú that while their homeworlds could be described as many things, “geo-“ was not one of them.

– A Star Traveler’s Dictionary

You Want This. You Need This.

Those of you who have bought and read a copy of The Core War and Other Stories may have noticed the reference to Kerbal Space Program in the acknowledgements…

(Those of you who haven’t – go buy a copy! Right now! Seriously – I’ll wait for you. Got it? Okay.)

…specifically “which taught me everything I know about orbital mechanics”.

Well, the beta is over and the first release version, 1.0, just shipped today. And so I’m here to suggest to you that you get a copy, too. It’s an invaluable resource for the SF writer, because it’s far easier to learn orbital mechanics from – specifically including developing an intuitive feel for them – than doing so from textbooks. And when you’re trying to do something complex enough that you need to go back to the textbooks, it makes it a lot easier to understand them. (And the fun needn’t stop there – it has a very active modding community whose add-ons let you simulate everything from life support to heat radiators, from exotic ISRU fuels to Orion drives…)

And it’s an invaluable resource for SF readers, too, at least if you like your SF relatively hard and want to have some idea how real spacecraft actually maneuver. (Fair warning: you may suffer somewhat from this if you have a problem with Science Ruining Everything, but, hey, knowledge has a price. Read better books!)

And best of all, it’s 25% off right now for launch day, so hie yourself over to the Kerbal Space Program web site and get yourself a copy. I personally guarantee that you won’t regret it.

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.)

Trope-a-Day: Mad Science Laboratory

Mad Science Laboratory: While a lot more modern, sleek and high-tech than the stereotypical example described – well, these days, anyway – in the Empire the “gentleman scientist” never quite went away, and came back in force with greater wealth and the cornucopia machine making it a lot more practical, just as Home Inventions did.  There are a lot of pocket laboratories attached to people’s houses here and there, and their robotic assistants, too.

A decent amount of madness, too.  “We do what we can, because we must.”

Other Sizes, Maybe

Resplendent Exponential Vector Grant Council to Valeran Simíche, greeting.

We have received your experimental proposal of the 19th inst.

However, in the absence of significant theoretical and preferably experimental support for the hypothesis that penetrating the brane will not result in the universe entire popping like a soap bubble with the consequent instantaneous dissolution of its contents into the sempiternal cacoastrum tides of the infinite, all-containing empyrean, this institution must reject your grant application.

(Besides, we don’t have a galactic-core-class black hole to offer you in the first place.)

Nonetheless, we recognize the importance of this line of inquiry and welcome future applications.

Calis Steamweaver

for and on behalf of

Resplendent Exponential Vector Grant Council

The Shibboleth of Science is “That’s Odd”

“Academician. Academician.” The foundry master wiped his hands on his leather apron, and waved at the looming bulk in the back of the workshop. “Your sky-tube’s coming along to plan. Just got the wire-wrapping on today. The woodwright’s’ll be here tomorrow to get the quarter-boards on her, and your chymist seems satisfied. Though I’d appreciate it if you’d have him do the filling elsewhere; the way he was talking, that stuff you’re using shouldn’t be within a mile of our fire-works.”

“It shouldn’t, or most other places, indeed. We’ll not be filling her until we’re in place to fire her. And we should, then, be ready to take delivery by the 19th?”

“We’ll have her ready for you. What’s all this about, anyway? I’ve built the like before, but nothing half this large.”

“We’re going to find out where gravity breaks.”

“Ah…”

“It’s one of the more troubling problems in natural philosophy,” the second Academician put in. “The difference between Celestial and Terrestrial Gravitation. You see, ever since records began at the Starspike, and it was shown that…”

“We don’t need all three thousand years,” the first interrupted.

“Um, yes, anyway, after a lot of observation and even more theorizing, most of it wrong, the Starspike’s skywatchers figured out that the planets, and us, and the Shining One, and its planets, and all the moons are all moving around each other in lovely, sweeping ellipses as they fall together and always miss. And after much computation, Siao Callaneth produced his Lemmas and declared that if you postulate an attractive force that’s in proportion to their masses and inversely proportional to their distances, all the numbers come out right.”

“Yeah, but that’s true down here, too. We use his lemmas all the time in structures.”

“Ah, but it’s only true sometimes down here. Up there, if you assume that a world is a point, it works. Down here, if you assume that an object is a point –”

“If it’s homogenous, otherwise it’s an offset point.”

“If it’s homogenous, yes, thank you, it works. Between objects, if you have heavy objects and sensitive pendulums. But if you drop something here, what direction does it fall?”

“Down?”

“Down, yes. Straight down. And we’re not above the center of the world, are we?  But if we drop something, anywhere, it falls in a nice straight line perpendicular to Eliéra’s notionally-flat surface, even though the center of all the world’s mass is thousands of miles over there. It falls straight down here, it falls straight down in Mossstone, it falls straight down even in heathen Indimór-on-the-Rim, for all that the Lemmas say that the world’s gravity should drag everyone there sideways off their feet, if not crumple the edge of the world up like tissue paper, rock not being all that strong. And that is Terrestrial Gravitation, the damned exception that’s been inexplicable ever since the Shadow-watcher made note of it when proving the world was flat in the first place.”

“Eliéra behaves both ways, you see. Down here, things fall straight. But if it behaved that way celestially, we’d orbit – well, we wouldn’t move in one of those beautiful ellipses, and the moons probably wouldn’t stay up. Somewhere, if you go far enough up, everything changes. And watching Skybreaker here fly is going to tell us where.”

 

Yet More Safe Science

“Yes, translocation should be easy.  It doesn’t seem all that dissimilar from vector control, right?  And this is exactly the sort of thing that ontotechnology does – gets intimate with the informational substructures of the physical universe.  So why can’t we just poke new values into the spatial coordinates of these particles here, and blip, one tessera moment later, they’re all over there instead?”

“Well, we’re finding that out.  But it may take a while, because the universe’s API tends to return errors in the form of terajoules of loose energy, expensive piles of wrecked equipment, and other such signs that the coder responsible didn’t understand the difference between exceptions and explosions.”

– Imogen Andracanth-ith-Andracanth, who is really tired of this question