Trope-a-Day: Centrifugal Gravity

Centrifugal Gravity: The kind of Artificial Gravity widely used by larger habitats and even starships, because it is substantially cheaper than faking it using powered vector-control apparatus, not to mention substantially simpler to implement and with fewer things to go wrong.

Notable for its amusing Coriolis side-effects, which is why it’s a really good idea not to bet on any ball games with a spacer until you’re used to how spin gravity affects things in practice…

Truffle House

mycofibrillin was originally a product designed by the space division of Molecular Architecture, ICC, under the Mycofibrillin™ trademark. It was a development of early experiments in creating spaceborne life, such as the regoformer “asteroid lichen”, which sustains itself using solar energy and water extracted from icy regolith.

Unlike its predecessors, mycofibrillin was designed not as an experiment or artwork, but as a functional tool. A designed-from-scratch neogen, it was a reinterpretation of various fungoid lifeforms – which took the form of an intertwined mat of fibers – for the space environment: a recreation of similar reaction networks making use of silicates, silanes, and silicones, at much lower temperatures, relying upon both a trickle of solar energy and provided radio-frequency energy broadcasts to power its metabolism.

The function of mycofibrillin was simply to stabilize aggregate-class “rubble pile” asteroids for relocation, or indeed for other exploitation. A rubble pile infected with a mycofibrillin culture, along with a microwave beacon to feed its growth phase, would swiftly find itself perfused by silicone-sheathed rhizomorphic hyphae of substantial tensile strength, acting to bind the many components of the rubble pile together into a single coherent mass.

Since this promising start, later offshoot technologies have included the thermophilic bionanotech weaves developed in conjunction with the chfsssc for stabilizing tectonically vulnerable regions of planetary crusts along with a variety of refined mycofibrillin derivatives, including a number of strains whose tensile strength is claimed to be suitable for maintaining the stability of large asteroids or small planetesimals when spun up to usable gravity-simulating speeds (although, in practice, the majority of residents of these worlds prefer microgravity environments).

– The Biotechnology of Space: A History, Kynthia Naratyr-ith-Naratyr

The Importance of Physics Class

“Station Ops, this is Clovis One-Four, reporting on-site from incident gamma.”

“Clovis One-Four, Station Ops, go.”

“Station Ops, some damn tourist tried to board the garden ‘fuge by dropping from above again. No secondary casualties, thank Athnéël, but the groundscape’s a mess.”

“Clovis One-Four, do you need a medical team?”

“Negative, Station Ops, just the coroner and a pressure washer.”

“Despatched, Clovis One-Four, and eugh.”

“Ain’t no good way to describe a hundred-yard streak of stupid, Station Ops. Clear.”

Trope-a-Day: No Gravity For You

No Gravity For You: Subverted, since the knowledge of how to move in microgravity is commonplace, and microgravity-friendly martial arts are almost as commonplace. And, indeed, a majority of spacer habitats and starships run without gravity anyway. Not like they’re a bunch of dirthuggers, y’know?

(And if you are using spin gravity, stopping the spin – which turns off gravity for the whole habitat – is very definitely not something you do this casually.)

If you are using vector-control gravity, however, the attack mode you use isn’t disabling the gravity, it’s reversing the gravity repeatedly and quickly (a maneuver delightfully referred to as “grav pong”) until you’ve bounced the villains into submission.  Or unconsciousness.

Trope-a-Day: Mercurial Base

Mercurial Base: There are actually quite a few of these, as apart from relatively easy mining (assuming you have had to solve the heat problem anyway), those innermost planets are very useful places to put the antimatter generation infrastructure powered by the solar panels even closer to the sun, where power is dense and largely free.  Usually most of the colliders and other infrastructure doesn’t move around the planet – often the colliders are wrapped right around it – because the unmanned hardware can handle the radiation just fine, it’s just the squishy organics and more delicate computers and such that have to be kept out of the glare of the sun.

A variation, without the intense sunlight or radiation problems, is to be found on any number of spacer asteroid settlements, who sometimes wrap a track around their asteroid and mount a habitat on it to get spin gravity as a courtesy to visitors from places with the natural kind.

SFFS: Balance

SFFSat logoBehold, my first snippet – plucked from my deep internal slush/ideas pile – for Science Fiction & Fantasy Saturday, an authorial web-ring I’ve seen here and there in the past, and thought I might contribute something to from time to time. Welcome to all new visitors from thereabouts, and do click through here if you’re not a new visitor, and take a look at the snippets of the other participants!

“Quadrant 45 primary ballast transfer booster pump, main and aux bus.”

“Check, check.”

“Quadrant 135 primary ballast transfer booster pump, main bus and aux bus.”

“Check, check.”

“Quadrant 225 primary ballast transfer booster pump, main bus and aux bus.”

“Check, check.”

“Quadrant 315 primary ballast transfer booster pump, main bus and aux bus.”

“Check, check.” The tech glanced down the row of warm amber lights on the newly installed panel, flipped the associated command switches into ‘auto’ with the flat of one hand, watched the lights flicker into blue-enable, and closed the wiring case. “What’s the deal, Cal? We’ve been behind on getting these things installed for three months, so what’s made ’em so urgent now?”

“Flash mobs.”

“Flash mobs?”

“Yeah. Scuttlebutt has it that Elalie Celestial’s coming here in a couple of weeks to do some filming. The spinmaster was very clear that if he couldn’t pump twelve thou soph-equivalent-masses to wherever on the rim she wasn’t faster’n her fans could storm the transpods, we’d all be on triple-shifts for a year rebalancing the bearings and tryin’ to clean up the mess.”

Starships Are Not Boats

As explained here

(In short, down, when under thrust, is determined by the direction of your drive axis, and specifically, is the direction your engine is in – because it’s pushing you the other way.)

I feel somewhat bad, sometimes, for violating this one here and there, sometimes quite egregiously, but there’s a reason for that, and it has to do with the fiction in my science fiction. Specifically, the inertial dampers that I talked about here. See, way back in the day before those were invented, from the Phoenix stack on up, spacecraft and then starship design was indeed constrained this way; virtually all designs were tail-landers, with the decks perpendicular to the drive axis, and the only exceptions to that rule being belly-landing vehicles intended to operate in atmosphere and/or land planetside, in which case the need to deal with the planetary gravity field took precedence and those aboard pretty much had to suck it up and deal with the inconvenience when in space and under thrust.

(We omit, for the moment, the complexities of spin gravity and the combination of spin and thrust “gravity” that gave the world terms like thrustdown and spindown and realdown and lots of rather complex gimballing mechanisms.)

But then the inertial damper was invented, thus ensuring that the interiors of starships equipped with it were under microgravity all the time, even when they were under thrust, and naval architects almost immediately split three ways:

  1. The traditionalist school, who had been building tail-landers for a millennium and dammit, were going to keep on building tail-landers, because that’s how spacecraft ought to look, and for that matter, it’s kind of nice to still be able to fire up the drive if your inertial dampers break down, isn’t it?
  2. The convenientist school, who countered that people had been complaining about what a pain in the ass ladders, companionways and elevators were for getting about inside spacecraft for most of that millennium, especially if you’re not under thrust most of the time, that long corridors are much nicer, and that it’s good not to have large pieces of equipment split between a half-dozen decks, and so now that they could build starships as belly-landers, dammit, they were going to.
  3. And the spacer school, who pointed out that if there’s one thing that you could learn from modular and beehive habitat design over all that time, it’s that “down” is a strictly local phenomenon and one only useful under a few circumstances anyway, and that in a microgravity environment not only can you arrange your decks any damn way you please, but you don’t even have to be consistent in doing so, and proceeded to arrange their designs’ interiors in whatever way they felt was useful at the time and place.

In what I think of as the modern era, the spacer school has essentially won the argument, although examples of the other two schools do still show up. (After all, planet-landing craft have to be consistent one way or the other, what with that planetary field to contend with.) Among people who have the relevant technology, at least – the constraint still exists, and applies in full to anyone who doesn’t have fancy ontotechnological physics-editing tech to play with.