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Subject: Starwars Lasers BS?
AchtungLagg    7/26/2004 11:10:18 PM
I just think this is the best place for this rant, you see, while watching star wars movies which i really like for nonmilitary reasons, it still perplexes me that such an advanced society fights ship to ship like wwii dogfights (where are the 1million mile range missiles?) and why are the laser shots slower than bullet projectiles, and why do they have color? Or am i getting something wrong? Would a projectile weapon be more accurate?
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doggtag    RE:Mass drivers    8/9/2004 6:09:02 PM
Just out of curiousity... how big will that mass driver have to be to accelerate a small chunk of whatever up to .9C? If you're only flinging BB-sized "bullets", which at .9C hitting a vessel would be lethal, then you might be able to make some sort of large, powerful particle accelerator weapon. But if you're going for car-sized projectiles or larger, you're still going to have to contend with that Newtonian Law about action vs reaction: what kind of recoil would such an accelerator create? On the other hand, making an accelerator a hundred miles long might spread out the overall recoil that a ship-sized weapon would generate. Any mass driver capable of launching projectiles at .9C is going to have to be haneously large (Huge Honkin' Space Gun-type), if just to have a large enough power supply to feed the accelerator, and mass to absorb the recoil. Even magnetic "railguns" develop a recoil or sorts: magnetic flux and heat build up (in miniscule amounts for our current expirements) between the magnets having to overcome the mass of stationary object and get it moving. A truly orbital-class accelerator weapon may create considerably high magnetic flux and heat to move anything up to .9C velocities. Good luck shielding that magnetic envelope. Obviously, you aren't putting such a weapon into a ship,.. until you can fabricate something the likes of the Death Star, just for the matter of action vs reaction recoil. At best, you'll have to build a network of continuous acceleration modules, stretching easily 100 miles or more. Perhaps along the lanes of an asteroid-ridden mining area (which would offer you plenty of ammo.) Railguns that fire several miles per second, sure. But accelerators capable of moving projectiles up to .9C? The day you have that level of technology, most likely any adversaries you face will be able to launch some kind of engineered organism through space to annihilate your people. Every weapon has a counter weapon: the .9C accelerator's main enemy will be its own sheer weight, size, and power consumption. .
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Ehran    RE:Mass drivers    8/9/2004 7:48:47 PM
the energy and mass requirements for a mass driver that can throw a 1 kg projectile at .9C are quite utterly horrendous. i frankly am not sure something as small as the death star (either model) would hold it.
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eon    RE:Mass drivers and keeping the lights on- eon to GRUM   8/11/2004 10:14:36 AM
You're not a dummy, GRUM. One of the big failings of most space-war MSF writers is failing to come up with a reasonable power source to charge and fire all their wonder weapons. This wasn't a big issue in the pulp era, when writers from John W. Campbell ("The Mightiest Machine" plus the "Arcot, Wade & Morey" stories) to E.E. "Doc" Smith (The "Lensman" and "Skylark" series) could "imaginer" all sorts of exotic powerplants for their intergalactic dreadnoughts. But today's writers often gloss over this very important factor, I suspect mainly because physics hasn't quite delivered on some of the predictions of the first-generation "star smashers". Probably the most practical "nearish-term" (nice one, Ehran!) power system will be fusion, IF they can ever get a sustained reaction (I'm going out on a limb and predictiong that the winner will be some form of chemically-catalyzed fusion, as postulated by Dr. Luis Alvarez of Univ. New Mexico/Alberqueque in 1954- a line of research that has been pretty much ignored since the early 1960's in the general infatuation with high-temperature tokamaks and "cold" fusion- whatever it turns out to be). Further on, I suspect matter-antimatter annihilation has potential, assuming it is (A) possible on the gross (non-subatomic) scale, and (B) controllable enough not to blow up your starship in classic Star Fleet style. (Just thinking about the flow-control and radiation-sideblast shielding problems with a sustained M/AM reaction is enough to make me perspire gently.) But in either case, assuming you do have the available power, throughput is going to be a serious problem. Figure the energy demands per second of a (arbitrarily) 15 trillion joule laser firing a five second long pulse (to allow you to "swing" the beam slightly to make sure you hit a target at several light-seconds distance, where even the Death Star is going to be a fairly small bull's-eye). Even with high-temperature superconductor technology, you're going to need that much power every second the weapon is firing, disregarding warmup and system-cycling needs (I'm also arbitrarily assuming that such a mega-cannon would have to "pump and pulse" to be fired safely, as opposed to being fired instantaneously, as so many SF movies and TV shows would have it). A dead short in a power run to something like that would be a major damage-control problem even if you hadn't taken enemy fire. Oddly enough, the only SF writer who ever went into this side of the ledger in depth was (AFAIK) "Doc" Smith, whose background in chemistry and engineering led him to conclude that modern solid-state technology probably couldn't handle the loads involved, a view he maintained long after the transistor usurped the tube as "dernier cri" of electronics. Wouldn't it be a hoot if for this reason, future starships were full of, not printed circuits or their offspring, but busbars, tubes, capacitor banks, and other rugged components "built on a scale and capable of handling voltages and amperages starkly incomprhensible" to our early 21st Century minds (with apologies to "Skylark" Smith)?.
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Ehran    RE:Mass drivers and keeping the lights on- eon to GRUM   8/11/2004 12:06:11 PM
the power source may not be that big a deal if we ever get high temp superconductors. after all you can pump unbelievable amounts of energy into a superconductive block (theoretically) and then draw it out as needed. this would let you have a much smaller power plant running 24/7 to pump up the "battery". be quite an interesting damage control problem if a battlewagons block shorted out somehow though. if you are interested in this sort of thing try finding a copy of the original striker rule set for traveller the rpg. it was a set of sf combat rules which included design rules for vehicles and wpns. these were stunningly accurate for doing up modern vehicles including ones developed a decade or two after the rules came out. the one anomaly we never resolved was our bradley floated while the real bradley well doesn't. aside from that we built nearly 200 existing military vehicles and had them come out matching their real stats very closely.
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Ehran    RE:Mass drivers and keeping the lights on- eon to GRUM   8/11/2004 12:09:23 PM
Grum if you want to get a broad overview of science you need to read "hard" sf and lots of it. hard sf refers to it not bending the known "laws" of the universe. i've gotten far more from reading sf for fun than i ever got from science classes. a good grasp of math would also be handy because without it some of the science gets a bit murky.
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doggtag    progress and keeping the lights on   8/11/2004 3:24:45 PM
If any of us could go back in time even 200 years and ask the most knowledgeable and educated of humanity what course of inventions the world may see over the next 2 centuries, those 19th century people would most likely be very far off the mark. It is also, effectively, where we are in this discussion. Explaining and theorizing for us here in the early 21st century about what 23-25th century technology will have achieved is no different. It was, for the most part, common belief among much of the (European-centered) world up to about 500 years ago believed the world was flat, and that we were at the center of a cosmos that revolved around us. Nobody even 100 years ago could have foreseen the amount of transportation, communications, argicultural, medical, automtion, and overall scientific achievement technologies that we have gained in just the last 100 years. So it is also for us in (even from a scientific point of view) extrapolating and theorizing where our future tech will lead. For a time, it was thought we would never fly, break the sound barrier, or go to the moon and back. For a time, computers were expected to shrink to size as small as a refridgerator. So now, we have our beliefs about what may or may not come to pass for generations beyond our great grandchildren. The more we come to understand about the mechanics of the universe and its physical laws, the more we can manipulate the sciences to our favor. And considering the discoveries and advances we have achieved in creating particles in our current accelerator labs today, 100 years from now we certainly will have the capabilities to produce far more capable subatomic studies (even quantum computer tech), even faster computers capable of number crunching in seconds what today's systems would take a week or more to accomplish, medical advances that appear miraculous even by today's standard, and certainly advances in power generation. So certainly, these future multi-giga-and-tera-watt-consuming space weapons will certainly have some kind of sufficient powerplant(s) available to feed them their prodigious (electrical?) power requirements..
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doggtag    RE:Mass drivers - I have a question   8/12/2004 5:37:34 AM
you bring up a good point, GRUM. Space combat isn't going to be like air or naval battles: in the air, you fall out of the sky (down) if you get shot. At sea, you sink. (it's that gravity thing, I think...) But space fighting would be different: it's not going to be all controlled and neat like Star Trek or Star Wars: inertial dampers that counter-act lightspeed accelerations and planet-smashing weapons are WAY out there, even more than mega-power space engines. We can only assume we will learn how to create gravity-manipulating devices that, when countering an acceleration in one direction, won't squish us and the ship into a thin sandwich when the counter-acceleration in the opposite direction is applied. Make sense? And spaceships won't vaporize into shiny little bits of energy like the movies show us,...unless hit with a nuke. Most likely, conventional weapons (kinetic energy would work) will shatter a ship in all when you break when playing pool (billiards), except in 3D instead of just on a 2D (flat) table. As far as spinning out of control...with your spaceship smashed into hundreds of pieces, I don't think helm control is going to be too much of a concern. We can only speculate on shields effective enough for space warfare: electromagnetic shields (basically, have you ever played with magnets and metal filings? It would be like that on a massive scale) might work against an enemy using directed energy weapons (laser, phaser, ion ray gun, etc), but if someone hits you with a hyper-accelerated kinetic device, you're gonna get a hole in you, if not shattered altogether (like a tank taking a hit from a sabot round). And since your spaceship isn't sitting on the solid ground like a tank, much of that kinetic energy will be transferred into you, and pieces will go out in every direction (but mostly, away from the direction of the impacting projectile...again, like the pool balls). Did that help any? It doesn't really take any considerable amount of brain power to figure out how space fighting would be: just imagine how things would work in everyday life without gravity in the equation..
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Warhammer    Inertia GRUM   8/12/2004 10:15:05 AM
"Like I said, I don't know jack about science, but if everything is weightless in space wouldn't a massive starship be destroyed by the impact of a clumsy fighter that accidently hit it ? Wouldn't it begin spining out of control ? Would the explosion of the fighter boost a mothership into an out of control situation or not" While doggtagg provided a good explanation, the easiest answer would be inertia. I tiny fighter isn't going to budge a huge mothership just because both are wieghtless. Weight and mass are 2 separate things. Weight is the effect of gravity on mass. Mass, has inertia, which is the force that keeps a mass in a current state.(ie. an apple is not going to fall off a table by itself, it has to be pushed, and it has to be pushed by a force great enough to move the apple) Just look at football. Tiny widereciever meets huge lineman. If both are moving at the same speed towards each other, then the tiny widereciever will be the one flying backwars when the lineman hits him. The only way the WR will overcome the linemans greater inertia(and hence being able to smash through the lineman, gaining a few yards), is to move faster. 1kg weight A moving south at 100 mph, hitting 1kg weight B moving north at 100mph, and theoretically both will come to a complete stop.(unless some outside influence changes their course, such as weather) If weight A is moving at 125 MPH south, with weight B still moving north at 100 MPH, then weight A will push weight B out of its way for a certain distance.(if that test was performed in a vacuum, weight A should be pushing weight B south at 25 MPH. Now, to translate that test into weight difference, make weight A 2kg. 2kg mass A moving south at 100 MPH, with 1kg mass B moving north a 100 MPH, then weight A will push weight B south at 50 MPH(correct me if I am wrong) A 100,000 ton mothership moving south at 100,000 MPH being hit by a 1 ton fighter moving north at 100,000 MPH, and the mothership will only slow down by 1 MPH. So now the mothership is moving south at 99,999 MPH, and it has a big hole in its side. Of course if the mothership uses its engine to compensate for the fighter hitting it, then there will be no loss of speed. However, if the fighter were moving at .9c, and it hit the mothership sitting in orbit above the earth, then the fighter will probably have the inertia to move the mothership out of the way.(besides the fact that the mothership and fighter will be quite likely vaporized in such an incident)
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andyf    RE:space war railgun   8/12/2004 10:28:52 AM
Railguns are likely to be a potent weapon, but not at 0.9c- its just too much energy to be using, I think 20 to 50 km per second is enough. The impact of projectiles travelling at these sort of speeds is unlike a hit from a tank sabot round. It is like that of a meteor. No matter what is fored at you it hits you like a meteor, i.e. big flash, ball of plasma, circular crater. For practicalities sake i'd suggest a guided railgun. Produce your railgun, bore , say 100mm. your projectile has some seriously tough guidance electronics up front ( passive IR and EM) and in back has a hypergolic rocket or tank of mercury with a small heater.a small bias in the railgun's fields would cause a slow spin. 10 rpm or so, there would be no moving the target drifted slightly out of the axis of the shell it would burn a litle fuel or vapourise a little Hg at the appropriate moment in the spin to nudge it back on course. I designed this beasty using the £g design rules and its,,, nasty
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andyf    RE:defence versus junk and KE projectiles.   8/12/2004 10:34:23 AM
heres a simple one. fit the front of the ship with a cannon, say 120mm. get to cruising velocity and then fire the cannon in a pattern in front of ou, the shells hould contain a small exlosive charge and the remainder should be sand. If there is an object in front of you it gets hit by sand , al that lovely KE that it was oing to dump into you now gets dumped into itself, that nd the KE of your sand ( ship velocity + shell velocity) pop! .# no more incoming. If it was fired at an enemy vessel it probably wouldnt kill it, but it would certaily cripple, removing sensors, external weapons, viewports, engine nozzles,pesky paintjobs, and a couple centimetres of hull.
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