How big is too big?

Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by Meteor, Jan 25, 2015.

  1. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    And the Ringworld is so large an entire solar system was dismantled to create it. And, as you mention, context gives reason and rationale. Nether the ship in Rama nor Niven's Ringworld structure are asked to engage in outer space dogfights. The colony ships that @GingerCoffee mentions with ion drives are perfectly reasonable because they are probably single-use craft. They don't have a schedule of various stops that they have to make or space battles in which to engage. The fact that ion drives build up thrust very, very slowly is not really a negative in the case of her ships. If the journey is expected to last 40-ish years, what's one more year of building up velocity. My issue with very large craft is when they get used in the way one would expect of smaller, lighter craft. The Battlestar Galactica is just shy of a mile long, but even she knows her ponderous mass makes her an aircraft carrier in space... with big guns and nukes. :) She never executes ridiculous hairpin turns like the vipers. She would fold in half in the attempt.
     
  2. Komposten

    Komposten Insanitary pile of rotten fruit Contributor

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    This reminded me of The Official White House Response to "Secure resources and funding, and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016": ;)
     
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  3. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributor Contributor

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    I'm so glad they've given serious consideration to the feasibility of a Death Star. I can see Obama's hand in the rejection of the notion in the interest of balancing the budget! Though their dismissal on the grounds of the fundamental flaw that Luke Skywalker exploited is short-sighted - now they know it's there, they can protect against it at the design stage.
     
  4. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    Jack Campbell does some really cool stuff with military battles at relativistic speeds in his Lost Fleet books. I guess if you wanted to have a massive ship moving in unlikely ways you could handwave some technology that allows it to happen, but I like the approach that considers such factors are true limitations.
     
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  5. Komposten

    Komposten Insanitary pile of rotten fruit Contributor

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    The most interesting part is probably the 833315 years it would take to produce all the steel you would need. :p
     
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  6. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Economics, the science that science fiction loves to ignore. ;)
     
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  7. Chinspinner

    Chinspinner Contributor Contributor

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    In the piece I am working on, aliens send schematics for a type of spacecraft to earth. It is seen as a matter of global security that we build it (so as not to identify our technological inferiority); it also becomes almost a religious need to do so (it is quite a powerful thought that we are not alone, just as it is that we are alone). Money is diverted away from other causes and most the world's industry realigns to the construction of the ship and associated infrastructure. The result is famine and civil unrest. Think The Great Leap Forward on a global scale.
     
  8. Komposten

    Komposten Insanitary pile of rotten fruit Contributor

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    Science is the science that science fiction loves to ignore. ;)
     
  9. Aled James Taylor

    Aled James Taylor Contributor Contributor

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    From an engineering point of view, you could build a space ship the size of an ocean liner on earth, if it would then have the power to take off and propel itself into space. Building anything in space would be horrendously difficult. Space-suites, zero gravity and a vacuum would hinder every activity. A manpower cost of millions of dollars per man per day would be prohibitive. Building in space would be no more than the fitting together or pre-manufactured modules. You'd end up with something looking very like the International Space Station.
     
  10. Robert_S

    Robert_S Senior Member

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    How big do you need? What function does it serve?

    The main craft in my story is about a mile or so long, yet it's home to only 42 people: main character, protagonist, 40 soldiers. It has rec and exercise facilities, medical, all the engineering functions for making it a base line warship, but it contains manufacturing facilities as well.

    The empty space is mainly storage, since the 42 interact with society, but are not subject to any one society.
     
  11. Bryan Romer

    Bryan Romer Contributor Contributor

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    There is a lot of iron/steel in space. If small efficient space ships exist, harvesting it and processing it in space should not be impossible or prohibitively expensive.

    Like the International Space Station, a huge space ship could be made up of many smaller ships linked together jellyfish style. After all, a US aircraft carrier fleet is actually a conglomeration of ships each with a particular purpose - anti-aircraft/missile defence, anti-submarine, anti-ship, supplies, plus the carrier itself. In space they could all link together as a single unit for convenience, larger crew space and facilities, sharing of power supply, and so forth.
     
  12. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    <total randomness>

    I was actually thinking about this conversation last night as I was watching a small Ripley marathon. There are several practical reasons why I think these generation ships with the ion drives would be smart. As I mentioned earlier in the life of this now-necroposted thread, an engine that can get a huge ship up to speed with any kind alacrity would likely destroy the ship itself, mass and weight not being the same thing. Your ships are generation ships, I assume, so their structural integrity would be of prime importance given that this is a very long-haul trip. An ion drive would take a considerable amount of time to get a huge ship up to speed, but since your ships are generation ships, meant for a voyage that's longer than a human lifetime, what's a couple of extra years (yes, years) to get that puppy moving along? And from an economic standpoint, it's not like you're going to prototype these ships at anything close to real size. The first real one you make is the first one to get a crew and be on its way. The cost would demand it. An ion drive gives you plenty of time with the ship still within the solar system so that you would at least have a window of opportunity for potential problems that crop up early on to be addressable. Little ships that can be very zippy, can still visit the behemoth while in system to held take care of technical issues, biosphere issues, whatever. Obviously, this doesn't create any sort of guaranty that things won't crop up later, but you do at least get that window. I mention these things just incase you've not considered them from a story-line angle. :)

    </total randomness>
     
  13. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    Not much help, but I can tell you Red Dwarf is six miles long, five miles tall and four miles wide.

    Space is infinite, so there's no such thing as too big. Whatever it's size, it's still only going to be a microbe speck in the grand scale of things.
     
  14. Meteor

    Meteor Active Member

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    I actually hadn't given tons of thought to this recently. I was actually trying to avoid the generation ships because of the whole generation thing.
     
  15. Masterspeler

    Masterspeler Active Member

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    Hello everyone.

    This is a topic I've given a LOT of thought. In fact, I'm a mathematician (or was, still am. long story, a surgery involved, petty academic dramas blah blah). I say this because I stared writing my book after some research I've done after reading up on the Alcubierre drive. (Warp theory, realistic enough that NASA and last I knew Lockheed dedicated teams and research facilities towards). I wont go into details yet of the how and my idea for the solution to one of Alcubierre's self admitted problems of this theory as I haven't published my actual research. It's hard math that very few people would find interesting. Anyway, I like designing a ship from the big to small. As in, from role, to missions to submissions then capabilities, which bring in the details.

    The first ship I designed was an overall battleship. It had to be big enough for the engineering room and the staff to operate and maintain it, plus non operational staff. The biggest you get the more support personnel you need, and they need space to live, mess halls, storage for food, or to grow food, entertainment etc (Think of modern day carriers).

    The ship I have designed is 1223m bow to stern, 1199-1372 beam and 203-283 in height. Yes it is variable but that is directly related to the warp theory I was mentioning. She has a crew of 2588. If the number seems precise it is. I have an excel spreadsheet with every post aboard, on a three shift rotation with a modified weekend duty roster as well. Star Trek was fairly bad (but understandably because of actors) at missing the people that are asleep or off duty. You need space for quarters, and not bunked because you may not have shore leave like in Star Trek, so you have to live aboard as if you would on an Air Force base. You will need hangar bays, or docking ports for ship to ship transfers and resupply. So more space there and more personnel. One of the cool things from starting with one piece of tech is seeing what else could you do with that particular breakthrough. Weapons (I wont go into that here, although so far we are alone. The ship would have them under a better have 'em but not need 'em than need 'em and not have 'em doctrine. Shielding, tractor/repulsor beams and artificial gravity are those techs. Sorry, no beaming.

    You may incorporate sails or wings. I like wings for two reasons. One is the same for the sails, but not because of solar winds or ions. That is too slow, and besides with space-time warping why even bother. You will need surface areas to eliminate heat.

    But heat, like sound doesn't move through a vacuum! somebody might ask. Sound wont but heat is radiation, and will move through space. (Think of the sun's heat) All the excess energy your reactor puts out will need to be dumped. There is only so much that can be reclaimed. That's where the sails or wings, or ripples or anything that can come up with will be not just useful but essential. The crew would roast when the ship is at idle. You can come up with crazy (I use this term as fantastic, awesome) ways to dissipate heat without wings, like constantly being at warp and reverse warp etc etc.

    The second aspect is moral. Coolness counts. Look at those new NAVY frigates. They may be small and not as strong, but I can guarantee you that was part of the initial briefing to the SECNAV. Crew morale is VITAL, even more so in space. Another reason for wings could be (not all ships may need this though) is stealth. You can hide in space while powered. The whole emanating heat, means you'll light up across so many EM bands that there's no change you're going undetected, unless...you turn everything off. Use chemical heat or low radiation heat enough to keep the crew aline, and impulse drives (i.e. rockets. very very slow but invisible). This would be useful for stealth vessels hidden in a nebula, using wings just like a sub would.

    Ok, that was long...but one other thing I am compelled to mention. Carriers. I love 'em, and I have designed two classes so far. (I have 8 ship classes designed so far, all 3D and complete to insanity level detail) I don't see what need there could be for a carrier with warp technology. Yes it's sci-fi, but I know it will work. (I could be a quack too, but this is one instance where I'll choose to be subjective because admitting one's self to be a quack isn't quite productive)

    If you have warp, then just fly the fighters from a fighter wing based on a planet. Why even bother with fighters actually? A battleship or destroyer could pick them off one by one or hundred by hundred from a ly away. You cant really hide in space, unless you fly by nebula, but unless you're defending and choose a planet or asteroid within the nebula any offense in a regular system would make direct approach visible from quite a ways. (in Newtonian terms, although I haven't given enough thought into the Picard maneuver, if it could be a viable tactical maneuver)

    Ok, that's a lot but details in ships count, so maybe somebody found this useful. Not saying that they HAVE to be this way, I inclined to believe they would be. Then again, I didn't say nothing about Battlestar type FTL-ing or Stargating etc. I loved so many of the things I read here too, since I'm always thinking of ways to evolve my ships naturally as well as lines of thought I may have ommited. (I won't steel. My ship's wont be that thoroughly detailed in my writings, but the details are there where I think of action, like the quickest way to exit the ship, docking hatch, hangar bay, torpedo tube?)

    I love so many different sci-fi's, and while I'm new (and have no clue if I'm even a good writer) I have spent way more time than any medical professional would deem healthy on star ship design. So I would recommend using a spreadsheet at the same time as you design your ship, from the role to mission, as well as the tech you use (you don't want to end up in the if she's got x tech why not use it in y way to get z tech situation) and grow until you reach the minimum size for each specific ship.

    AB (still thinking of my pen name or callsign lol)
     
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  16. tonguetied

    tonguetied Contributor Contributor

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    It is interesting to read how many stories are being created with spaceships all designed to carry people. Is anyone writing a story where a person's intelligence is uploaded into a chunk of memory sort of like "Transcendence" and is simply plugged into a highly advanced computer? A whole crew made up of thumbdrives, maybe have some sort of ESP type link back to the actual human, etc. Might not need such a big ship nor all the stuff we as corporeal beings need to exist. Now that I think about it maybe Wreybies has one in progress.
     
  17. Masterspeler

    Masterspeler Active Member

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    There is something like that in my book, but I won't spoil what the something is, how much like that it is. Anyway, I think we wouldnt ask that question if not for the internet, and the tech gadget race. We "go" places via the internet, like even this forum, instead of meeting in a smokey diner at 2 am.

    I don't dream of piloting a drone (there's a whole drama going on with pilots in the Air Force over giving wings to the drone operators. I tend to agree. Pilot, means you're with the jet). The same goes for a star ship. I want to go out there. And that ship better have windows, because looking at things via monitor isnt the same. There was a similar debate over submarines with digital periscopes replacing the old double mirror ones. (Not to menton the tactical aspect of mirrors being immune to viruses and interfecrence)

    I'm not saying drones arent useful, but I tend to call those probes if designed to carry sensor equipment, relays for radio equipment and torpedoes if they go boom.

    AB
     
  18. tonguetied

    tonguetied Contributor Contributor

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    I disagree about the Internet being the driver for this question, you are probably too young to really know life before the big I. Large ships have been piloted indirectly for years, they had talk tubes to send orders down to the engine room, those speed controls were relayed to the guys in the engine room and they did the actual speed control. All early missions are unmanned and of course they have been within easy radio communication until we reached out to places like Mars, Venus and beyond so remote piloting of starships is not easily done with today's technology. However this is a science fiction section so a writer can introduce new technologies with a hand wave, etc. Video games, with or without the Internet do make the concept of remote piloting much more acceptable to the general reader, not to mention since smoking indoors is largely banned in the USA meeting in a smoky diner is not even possible now. :)

    Overall I was just commenting on how the forum's writing community is so focused on ships manned with people, the dearth of stories of "unmanned" ships is what is striking. The romance of people on board will always outweigh a bunch of computers calling the shots, but that is why I thought simply placing human like intelligence/decision making on board a ship might provide a reasonable alternative to the difficulty of large ships in space. I also wonder about the nearly absolute rule that all these ships seem to be warships, instead of a chip on its shoulder we should have chips running things in a processor, IMO.

    Hopefully I will get to read your story someday Masterspeler, pretty sure I would enjoy it.
     
  19. Inks

    Inks Senior Member

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    In a situation where nuclear weapons are conventional space weaponry, having ships of great size remain a liability. The fast cruisers and frigates were always how I played FT situations, I played war very differently with swarms of drones, high-powered weaponry and scorched-earth campaigns. The whole point of a war is to exert maximum pressure without sacrificing your own resources and seize victory with as minimal casualties as possible - before the affair ends up overwhelming the state.

    Anytime someone broke out the X-km long "super dreadnaughts" or whatever it was open season because I loved killing their high-value and utterly ridiculous targets. Weakly defended front-line production sites, open supply chains, yay surprise! Deception was always fun and really essential to have a decent handle on. My capital ships were indistinguishable from a certain "garbage" variant that I so heavily abused. By the time the enemy caught on, it was already too late. Though my largest ships were always massive transports with several engines scattered throughout the design - they linked together for inertial boosts. Though I doubt you can really call them "single ships".

    Did not like sacrificing industrial output in growth to maintaining the military unless I was going to seize ample resources in exchange. Budget wise, I had a >1% tax rate in peace with 7% of the budget being dedicated to maintaining my peacetime forces. 80% logistic, 20% combat force with .5% of population in military in (MT, .2% in FT). I pulled a lot of stuff out to maintain my high GDP per capita marker in a "Father Knows Best"-style where personal and economic freedoms were middling, but political freedoms were authoritarian. The needs of the state rarely interfered which resulted in a "terrifying" economy, but the taxes on international business fueled the military and government. My enemies often ended up paying for their own destruction and then I would claim their resources as my own, yum vassal state - tax rate 10%. Enough to keep pressure while also assigning protectorate status so long as they do not pick more fights.
     
  20. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Supporter Contributor

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    What in the name of Barney and all that's purple are you talking about? FT? What's that? What's MT? What's going on?
     
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  21. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I expect this is a dialect of Gamenese. :whistle: :-D
     
  22. Inks

    Inks Senior Member

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    MT= Modern Tech. (up to 2050 for proven, but commercially cost-prohibitive tech) FT= Future Tech.
     
  23. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Supporter Contributor

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    Are you talking about some kind of gaming?
     
  24. Masterspeler

    Masterspeler Active Member

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    @tonguetied Oh, I remember those days. I grew up with rotary phones. Met a friend that way, trying to call another buddy whose number ended in 9, and my finger slipped. Always slipped, dialing an 8.

    You are right about ships being romanticized with a crew, but for me it has a level of practicality. Computers do the heavy lifting, with people in charge, but in a pinch, the crew must be able to do the job computers do with a slide rule. (Which I still have and use. Don't ask me how to calculate logs with one of those Texas Instrument voodoo machines)

    I actually do have an alien species that is very drone like, almost Borg hive minded but not quite. I don't want to spoil anything, but there is a level of sacrificing drones, since they aren't really alive.

    @Inks yes, I agree with the super duper carriers and so on. Big isnt always better. (I still am sad that the new USS Enterprise is smaller than the outgoing girl. They didnt call her big E for nothing)

    I try not to get sucked into the whole my ship is tougher because it can veer off into magic. "My ships are half a parsec long and have time traveling torpedoes with white dwarf war heads in them! Oh, and they're invisible too!, the ships too!"

    I dont know how to post it, or if there is a section on it, to show images of the ships I designed. Some are big because they have to be, others are smaller. But every detail I could think of is incorporated, down to registry lighting.
     
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  25. Inks

    Inks Senior Member

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    Sorry, but it is fairly standard in Wargaming situations. I thought this was pretty universal in terminology. It is part roleplaying, part group design and some of the details of the more established players were absolutely stunning.

    2 good examples of Post/modern tech military pieces from NationStates - since I lost the good stuff from '07
    *HT9A7 Yvernyr Main Battle Tank
    *M.Cs 82 'Illusion' Multirole Combat Fighter
    The first one is like 13,000 words long and the other is like 8,000 words... decent storefront he had too. Probably would have been fun to RP with such a person, a careful eye for detail.


    "The gunner utilises an eye-safe pulsed CO2 laser rangefinder with optical heterodyne detection for target acquisition purposes. Carbon Dioxide lasers, originally conceived in the 1980s as a replacement for traditionally used rangefinding equipment, mark a step up from current-use Nd:YAG rangefinder systems through its decreased system size and weight, and the ability to penetrate most extant smoke dispersal systems, giving Io the ability to pierce certain soft-kill mechanisms to ensure a higher hit probability. High speed system response and fast processing thus allow the gunner to acquire, target, track and obtain a firing solution on a target in just over a second if so desired, with a modern, multi-tiered system that gives Io exceptional resilience to traditional targeting countermeasures. The optical suite itself is gyrostabilised, retaining its accuracy during movement over broken terrain."

    - None of this BS, though I wonder about "eye-safe" because they usually have high wattage. I wonder if the low wattage (implied here) is really fine. Even 1W works for (unimpeded) range finding, but it is surprisingly hard to find accurate tests of eye damage in low range CO2 - it is invisible and it hurts like hell if you cross the beam. Pointing it at your eye is the dumbest thing you can do.


    Though getting back on track - Star Wars always irritated me with the utter lack of communications and effective ability while still blabbering on about some truly insane numbers about energy. Completely failing basic Newtonian physics... that sort of thing really irritates me. Makes me nerd rage.
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2015

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