Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Interstellar Warfare Wednesday: Shoot For The Moon

Meant to post this one last week but I was busy.

In the process of becoming a spacefaring species, our moon is vital. As our nearest neighbor, it serves as a stepping stone to the solar system and beyond. Its size, (lack of) atmosphere, proximity, and composition make it uniquely suited for a variety of roles.

The first step in any of this, to truly utilize the moon, will require reasonably available transportation to and from. Advances across the board in space transport have made it far cheaper than previously, but this still isn't enough. For ease of access, either purpose-built orbital launchers capable of accelerating crafts to a lunar rendezvous without the use of expensive fuels or a lunar elevator will be required. A trip to the moon needs to be on par with a transoceanic flight, or at least a ride aboard a cargo ship, able to ferry people and supplies to and from Luna without a lot of fuss and bother. These options, and specific details of their design, development, and implementation, will be discussed some other Wednesday.

Now, to get one thing out of the way: As soon as lunar colonization because feasible, there will be massive hue and cry to preserve the moon, with laws and treaties and threats of war if anybody does anything visible on the near side of the moon's surface. This is less of a hindrance than it seems, owing to the fact that the other side of the moon still gets decent light, and the fact that the moon has no atmosphere for breathing or protection.

The moon will be one, or more likely a series, of arcologies. Every last cubic inch of habitable space, and a great deal of the unhabitable space, is going to have to be put there manually. Much of it will be below the surface, to shelter from the otherwise unblocked cosmic radiation and space debris. The moon is, however, incredibly dense and contains a great deal of ore, which will be used in the colonization effort.

At 1/6th of Earth's gravity, even assuming things are made otherwise habitable for regular life, the human body will require assistance to maintain itself. At its simplest, clothing will be made featuring resistance bands to make the body work as if it were subject to gravity. Depending on advancements in technology, such things as the recently developed sonic tractors may be used to increase downwards force to create artificial gravity, or even rotational artificial gravity in the manner of a graviton. Still, this is of great use for functional industries such as shipyards.

One of the primary purposes for the lunar sites is to serve as starports. Ships that wouldn't be able to escape Earth's gravity and atmospheric resistance can be built, launched, and landed on the . These ships will open reasonable transit times to the farther reaches of the solar system, even with current propulsion systems.

Another benefit of the moon is easier orbital training. With less gravity, setting training facilities, orbital shipyards for craft too big even for lunar production, and so on into orbit can be done at much nearer to the planet and safety via escape pods or similar. Specific details of orbital stations will be discussed in a separate post.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Motor Monday: Slick Steam

Nice, hands off recirculating steam engine. Quick start-up, creature comforts, and nice and zippy! Seemed particularly relevant since I'm preparing for a Deadlands game.

I'm waiting for the Cyclone steam engine to FINALLY drop for consumer use, which I suspect is going to take off in a big way because power-to-weight ratio, fuel flexibility, ease of use, and price. Direct drive, no coolant system, no oil (water lubricated), no exhaust stuff (still has exhaust, but needs no muffler or emissions things) means it's basically going to be a perfect drop in engine for people looking to create stuff without much knowledge of things like gear ratios. But that will get its own post when they finally DO SOMETHING with the damned thing worth reporting, aside from occasional reports that someone else has partnered with them.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Interstellar Warfare Wednesday: Martial Arts IN SPAAAACE

I've gone over spaceguns, and spacegear, and spacetactics, but yet to touch on martial arts. Even with the advanced technology needed to claim a place as a race capable of space combat, martial arts will still be required. No matter how far technology advances, spacecraft are cramped, and every possible inch of space is packed with vital equipment. In addition, ships not reinforced for combat may be susceptible to arms intended to pierce other space combat suits.

Which brings us back to The Old Fashioned Way. Grapples, strikes, and melee weapons, wielded by and against people likely clad in suits able to withstand the horrors of space. Obviously, things can't be done just as usual, because all you'd get is people uselessly thumping each others armor until one of them got tired or overheated; much like how modern soldiers are trained with an emphasis on grapples rather than simply breaking themselves on armored opponents.

Further complicating things is that pesky lack of gravity, either completely, or merely reduced during planet-side operations or in artificial partial G environments. A substantial amount of effort will likely need to go to further refinement of techniques that function in such conditions.

Grapples, without gravity, will be problematic. Certain techniques such as the armbar may still continue to function as they use a combination of the victim's and aggressor's bodies as the surface against which the arm is wrenched, but without some manner of magnet boots or similar technology to allow for bracing, throws and such will tend to just leave both combatants drifting apart. For unarmored/unsuited combatants, a grapple fight will turn into a very floaty series of attempts to perform chokes or wrenches and resist same.

Similarly, lacking grav boots, striking becomes near useless without something to push off of. Almost all power in a strike comes ultimately from the ground, and blows thrown with only muscle power tend to be lacking. With sufficiently rigid surfaces inside of the ship, combatants may be able to kick off walls to launch themselves into attacks, which is flashy, difficult, and risky. One would be reminded of kids in a bouncy castle attempting to fight. Any combat suits would by necessity have at least concentrating strikers, like those of a glass breaking hammer, and an emphasis on blows to the chinks in the armor and breakable vital components such as the faceplate or pack.

The last chance is the melee weapon. Humanity has augmented his might with tools ever since the first stick was lifted as a bludgeon, and there's no reason we should stop now. That said, we may need to put in some further development to tools that have largely stagnated due to alternate technologies. Like the knights of old, piercing power and ability to target weak spots will be key, but further development may be needed. Exotic materials that we're on the brink of unlocking, such as blades with a boron carbide coated superfine edge, will keep the humble bit of steel relevant; still, further exotics may be required. Vibro weapons are presently mere science fiction, but supposedly boast superb damage and armor penetration if they work anything like we imagine they might. Weapons able to generate some manner of superheated edge are more feasible at present day, as plasma cutters and such are known quantities if we can miniaturize the functional bits, at the cost of greedily burning oxygen even if they only fire during contact and penetration. Such weapons are also viciously effective if they can penetrate to the inside of a pure oxygen suit, but unusable on pure oxygen vessels. Another known quantity already well on its way to miniaturization is powered weapons, such as the chainsword and buzz axe so favored by certain sci-fi licenses. Power tools are well known entities, and while dedicated tools may be wielded against the haplessly unarmed, for use as true weapons further refinement is required; we must bring them in line with the myriad of arms humanity has developed to work with our form factor, and adjust them to suit the rigors of battle. Still, even with suitable weapons to permit damage to be done, fighting with weaponry will require some combination of grappling and striking, with the same difficulties as are mentioned in their respective sections

Ultimately finding what works will require a great deal of testing, and as always, will only be undertaken by the most forward-thinking of military thinkers, with the rest playing catch-up after they discover they are no longer fighting the last war. Still, physical combat and melee prowess shouldn't be discounted, even as we extend our reach to the stars. With sword in hand, we shall rise to the heavens.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Contentious Topics

Guns have always been one. I'm presently penning a substantial entry that will be crossposted both here and on social media, in response to a number of those I share said media with. I may well lose some friends, but when they're demanding I be forcibly stripped of my possessions for the behavior of another, and armed men with guns sent to kill me if I refuse (The implicit conclusion to calls for confiscation), are they really my friends?