Question About "Engineered Criticality Devices" In A SciFi Scenario

In summary, a group of players is planning an event where they will be fighting a tough scenario using the same game mechanics as they have done before. The older players enjoyed the scenario while the younger players looked on. The battle has to be done in stages and the players need at least three ships to fight.
  • #1
BigDon
74
97
As a way of explanation I have to say I've been reffing RPG's since the mid seventies, some four months after D&D first came out, as it took that long back then for game ideas to move from the Great Lakes region to the West Coast. (I was Class of '78)

So in the upcoming post vaccine era I'm planning a gaming event with several consecutive groups of players. Some, the older players, having done this scenario before and they enjoyed the hell out of it while the younger players, including my own adult children, looked on at the others and wondered what they were so happy about.

The scenario being one of the toughest is Scifi. And that is defeating one of Saberhagen's full sized Berserker units. (AKA "things that whisper in the void, in voices that speak only in mathematics.)

For those unfamiliar, Berserkers are ancient Von Neuman machines designed to sterilize planets. Artificial intelligences who's core programing consists of the mantra "The animation of matter is obscene."

And the most annoying of their units are *big*. A full sized "planet buster" (a misnomer as destroying planets ala the Death Star is a complete waste of energy when all you need to do is heat the atmosphere until the sea beds become ceramics.) resembles a squat, black chess rook with a top at each end. Double crenelated it was referred to as. Fifty miles in diameter and with an armor belt of solid nickel/iron three miles thick. (That ought to make a engineer or two wince at the prospect of trying to defeat.) I always wondered, barring "proprietary methods", how many centuries it would take something cast that thick to cool to the point of being structurally useful. A friend suggested they must have been carved and not cast to have any kind of timely production.

Youngsters have a hard time believing me when I say a 20 megaton contact explosion with an armor belt that thick wouldn't even get the inside surface warm to the touch. (Star Treks' photon torpedoes had a dial a yield of 6 to 20 megatons according to old canon. Though they never seem that energetic in the TV shows. Must be the vacuum of space hiding the effects by not propagating them.)

And it was the friendly physicists over at Cosmoquest who went into mathematical detail about the efficaciousness of c+ cannons in fighting these nightmares. In rounding the cow we assumed Berserkers were the same density through and through as homogenous nickel/iron. A one metric ton slug of lead propelled at light speed, (as the energy state c+ is undefined) would have enough energy leftover to put on a rather spectacular light show on the far side of the target. Something on the order of three or four megatons of energy left and a bunch of hot spew.

I miss those guys. (No, I wasn't banned, I'm better behaved than that.)

The battle has to be done in stages, and to have any real hope you need at least three ships large enough to mount c+ cannon. The first two days are just trying to get the force fields down and offline. As "force fields" are also an undefined, the question pertains to the post force field stage of the battle.

And the scenario my players who did it like so much?

Boarding parties.

The ultimate contested landing scenario, if you will. Successful runs and your Spacer could get a tattoo of a bursting red sphere on his arm. In the books the record was eleven. Amongst the players back in the olden days the record is seven. Tied a couple of times but not beaten.

In the post force field stage of the battle, dropships full of lunatics in power suits attempt to breach and destroy vital power systems and plant charges and such. And even try to get out again. In this darksome Universe it isn't difficult to find those that have lost everything to these mechanical horrors and thus harbor a hatred deep enough to keep the ranks full despite the grim odds. Smart gunners are vital in that they carry weapons that automatically lock up and fire on anything moving faster than three meters a second. (Otherwise don't bother showing up.) You want at least three for every twenty troopers.

Anyway, the actual question.

If you are fighting a purely non-living opponent on the scale of something like a Berserker in both size and threat potential do you engineer your warheads for maximal neutron or maximal gamma production in a space battle? If one assumes a common yield of 2.092e+24 ergs.
(Or fifty megatons, whichever does the maths better. :) )

Or maybe something else I'm unaware of?

I always have mixed thoughts about this and wondered if someone with a lot more knowledge in physics could settle the question. As far as I know gamma penetrates deeper, with unknown to me effects, while intense neutron fluxes cause untoward alchemical changes in existing materials. (And maybe gamma does too for all I know.) BUT the neutrons, as far as I know, won't penetrate nearly as far.

And I can't come up with an internal argument over which is more useful. Once a doctor on a long flight said the armor affected by the neutrons would probably become too brittle to be useful against a follow up shot of any sort likely to be used in such a circumstance, but he wasn't sure.

(And if someone has a better phrase than "alchemical transformation" for what swarms of unowned neutrons do to something I'll listen. :) )

Thank you.

I have another scifi weapon question, the *original* version of the PPC in BattleTech, but that's for another post.

Have a good night everybody.
 
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  • #2
Um, neutron embrittlement is subtle ?? Rather than eg 'Tin Disease', where cryogenic allotrope is suddenly, uselessly brittle...

IIRC, the 'canon' FTL missiles were salvoed from a safe distance until the 'BMF' in question was sufficiently impaired. ( Fusing ? Target mass sufficed to 'trip' projectile from FTL, efficient conversion to energy ensued.)

Agreed on how long those miles' thickness of eg nickel-iron would take to cool if a single 'pour'. And the inherent stresses / strains due differential cooling ??

Okay, the hull's outer surface may not look it due 'wear & tear', but the interior must be organised. So, modular. Seriously modular. Probably 'near-fractal' space-filling polyhedra, perhaps with cast key-ways for 'plug & play' assembly.
 
  • #3
It is a question of energy coupling because the outer layers are vaporized and eject energy back outward. If gammas actually penetrate deeper (I do not know), they will couple energy better. There is a literature on this in nuclear deflection of asteroids.
 
  • #4
BigDon said:
Or maybe something else I'm unaware of?
Yeah. Once you have a one metric ton slug at light speed, playing around with a puny megaton scale warheads is just like firecrackers alongside some sixteen inch battleship guns. Why bother?

And without those 'c+ cannons' ... well, regarding that 3km thick armor, you would need something like an autocannon for those warheads... With a pretty long belt of ammo... and a pretty good sight for all that to hit around the same spot...

BigDon said:
I always wondered, barring "proprietary methods", how many centuries it would take something cast that thick to cool to the point of being structurally useful.
No point in making that one piece.
 

Related to Question About "Engineered Criticality Devices" In A SciFi Scenario

1. What are engineered criticality devices?

Engineered criticality devices are fictional devices that are often featured in science fiction scenarios. They are typically described as highly advanced technology that can manipulate and control criticality, which is the state of a nuclear reaction where it is self-sustaining and releasing a large amount of energy.

2. How do engineered criticality devices work?

The exact workings of engineered criticality devices are not fully explained in science fiction scenarios, as they are often used as plot devices. However, they are typically described as using advanced technology and materials to manipulate the criticality of a nuclear reaction, either by increasing or decreasing it to achieve a desired outcome.

3. Are engineered criticality devices possible in real life?

As of now, there is no evidence to suggest that engineered criticality devices are possible in real life. The concept of manipulating criticality is based on theoretical physics and has not been achieved in practice. However, as technology advances, it is possible that such devices could become a reality in the future.

4. What are the potential dangers of engineered criticality devices?

In science fiction scenarios, engineered criticality devices are often portrayed as highly dangerous and capable of causing catastrophic events, such as explosions or the creation of black holes. In reality, if such devices were possible, they would likely pose significant risks and ethical concerns, as they could potentially be used as weapons or cause unintended consequences.

5. How are engineered criticality devices used in science fiction?

Engineered criticality devices are often used as plot devices in science fiction stories to create dramatic and high-stakes situations. They are also sometimes used as a way to explore ethical and moral dilemmas surrounding advanced technology and its potential consequences. However, their portrayal in science fiction should not be taken as a representation of what is scientifically possible in real life.

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