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The Bible -- no, the other one...

  1. May 16, 2015 #1
    Scriptwriters refer to the reference document keeping track of the consistent information of the fictional universe as the bible. Mostly this is character background information like rarely heard family names or the like, but for science fiction it is often how the physics of the universe works.

    My interest here is how (fictional) physical laws impact scriptwriting. Can we come up with extensions of physics that sound good and advance stories with an eye toward more consistent fictional physics across copyright properties (i.e. fictional universes).

    Some topics might be:

    Reactionless drives
    AI/Human interface
    Why small ships are faster than large ships (common in fiction)
    Evil weapons for MacGuffins
    Weapons that destroy bodies (lowering filming costs).

    My idea for reactionless drives is a fifth force (sixth if we count the Higgs field) that is (inversely) dependent on the amount of nearby mass and pushes on the sum of the mass within a region of a few lightyears. It would drop in strength due to nearby mass, allowing small ships to move faster than large ones. (It still needs a cool name.)
  2. jcsd
  3. May 16, 2015 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    The problem with consistency across fictional universes is that you can run into copyright issues. This happens from time to time with fan fiction where the original author claims rights over his/her created characters and universe and tells the fan author to cease and desist publishing.

    George Lucas had limits placed on when and where in the Star Wars universe you could write about so as not to interfere with his future projects. At least that was my understanding from reading other Star Wars authors like Timothy Zahn...
  4. May 16, 2015 #3
    I considered putting an open source license on the whole thread, but I'm not a lawyer. Anyway the intent of the thread is to encourage the distribution and use of such ideas.

    I'm pretty sure general ideas are not subject to IP rights. Thus "point 8 past lightspeed" is likely public use while "Kessel Run" is copyrighted. This thread is for the ideas, not specific applications of those ideas.
  5. May 17, 2015 #4
    Smaller rockets have bigger speed than big ones, magic, they can have superior acceleration, that is pretty real : double every dimension of a rocket, mass will be 8 times bigger, thrust force only 4 times bigger. Also fighters can have high-thrust, low specific impluse drives (chem fuel, nuclear thermo etc) instead of high specific impluse-low thust (ion thrusters) for example.

    Propellantless drives, magsails could work in reality, otherwise i thought about some virtual particle or negative mass/spacetime warp stuff.

    AI/Human interface : at first, electrode caps/helmets, in my operatic setting, i thought about nano-bot augmented human brains.

    What does evil weapon means?
    Personally i dont like the idea of desintegrators as infantry wepons.
  6. May 17, 2015 #5
    I like your thinking.

    The problem as I see it with warp drive is that bigger ships could generate larger fields and be faster than small ships. Historically bigger ships (wet navy) have been faster. But that doesn't allow the plucky fighter pilot hero. :cry: Of course this could be explained by one line of dialog, but what should that dialog be?

    Caps or hats limit wardrobe selection. Many big name stars might refuse to wear them. Cool looking brain implants though...

    An evil weapon would be one which justifies extreme action by the heroes. A current example is a nuclear bomb. The hero is morally justified in killing bad guys to stop the bomb.

    Infantry weapons that destroy bodies are somewhat fanciful. But they are common in sci-fi for a good reason. Producers and directors don't want to pay bit actors to lay around as dead bodies. Since scenes are shot out of order, getting the dead bodies just right from scene to scene is a pain as well. This really is a show stopper. Bodies must not hang around from camera shot to camera shot. Perhaps other solutions are possible?
  7. May 17, 2015 #6
    I thought the propellantless stuff to be a very high spcific impluse but low thrust engine, fighters have regular fusion/antimatter rockets in my operatic setting (when i talk about an operatic fighter i think in W40k scale, so it should be 100m long ship, and also a drone)

    About the dead body issue, they could wear full armor (of course such a stuff wont be penetrated by spears and a small handgun), so the director only has to put an empty armor to the floor.

    Evil weapon, that could be Death Star like planet killer, or W40k virus bomb. (I also had an idea about a really ugly stuff, a nanobot replicator that could literally allow to puppetize all humans on Earth.)
  8. May 21, 2015 #7
    Reactionless drives

    It is difficult to handwave the probem of "conservation of energy or conservation of momentum, choose one" that arises with constant acceleration, as would result from a true reactionless drive. Perhaps it is pushing against the local gravitational field, as in having a stick and pushing some massive object away, perhaps indirectly by giving off some so-far unknown type of directional gravitational wave. Massively advanced stuff anyway, not for wee little empires controlling a handful of systems at most. .

    AI/Human interface

    IMO everyhing quickly goes "incomprehensible" if AI:s that greatly outsmart humans exist. Iain Banks did it well in the culture universe, though.

    Why small ships are faster than large ships (common in fiction)

    Because of the cube square law, for a given geometry a smaller spaceship could get rid of waste heat faster.

    It could be a cost issue, we could build a 50x heavier "normal ship" with the handwave drive, but since it requires more units of unobtainium than we can spare, we choose not to.

    Another idea is that smaller craft doesn't have a chance against bigger ships anyway, so it makes no sense to try to armor them or even arm them, hence they are also disproportionally lighter.

    Evil weapons for MacGuffins

    I'd like to give everyone a warning for over-using MacGuffins so that in every episode/chapter some technology advances immensely, changing the rules. Done well though, it is an almost essential scifi trope.

    Weapons that destroy bodies (lowering filming costs).

    Cheesyness risk. In exactly what context would it be that much more expensive to have a deadie lying around for a bit?
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