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Worldbuilding idea - the edge of survivability

  1. Dec 20, 2013 #1
    I'm here to test an idea and if anyone wants to help make it better, they are welcome to add their own. I have a story planned that will be happening on a pretty savage world. The characters were sent there as prisoners and as their punishment they have to mine the exotic materials that came to be formed due to the savage circumstances. Remote controlled robots can't be used because the atmosphere is not transparent to radio signals, radiation interferes with higher spectra EM.

    The planet circles a pulsar that bombards the surface with X rays or even hard gamma rays. So far, I know there will be no breatheable atmosphere. Gases in the atmosphere form sticky surfaces (making vehicle windows clogged up with time) and eventually act in a corrosive way. I'm thinking what the magnetic properties of the pulsar could cause.

    Geothermal power might be an option but I thought it would be a good twist if the only source of energy would be radioactive reactors. Of course these two kinda walk hand in hand since it is the radioactive elements that cause the inside of planets to remain hot.

    What could the exotic materials be? I'm thinking something that's not common on Earth, perhaps compounds that include noble gases. These don't usually join in molecules but under such circumstances maybe they could. Still thinking on why such materials could be used and why they would be worth all the trouble.

    Obviously, organic matter will have a hard time surviving here. All habitats are deep underground (could have problems if there's any tectonic activity) with radiation shields. Most population is in suspended animation and VR so that they require as little space and necessities as possible. Those that are active, slowly replace their organs with synthetic ones due to the exposure to the elements. They can't walk outside but they mine and gather resources in legged vehicles. I'm still thinking about the names of these (mechs have been used aplenty, I think).

    I've not yet determined if this is a binary system or if there will be any other planets or moons in the neighborhood, so tidal forces, tidal locking and gravitational anomalies are still an option. Black holes? Possible if it could contribute something of interest.

    If anyone has any ideas or insights, I'm happy to hear them. If I decide to use those ideas and I ever publish this, I intend to cite this forum and names of those that contributed.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 20, 2013 #2
    I think before just about any one can really contribute on a meaningful level we need more info on the plot.

    Other then that my only question is how does this Ore get back into space without allowing your prisoners to escape?
    If they live in a sealed environment that includes some form of Life suspension then couldn't the prisoners some how salvage these technologies and rig a piggy back on these packages into space?
  4. Dec 21, 2013 #3
    The transport of ore (or whatever it will be) offworld isn't in their control but in the hands of the Warden ship (that's how they call it). The prisoners have substantial technology (think the human colonization of Pandora in Avatar) but their masters are far more advanced. I'm thinking that they might have turned that star into a pulsar to get the right conditions to cook up those exotic materials. It's possible the transport of ore might be done using teleport; no craft that could reach upper atmosphere is permitted, no satellites.

    The plot will be their survival. They arrived in a single ship which became their central habitat (so far, I'm calling it The Hub). Then they opened several smaller colonies to gather more resources. The leadership of these colonies argue for the limited resources and eventually it turns into an armed conflict. They turn their mining mechs into tanks and take down the Hub. Then it's every colony for itself. They develop their own preferences to how they approach various problems. If they exchange ore for organic material, they would be motivated to outperform other colonies. This results in sabotage. Alliances form and break. Then there's the VR world which was an eden simulation to keep everyone happy but might change with time.

    Like I said, any suggestions or ideas are welcome.
  5. Dec 21, 2013 #4
    IMHO turning a star to a pulsar is too much, if they could do that, they could create everything they want.

    Teleportation... you have to think about its constraints very carefully, otherwise what is wrong with shuttle craft? They cant make an interstellar travel, even with hibernation. And they can simply blast them if they sense some living.

    If there are VR and hibernation, what forces them to mine? Those who put them there want big quantities of ore, not half of the people say they do nothing.
  6. Dec 21, 2013 #5
    The pulsar thing was just an idea, nothing depends on it yet. So was teleportation.

    No, the point is that a significant portion of a world's population was sentenced to imprisonment on this planet for rebelling against their masters. I'm thinking they won't have a specific quota to meet (those bastards are patient) but they get exchange for organic materials so the more they harvest, the more they can feed their people. The majority of the population is protected in hibernation; think of them as DNA and/or work force storage; they will probably be able to reproduce in this state (think the Matrix) because this story might span a few generations. When the workforce above gets depleted (either they die of old age, their cells get damaged by radiation or they die in combat), they extract new ones but it's important to keep them at a minimal level so the life support doesn't get over-burdened.
  7. Dec 21, 2013 #6
    I assume The prisoner are human while the Captors are some Alien race?

    Why imprison them at all? Was Politics or Religion on the part of the Captors or Captives some how involved? If the Captors are so much more advanced then why not use an army of AIs? or Genetic Engineered Slave race? or even just mine it them selves (included for completeness :) )?

    Installing them on a resource rich but dangerous world is just asking for another rebellion, one led by a desperate and hardened population, especially if there is some material that is plentiful here but hard to acquire elsewhere. (Forget what Anime Teaches you), for any material to enter common use it has to have a common use, a material only used in Warship Reactors is a Vital material (which the supply can not be out of Government oversight) but no civilization would willingly use this unless they feel they have a large and economically accessible source.

    And last, whats to stop one faction from sabotaging another factions Stasis units? Quickest way I can think of to end any conflict is to weaken them that way. One they either have to shift Miners back to repair and defend their Population, thus leaving their materials unguarded or risk losing their backup entirely. and Two should they lose their Population base, all the other factions would turn on them in no time.
  8. Dec 22, 2013 #7
    It can be also an interesting question, why send everyone at once and keep them in stasis instead of more and more transports?

    Otherwise, as Martin described, remote control isnt available, possibly sending rebel humans there (who would otherwise cause trouble in the biosphere) still cheaper than employing real AIs maybe AIs also rebelled /if someone really developed a human like superparallel non determinisitc intelligence.../ I dont think that they could just build technology to build warships from the very valuable material, and the Captors can accept a blockade more than the Captives.
  9. Dec 22, 2013 #8
    Just brainstorming and asking questions the readers will be asking.

    also the initial premises is generations of people living on this prison planet. if they are mining any material that is rare and difficult to reach then they will have tools for prospecting. unless the mining sites are chosen by the Overlords.
  10. Dec 23, 2013 #9
    The prisoners don't know how to use the material they are mining. They don't have the knowledge or the industrial capability to process it in any meaningful way. They are just performing a service for their warden.

    Whenever the prisoners interact with their warden, they're being outsmarted. They were told to never experiment with that material or there would be consequences. Of course eventually they try, hoping this would be a way to gain leverage. But the material is unstable, which results in accidents. The warden knew this would happen as it is human nature.
  11. Jan 17, 2014 #10
    Perhaps this suggestion is too contrary to a couple of your specs, but diamond is often a material engineers wish they could make everything out of. It figuratively is unobtanium for most practical purposes.

    And there's a giant diamond planet orbiting Pulsar J1719-1438

    Perhaps out there somewhere is a diamond planet/fragment with low enough gravity for humans (or whatever species your writing) to survive on, that has slingshot far enough away from the pulsar to be both dangerous enough for adequate jeopardy but safe enough for the Foreman to sign off on health and safety forms. :-D
  12. Jan 18, 2014 #11
    That's a good proposition. I will think on it. Thanks.
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