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Retro Review: Out Around Rigel, by Robert H. Wilson
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Jordan
2006-05-19 06:36:54 UTC
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"Out Around Rigel" by Robert H. Wilson (c. around 1930)

Extensive SPOILERS
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SUMMARY

On the ancient Moon, at a time when Luna was habitable and Terra a
primordial cloud-shrouded planet (1), there is a high civilization.
The narrator, Dunal, and his best friend Garth, dwell in "Nardos the
Beautiful, the City Built on the Water," the water in question being
that of the Oceanus Procellarum near the Grimaldi Plateau (2). They
are both in love with Kelvar, who is Dunal's betrothed.

This is a rather Barsoomian sort of high culture: they have spaceships
and can build a "ten mile long adamantine bridge" to connect Nardos
to the mainland, but they fight honor duels with razor-sharp two-handed
swords. We don't know much about Dunal and Garth's background,
save that they were schoolboys together and that they are really good
swordsmen; however they have "aristocratic" attitudes and are both
well-educated and probably wealthy, so we may assume that they are from
their society's upper classes.

Garth has been given command of the Comet, the most advanced spaceship
ever built. The Comet is built of "shining helio-beryllium", is a
cylinder whose main element is 20' long by 15' wide, with 5' long
pointed extensions bow and stern, and four fins that hold its main
engines. Power is provided by the disintegration of mercury (3). The
main drive is an electromagnetic warp system that is capable of
flinging the ship at an estimated speed of 4000 C.

Garth wants Dunal along with him on the first flight of the Comet, a
voyage to Rigel (4), which Garth figures should take about six months
round trip. Dunal signs on. The two will be the ship's only crew.

The Comet flies to Rigel, where they discover a planet smaller and
denser than Luna, with a flourine atmosphere. They land on the planet.
Garth theorizes that any life forms would have to be silicon-based.
They step out onto the surface of the planet, protected by the
helio-beryllium paint on their spacesuits, and admire the weird alien
beauty of the place.

Garth then reveals his real reason for bringing Dunal on this
expedition. He will fight Dunal with the aforementioned Lunarian
dueling swords. Even a slight cut will mean death, because of the
ferociously poisonous atmosphere. The winner will survive to marry
Kelvar.

They duel. Dunal cannot bring himself to slay his friend, and passes
up many openings. But Garth is fighting to win. Suddenly, Dunal sees
tentacles rise from the sand and slither towards Garth. Dunal tries to
warn Garth, but his friend strikes Dunal across the faceplate, which
does not break, but the force of the blow knocks Dunal to the ground
(5).

A horde of alien beasts surface. The two men, once again allies, fight
their way towards the Comet, shattering the glassy-bodied creatures
with their dueling swords. Recovering his honor, Garth boosts Dunal
into the ship and slams the hatch, remaining outside to fight until he
is overwhelmed by the silicon beasts.

Saddened, Dunal returns home to the Solar System. But when he lands on
Luna, he discovers to his horror that a thousand years have passed back
home (6): there has apparently been a cataclysmic meteor shower and
his homeworld's atmosphere and oceans have been flung into space.
After a month of hopeless waiting, he writes an account of his
adventures, seals it into a helio-beryllium box, and lies down to die,
knowing that all he has loved, including his betrothed and his best
friend, is now dust.

A footnote to the story explains that it is a translation of the
account that Dunal sealed in the box, which was found by an expedition
launched from the Earth to the Moon at some unspecified time.

CRITIQUE

This is a reasonably exciting and well-written story; it's obvious
why Damon Knight chose it for the anthology. Dunal, Garth and Kelvar
are sparsely characterized but do have distinct personalities, and the
first time I read this story I was struck by the inherent tragedy: not
only did Dunal and Garth unwittingly leave Kelvar behind forever, but
their duel was completely pointless - 500 years had already passed
back home at that point.

On the other hand, I do have to worry about the lack of common sense
shown by their whole culture. It's explicitly stated that they ARE
aware of the speed of light as a limiting factor; they simply assume
that the electromagnetic warp drive gets around this limit. They have
apparently never tested the drive! Even if we assume that the Lunarian
civilization has the same lack of automation as most 1930's SF-nal
cultures, one would THINK that they could have taken the ship on a
short hop and see what happened. The drive is explicitly stated to be
capable of insystem use - Dunal and Garth use it in this manner in
both the Solarian and Rigellian systems. This lapse is mystifying.

However, it doesn't kill the story for me. It's fairly obvious, as
I mentioned, that the Lunarian culture is full of the same sort of
aristocratic, honor-bound recklessness that characterizes ERB's
Barsoom, so perhaps the Lunarians believe that a mere test-flight is
unworthy of the pilot's courage, or something like that.

Slightly less understandable is why the first flight is to be a 1000-LY
round trip, rather than one of only 10-20 LY (there are right now many
interesting stars within 10 LY of the Sun). This I can also handwave
away - perhaps there is something especially interesting about Rigel,
and after all Garth thinks that the voyage will only be a half-year
trip.

Of course, both these assumptions are necessary to make the tragedy
work. If the Lunarians test the drive, the flaw becomes obvious. If
Garth makes a short hop to a neighboring star, then only about a decade
or two pass on Luna - given the idealistic nature of the Lunarians,
maybe Kelvar even waits for Dunal. And then it's very unlikely that
much would have changed back at home.

This may be an "idiot plot" - I'd call it more of an "idiot
culture plot." But then the same is true for the Barsoom stories,
and I love those.

GOOD SCIENCE

For a story written around 1930 to get relativistic physics even
remotely right was good science. I do not know if this is the FIRST
story ever written in which time dilation played a key role, but it is
certainly ONE of the first stories about which this can be said. Given
popular conceptions of the Universe c. 1930, it may not be surprising
that the Lunarians weren't certain what would happen - especially
given the warp drive.

Wilson also gets gravity right - he's aware that it is essentially
a bending of the fabric of spacetime. This is a very good
understanding of the nature of the Universe by c. 1930 sf-nal
standards, indeed!

Flourine-breathing silicon-based life is actually possible, though
improbable. Wilson may have been the first science fiction writers to
grasp the connection between flourine breathing and silicon as a basis
for life chemistry (fluorocarbon biochemistry is less probable than
flourosilicon biochemistry, though neither is particularly likely).

It does seem likely that Luna passed through an early stage in which it
had a significant atmosphere and probably hydrosphere as well. It is
NOT likely that Luna developed complex life (though prokaryotic life
can't be ruled out), let alone sapient life, in the few hundred
million years before said atmosphere dissipated, but it is of course
possible. Williamson used the same premise even more famously in
"The Moon Era."

"Meteors" and storms of "meteors," including those powerful
enough to devastate whole worlds, were indeed more common in the early
history of the Solar System than they are today. We now know that Luna
itself was created by a Mars-sized impactor striking the Earth; it is
POSSIBLE (though unlikely) that Luna later might have lost its
atmosphere rapidly as the result of a major impact.

WEIRD SCIENCE

Mercury is not a natural fissionable. As I mentioned, this is probably
not something that Wilson COULD have known around 1930. I would
handwave this away by proposing that the Lunarians knew something we
don't about nuclear physics, but it is rather odd that they would
have discovered this but NOT ascertained the truth of time dilation.

It is rather obviously impossible to make "helio-beryllium alloy,"
at least using any chemical processes we know. Helium is a noble gas;
it doesn't bond with anything. Now, some noble gases have been
forced into combination with flourine, so maybe the Lunarians also knew
something about chemistry that we haven't discovered yet. Maybe.

Actually, this alloy was rather interesting, it was the "light
inactive alloy of a metal and a gas," and if it were real there would
be all sorts of good aerospace and industrial applications for it.
Given some sort of bizarre femtotech, it might even become possible.
But that's science at a level "indistinguishable from magic," of
course J

SEMINAL WEIRD SCIENCE

Did you notice that the Comet had a warp drive? Actually Wilson
doesn't CALL it a "warp drive," he says simply that it "bends
space," but essentially that's what a modern sf-nal warp drive
does. We don't yet know whether warp drives are in general good
science, but he's got the basic idea, and very early on. Though, of
course, the whole point of his story is that his warp drive is STL.

BAD SCIENCE

Wilson makes the assumption that Rigel is roughly where it is today.
But the story is set a long time ago - at least half a billion years
by my guess, and certainly many millions of years by any guess. Over
mere tens of millions of years, the set of "near stars" drastically
changes. The story would have made more sense if Wilson had simply
picked a random, made-up star name!

CONCLUSION

This was an interesting, exciting story by the standards of its day,
and it had considerable influence on later science fiction. The
fictional alien culture itself was partially inspired by Edgar Rice
Burroughs' Barsoom novels, which is not surprising as ERB was one of
the field's most highly regarded authors around 1930. The level of
scientific plausibility was actually very high for its era.

NOTES

(1) The exact time is never stated. By early 1930's planetology, we
would guess at least half a billion years ago; by modern planetology,
we would guess more like four billion years ago.

(2) Wilson uses the modern selenological terminology. Presumably
Dunal's race had their own terms for these features. I do not recall
whether or not the "Oceanus" Procellarum is in reality a highland
or a depression; in the story it is obviously a water-filled
depression.

(3) This of course is impossible. I don't think that Wilson had any
way of knowing this, however, given the primitive state of nuclear
physics c. 1930.

(4) "Estimated" is the word for it. As story events show, no
Lunarians have yet actually traveled or projected any object at FTL
speeds. It says something about both the courage and the recklessness
of Dunal's civilization that they plan to make their first test of
this drive with a 1000-LY interstellar voyage conducted by a manned
spacecraft!

(5) Note that Dunal has not only behaved nobly all through this fight,
but has actually demonstrated superior prowess at every point. This
sort of overkill of heroism was standard for stories of this era, and
this is why I described the fight in detail.

(6) Because the Comet's drive isn't really FTL, it's only NAFAL,
and due to time-dilation what seemed like six months from the POV of
Dunal was actually a thousand years from the POV of Luna. Wilson gets
some of the relativistic reasoning slightly wrong, but he comes to the
right conclusion.

(7) Am I the only one to wonder if the creator of SAILOR MOON ever read
this story, given the location, the aristocratic honor-based culture,
and the strong romantic theme?
Aaron Denney
2006-05-19 07:40:42 UTC
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Post by Jordan
The Comet flies to Rigel, where they discover a planet smaller and
denser than Luna, with a flourine atmosphere.
Very small particles, greatly resembling flour?
--
Aaron Denney
-><-
Nyrath
2006-05-19 11:43:21 UTC
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Good review. When I read that story I too was struck
by the remarkable amount of reasonably accurate
science contained in a story written in the 1930s.
Certainly far more that one finds in current
SF TV shows and movies.
Jon Schild
2006-05-23 14:52:27 UTC
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Post by Nyrath
Good review. When I read that story I too was struck
by the remarkable amount of reasonably accurate
science contained in a story written in the 1930s.
Certainly far more that one finds in current
SF TV shows and movies.
1930s SF authors cared whether their science was reasonable or not. The
Hollywood attitude is more like "Science? I took that once. Got an F."
Lawrence Watt-Evans
2006-05-23 17:56:39 UTC
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Post by Jon Schild
1930s SF authors cared whether their science was reasonable or not.
Not all of them; if you look at the stuff that ran in FANTASTIC
ADVENTURES or SUPER SCIENCE STORIES rather than ASTOUNDING or AMAZING,
you'll see that some didn't care at all.
--
My webpage is at http://www.watt-evans.com
Jordan
2006-05-23 18:55:12 UTC
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1930s SF authors cared whether their science was reasonable or not. The Hollywood attitude is more like "Science? I took that once. Got an F." <
I think that this is more a split between written and video science
fiction. Written science fiction, even back in the 1930's, was
appealing to a better educated and more proscientific audience than
video science fiction. In fact, throughout the history of the video
science fiction genre; not only has most video SF been essentially
antiscientific horror ("They meddled with things that Man Was Not Meant
To Know" could be the motto of almost every science fiction movie, and
many science fiction TV shows), but it's been far less logically worked
out horror than most written science fiction horror (a genre that after
all was founded by Mary Shelley, Edgar Allen Poe and H. P. Lovecraft).
Even Stephen King is a master of rationality compared to most sf horror
movies (as witness the difference of logicality between the movies he
had complete creative control over and the ones that were done by
other directors, as in the two versions of _The Shining_ -- ok, that's
actually dark fantasy horror, but the point is still valid).

It's also a matter of technical requirements. A written sf story
creates its effects within the mind of the reader and if it is
illogical creates cognitive dissonance; by contrast a TV show or movie
creates many of its effects in purely visual terms and can look pretty
neat from a visual-aesthetic point of view even if it is total logical
nonsense. (There is one analog in written sf -- a really poetic
writing style can paper over really bad or rubber science -- some of
Jack Vance's science fiction, especially his earlier work, really makes
no sense in scientific terms but you just don't care because it's so
much _fun_ to read).

TV shows have another problem in that they are written by multiple
authors and, even if the producers maintain a show "bible" and try to
maintain continuity it is very difficult to remember _everything_ that
has gone before. _Star Trek_ (in its various incarnations) actually
tried at times to be scientifically reasonable, but its pseudoscience
was often logically inconsistent wither earlier bits of pseudoscience
for that very reason. (And of course in some of its incarnations, such
as the unintentionally-hilarious first episode of _Voyager_, it just
Made No Sense At All, and one got the impression that nobody on the
show really cared if it did).

Sadly, _Star Trek_ is top of the heap of TV science fiction shows that
_tried_ to do real science fiction. Most TV science fiction shows,
such as _The X-Files_, made no real attempt -- that show was a
mish-mosh of free-floating paranoia about the government and aliens
jumbled together with every unlikely story the _Weekly World News_ ever
printed. And _The X-Files_ was one of the most popular science fiction
shows ever, after _Star Trek_.

Makes me think that there is something about video that does not love
good science fiction. But then, every now and then, someone does
_Things to Come_ or _2001_ (*) and makes me glad that there are science
fiction movies.

- Jordan

(*) Both of course done by major science fiction writers: H. G. Wells
and Arthur C. Clarke, respectively.
Anthony Cerrato
2006-05-24 03:36:53 UTC
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Post by Jordan
Post by Jon Schild
1930s SF authors cared whether their science was
reasonable or not. The Hollywood attitude is more like
"Science? I took that once. Got an F." <
Post by Jordan
I think that this is more a split between written and
video science
Post by Jordan
fiction. Written science fiction, even back in the
1930's, was
Post by Jordan
appealing to a better educated and more proscientific
audience than
Post by Jordan
video science fiction. In fact, throughout the history of
the video
Post by Jordan
science fiction genre; not only has most video SF been
essentially
Post by Jordan
antiscientific horror ("They meddled with things that Man
Was Not Meant
Post by Jordan
To Know" could be the motto of almost every science
fiction movie, and
Post by Jordan
many science fiction TV shows), but it's been far less
logically worked
Post by Jordan
out horror than most written science fiction horror (a
genre that after
Post by Jordan
all was founded by Mary Shelley, Edgar Allen Poe and H. P.
Lovecraft).
Post by Jordan
Even Stephen King is a master of rationality compared to
most sf horror
Post by Jordan
movies (as witness the difference of logicality between
the movies he
Post by Jordan
had complete creative control over and the ones that were
done by
Post by Jordan
other directors, as in the two versions of _The
Shining_ -- ok, that's
Post by Jordan
actually dark fantasy horror, but the point is still
valid).
Post by Jordan
It's also a matter of technical requirements. A written
sf story
Post by Jordan
creates its effects within the mind of the reader and if
it is
Post by Jordan
illogical creates cognitive dissonance; by contrast a TV
show or movie
Post by Jordan
creates many of its effects in purely visual terms and can
look pretty
Post by Jordan
neat from a visual-aesthetic point of view even if it is
total logical
Post by Jordan
nonsense. (There is one analog in written sf -- a really
poetic
Post by Jordan
writing style can paper over really bad or rubber
science -- some of
Post by Jordan
Jack Vance's science fiction, especially his earlier work,
really makes
Post by Jordan
no sense in scientific terms but you just don't care
because it's so
Post by Jordan
much _fun_ to read).
[snippage]

You have a good point here I think. Another example, tho not
really an example of "bad" science usually but often just
bare-bones or scanty science in his SF stories would be Ray
Bradbury. However, very few of us would criticize his
beautiful poetic writings as lacking in any way as regards
SF--many of these stories were more people (or alien) based
also and there were several that had the best qualities of
all styles (e.g., The Veldt, and There Will Come Soft
Rains!) And Bradbury certainly created unique
visual-aesthetic pictures in the mind too. ...tonyC
Jordan
2006-05-24 05:36:12 UTC
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You have a good point here I think. Another example, tho not really an example of "bad" science usually but often just bare-bones or scanty science in his SF stories would be Ray Bradbury. However, very few of us would criticize his beautiful poetic writings as lacking in any way as regards SF--many of these stories were more people (or alien) based also and there were several that had the best qualities of all styles (e.g., The Veldt, and There Will Come Soft Rains!) And Bradbury certainly created unique visual-aesthetic pictures in the mind too. <
Well, Ray Bradbury was more trying to write "science fantasy" than
"science fiction." And at that he made some interesting, imaginative,
and possibly accurate sf-nal predictions -- "The Veldt" for instance
predicts what _Star Trek_ would today call a "holo-suite" and what
written sf would call "virtual reality" -- and he did it long before it
was a common idea. (Of course, the _use_ he then makes of it is pretty
much fantasy!)

Sincerely Yours,
Jordan
Default User
2006-05-19 17:48:17 UTC
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Post by Jordan
"Out Around Rigel" by Robert H. Wilson (c. around 1930)
Extensive SPOILERS
My reply has spoilers for Poul Anderson's Long Way Home
Post by Jordan
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Saddened, Dunal returns home to the Solar System. But when he lands
on Luna, he discovers to his horror that a thousand years have passed
back home (6): there has apparently been a cataclysmic meteor shower
and his homeworld's atmosphere and oceans have been flung into space.
After a month of hopeless waiting, he writes an account of his
adventures, seals it into a helio-beryllium box, and lies down to die,
knowing that all he has loved, including his betrothed and his best
friend, is now dust.
However, it doesn't kill the story for me. It's fairly obvious, as
I mentioned, that the Lunarian culture is full of the same sort of
aristocratic, honor-bound recklessness that characterizes ERB's
Barsoom, so perhaps the Lunarians believe that a mere test-flight is
unworthy of the pilot's courage, or something like that.
Slightly less understandable is why the first flight is to be a
1000-LY round trip, rather than one of only 10-20 LY (there are right
now many interesting stars within 10 LY of the Sun). This I can also
handwave away - perhaps there is something especially interesting
about Rigel, and after all Garth thinks that the voyage will only be
a half-year trip.
Of course, both these assumptions are necessary to make the tragedy
work. If the Lunarians test the drive, the flaw becomes obvious. If
Garth makes a short hop to a neighboring star, then only about a
decade or two pass on Luna - given the idealistic nature of the
Lunarians, maybe Kelvar even waits for Dunal. And then it's very
unlikely that much would have changed back at home.
Long Way Home has much the same plot device. In that, the drive isn't a
warp drive as the scientists think, but instead converts the ship and
crew to a wave of some sort. It then travels at the speed of light, but
no time seems to pass to the crew, so they're fooled into thinking it's
instantaneous.

They do run one test, sending animals out to around Pluto. Initially
there's trouble finding the test ship as it's out of position, but they
seem to just shrug and not worry about that. Normally, scientists and
engineers would be extremely worried about that, but they load up and
head on out into the cosmos.

Like the story above, rather than taking, say, a jaunt to Alpha
Centauri and back to see how things go, they trundle off on a massive
far voyage. When they return, it's 1000 years later, oops.



Brian
--
If televison's a babysitter, the Internet is a drunk librarian who
won't shut up.
-- Dorothy Gambrell (http://catandgirl.com)
James Nicoll
2006-05-19 18:19:43 UTC
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In article <***@individual.net>,
Default User <***@yahoo.com> wrote:

SPOILERS FOR THE LONG WAY HOME
Post by Default User
Long Way Home has much the same plot device. In that, the drive isn't a
warp drive as the scientists think, but instead converts the ship and
crew to a wave of some sort. It then travels at the speed of light, but
no time seems to pass to the crew, so they're fooled into thinking it's
instantaneous.
They do run one test, sending animals out to around Pluto. Initially
there's trouble finding the test ship as it's out of position, but they
seem to just shrug and not worry about that. Normally, scientists and
engineers would be extremely worried about that, but they load up and
head on out into the cosmos.
As I recall, the purpose of the mission was to figure out why
they kept having that odd displacement between where theory said the
ship should be and where it actually was.
Post by Default User
Like the story above, rather than taking, say, a jaunt to Alpha
Centauri and back to see how things go, they trundle off on a massive
far voyage. When they return, it's 1000 years later, oops.
More like 5,000, I think.
--
http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/immigrate/
http://www.livejournal.com/users/james_nicoll
Default User
2006-05-19 19:00:46 UTC
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Post by James Nicoll
SPOILERS FOR THE LONG WAY HOME
Post by Default User
Long Way Home has much the same plot device. In that, the drive
isn't a warp drive as the scientists think, but instead converts
the ship and crew to a wave of some sort. It then travels at the
speed of light, but no time seems to pass to the crew, so they're
fooled into thinking it's instantaneous.
They do run one test, sending animals out to around Pluto. Initially
there's trouble finding the test ship as it's out of position, but
they seem to just shrug and not worry about that. Normally,
scientists and engineers would be extremely worried about that, but
they load up and head on out into the cosmos.
As I recall, the purpose of the mission was to figure out why
they kept having that odd displacement between where theory said the
ship should be and where it actually was.
Hmm, I don't remember that, but it could be. They get some help from
that planet of aliens they find, one of whom goes along for the ride.

You'd still expect to run much more controlled tests than that. It's
like having car trouble, so you decide to drive the Al-Can highway.

Or course, it's just a plot device to do forward time-travel.
Post by James Nicoll
Post by Default User
Like the story above, rather than taking, say, a jaunt to Alpha
Centauri and back to see how things go, they trundle off on a
massive far voyage. When they return, it's 1000 years later, oops.
More like 5,000, I think.
I think you're right. They explored out to 1000 LY away.



Brian
--
If televison's a babysitter, the Internet is a drunk librarian who
won't shut up.
-- Dorothy Gambrell (http://catandgirl.com)
James Nicoll
2006-05-19 19:36:13 UTC
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Post by Default User
Post by James Nicoll
SPOILERS FOR THE LONG WAY HOME
Post by Default User
Long Way Home has much the same plot device. In that, the drive
isn't a warp drive as the scientists think, but instead converts
the ship and crew to a wave of some sort. It then travels at the
speed of light, but no time seems to pass to the crew, so they're
fooled into thinking it's instantaneous.
They do run one test, sending animals out to around Pluto. Initially
there's trouble finding the test ship as it's out of position, but
they seem to just shrug and not worry about that. Normally,
scientists and engineers would be extremely worried about that, but
they load up and head on out into the cosmos.
As I recall, the purpose of the mission was to figure out why
they kept having that odd displacement between where theory said the
ship should be and where it actually was.
Hmm, I don't remember that, but it could be. They get some help from
that planet of aliens they find, one of whom goes along for the ride.
You'd still expect to run much more controlled tests than that. It's
like having car trouble, so you decide to drive the Al-Can highway.
I'm not disagreeing on that point. As I recall (but cannot
verify via google), it was enough to inspire someone to start a thread
about premises the reader simply couldn't buy.
--
http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/immigrate/
http://www.livejournal.com/users/james_nicoll
Default User
2006-05-19 20:34:20 UTC
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Post by Default User
Post by James Nicoll
SPOILERS FOR THE LONG WAY HOME
As I recall, the purpose of the mission was to figure out why
they kept having that odd displacement between where theory said
the >> ship should be and where it actually was.
Post by Default User
Hmm, I don't remember that, but it could be. They get some help from
that planet of aliens they find, one of whom goes along for the ride.
You'd still expect to run much more controlled tests than that. It's
like having car trouble, so you decide to drive the Al-Can highway.
I'm not disagreeing on that point. As I recall (but cannot
verify via google), it was enough to inspire someone to start a thread
about premises the reader simply couldn't buy.
Ah. It carried on the tradition of the early science fiction writers
who didn't seem all that familiar with the way engineering and science
generally got done.



Brian
--
If televison's a babysitter, the Internet is a drunk librarian who
won't shut up.
-- Dorothy Gambrell (http://catandgirl.com)
Derek Lyons
2006-05-19 21:49:44 UTC
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Post by Default User
Ah. It carried on the tradition of the early science fiction writers
who didn't seem all that familiar with the way engineering and science
generally got done.
The only significant difference between now and then is the date on
the calendar.

Especially among the general public - over in the sci.space.* groups,
the individual who believes that since we had the Saturn V in the
60's, we should be able to build one in a year nowadays. (Mostly due
to unspecified and handwaving 'advances in technology'.)

D.
--
Touch-twice life. Eat. Drink. Laugh.

-Resolved: To be more temperate in my postings.
Oct 5th, 2004 JDL
Jordan
2006-05-20 06:33:17 UTC
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Ah. It carried on the tradition of the early science fiction writers who didn't seem all that familiar with the way engineering and science generally got done.<
I'm not totally disagreeing with you on this, but you should consider
that "engineering and science" have "generally got done" different ways
at different times and depending on the doers and their purpose. An
individual inventor can cut a lot of corners that a large research
project can't, because he doesn't have to coordinate his work with
anyone but himself or meet anyone's safety standards but his own (of
course, the price of this is that individual inventors are also far
more likely to make project-fatal errors). At some times a field
progresses by the efforts of gifted loners and at some times by the
efforts of giant research teams.

Generally, in the early 20th century there was less research
organization than there is today; in the 19th century the gifted lone
inventor was the _norm_ (this started to change with Thomas Edison's
invention of the industrial research laboratory). This is reflected in
the science fiction of the era. A _new_ field usually goes through a
lone-inventor phase; this happened with personal computers, for
instance (remember how the first Apple was built?). Changes in
technology may make it easier or harder to progress in a field,
resulting in a requirement for smaller or larger minimum investments to
make new inventions.

Also, in general military research takes more risks than commercial
research. This is especially the case during a major war (such as
World War II), when the risks of _not_ making progress fast enough
outweigh the risks of attempting to use scarcely-understood science (in
the minds of those choosing the level of risk, anyway). It may also be
the case when there is ANY urgent requirement for rapid progress. If
it was necessary to intercept an asteroid likely to strike the Earth,
for instance, you would see _very_ rapid design and deployment of the
required boosters and spacecraft (this might or might not happen fast
enough, but it would happen as fast as the engineers could make it
happen!

I'd be careful about assuming that (even a young) Poul Anderson had no
idea of how "engineering and science generally got done" -- because he
was, in fact, an engineer before he became a science fiction writer.
He may, however, have been making assumptions about the project culture
in _The Long Way Home_ which would not match up well with that of the
present-day NASA, which takes caution to the point of ludicrous
extremes (yet still manages to lose spaceships every now and then).
But then, he wrote that story in the 1950's or early 1960's, IIRC,
which was an era in which American aerospace was considerably more
adventurous.

Sincerely Yours,
Jordan
Default User
2006-05-20 19:16:06 UTC
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Post by Default User
Ah. It carried on the tradition of the early science fiction
writers who didn't seem all that familiar with the way engineering
and science generally got done.<
I'm not totally disagreeing with you on this, but you should consider
that "engineering and science" have "generally got done" different
ways at different times and depending on the doers and their purpose.
Which is largely irrelevant to a book written in the 50's.
Post by Jordan
An individual inventor can cut a lot of corners that a large research
project can't, because he doesn't have to coordinate his work with
anyone but himself or meet anyone's safety standards but his own (of
course, the price of this is that individual inventors are also far
more likely to make project-fatal errors). At some times a field
progresses by the efforts of gifted loners and at some times by the
efforts of giant research teams.
Again, irrelevant, because this WAS a large-scale project. By the time
of this book, most research and developement was done by corporations,
universities, or governments.

Witness the Mercury/Gemini/Apollo project which began not all that long
after this book (it was written in 1955). That's the more typical R&D
model for mid-20 Century. There's just no way that the first flight of
a prototype vehicle is going to an indefinite multi-lightyear voyage,
out of contact with home. Especially not in a ship that the builders
don't fully understand AND isn't even working properly.



Brian
--
If televison's a babysitter, the Internet is a drunk librarian who
won't shut up.
-- Dorothy Gambrell (http://catandgirl.com)
Jordan
2006-05-20 21:39:09 UTC
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Post by Jordan
I'm not totally disagreeing with you on this, but you should consider
that "engineering and science" have "generally got done" different
ways at different times and depending on the doers and their purpose.
Which is largely irrelevant to a book written in the 50's.
Well, to begin with engineering in the 50's _was_ more reckless and
less concerned with safety procedures than it is today. And secondly,
the _story_ wasn't set in the 1950's: it was set at some future date (I
haven't read it for a long time so I don't remember when), and Poul
Anderson could assume whatever he wanted about the engineering culture
of his hypothetical mid-terrm future in order to bring about the voyage
of his heroes to the far future in which most of the novel was set.

I don't think that it's reasonable to assume that our current attitude
towards engineering safety will be any more eternal than any other
cultural feature of the present day. 50-100 years from now we may have
become so cautious that progress slows to a snail's creep, so reckless
that we progress by leaps and bounds but equipment accidents routinely
claim millions of lives, or anywhere in between.
Post by Default User
Post by Jordan
An individual inventor can cut a lot of corners that a large research
project can't, because he doesn't have to coordinate his work with
anyone but himself or meet anyone's safety standards but his own (of
course, the price of this is that individual inventors are also far
more likely to make project-fatal errors). At some times a field
progresses by the efforts of gifted loners and at some times by the
efforts of giant research teams.
Again, irrelevant, because this WAS a large-scale project.
It's not irrelevant to my larger point that engineering standards
change over time: you cannot assume that the standards of today apply
to the 1950's, and still less can you assume that they apply to a
hypothetical future that someone _writing_ in the 1950's imagined.
Post by Default User
By the time of this book, most research and developement was done by corporations, universities, or governments.
Yes, and they were _still_ far more ambitious and far less
safety-conscious than is the norm today. If you mean "by the time that
Poul Anderson set the launch of his hypothetical starship," who knows?
Engineering culture not only differs from time to time but also from
place to place: the Chinese are for instance doing thing in their
recent dam project that we wouldn't _dare_ do with our environmental
impact rules. If Poul Anderson's future space agency chose to cut
corners, that's something that requires very little suspension of
disbelief to imagine -- different culture, different standards.

By the same token (getting back to "Out Around Rigel") though you'll
notice that I flagged as odd the Lunarian notion that the best way to
test the _Comet_ was to launch her on a 1000-LY, six-month voyage, I
ultimately concluded that this is believable provided that we assume
that the Lunarians have (as some Earthly cultures have had) an
"aristocratic" or "chivalric" attitude towards danger -- a belief that
every gentleman should aspire to be a hero, and that small challenges
and small risks are unworthy of such a hero.

Note that this would be entirely consistent with the attitude that
Garth displays towards the love triangle with Dunal and Kelvar.
Instead of talking to his friends about it ("whining") or trying to
seduce Kelvar away from Dunal ("dishonorable") he considers it
reasonable to force a mortal duel upon Dunal so that the winner ("the
better man") will get the girl. Note that while Dunal is dismayed at
this turn of events, he's dismayed mostly because he can't bear himself
to slay his best friend. He does _not_ try to convince Garth that the
duel would be evil or silly -- which shows that Dunal, though less rash
than Garth, shares Garth's basic cultural assumptions.

Incidenatlly, it's occurred to me that, given the portrayed
recklessness of someone who must have been one of the the Lunarian
civilization's "best and brightest," that there is a darker possible
explanation for the rather geologically sudden devastation of Luna than
the "swarm of meteors" Dunal assumes. In other words, it seems likely
to me that the Lunarians, harnessing for military purposes the energies
that enabled the _Comet_ to travel to the stars, may have destroyed
their own world in a foolish internecine war. People who thought the
way Garth did might have even done it for some abtruse point of honor
that we would not consider a reasonable cause for war.
Post by Default User
Witness the Mercury/Gemini/Apollo project which began not all that long after this book (it was written in 1955). That's the more typical R&D model for mid-20 Century. <
Ok.

To begin with, even though Mercury/Gemini launched unmanned test shots
before the manned launches, it actually _was_ a pretty reckless
endeavor by modern standards. One of the Mercury capsules filled with
water and sank soon after landing, nearly taking the astronaut down
with the ship (we retrieved that capsule recently). The control
systems were primitive and another capsule nearly spun out of control
before re-entry (which, if the pilot hadn't kept his cool, would have
caused it to burn up on reentry).

The Soyuz program, launched by the Soviets at around the same time, was
even more reckless. The early Soyuz ships were death traps (the modern
Soyuz ships are much safer, even though they share the name and the
same basic hull design). One almost burned up on re-entry, killing the
crew. Another suffered a parachute malfunction and crashed on landing,
nearly killing its crew. There are persistent rumors of additional
secret launches that also suffered fatal accidents.

One reason for this was that the Americans and Soviets were in a race
to the Moon, and were cutting corners. Another reason, though, was
that the engineering culture, led by people who remembered the hectic
days of World War II, when civilization hung in the balance and that
slightly-faster fighter or slightly-quieter submarine had to be gotten
into production NOW, was simply more reckless in general.
Post by Default User
That's the more typical R&D model for mid-20 Century.<
Anderson's starship didn't launch in the mid-20th century.
Post by Default User
There's just no way that the first flight of a prototype vehicle is going to an indefinite multi-lightyear voyage, out of contact with home. Especially not in a ship that the builders don't fully understand AND isn't even working properly. <
Well, _we_ sure wouldn't do it that way. Not here, not now.

But I can't say for sure what others, in another time and place, might
do.

We come from a species that has launched intercontinental oceanic
voyages where the ships had a 1/3 chance each of coming back home and
the crews had considerably lower chances of survival; which used to
have passenger steamboat races, for no reason other than to claim the
title of "fastest," in which one of the boats sometimes _exploded_; and
whose first atomic explosives test was conducted with some of the
testers believing that there was a chance that the whole PLANET might
participate in the chain reaction. So I wouldn't rule out some space
agency doing what Anderson's did, or even for that matter, what
_Wilson_'s did (especially since the Lunarians probably were not
biologically even human).

Big Universe, lots of sociocultural possibilities.

Sincerely Yours,
Jordan
Default User
2006-05-20 21:49:06 UTC
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Well, to begin with engineering in the 50's was more reckless and
less concerned with safety procedures than it is today. And secondly,
the story wasn't set in the 1950's: it was set at some future date (I
haven't read it for a long time so I don't remember when), and Poul
Anderson could assume whatever he wanted about the engineering culture
of his hypothetical mid-terrm future in order to bring about the
voyage of his heroes to the far future in which most of the novel was
set.
The idead that technological progress would lead to cowboy-style R&D
seems unlikely.



Brian
--
If televison's a babysitter, the Internet is a drunk librarian who
won't shut up.
-- Dorothy Gambrell (http://catandgirl.com)
Jordan
2006-05-20 22:48:50 UTC
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The idea that technological progress would lead to cowboy-style R&D seems unlikely. <
How, then, do you explain the emergence of computer hackers in the
1980's, in a field previously dominated by cautious IBM-style corporate
culture? History offers many examples of technological progress
leading to precisely "cowboy-style" engineering, usually when a
technological advance makes trying out a lot of new ideas easier than
was previously the case. (There is a strong analogy here with the
explosive radiation of species that accompanies the opening of a new
niche or niches to life).

And, or course, _cultural change_ (which might or might not constitute
"progress") could lead to precisely that effect even without a
technologically progressive cause. In fact cultural change might
happen to lead in almost any direction.

- Jordan
Default User
2006-05-21 07:28:32 UTC
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Post by Jordan
The idea that technological progress would lead to cowboy-style R&D seems unlikely. <
How, then, do you explain the emergence of computer hackers in the
1980's, in a field previously dominated by cautious IBM-style
corporate culture?
Irrelevant. These hackers don't work for the establishment.

I've been in the defense industry, Test and Evaluation and Research and
Development for 25 years (urk, time flies). The way complex hardware is
developed and tested is basically the same as it's been for a long
time. There's a good reason. System developement is damned expensive.

Look at what happened in the story. This very complex and expensive
craft was built, then the crew took off on some ill-defined voyage.
From the stand-point of the developers, it might as well have blown-up.
Had they done standard incremental testing, they'd have found the
problem. It was the equivalent of taking a new prototype aircraft for a
test a night on a trans-atlantic flight, while maintaining radio
silence.

You don't know what the hell you're talking about, and I'm strongly
leaning towards this being another troll situation. Therefore, it's at
an end as far as I'm concerned. If you want to have one last
ill-informed blithering session, be my guest.




Brian
--
If televison's a babysitter, the Internet is a drunk librarian who
won't shut up.
-- Dorothy Gambrell (http://catandgirl.com)
Jordan
2006-05-21 11:16:51 UTC
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Irrelevant. These hackers don't work for the establishment. <
But they are a case of "technological progress leading to cowboy-style
R&D," which shows that it can happen. They're not the only case
either: think of barnstormers in the 1920's or the wide variety of
steam traction road engines of the early to mid 19th century, before
the invention of the _practical_ motorcar.
I've been in the defense industry, Test and Evaluation and Research and Development for 25 years (urk, time flies). The way complex hardware is developed and tested is basically the same as it's been for a long time.<
Indeed, but what you're describing is still a _cultural_ factor. A
cultural factor can, indeed, endure for decades, sometimes centuries.
But that doesn't mean that it's the only possible way for that cultural
factor to be.

I'll also point out that Poul Anderson was writing that novel in the
1950's, which is a bit before you were in the defense industry, and I
know for certain that in the 1950's the aerospace test regimes were a
LOT more dangerous. Have you ever read any the actual history of test
piloting back in those days? They had no ability to conduct computer
simulations, their theoretical models of aerodynamics at supersonic
speeds were full of enough holes to drop an experimental aircraft all
the way through, and every year they were discovering new and
fascinating facts about how air and metal interact at said speeds,
usually BECAUSE an experimental aircraft had dropped all the way
through to make a big smoking hole in the ground.

Poul Anderson was, rather obviously, assuming that the space program
would work the same way, when he had a hypothetical future starship
attempt an interstellar flight with an imperfectly tested FTL drive.
He was, also, setting his story in the _future_ of his own time, which
means that he had a perfect right to assume (if he wished for the sake
of his story) that the test regime of his hypothetical space agency was
even _more_ "cowboy" than the actual test regimes of aircraft when he
wrote the story. He was, of course, quite wrong about this (at least
as regards spacecraft testing TODAY, we still don't know what
institutional culture will exist at whatever future date we launch
starships), but then nobody ever claimed science fiction writers made
perfect predictions.

As for Wilson, in "Out Around Rigel," he was talking about the space
program of an alien culture (the Lunarian) which other clues in the
story show to have been constructed on a chivalric, reckless,
"Barsoomian" sort of model. Insofar as he had a "modern Western" model
to go by, it would have been that of the aircraft testing programs of
the _1920's_ (the story was written around 1930), which made the
aircraft testing programs of the 1950's look as if they were run by a
bunch of nervous grandmothers by comparison. Back in the 1920's,
experimental aircraft routinely crashed for no reason that anyone could
determine, and that didn't stop the next batch of daredevils from going
up. Heck, I'll go one further -- back in the 1920's, _proven_ aircraft
often crashed for no reason that anyone could determine!
There's a good reason. System developement is damned expensive. <
_I agree with you on this_. But what you're not considering is that,
in _all_ real technological development systems, there is a tradeoff
between various factors, and both safety is only one of them. You
can't have _perfect_ safety -- if you did, "system development" would
be even _more_ "damned expensive," because you would be testing _so_
"incrementally" that you would be learning practically nothing per
test.

OUR system of technological development -- at least as used TODAY by
Look at what happened in the story. This very complex and expensive craft was built, then the crew took off on some ill-defined voyage. From the stand-point of the developers, it might as well have blown-up. Had they done standard incremental testing, they'd have found the problem.<
_I completely agree with you_ as regards BOTH stories under discussion.
I'm not arguing with you that, in _both_ "Out Around Rigel" and _The
Long Way Home_, it would have been better for both owning agencies and
crews if their ships had been properly tested before full scale flights
were attempted.

But consider this: in the real world, with all our careful testing, we
have lost two out of four of our actual space shuttles. What's worse,
we lost both of them to problems that might have been solved in the
design stage if we'd done _more_ testing.

What this shows is that even the fairly cautious test system used by
NASA isn't perfect. This further implies that hypothetical cultural
changes, in the future, could work in either direction -- we could c.
2056 or 2106 have a _more_ cautious and rigorous testing process, or a
_less_ cautious and rigorous testing process. You are making the
assumption that the EXACT way we do things now is the only way to do
them; I'm telling you that it isn't the way we've always done it and it
may not be the way that we do it in the future.
You don't know what the hell you're talking about ... <
Yes, I do. I am both well aware of the extremely good reasons why we
are careful about testing experimental craft today, and of the (as it
seemed at the time) extremely good reasons why we were less careful
about testing experimental craft in the past. I am, unlike you, aware
that culture changes, even the institutional culture of engineers. You
are regarding this culture as a fixed thing, and then attacking Poul
Anderson because (50 years ago!) he postulated a different experimental
culture in a hypothetical future -- a culture which was actually more
like that of his own time than YOUR engineering culture.
and I'm strongly leaning towards this being another troll situation. Therefore, it's at an end as far as I'm concerned. If you want to have one last ill-informed blithering session, be my guest. <
The sad thing is that you don't even understand what I'm arguing. You
_think_ I'm disagreeing you as to the virtues of caution in the testing
process, or that I am unaware of how modern incremental testing is
actually conducted. I'm not disagreeing with you, and I'm quite aware
of how modern testing works. But you're so blinded by the particular
engineering culture that exists today that you can't even see that it's
changed over time, and you think I'm a "troll" or "ill-informed" for
pointing out to you that it's not the only POSSIBLE way to do things.

- Jordan
Mike Schilling
2006-05-21 16:21:53 UTC
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Post by Jordan
I'll also point out that Poul Anderson was writing that novel in the
1950's, which is a bit before you were in the defense industry, and I
know for certain that in the 1950's the aerospace test regimes were a
LOT more dangerous. Have you ever read any the actual history of test
piloting back in those days? They had no ability to conduct computer
simulations, their theoretical models of aerodynamics at supersonic
speeds were full of enough holes to drop an experimental aircraft all
the way through, and every year they were discovering new and
fascinating facts about how air and metal interact at said speeds,
usually BECAUSE an experimental aircraft had dropped all the way
through to make a big smoking hole in the ground.
The first part of Tom Wolfe's _The Right Stuff_ describes this period,
though not from a technological point of view.
Derek Lyons
2006-05-21 23:39:25 UTC
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Post by Jordan
I'll also point out that Poul Anderson was writing that novel in the
1950's, which is a bit before you were in the defense industry, and I
know for certain that in the 1950's the aerospace test regimes were a
LOT more dangerous. Have you ever read any the actual history of test
piloting back in those days?
I suspect that reading actual histories, vice sensationalist popular
accounts might do you a turn of good.

D.
--
Touch-twice life. Eat. Drink. Laugh.

-Resolved: To be more temperate in my postings.
Oct 5th, 2004 JDL
Jordan
2006-05-22 05:17:09 UTC
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I suspect that reading actual histories, vice sensationalist popular accounts might do you a turn of good. <
I _do_ read "actual histories." Quite a lot of them. My _degree_ was
in history, and I continued quite a lot of independent research after
leaving college.

One of the areas of history I am _best_ versed in is the history of
20th century warfare, including military R&D. And, frankly, if you're
not aware of the rather dramatic way in which the aerospace culture
moved from utter daredevil recklessness in the 1920's to mere boldness
in the 1950's to the attitude of incremental, careful testing that
Default User describes as being the case for the last quarter-century
or so, then I find it _very_ hard to believe that you've read _any_
histories of aviation.

Part of this change was driven by purely cultural factors, part of it
by the growing maturity of our knowledge of aerodynamics (the more we
knew the easier it was to spot possible dangers with designs, and
correct them, _before_ running test flights) and part of it by our
increasingly vast capabilities of computer modelling. But this change
was very real (and, for the most part, a very _good_ thing, actually --
exciting as test piloting was from the early 20th to mid 20th
centuries, I'm rather glad that test pilots today are more likely to
make old bones!

Poul Anderson, however, was writing in the 1950's about a hypothetical
starship test flight decades in the future. He did not know how
aerospace testing would _actually_ be run in the year 2006; furthermore
since _his_ future in that story wasn't exactly our actual time line,
it cannot automatically be concluded that the aerospace culture would
change in exactly the same way that it did in OTL. Default User's
assumption that the way things developed is the only One True Way that
things could _possibly_ have developed, and that Poul Anderson should
have known this around 1955, is an absurd standard to expect of any
science fiction writer, even one trained as an engineer.

Furthermore, while Default User blithely states that of course the way
things are now are the way that they will always be in the aerospace
industry, even in OUR time line's future, that statement is absurd. We
do not know what social or institutional changes may occur between now
and 2056 or 2106: a long peace could lead us to become far more
cautious, a great war to become far less cautious. We do not know
which culture or subculture will be making the institutional decisions
for aerospace -- we don't even really know which will be making the
decisions for America, let alone the world, as a whole. History shows
that aerospace culture _has_ changed over time: why is our own time's
aerospace culture somehow sacred and immutable, The Way Things Just Are
And Will Be Forever?

Poul Anderson, in particular, was a cyclic historical thinker: he
recognized that cultural changes do not move in the same way forever
for all time, but rather tend to oscillate around a (possibly slowly
changing) level over time scales of decades and centuries. Indeed,
_that very story_ was about such cycles -- the world the astronauts
returned to was run by a tyrannical Universal State similar in many
ways to despotisms that our own Western Culture outgrew in his own
past. Why could not a (smaller) cyclic change have led to a more
gung-ho, damn-the-torpedoes approach to test flights -- an attitude, in
short, similar to that of the pilots of the 1920's? It seems to me
that attitude towards science fiction which can't even contemplate a
change in _institutional culture_ is hopelessly unimaginative.

Unlike Poul Anderson's.

- Jordan
Derek Lyons
2006-05-22 20:25:08 UTC
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Post by Derek Lyons
I suspect that reading actual histories, vice sensationalist popular
accounts might do you a turn of good.
I _do_ read "actual histories." Quite a lot of them. My _degree_ was
in history, and I continued quite a lot of independent research after
leaving college.
One of the areas of history I am _best_ versed in is the history of
20th century warfare, including military R&D.
I can only judge you from your postings here - which support your
claim above not at all.

D.
--
Touch-twice life. Eat. Drink. Laugh.

-Resolved: To be more temperate in my postings.
Oct 5th, 2004 JDL
Dan Swartzendruber
2006-05-21 12:45:37 UTC
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In article <***@individual.net>, ***@yahoo.com
says...
Post by Default User
Post by Jordan
The idea that technological progress would lead to cowboy-style R&D
seems unlikely. <
How, then, do you explain the emergence of computer hackers in the
1980's, in a field previously dominated by cautious IBM-style
corporate culture?
Irrelevant. These hackers don't work for the establishment.
I've been in the defense industry, Test and Evaluation and Research and
Development for 25 years (urk, time flies). The way complex hardware is
developed and tested is basically the same as it's been for a long
time. There's a good reason. System developement is damned expensive.
Look at what happened in the story. This very complex and expensive
craft was built, then the crew took off on some ill-defined voyage.
From the stand-point of the developers, it might as well have blown-up.
Had they done standard incremental testing, they'd have found the
problem. It was the equivalent of taking a new prototype aircraft for a
test a night on a trans-atlantic flight, while maintaining radio
silence.
True. What bugged me was that they DID have anomalous results (test
jumps being off by thousands of miles or so), but wrote them off as
being due to as-yet not understood measurement error or somesuch, when
in fact it turned out to be that the drive operated at C, not FTL.
Ugh...
Post by Default User
You don't know what the hell you're talking about, and I'm strongly
leaning towards this being another troll situation. Therefore, it's at
an end as far as I'm concerned. If you want to have one last
ill-informed blithering session, be my guest.
You may be unduly harsh here. It's easy to assume malice when someone
doesn't know what you know, and therefore doesn't know how truly
unlikely X is to have happened.
Jordan
2006-05-21 13:16:52 UTC
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True. What bugged me was that they DID have anomalous results (test jumps being off by thousands of miles or so), but wrote them off as being due to as-yet not understood measurement error or somesuch, when in fact it turned out to be that the drive operated at C, not FTL. Ugh... <
One thing that's occurred to me is that the time dilation effect of the
drive might not have been either linear or some simple curve related to
Einsteinian time dilation, which is why the designers may have failed
to realize what was actually happening. In particular, some
discontinuous effect might have cut in on very fast or very long
voyages, such as that made by the heroes of the Anderson novel.

Something similar might have been going on in "Out Around Rigel."

- Jordan
TB
2016-08-12 00:20:53 UTC
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Post by Jordan
True. What bugged me was that they DID have anomalous results (test jumps being off by thousands of miles or so), but wrote them off as being due to as-yet not understood measurement error or somesuch, when in fact it turned out to be that the drive operated at C, not FTL. Ugh... <
One thing that's occurred to me is that the time dilation effect of the
drive might not have been either linear or some simple curve related to
Einsteinian time dilation, which is why the designers may have failed
to realize what was actually happening. In particular, some
discontinuous effect might have cut in on very fast or very long
voyages, such as that made by the heroes of the Anderson novel.
The scientists thought that the super drive was instantaneous, whereas in fact it was just light speed. I am quite amazed that they didn't realize the truth when they compared the clocks on the test craft with the clocks back home!
Robert Carnegie
2016-08-12 01:28:45 UTC
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Post by TB
Post by Jordan
True. What bugged me was that they DID have anomalous results (test jumps being off by thousands of miles or so), but wrote them off as being due to as-yet not understood measurement error or somesuch, when in fact it turned out to be that the drive operated at C, not FTL. Ugh... <
One thing that's occurred to me is that the time dilation effect of the
drive might not have been either linear or some simple curve related to
Einsteinian time dilation, which is why the designers may have failed
to realize what was actually happening. In particular, some
discontinuous effect might have cut in on very fast or very long
voyages, such as that made by the heroes of the Anderson novel.
The scientists thought that the super drive was instantaneous, whereas in fact it was just light speed. I am quite amazed that they didn't realize the truth when they compared the clocks on the test craft with the clocks back home!
The principle of relativity often is different in
a science fiction story of a certain age from how
it is in the actual universe. Particularly if the
author /does/ want to present faster-than-light
travel, which is impossible - or, if it is not,
it is liable to allow you to arrive at your
destination before you set out; a logical
consequence which the author may prefer not to
deal with.

I forget whether we've asked and I suppose it's
unlikely that _The Skylark of Space_ (in either
major version) actually is the first story where
the spaceship engineer glances at his odometer
and calmly observes that it seems, after all,
that Einstein was wrong, since the ship is
already briskly progressing much faster than
light. On the other hand, that story was indeed
rather a first of its kind.

Since then, Professor Einstein must have been
turning in his grave continually, or at least
once he was in it.
t***@gmail.com
2016-08-12 01:42:33 UTC
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Post by Robert Carnegie
Post by TB
Post by Jordan
True. What bugged me was that they DID have anomalous results (test jumps being off by thousands of miles or so), but wrote them off as being due to as-yet not understood measurement error or somesuch, when in fact it turned out to be that the drive operated at C, not FTL. Ugh... <
One thing that's occurred to me is that the time dilation effect of the
drive might not have been either linear or some simple curve related to
Einsteinian time dilation, which is why the designers may have failed
to realize what was actually happening. In particular, some
discontinuous effect might have cut in on very fast or very long
voyages, such as that made by the heroes of the Anderson novel.
The scientists thought that the super drive was instantaneous, whereas in fact it was just light speed. I am quite amazed that they didn't realize the truth when they compared the clocks on the test craft with the clocks back home!
The principle of relativity often is different in
a science fiction story of a certain age from how
it is in the actual universe. Particularly if the
author /does/ want to present faster-than-light
travel, which is impossible - or, if it is not,
it is liable to allow you to arrive at your
destination before you set out; a logical
consequence which the author may prefer not to
deal with.
Not what I was asking. I was asking how it was that the developers of the superdrive and later the crew of the Explorer didn't realize that their instantaneous drive was only a light speed drive, given that the clocks of the test craft should logically have been well behind the clocks on Earth, and given that the Holatian improvements to the super drive would have been tested by conducting round trip jumps to the outer edges of the Holatian system and back to Holat, which would certainly have exposed the true nature of the super drive! (Explorer crew: Why are our clocks several hours behind the clocks on Holat?).
nuny@bid.nes
2016-08-12 03:37:44 UTC
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On Thursday, August 11, 2016 at 6:28:48 PM UTC-7, Robert Carnegie wrote:

(relativity in SF)
Post by Robert Carnegie
I forget whether we've asked and I suppose it's
unlikely that _The Skylark of Space_ (in either
major version) actually is the first story where
the spaceship engineer glances at his odometer
and calmly observes that it seems, after all,
that Einstein was wrong, since the ship is
already briskly progressing much faster than
light. On the other hand, that story was indeed
rather a first of its kind.
You know, the Skylark stories also tie in neatly to the "cowboy R&D"
subthread.

(Thanks for reviving the zombie so I could mention that).
Post by Robert Carnegie
Since then, Professor Einstein must have been
turning in his grave continually, or at least
once he was in it.
Yeah, but his angular momentum eigenstate remains uncertain...


Mark L. Fergerson

Default User
2006-05-21 17:09:03 UTC
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Post by Dan Swartzendruber
says...
Post by Default User
You don't know what the hell you're talking about, and I'm strongly
leaning towards this being another troll situation. Therefore, it's
at an end as far as I'm concerned. If you want to have one last
ill-informed blithering session, be my guest.
You may be unduly harsh here. It's easy to assume malice when
someone doesn't know what you know, and therefore doesn't know how
truly unlikely X is to have happened.
You're probably right. I'll retract any suggestion of trolling and just
say I think we've wrung out most of the useful juice of this subject
and will retire from the thread.



Brian
--
If televison's a babysitter, the Internet is a drunk librarian who
won't shut up.
-- Dorothy Gambrell (http://catandgirl.com)
Eric D. Berge
2006-05-23 00:16:11 UTC
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Post by Default User
Post by Dan Swartzendruber
says...
Post by Default User
You don't know what the hell you're talking about, and I'm strongly
leaning towards this being another troll situation. Therefore, it's
at an end as far as I'm concerned. If you want to have one last
ill-informed blithering session, be my guest.
You may be unduly harsh here. It's easy to assume malice when
someone doesn't know what you know, and therefore doesn't know how
truly unlikely X is to have happened.
You're probably right. I'll retract any suggestion of trolling and just
say I think we've wrung out most of the useful juice of this subject
and will retire from the thread.
It's Bassior. He's a political troll from way back. If he asserts
that the sky is blue, I suggest double checking - at various times he
has falsely claimed to be a historian, to speak latin, that Munich is
in Austria, that Zimbabwe has a seacoast, and that Pakistan borders on
the old Soviet Union.
Default User
2006-05-23 06:36:30 UTC
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Post by Eric D. Berge
Post by Default User
You're probably right. I'll retract any suggestion of trolling and
just say I think we've wrung out most of the useful juice of this
subject and will retire from the thread.
It's Bassior. He's a political troll from way back. If he asserts
that the sky is blue, I suggest double checking - at various times he
has falsely claimed to be a historian, to speak latin, that Munich is
in Austria, that Zimbabwe has a seacoast, and that Pakistan borders on
the old Soviet Union.
I'm familiar with his other "work". As I said, I think he's dead wrong,
laugably wrong in fact, but that doesn't necessarily make him a troll
in this situation. He may be, or may not be, but I frankly lost
interest in what he has to say on the matter.




Brian
--
If televison's a babysitter, the Internet is a drunk librarian who
won't shut up.
-- Dorothy Gambrell (http://catandgirl.com)
Eric D. Berge
2006-05-24 02:50:33 UTC
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Post by Default User
Post by Eric D. Berge
Post by Default User
You're probably right. I'll retract any suggestion of trolling and
just say I think we've wrung out most of the useful juice of this
subject and will retire from the thread.
It's Bassior. He's a political troll from way back. If he asserts
that the sky is blue, I suggest double checking - at various times he
has falsely claimed to be a historian, to speak latin, that Munich is
in Austria, that Zimbabwe has a seacoast, and that Pakistan borders on
the old Soviet Union.
I'm familiar with his other "work". As I said, I think he's dead wrong,
laugably wrong in fact, but that doesn't necessarily make him a troll
in this situation. He may be, or may not be, but I frankly lost
interest in what he has to say on the matter.
Depends on your definition of "troll", I suppose - he's an belligerent
egomaniac and a blowhard who habitually tries to win arguments with
"facts" that he has made up, supported by false claims of authority
but no references to speak of.

See the "writer Jerry Pournelle kicks in" thread, starting with
message ID <***@4ax.com> and subsequent
responses, for a perfect example just from the last day or so.
Jordan
2006-05-24 05:38:14 UTC
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Eric D. Berge said:

<more insults>

Yeah, yeah, we get it, you're Special (you got a certificate of
Specialness from the Coyu School) and thus your randomly insulting
posts are automatically On Topic, while anyone else's on-topic posts --
_even if they started the thread_ are automatically "trolling" because
they have committed the sin of Disagreement With You.

Yawn.

- Jordan
Jordan
2006-05-23 08:27:57 UTC
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Eric D. Berge said:

<snip insults, which are his whole posts>

Do you realize, Eric, that you just made the first post on this whole
thread which had _nothing_ to do with the topic? And you have the
audacity to accuse _me_ of "trolling" in it?

Laughable.

- Jordan
kaih= (Kai Henningsen)
2006-05-21 13:12:00 UTC
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Post by Jordan
The idea that technological progress would lead to cowboy-style R&D seems unlikely. <
How, then, do you explain the emergence of computer hackers in the
1980's, in a field previously dominated by cautious IBM-style corporate
culture?
What's to explain?

Oh, do you mean this to be an example of "cowboy-style R&D"?

It certainly doesn't look like either to me.

Maybe you're talking about the popular misconceptions of the field
produced by incompetent journalism?

The only thing that seems to be remotely apropos is the Morris worm, and
that is a single incident by one student. And the Internet was hardly
dominated by cautious IBM-style corporate culture, ever, nor was a typical
university.

Also observe that in this area, there typically isn't any risk of personal
bodily harm to anyone involved.
Post by Jordan
History offers many examples of technological progress
leading to precisely "cowboy-style" engineering, usually when a
technological advance makes trying out a lot of new ideas easier than
was previously the case.
Really? Or does it just look like that from the outside?

Kai
--
http://www.westfalen.de/private/khms/
"... by God I *KNOW* what this network is for, and you can't have it."
- Russ Allbery (***@stanford.edu)
Jordan
2006-05-22 05:29:42 UTC
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Post by kaih= (Kai Henningsen)
What's to explain?
Oh, do you mean this to be an example of "cowboy-style R&D"?
It certainly doesn't look like either to me.
Maybe you're talking about the popular misconceptions of the field produced by incompetent journalism?
No, I'm talking about what actually happened in the era from the late
1970's through late 1980's, a period in which the progress in computer
science was so dramatic and required such small financial investments
to attempt that extremely eclectic, conceptually-adventurous computer
scientists for a time seized the leadership of the field from the
rather dull Organization Men who dominated it back in the 1950's-1960's
and who dominated it again in the 1990's to present date. I'm not
talking about cyberpunk-style hacking either, I'm talking about the
creation of the programming and interface concepts that are Mk. 1
Standard Practice today, but that were new and exciting ideas when they
first came out or first became popular -- windowing routines,
interactive programming languages, expert software, etc. etc.

This sort of event is common during periods of rapid technological
progress in any field. This is because when the underlying technology
is advancing rapidly, they run ahead of existing organizational
procedures and planned development programs, and are effectively
useable _only_ by non-conformist, often slightly-crazy geniuses (this
is the germ of truth inside the myth of the "mad scientist.")
Post by kaih= (Kai Henningsen)
Also observe that in this area, there typically isn't any risk of personal bodily harm to anyone involved.<
"Personal bodily harm" isn't this issue. It so happened that, in the
Heroic Age of Personal Computing, the technology in question was one
very unlikely to kill anyone (since computers don't work like on ST:
TOS). In the Heroic Ages of Aviation (*), the technology in question
was very likely to kill its users -- and nevertheless plenty of Daring
Young Men volunteered to step behind the controls of their untested
Flying Machines, and plenty of them died in the process.
Post by kaih= (Kai Henningsen)
Really? Or does it just look like that from the outside?
I'm good friends with someone who did some of the development in
personal computing. So I saw some of it from the inside -- and it was
an exciting time.

- Jordan

(*) Roughly, the initial development period of 1903-1916, in which the
basics of propellor-driven HTA and military operations were mastered;
the commercial development period of 1919-1939, in which high subsonic
speeds and large aircraft operations were mastered; and the Early Jet
Age of 1942-1957 (to arbitrarily pick a cutoff date coincident with
Sputnik) in which the sound barrier was approached and broken, and the
problems of supersonic flight and jet turbine operation were mastered.
Derek Lyons
2006-05-21 06:20:58 UTC
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Post by Jordan
The Soyuz program, launched by the Soviets at around the same time, was
even more reckless. The early Soyuz ships were death traps (the modern
Soyuz ships are much safer, even though they share the name and the
same basic hull design).
The modern Soyuz is 'safer' only by comparison to it's ancestors.

D.
--
Touch-twice life. Eat. Drink. Laugh.

-Resolved: To be more temperate in my postings.
Oct 5th, 2004 JDL
Jordan
2006-05-21 11:18:38 UTC
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The modern Soyuz is 'safer' only by comparison to its ancestors.<
Well, yes. That's precisely the point I was making. And I'm sure that
by the mid-21st century men will look back in wonder at the insanely
dangerous craft we rode into orbit, by comparison with the relatively
perfected and safer orbital craft of that day.

- Jordan
Jordan
2006-05-20 21:45:33 UTC
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Oh, I left out Apollo.

NASA originally wanted to land the LEM purely by computer guidance,
which would be sent from the Earth. Neil Armstrong insisted on the
lander being equipped with a joystick and autopilot override.
Armstrong prevailed.

When the Eagle was landing, Armstrong noticed that the preset course
was going to set the craft down right in the middle of a boulder field,
a feature which had not been visible on the orbital photographs from
which the maps had been prepared. Armstrong overrode the autopilot,
took the LEM over the boulders with a burn that used up much of his
available store of landing fuel, and set the ship down on a safe level
area with just seconds of remaining engine time to spare.

That's something as adventurous as anything in any pulp sf story, and
it really happened -- in the more safety-conscious world of the _late
1960's_, not even the more reckless world of the 1950's.

- Jordan
Wayne Throop
2006-05-20 22:56:34 UTC
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: "Jordan" <***@yahoo.com>
: When the Eagle was landing, Armstrong noticed that the preset course
: was going to set the craft down right in the middle of a boulder field,
: a feature which had not been visible on the orbital photographs from
: which the maps had been prepared. Armstrong overrode the autopilot,
: took the LEM over the boulders with a burn that used up much of his
: available store of landing fuel, and set the ship down on a safe level
: area with just seconds of remaining engine time to spare.
:
: That's something as adventurous as anything in any pulp sf story, and
: it really happened -- in the more safety-conscious world of the _late
: 1960's_, not even the more reckless world of the 1950's.

How that relates to the upthread-described context of undertaking the
first manned flight intending to cover some hundreds of times as much
distance as any previous (unmanned) flight is unclear. Has there ever,
historically, been anything similar? Sure, people jumped off of rocks
with untested gliders and took up horridly unsafe flights in relatively
new aircraft, and watercraft, but I can't call to mind anybody doing
something quite that reckless. Certainly the first moon landing isn't
even in the same ballpark of recklessness. Hardly even on the same
planet. I don't care how sloppy they got, that seems recklessness
well beyond the call of any conceivable duty.


Is there *any* comparable bit of recklessness historically?


Wayne Throop ***@sheol.org http://sheol.org/throopw
Jordan
2006-05-21 11:41:51 UTC
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Post by Wayne Throop
: That's something as adventurous as anything in any pulp sf story, and
: it really happened -- in the more safety-conscious world of the _late
: 1960's_, not even the more reckless world of the 1950's.
How that relates to the upthread-described context of undertaking the
first manned flight intending to cover some hundreds of times as much
distance as any previous (unmanned) flight is unclear. Has there ever,
historically, been anything similar? <

Not in terms of raw distance, no.

In terms of risk, yes, and many times. At least the ships in both
stories got back; that is more than can be said for most of the ships
attempting the passage to the East Indies in the early 16th century.
Post by Wayne Throop
Sure, people jumped off of rocks with untested gliders and took up horridly unsafe flights in relatively new aircraft, and watercraft, but I can't call to mind anybody doing something quite that reckless. Certainly the first moon landing isn't even in the same ballpark of recklessness. Hardly even on the same planet. I don't care how sloppy they got, that seems recklessness well beyond the call of any conceivable duty.
Is there *any* comparable bit of recklessness historically? <

I'm not actually sure right now which story you're referencing, but
assuming "both" ...

In Wilson's story, they'd never even engaged the electromagnetic warp
drive before. So in that case I'd have to say "no," but then we've
never actually had a "Barsoomian" type culture, at least among our
engineers. I think that if you put 17th century French gentlemen in
charge of aerospace testing programs, you might achieve recklessness of
that order. Of course, there may be a sound evolutionary reason _why_
we've never had a "Barsoomian" type of culture among our engineers --
I'm not sure that the Three Musketeers would have _survived very long_
trying their normal behavior patterns around untested technologies! :)

In Poul Anderson's story, they _had_ tested the drive, but only with a
flight to Pluto. And there they discovered "anamolies" which were
obviously the first clue of the time warp that was to result in the
ship returning millennia in the future on the full scale flight. So in
that case I'd have to say "yes," because to my mind tying down the
safety valve on a passenger steamboat's boiler, to win a race, in full
knowledge that one likely outcome of doing so was the boiler exploding,
killing me and my passengers, _is_ up there in the same league. In the
barnstorming era of the 1920's, there was also a distressing tendency
to do things like send mail planes to untested altitudes to hop over
mountains or storms, for instance -- nowadays we would almost certainly
turn back under such circumstances.

Incidentally, I could easily see cultural conditions that could bring
about a return to recklessness in aerospace. Historically, the cause
of the barnstormer and jet jockey cultures of the 1920's and 1950's
respectively were the World Wars -- the actual barnstormers and jet
jockeys were World War I and World War II veterans, respectively. When
you're used to taking poorly-tested aircraft _into battle_, the notion
of merely attempting dangerous feats with them under conditions where
nobody is shooting at you seems more reasonable than it does to pilots
with more peaceful biographies. One should also remember that the
_engineers_ of those eras were mostly veterans too, either of the war
itself or of the frantic "we've gotta get this plane into production"
mentality that accompanies a struggle for national survival.

So, for instance, I would expect the generation following a major
global war -- not the relatively restrained one we're fighting now, but
something more like a classic "World War III" -- to be pretty reckless.
Here there'd be the added point that many of their friends and loved
ones _back home_ would have died as well, so both engineers and pilots
would feel even more rootless than the barnstormers or jet jockeys of
history.

Technological developments might also increase recklessness. Imagine a
world with full personality backup and restoration technologies, in
which the test pilot would lose only one version of himself rather than
his whole life if something went wrong. Or consider a world changed by
a nanotech revolution, in which the cost of prototypes was much lower
in man-hours. If _both_ came to pass, there might be a mentality of
"Say, this looks like a neat design. Let's build it and see if it can
do better than the last model -- oh, to heck with safety tests, let's
just put it on the run and see how it does!" because neither the loss
of the crew nor of the prototype would be all that tragic.

One can also, of course, imagine technologial developments that
_decrease_ recklessness. Suppose that there is full biological
immortality ("emmortality"), meaning that people will live forever
_unless_ they die by violence, but there is _no_ system of personality
backups. This would mean that the test pilot is now hazarding
centuries or millennia of life instead of mere decades on his throw of
the dice. Or what if the test vehicle is _tremendously_ expensive --
the equivalent not of a single Shuttle Orbiter but rather of the whole
US Navy's carrier force in a single object?

Something similar to the latter case is actually what happened to our
own culture between the 1950's and the present day. Lifespans have
been expended -- the test pilot in his 20's can now expect to live 60
rather than 40 more years. At the same time, _in aerospace_ the cost
of an experimental vehicle has increased relative to human productivity
-- even big aerospace firms cannot currently afford to build more than
a few prototypes a year, maximum. So, as would be expected, we've
become _less_ reckless.

But these are current trends, not trends for all eternity. And there
are already some signs of reversals. The growth of computer modelling
technology has led to a greater willingness to fly vehicles that have
been less fully tested _in reality_; at the same time the cost of
_some_ types of aerospace vehicles has begun to drop (partially due to
the increased availability of new materials). We've already seen some
evidence of returning "recklessness" (or "courage") with (for instance)
the private launch of _Spaceship One_, the several flights of
experimental ultra long duration aircraft, etc.

Not to the levels of _The Long Way Home_ or "Out Around Rigel," of
course. Nor even to the levels of the 1950's, let alone 1920's. But
there are signs that the culture that Default User imagines to be
unalterable and eternal is, in fact, changing.

- Jordan
Wayne Throop
2006-05-21 16:24:46 UTC
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:: undertaking the first manned flight intending to cover some hundreds
:: of times as much distance as any previous (unmanned) flight is
:: unclear. Has there ever, historically, been anything similar? <

: "Jordan" <***@yahoo.com>
: Not in terms of raw distance, no.
: In terms of risk, yes, and many times.

Risking large amounts of capital, as opposed to the lives of
a small number of idiots? Risking a similar scale up operational
scope in a single swell foop, rated by something other than "raw distance"?
Can you propose three or four examples?

: So in that case I'd have to say "yes," because to my mind tying down
: the safety valve on a passenger steamboat's boiler, to win a race, in
: full knowledge that one likely outcome of doing so was the boiler
: exploding, killing me and my passengers, _is_ up there in the same
: league.

That would be true only if Fulton had done it his first trip out.
Or, if the next flight after the first mercury suborbital success
was a saturn headed for the moon. Something along those lines.

For me, it's not the level of risk that seems implausible;
it's the expansion of the scope of the risk into new territory.


Wayne Throop ***@sheol.org http://sheol.org/throopw
Jordan
2006-05-22 05:35:11 UTC
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Risking large amounts of capital, as opposed to the lives of a small number of idiots? Risking a similar scale up operational scope in a single swell foop, rated by something other than "raw distance"? Can you propose three or four examples? <
Let's see, off hand ...

Norse trade-and-raid voyaging, late Dark Ages (an example Poul Anderson
would have had much in mind, btw, if you know his writings).

The Chinese Treasure Fleets of the late 14th - early 15th century.

The Portuguese East India trade of the early 16th century.

Steamboat navigation on the Mississippi River, from around the 1820's
to the American Civil War.

That's four. Need more?

It's really easy to think of examples because this is a strongly
recurrent theme in transportation history: when a new transport
technology is invented, there are ALWAYS gold-hungry merchants or
prestige-hungry governments (if you like I'll break down each of my
four examples in terms of the mix) willing to take great risks in order
to garner great gains. It's a cyclic phenomenon, balanced by other
periods of conservativism when a transport technology has reached a
flat horizontal part of its particular S-curve Simply because American
aerospace is currently in the conservative phase of the cycle does not
mean that it always was or that it always will be: the argument that
it is shows either great ignorance of history or a failure to apply the
Principle of Mediocrity in time as well as space.

Sincerely Yours,
Jordan
Derek Lyons
2006-05-21 06:23:34 UTC
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Post by Jordan
Oh, I left out Apollo.
NASA originally wanted to land the LEM purely by computer guidance,
which would be sent from the Earth. Neil Armstrong insisted on the
lander being equipped with a joystick and autopilot override.
Armstrong prevailed.
Do you have a cite for that?

(It seems *very* unlikey, as Armstrong was a *very* junior astronaut
at the time the basic operating concepts for the LEM would have been
codified.)

D.
--
Touch-twice life. Eat. Drink. Laugh.

-Resolved: To be more temperate in my postings.
Oct 5th, 2004 JDL
Jordan
2006-05-21 11:43:24 UTC
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Do you have a cite for that? <
I think it's in Mike Collins' history of the Apollo Project.

- Jordan
Derek Lyons
2006-05-21 22:17:52 UTC
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Post by Jordan
Do you have a cite for that? <
I think it's in Mike Collins' history of the Apollo Project.
It's not.

D.
--
Touch-twice life. Eat. Drink. Laugh.

-Resolved: To be more temperate in my postings.
Oct 5th, 2004 JDL
William December Starr
2006-05-22 06:10:02 UTC
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Post by Jordan
Do you have a cite for that? <
I think it's in Mike Collins' history of the Apollo Project.
Not in CARRYING THE FIRE, it isn't.
--
William December Starr <***@panix.com>
Derek Lyons
2006-05-21 23:42:50 UTC
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Post by Jordan
That's something as adventurous as anything in any pulp sf story, and
it really happened -- in the more safety-conscious world of the _late
1960's_, not even the more reckless world of the 1950's.
I would hardly say the world of the 1950's was reckless - less
concerned with safety now, than then? Yes. Less likely to see
hazards under every bed? Yes?

More likely to engage in known dangerous behavior in willing
suspension of known facts? No.

D.
--
Touch-twice life. Eat. Drink. Laugh.

-Resolved: To be more temperate in my postings.
Oct 5th, 2004 JDL
Jordan
2006-05-22 05:45:04 UTC
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I would hardly say the world of the 1950's was reckless - less concerned with safety now, than then? Yes. Less likely to see hazards under every bed? Yes? <
By definition, that makes it more "reckless" than our own time.

Look, I'm _not_ saying that American aerospace c. 1955 was as reckless
as, say, Wilson's Lunarians. But it wasn't the world of careful
incrementalism that Default User is familiar with. It couldn't be --
the REASON why we can be more cautious today is because brash engineers
and bold test pilots took risks half a century earlier. They risked
their reputations and their lives prying the secrets out of Nature that
Default User today applies as known rules -- and, sadly, D.U.
apparently doesn't realize the sacrifices that the forerunners in his
field made.
More likely to engage in known dangerous behavior in willing suspension of known facts? No. <
But that's the point ... the engineers in Anderson's story did _not_
understand what they were seeing. They saw a time discrepancy -- one
that may have not been on a linear or other simple functional
relationship to the ship's speed -- and they assumed that it was
something that could be ironed out on the flight. This was reckless,
but it is not as if someone held up a sign telling them that the ship
was not FTL. Maybe it _was_ FTL -- at some speeds and in some
reference frames. Maybe it was even FTL in their "stationary"
reference frame -- for short trips. Whatever function they _thought_
governed their drive turned out to be more complex -- and closer to the
Einsteinian one -- than they imagined.

That's not all _that_ implausible. In fact, for all we know, maybe
with a better understood flight regime and control system, that _was_
an FTL drive. Consider the real-world example of the flying wing -- a
death trap without modern computer fly-by-wire avionics, an enormously
useful type of aircraft if you have said avionics. Nature doesn't have
to make things easy for us, and she often hasn't done so in the past.

Yes, obviously _in hindsight_ they should have tested more. Things are
easy to see in hindsight.

Sometimes, though, humans get cocky. They experience a series of
successes for little effort, and they assume that the winning streak
will go on forever. Look at the history of passenger liners leading up
to the fatal cruise of RMS _Titanic_. The first big liners, like the
_Great Eastern_, were designed with massively redundant
compartmentalization and plenty of auxiliary craft for emergencies. As
big liners operated, year after year with few serious incidents, the
owners began to think of them as "unsinkable." And eventually you get
the _Titanic_, built of inferior steel, with only limited
compartmentalization, and not enough lifeboats, roaring ahead under
full steam into the iceberg.

It happens. It happened before, it will happen again, it's human
nature. Deal with it.

- Jordan
Derek Lyons
2006-05-22 20:23:41 UTC
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Post by Jordan
Post by Derek Lyons
I would hardly say the world of the 1950's was reckless -
less concerned with safety now, than then? Yes. Less likely
to see hazards under every bed? Yes? <
By definition, that makes it more "reckless" than our own time.
No - because reckless implies deliberate intent.
Post by Jordan
Look, I'm _not_ saying that American aerospace c. 1955 was as reckless
as, say, Wilson's Lunarians. But it wasn't the world of careful
incrementalism that Default User is familiar with.
Try again after playing the home game for a while.

It certainly wasn't the careful incrementalism of today, but it sure
as hell wasn't reckless leaps into the unknown. For example, the X-1
didn't attempt to go supersonic on it's first flight, nor the X-15 go
to it's limits on any of it's first ten or so flights. Go back to
WWII and you find much the same progression. Hell, look at the shock
it made when Howard Hughes made a flight *on the first taxi test* of
the Goose.

For someone who *claims* to be familiar with military R&D of the era,
you sure don't act like you do.

D.
--
Touch-twice life. Eat. Drink. Laugh.

-Resolved: To be more temperate in my postings.
Oct 5th, 2004 JDL
Jordan
2006-05-23 06:06:22 UTC
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It certainly wasn't the careful incrementalism of today, but it sure as hell wasn't reckless leaps into the unknown. <
I never said that it was. You seem to be confusing Poul Anderson's
_fictional_ story about a starship launched decades in the future from
1955 with what people were actually doing in 1955. Which was, however,
_more_ reckless, in general, than what we are actually doing now.
For someone who *claims* to be familiar with military R&D of the era,
you sure don't act like you do. <

Oh, indeed. Because I said that engineers and test pilots were more
reckless in the 50's than today, and more reckless in the 20's than in
the 50's, whereas in fact they _were_ more reckless in the 50's than
today, and more reckless in the 20's than in the 50's. The complete
matchup between my statements and historical reality _clearly_
indicates my ignorance.

- Jordan
Derek Lyons
2006-05-23 17:05:28 UTC
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Post by Jordan
Post by Derek Lyons
It certainly wasn't the careful incrementalism of today, but it sure
as hell wasn't reckless leaps into the unknown.
I never said that it was. You seem to be confusing Poul Anderson's
_fictional_ story about a starship launched decades in the future from
1955 with what people were actually doing in 1955. Which was, however,
_more_ reckless, in general, than what we are actually doing now.
No, I'm merely comparing your words to reality.

Insofar as that word reckless goes... As Fezzik says "I do not think
that word means what you think it means".
Post by Jordan
Post by Derek Lyons
For someone who *claims* to be familiar with military R&D of the era,
you sure don't act like you do. <
Oh, indeed. Because I said that engineers and test pilots were more
reckless in the 50's than today, and more reckless in the 20's than in
the 50's, whereas in fact they _were_ more reckless in the 50's than
today, and more reckless in the 20's than in the 50's. The complete
matchup between my statements and historical reality _clearly_
indicates my ignorance.
The match up only exists in your version of historical reality. To
find actual reckless test pilots, I have to go back to the 1920's *at
the latest*. By the 50's they were not reckless at all. They
considered death or dismemberment with less dismay than we do today -
but they did not go forth without due consideration.

D.
--
Touch-twice life. Eat. Drink. Laugh.

-Resolved: To be more temperate in my postings.
Oct 5th, 2004 JDL
Mike Schilling
2006-05-23 17:41:02 UTC
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Post by Derek Lyons
Insofar as that word reckless goes... As Fezzik says "I do not think
that word means what you think it means".
Talk about reckless, now you've misquoted The Princess Bride. Prepare to
die!
Lawrence Watt-Evans
2006-05-23 18:11:41 UTC
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Post by Derek Lyons
Insofar as that word reckless goes... As Fezzik says "I do not think
that word means what you think it means".
Inigo Montoya said that _to_ Fezzik, Fezzik didn't say it.
--
My webpage is at http://www.watt-evans.com
Daniel Silevitch
2006-05-23 18:46:50 UTC
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Post by Lawrence Watt-Evans
Post by Derek Lyons
Insofar as that word reckless goes... As Fezzik says "I do not think
that word means what you think it means".
Inigo Montoya said that _to_ Fezzik, Fezzik didn't say it.
IIRC, He said it to Vinzini, not to Fezzik.

It wouldn't exactly be inconceivable for Fezzik to use words like that,
but it would but a bit out of character.

-dms
Lawrence Watt-Evans
2006-05-23 18:56:28 UTC
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On Tue, 23 May 2006 18:46:50 GMT, Daniel Silevitch
Post by Daniel Silevitch
Post by Lawrence Watt-Evans
Post by Derek Lyons
Insofar as that word reckless goes... As Fezzik says "I do not think
that word means what you think it means".
Inigo Montoya said that _to_ Fezzik, Fezzik didn't say it.
IIRC, He said it to Vinzini, not to Fezzik.
Gaaah. Of course he said it to Vizzini.

[Pounds head on keyboard]
--
My webpage is at http://www.watt-evans.com
Jordan
2006-05-23 18:42:26 UTC
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The match up only exists in your version of historical reality. To find actual reckless test pilots, I have to go back to the 1920's *at the latest*. By the 50's they were not reckless at all. They considered death or dismemberment with less dismay than we do today - but they did not go forth without due consideration. <
Ok. If what you're trying to say is that it's a matter of
_defininitions_, how about we agree on this:

"By modern standards, the engineers and test pilots of the 1950's were
_incautious_, and those of the 1920's _reckless_."

Would that work for you?

In any case, getting back to science fiction, there's a matchup of
these real-world attitudes with their representation in stories.
Science fictional engineers and pilots of the 1920's-1930's _also_
tended to be "reckless" (Garth flies the _totally_ untested _Comet_ in
"Out Around Rigel" on a tremendously long interstellar trip) while
those of the 1940's-1950's tended to be "incautious" (in Poul
Anderson's _The Long Way Home_ the starship _has_ been tested, but only
on a short insystem hop). In both cases, as one might expect of
fiction, the characters are a _bit more_ reckless (or incautious) than
they probably would have been in reality.

My theory seems to work well if compared with recent space fiction.
Most spaceships in fiction from, say, the 1970's to the present day,
tend not to be flown until they have had enough testing that the crew
can be confident how they will perform under most circumstances -- but
the organizations doing the testing are rarely as hyper-cautious as,
say, NASA.

Makes sense to me.

By the way, does anyone actually have any points regarding "Out Around
Rigel?" If not then I think I'm going to start working on another
Retro-Review.

- Jordan

- Jordan
Derek Lyons
2006-05-23 23:21:22 UTC
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Post by Jordan
Post by Derek Lyons
The match up only exists in your version of historical reality.
To find actual reckless test pilots, I have to go back to the
1920's *at the latest*. By the 50's they were not reckless at all.
They considered death or dismemberment with less dismay than we do
today - but they did not go forth without due consideration.
Ok. If what you're trying to say is that it's a matter of
"By modern standards, the engineers and test pilots of the 1950's were
_incautious_, and those of the 1920's _reckless_."
Would that work for you?
No, it wont work - because *they were not incautious*. I'll repeat
what I've said multiple times yet again, maybe this time you'll
understand it.

They [the engineers and pilots of the 50's] considered death or
dismemberment with less dismay than we do today - but they did not go
forth without due consideration.
Post by Jordan
My theory seems to work well if compared with recent space fiction.
Most spaceships in fiction from, say, the 1970's to the present day,
tend not to be flown until they have had enough testing that the crew
can be confident how they will perform under most circumstances -- but
the organizations doing the testing are rarely as hyper-cautious as,
say, NASA.
The really amusing part about this is that you simply regurgitate the
NASA party line. NASA has never been hyper cautious and only in the
very earliest days (of spaceflight) were actually concerned about
flying a full test regime before committing to a manned flight.

D.
--
Touch-twice life. Eat. Drink. Laugh.

-Resolved: To be more temperate in my postings.
Oct 5th, 2004 JDL
Jordan
2006-05-24 05:51:20 UTC
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No, it wont work - because *they were not incautious*. I'll repeat what I've said multiple times yet again, maybe this time you'll understand it.
They [the engineers and pilots of the 50's] considered death or dismemberment with less dismay than we do today - but they did not go forth without due consideration.<
Fine, Derek, then what term would _you_ use to describe the attitude of
the 1950's engineers and test pilots compared to those of today?
"Braver?" "Bolder?" I was actually trying to avoid using such
value-laden terms so as to not implicitly insult the engineers and test
pilots of today, whom I have a lot of respect for.

In any case, my point regarding the Anderson story is that, though
_written_ in 1955 it doesn't _take place_ EITHER in 1955 or in 2006; it
takes place in Poul Anderson's hypothetical future, and thus if Poul
Anderson wants to have the engineers and test pilots of that
hypothetical future do something as rash as was common in (say) 1925 as
opposed to what was common either in 1955 or in the OTL's 2005 (the
last date of which Poul Anderson would of course have no way to know
about fifty years before it happened), why is this such a terrible
writing sin? Or even all that "unrealistic?"

I have _no_ idea what the engineers and test pilots of (say) 2055 will
be like. If I wrote a story about an experimental spaceship in 2055,
and had the people act like they do today, it is possible that people
reading it in 2055 would laugh at me for displaying the characters as
being ridiculously cautious, ridiculously reckless, or anywhere in
between. This is true even if my characters act _exactly_ like the
real designers and test pilots of today, because the culture may change
out from under me in some direction and to some degree that I did not
predict.

For instance, note the way that the characters talk in (say) E. E.
"Doc" Smith's _Galactic Patrol_. A lot of the slang and speech
patterns are directly taken from the way that people actually _did_
talk in the first half of the 20th century. I have heard that book
criticized more than once for "unrealistic" dialogue, even though Smith
was trying to be as realistic as possible. It's just that he was
writing a story for _his_ era and had no way to predict in what
direction the English language would change over time (*). It's also
been criticized for overly-romantic and patronizing attitudes towards
women -- but the attitudes shown were perfectly normal for the pre
World War II era. Again, Smith had no way to know how attitudes would
change -- and even if he had, he was writing for c. 1940 not c. 2005.
(**)

When criticizing the plausibility of the behavior of characters in a
science fiction story set in any time that is not right now in OTL, it
is important to consider both how things really worked at the time that
the author was writing, AND the point that things may work different in
his hypothetical future than they do either in his real time or in our
real time. For instance, we do not have any organization in OTL
comparable to the Galactic Patrol nor officers comparable to the Gray
Lensman; some of the differences in the governmental and military and
judicial structures of Civilization derive directly from that
difference, and are among the points of the series.

- Jordan

(*) There is an interesting L. Sprague de Camp essay called "Language
for Time Travellers" that discusses the issue in general; De Camp wrote
it around the 1940's or 1950's and was talking about _centuries_ in the
future, but one might find it interesting to compare his various
predictions with the way that the language has _actually_ drifted over
the last fifty or so years.

(**) A stronger counter to these objections, of course, is that "Doc"
Smith was not portraying the 2005 of OTL but rather some time in the
mid 3rd Millennium of a totally different AH in which Tellurian
Civilization had partially fallen in an atomic war sometime in the last
half of the 20th century and then reconstructed itself with the covert
aid of the Arisians.

Sincerely Yours,
Jordan
Derek Lyons
2006-05-24 06:17:03 UTC
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Post by Jordan
No, it wont work - because *they were not incautious*. I'll repeat what I've
said multiple times yet again, maybe this time you'll understand it.
They [the engineers and pilots of the 50's] considered death or dismemberment
with less dismay than we do today - but they did not go forth without due
consideration.
Fine, Derek, then what term would _you_ use to describe the attitude of
the 1950's engineers and test pilots compared to those of today?
"Braver?" "Bolder?" I was actually trying to avoid using such
value-laden terms so as to not implicitly insult the engineers and test
pilots of today, whom I have a lot of respect for.
Jordan; Virtually every term is value laden to some extent or another.
Your problem isn't that you chose a term that didn;t insult the
current generation, but that you chose a term that insulted the
generation of the 1950's *and* displayed an ongoing misunderstanding
of the attitudes of that generation.

Which renders the criticism (which I snipped), moot.

D.
--
Touch-twice life. Eat. Drink. Laugh.

-Resolved: To be more temperate in my postings.
Oct 5th, 2004 JDL
Wayne Throop
2006-05-24 17:59:01 UTC
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: "Jordan" <***@yahoo.com>
: I have _no_ idea what the engineers and test pilots of (say) 2055 will
: be like. If I wrote a story about an experimental spaceship in 2055,
: and had the people act like they do today, it is possible that people
: reading it in 2055 would laugh at me for displaying the characters as
: being ridiculously cautious, ridiculously reckless, or anywhere in
: between. This is true even if my characters act _exactly_ like the
: real designers and test pilots of today, because the culture may change
: out from under me in some direction and to some degree that I did not
: predict.

Sure. But near as I can tell, the upthread-described leap in capabilities
between the unmanned test they did do, to the first extended manned
flight, was unprecedentedly large. So they seem to me to be a couple
sigmas outside any historical precedent.

Doubly or tripply so, considering the physics implications of FTL,
and the obvious things they'd *want* to test, even if they thought it
was reallyo truelyo FTL (ie, find the special frame it's allegedly
"instantaneous" in, etc, etc, etc).


Wayne Throop ***@sheol.org http://sheol.org/throopw
Jordan
2006-05-24 18:34:53 UTC
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Sure. But near as I can tell, the upthread-described leap in capabilities between the unmanned test they did do, to the first extended manned flight, was unprecedentedly large. So they seem to me to be a couple sigmas outside any historical precedent <
Well, if you want to know how _I_ would have handled the test ...

I would have done a series of test flights, gradually increasing the
distance and eventually manning it. The first interstellar flight
would have been to somewhere close -- the Alpha Centauri or Barnard's
Star System -- though long before this happened I probably would have
discovered that I had a NAFAL rather than FTL drive. One reason for
doing it this way is that I could then learn the curve of flight time /
speed / time dilation relationship, which obviously was a complex one
or the program engineers would have INSTANTLY realized what was
happening even in the short flight to Pluto.

But of course, if Poul Anderson had done it that way, then there would
have been no story. So I'm willing to suspend disbelief and assume
that there was some sort of political pressure for an _extremely_
spectacular first voyage.
Doubly or tripply so, considering the physics implications of FTL, and the obvious things they'd *want* to test, even if they thought it was reallyo truelyo FTL (ie, find the special frame it's allegedly "instantaneous" in, etc, etc, etc). <
You'd think so, right? And however the drive worked (and even as
described it violated our _current_ notions of relativity and
conservation of energy, IIRC), the data of its operation would be sure
to teach us some new physics!

- Jordan
Wayne Throop
2006-05-25 00:08:24 UTC
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: "Jordan" <***@yahoo.com>
: One reason for
: doing it this way is that I could then learn the curve of flight time /
: speed / time dilation relationship, which obviously was a complex one
: or the program engineers would have INSTANTLY realized what was
: happening even in the short flight to Pluto.

Exactly so. One of the very first tests, very obvious, would be to
compare the time outside with the time inside. I mean, time dilation
is a known issue. Even if we assume there was no SSPS (solar system
positioning system) which would just tell you the outside-time at the
end of your test jump, the simplest and quickest way to check, without
any BS about clock synchronization or other fussy tinkering, is to do the
whole twin paradox thing quickly; take a matched pair of clocks, leave one
behind, take one on a light-second trip out, and a light-second trip back,
compare the clocks. (Or, of course, if you can just send a clock out
one light second, you can transport it slowly enough to be enlightening.
Or broadcast a time standard by radio (starting well before the test
jump), and have the test probe note the time it first receives after
the jump. Or any number of other dead-simple tests.) Poof, you know
you have made a roughly-lightspeed transit. Not to do that before you
set out on a many megalightsecond trip is not just reckless (or "more
risk tolerant" if you will), it's actively stupid. Hence, it's an
"idiot plot"; it only works if the characters are idiots.

IMO. MMV I suppose.


Wayne Throop ***@sheol.org http://sheol.org/throopw
Jordan
2006-05-25 06:11:29 UTC
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Wayne Throop said:

<ways to detect time dilation>

Well, see I don't know for sure (not having read the story in a long
time) whether or not the drive was merely NAFAL or actually FTL _for
all spacelike trips_. What I mean by that is that it is possible that
for short hops the drive was indeed FTL (simply not as fast as they
thought) but that for longer voyages it was merely NAFAL. There must
have been _some_ reason why the designers thought it was an FTL drive,
or it's just _too_ stupid to believe.

It's possible that the designers saw a simple power-speed-distance
relationship that obtained for short flights and wrongly extrapolated
it to longer ones. And the actual curves may have been complex ones,
possibly with discontinuities. Because if the time difference shown on
the Pluto hop had _exactly_ corresponded with that of a NAFAL flight,
then the engineers would have immediately grasped what was happening.

- Jordan
Wayne Throop
2006-05-25 14:57:50 UTC
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: "Jordan" <***@yahoo.com>
: It's possible that the designers saw a simple power-speed-distance
: relationship that obtained for short flights and wrongly extrapolated
: it to longer ones. And the actual curves may have been complex ones,
: possibly with discontinuities. Because if the time difference shown on
: the Pluto hop had _exactly_ corresponded with that of a NAFAL flight,
: then the engineers would have immediately grasped what was happening.

Interesting thought, but it seems to me to just sweep the problem
under a different rug; they have effects that are wildly changing and
discontinuous over distances they *have* gone... so they immediately,
and for their first manned flight, cover a distance, what, thousands of
times greater than any they've tested so far? Yeesh. Again, that's not
"risk tolerance", that's idiocy.


Wayne Throop ***@sheol.org http://sheol.org/throopw
James Nicoll
2006-05-25 15:02:38 UTC
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Post by Wayne Throop
: It's possible that the designers saw a simple power-speed-distance
: relationship that obtained for short flights and wrongly extrapolated
: it to longer ones. And the actual curves may have been complex ones,
: possibly with discontinuities. Because if the time difference shown on
: the Pluto hop had _exactly_ corresponded with that of a NAFAL flight,
: then the engineers would have immediately grasped what was happening.
Interesting thought, but it seems to me to just sweep the problem
under a different rug; they have effects that are wildly changing and
discontinuous over distances they *have* gone... so they immediately,
and for their first manned flight, cover a distance, what, thousands of
times greater than any they've tested so far? Yeesh. Again, that's not
"risk tolerance", that's idiocy.
Here's a fatal flaw in their thought processes: why did they
assume it was FTL in the first place? There's no evidence that FTL
is possible and as we see thousands of years later, a lot of evidence
that it isn't.
--
http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/immigrate/
http://www.livejournal.com/users/james_nicoll
Wayne Throop
2006-05-25 15:12:10 UTC
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: ***@panix.com (James Nicoll)
: Here's a fatal flaw in their thought processes: why did they
: assume it was FTL in the first place? There's no evidence that FTL
: is possible and as we see thousands of years later, a lot of evidence
: that it isn't.

It sounds like the idea for "why they assumed that", was that they
were overcome with enthuseasm. Which is ... OK I guess. But to just
continue to jump and jump and jump further and further... that goes
beyond enthuseasm. And, as you mention, they ought to immediately set
out to *prove* that it was FTL; just reading their own clocks after
the transit is so obviously an inadequate test that... well. Again,
that goes considerably beyond enthuseasm, well into "mania".


Wayne Throop ***@sheol.org http://sheol.org/throopw
Wayne Throop
2006-05-25 15:16:53 UTC
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: ***@sheol.org (Wayne Throop)
: And, as you mention, they ought to immediately set
: out to *prove* that it was FTL; just reading their own clocks after
: the transit is so obviously an inadequate test that... well. Again,
: that goes considerably beyond enthuseasm, well into "mania".

Ooooh, ooooh, I wonder if that's one of the scenarios that SRMD-sufferers
are prone to? It sure sounds like the euphoria and sense of invincibility,
and refusal to consider there may have been a mistake, that sort of
defines the disorder. But several people working together.... hm,
that's sort of a counterindication.

( SRMD: science related memetic disorder, aka, "mad scientist" )
http://project-apollo.net/mos/mos007.html


"We deal with science, not *mad* science."

--- Dr. James Possible


Wayne Throop ***@sheol.org http://sheol.org/throopw
Bill Snyder
2006-05-25 16:28:54 UTC
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Post by Wayne Throop
: And, as you mention, they ought to immediately set
: out to *prove* that it was FTL; just reading their own clocks after
: the transit is so obviously an inadequate test that... well. Again,
: that goes considerably beyond enthuseasm, well into "mania".
Ooooh, ooooh, I wonder if that's one of the scenarios that SRMD-sufferers
are prone to? It sure sounds like the euphoria and sense of invincibility,
and refusal to consider there may have been a mistake, that sort of
defines the disorder. But several people working together.... hm,
that's sort of a counterindication.
You mean like, one executive at a big company might think he could get
away with shamelessly cooking the books, but if you needed a whole
bunch of people in on the gag, somebody would be bound to realize that
it wouldn't work? Or one bozo acting alone might order a space flight
under hazardous conditions against the advice of the engineers, but if
it took a whole passel of bureaucrats to do that, it wouldn't happen?

You appear to be enviably unfamiliar with _homo_ _managerius_, peer
pressure, and cognitive dissonance.
--
Bill Snyder [This space unintentionally left blank.]
Wayne Throop
2006-05-25 18:57:29 UTC
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:: Ooooh, ooooh, I wonder if that's one of the scenarios that
:: SRMD-sufferers are prone to? It sure sounds like the euphoria and
:: sense of invincibility, and refusal to consider there may have been a
:: mistake, that sort of defines the disorder. But several people
:: working together.... hm, that's sort of a counterindication.

: Bill Snyder <***@airmail.net>
: You mean like, one executive at a big company might think he could get
: away with shamelessly cooking the books, but if you needed a whole
: bunch of people in on the gag, somebody would be bound to realize that
: it wouldn't work?

No, I was more refering to the problem that SRMD sufferers
don't tolerate collaboration of any sort, with very few exceptions.
Well... they tolerate lackeys.


Wayne Throop ***@sheol.org http://sheol.org/throopw
Mike Stone
2006-05-25 20:52:05 UTC
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Post by Wayne Throop
: And, as you mention, they ought to immediately
set
Post by Wayne Throop
: out to *prove* that it was FTL; just reading
their own clocks after
Post by Wayne Throop
: the transit is so obviously an inadequate test
that... well. Again,
Post by Wayne Throop
: that goes considerably beyond enthuseasm, well
into "mania".
Post by Wayne Throop
Ooooh, ooooh, I wonder if that's one of the
scenarios that SRMD-sufferers
Post by Wayne Throop
are prone to? It sure sounds like the euphoria
and sense of invincibility,
Post by Wayne Throop
and refusal to consider there may have been a
mistake, that sort of
Post by Wayne Throop
defines the disorder. But several people
working together.... hm,
Post by Wayne Throop
that's sort of a counterindication.
( SRMD: science related memetic disorder,
aka, "mad scientist" )
Post by Wayne Throop
http://project-apollo.net/mos/mos007.html
It can certainly happen in other walks of life.

There was a scandal 15 years ago when a bunch of
social; workers took a couple of dozen children
into care as alleged victims of "ritual abuse". Of
course they all had to be sent home again within a
few weeks. Basically, it seems that once some of
the department (including one or two forceful
personalities) had convinced themselves of the
reality of the problem, those who remained
sceptical were increasingly "cut out of the loop"
and their opinions ignored.

At the risk of getting onto sensitive ground, I
suspect that within the Bush administration,
something similar happened in regard to those who
doubted the wisdom of attacking Iraq. I see no
reason to think tht scientists or technicians are
necessarily immune to this syndrome. Once several
members of a group all get the same bee in their
bonnet, it can be highly contagious.
--
Mike Stone - Peterborough, England


It is so stupid of modern civilisation to have
given up believing in the
Devil, when he is its only explanation.

Ronald Knox.
Mike Schilling
2006-05-25 16:29:09 UTC
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Post by Wayne Throop
: Here's a fatal flaw in their thought processes: why did they
: assume it was FTL in the first place? There's no evidence that FTL
: is possible and as we see thousands of years later, a lot of evidence
: that it isn't.
It sounds like the idea for "why they assumed that", was that they
were overcome with enthuseasm.
That was their FTL flaw.
Dan Swartzendruber
2006-05-25 22:36:09 UTC
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Post by Mike Schilling
Post by Wayne Throop
: Here's a fatal flaw in their thought processes: why did they
: assume it was FTL in the first place? There's no evidence that FTL
: is possible and as we see thousands of years later, a lot of evidence
: that it isn't.
It sounds like the idea for "why they assumed that", was that they
were overcome with enthuseasm.
That was their FTL flaw.
*Groan*
t***@gmail.com
2016-08-12 01:57:54 UTC
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Post by James Nicoll
Post by Wayne Throop
: It's possible that the designers saw a simple power-speed-distance
: relationship that obtained for short flights and wrongly extrapolated
: it to longer ones. And the actual curves may have been complex ones,
: possibly with discontinuities. Because if the time difference shown on
: the Pluto hop had _exactly_ corresponded with that of a NAFAL flight,
: then the engineers would have immediately grasped what was happening.
Interesting thought, but it seems to me to just sweep the problem
under a different rug; they have effects that are wildly changing and
discontinuous over distances they *have* gone... so they immediately,
and for their first manned flight, cover a distance, what, thousands of
times greater than any they've tested so far? Yeesh. Again, that's not
"risk tolerance", that's idiocy.
Here's a fatal flaw in their thought processes: why did they
assume it was FTL in the first place? There's no evidence that FTL
is possible and as we see thousands of years later, a lot of evidence
that it isn't.
A physicist named LeFevre conducted an experiment with an electron beam, and the electron diffraction pattern he got implied that the electrons had jumped instantly from Point A to Point B without crossing the intervening space. Another such experiment in California confirmed that data, and a theoretician named Ivanov in Kerenskygrad theorized that the electrons had passed through hyperspace.

10 years later, test craft with the super drive were sent out to Pluto's orbit. The instruments on the craft said that no time had passed, but the craft couldn't hit the broad side of a barn! They were millions of miles off. Repeated tests failed to solve the problem, so the Explorer was sent out. However, I am amazed that no one noticed that the clocks on the test craft were way behind the clocks on either the retrieval craft or the clocks back on Earth! (Logically, the test craft clocks would have been behind the clocks on Earth, since time was passing on Earth but not in the test craft during their flights).
Post by James Nicoll
--
http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/immigrate/
http://www.livejournal.com/users/james_nicoll
Dan Swartzendruber
2006-05-25 13:10:08 UTC
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Post by Wayne Throop
: One reason for
: doing it this way is that I could then learn the curve of flight time /
: speed / time dilation relationship, which obviously was a complex one
: or the program engineers would have INSTANTLY realized what was
: happening even in the short flight to Pluto.
Exactly so. One of the very first tests, very obvious, would be to
compare the time outside with the time inside. I mean, time dilation
is a known issue. Even if we assume there was no SSPS (solar system
positioning system) which would just tell you the outside-time at the
end of your test jump, the simplest and quickest way to check, without
any BS about clock synchronization or other fussy tinkering, is to do the
whole twin paradox thing quickly; take a matched pair of clocks, leave one
behind, take one on a light-second trip out, and a light-second trip back,
compare the clocks. (Or, of course, if you can just send a clock out
one light second, you can transport it slowly enough to be enlightening.
Or broadcast a time standard by radio (starting well before the test
jump), and have the test probe note the time it first receives after
the jump. Or any number of other dead-simple tests.) Poof, you know
you have made a roughly-lightspeed transit. Not to do that before you
set out on a many megalightsecond trip is not just reckless (or "more
risk tolerant" if you will), it's actively stupid. Hence, it's an
"idiot plot"; it only works if the characters are idiots.
IMO. MMV I suppose.
Sadly, Wayne, my mileage doesn't vary. It was stupid for all the
reasons you mentioned, and a couple others:

1. They had some purportedly FTL drive with no idea how it worked? (if
they had, they'd've known it wasn't FTL!)

2. (even worse) they already HAD empirical evidence that something was
not right. Jumps to other planetary orbits that were grossly off where
they should have been. Either it isn't FTL, or we have some unknown
measuring error? Nah, couldn't be the former, let's do a jump to the
other side of the galaxy (or wherever). Mind you, I love Poul's work,
but this was really really hard to swallow...
Mike Stone
2006-05-25 05:39:04 UTC
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"Jordan" <***@yahoo.com> wrote in
message news:***@g10g2000cwb.googlegr
oups.com...
Post by Jordan
I would have done a series of test flights,
gradually increasing the
Post by Jordan
distance and eventually manning it. The first
interstellar flight
Post by Jordan
would have been to somewhere close -- the Alpha
Centauri or Barnard's
Post by Jordan
Star System -- though long before this happened
I probably would have
Post by Jordan
discovered that I had a NAFAL rather than FTL
drive. One reason for
Post by Jordan
doing it this way is that I could then learn the
curve of flight time /
Post by Jordan
speed / time dilation relationship, which
obviously was a complex one
Post by Jordan
or the program engineers would have INSTANTLY
realized what was
Post by Jordan
happening even in the short flight to Pluto.
But of course, if Poul Anderson had done it that
way, then there would
Post by Jordan
have been no story. So I'm willing to suspend
disbelief and assume
Post by Jordan
that there was some sort of political pressure
for an _extremely_
Post by Jordan
spectacular first voyage.
Sounds credible to me. Not necessarily high
probablility, but unlikely =| impossible.

Loks like I'll have to resign myself to agreeing
with Jordan on this one; but then I'm hopelessly
biased in favour of Poul <g>


--
Mike Stone - Peterborough, England


It is so stupid of modern civilisation to have
given up believing in the
Devil, when he is its only explanation.

Ronald Knox.
James Nicoll
2006-05-25 12:28:34 UTC
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Post by Mike Stone
Sounds credible to me. Not necessarily high
probablility, but unlikely =| impossible.
Loks like I'll have to resign myself to agreeing
with Jordan on this one; but then I'm hopelessly
biased in favour of Poul <g>
Anderson came up with a way to do a similar story,
albeit without the horrible shock, in one of his last novels,
STARFARERS. In that, the crew were mostly people the government
wouldn't miss and they were deliberately sent on a long,
glorious mission.

He also had humans catapulted into the future via
a stardrive mishap.
--
http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/immigrate/
http://www.livejournal.com/users/james_nicoll
Mike Schilling
2006-05-25 13:43:27 UTC
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Post by James Nicoll
Anderson came up with a way to do a similar story,
albeit without the horrible shock, in one of his last novels,
STARFARERS. In that, the crew were mostly people the government
wouldn't miss and they were deliberately sent on a long,
glorious mission.
Did they include telephone sanitizers?
James Nicoll
2006-05-25 14:28:43 UTC
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Post by Mike Schilling
Post by James Nicoll
Anderson came up with a way to do a similar story,
albeit without the horrible shock, in one of his last novels,
STARFARERS. In that, the crew were mostly people the government
wouldn't miss and they were deliberately sent on a long,
glorious mission.
Did they include telephone sanitizers?
Political undesirables, as I recall, and that frolicksome
Celtic girl who seems to pop up everywhere in Andersonia, like
Brust's Devera.
--
http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/immigrate/
http://www.livejournal.com/users/james_nicoll
Mike Schilling
2006-05-25 14:47:43 UTC
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Post by James Nicoll
Post by Mike Schilling
Post by James Nicoll
Anderson came up with a way to do a similar story,
albeit without the horrible shock, in one of his last novels,
STARFARERS. In that, the crew were mostly people the government
wouldn't miss and they were deliberately sent on a long,
glorious mission.
Did they include telephone sanitizers?
Political undesirables, as I recall, and that frolicksome
Celtic girl who seems to pop up everywhere in Andersonia, like
Brust's Devera.
At least she provides some fond memories to comfort the hero during the Long
Night.
Jordan
2006-05-25 17:05:37 UTC
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He also had humans catapulted into the future via a stardrive mishap. <
Are you talking about _Tau Zero_?

- Jordan
Mike Stone
2006-05-25 20:44:37 UTC
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Post by James Nicoll
Anderson came up with a way to do a similar
story,
Post by James Nicoll
albeit without the horrible shock, in one of his
last novels,
Post by James Nicoll
STARFARERS. In that, the crew were mostly people
the government
Post by James Nicoll
wouldn't miss and they were deliberately sent on
a long,
Post by James Nicoll
glorious mission.
He used that idea a number of times.

In _Recruiting Nation_, the first interstellar
astronauts were a bunch of deadbeats because noone
else wanted to go. This was ok, since by the time
they reached A Centauri, their children would be
running things.

In _Orbit Unlimited_ the pioneers are a bunch of
dissdents the gov't wants rid of. No doubt others.

--
Mike Stone - Peterborough, England


It is so stupid of modern civilisation to have
given up believing in the
Devil, when he is its only explanation.

Ronald Knox.
coll
William December Starr
2006-06-12 05:51:13 UTC
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[Polul Anderson] used that idea a number of times.
In _Recruiting Nation_, the first interstellar
astronauts were a bunch of deadbeats because noone
else wanted to go. This was ok, since by the time
they reached A Centauri, their children would be
running things.
In _Orbit Unlimited_ the pioneers are a bunch of
dissdents the gov't wants rid of. No doubt others.
Not Anderson, but definitely ObReallyStupdPlot[1]: HIJACK by Edward
Wellen. The goverbment[2] comes up with a Sekrit Plan for getting
rid of the Mafia: trick them into believing that the Earth is doomed
and let them "hijack" the fleet of evacuation ships and get away,
until the ships stop working. (Or at least that's what I gathered
from the cover blurb and a review I read so long ago that it was
probably in Richard E. Geis's "Science Fiction Review." Ghod knows
I haven't read it myself.)

1: Typo deliberate.

2: Ibid.

-- wds
d***@gmail.com
2006-05-25 02:22:25 UTC
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Post by Jordan
I have _no_ idea what the engineers and test pilots of (say) 2055 will
be like. If I wrote a story about an experimental spaceship in 2055,
and had the people act like they do today, it is possible that people
reading it in 2055 would laugh at me for displaying the characters as
being ridiculously cautious, ridiculously reckless, or anywhere in
between. This is true even if my characters act _exactly_ like the
real designers and test pilots of today, because the culture may change
out from under me in some direction and to some degree that I did not
predict.
Though it goes against the grain, I'll have to go with Jordan on this
one.
There's an ObSF by Sterling, can't recall the title, where in a
not-to-distant
future, rational scientific enquiry is actually looked down on as a
social
defect; what matters is the elan, as our first person narrator makes
obnoxiously clear.

I'm not saying I find the idea that less caution would be exercised in
the
future rather than more to be plausible, but I certainly wouldn't rule
it
out, either. Certainly there's been enough fiction written going both
ways
that no one as far as I know cavils at, until now at least.
Westprog
2006-05-24 09:50:30 UTC
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"Derek Lyons" <***@gmail.com> wrote in message news:***@news.supernews.com...
...
Post by Derek Lyons
The match up only exists in your version of historical reality. To
find actual reckless test pilots, I have to go back to the 1920's *at
the latest*. By the 50's they were not reckless at all. They
considered death or dismemberment with less dismay than we do today -
but they did not go forth without due consideration.
Yeager. Broom handle.

J/
Robert Sneddon
2006-05-24 14:43:32 UTC
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Post by Westprog
Post by Derek Lyons
They
considered death or dismemberment with less dismay than we do today -
but they did not go forth without due consideration.
Yeager. Broom handle.
The broomhandle was there to close the door; he had crocked his ribs
and couldn't latch the cockpit door otherwise but the damage to his ribs
wouldn't affect his ability to fly the plane otherwise. He didn't expect
the plane to fall apart or for himself to get killed, although it was a
risk and he was about to attempt something nobody else had done before
him.

One case I read of where someone expected to get badly hurt and went
ahead anyway was where an ejector seat test firing broke the subject's
arm. The experimenter took the next test shot under the same
circumstances and indeed broke his arm the same way, but they figured
out why it had happened and the seat was redesigned so it didn't happen
again.
--
To reply, my gmail address is nojay1 Robert Sneddon
James Nicoll
2006-05-24 15:01:01 UTC
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Post by Robert Sneddon
Post by Westprog
Post by Derek Lyons
They
considered death or dismemberment with less dismay than we do today -
but they did not go forth without due consideration.
Yeager. Broom handle.
The broomhandle was there to close the door; he had crocked his ribs
and couldn't latch the cockpit door otherwise but the damage to his ribs
wouldn't affect his ability to fly the plane otherwise. He didn't expect
the plane to fall apart or for himself to get killed, although it was a
risk and he was about to attempt something nobody else had done before
him.
One case I read of where someone expected to get badly hurt and went
ahead anyway was where an ejector seat test firing broke the subject's
arm. The experimenter took the next test shot under the same
circumstances and indeed broke his arm the same way, but they figured
out why it had happened and the seat was redesigned so it didn't happen
again.
If you want really risky test practices, try about ten
years earlier than that and on the other side of the Atlantic.

Of course, for all their willingness to dissolve the odd
pilot in rocket fuel, the Germans lost that war.
--
http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/immigrate/
http://www.livejournal.com/users/james_nicoll
Westprog
2006-05-24 15:33:35 UTC
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Post by James Nicoll
Post by Robert Sneddon
Post by Westprog
Post by Derek Lyons
They
considered death or dismemberment with less dismay than we do today -
but they did not go forth without due consideration.
Yeager. Broom handle.
The broomhandle was there to close the door; he had crocked his ribs
and couldn't latch the cockpit door otherwise but the damage to his ribs
wouldn't affect his ability to fly the plane otherwise. He didn't expect
the plane to fall apart or for himself to get killed, although it was a
risk and he was about to attempt something nobody else had done before
him.
One case I read of where someone expected to get badly hurt and went
ahead anyway was where an ejector seat test firing broke the subject's
arm. The experimenter took the next test shot under the same
circumstances and indeed broke his arm the same way, but they figured
out why it had happened and the seat was redesigned so it didn't happen
again.
If you want really risky test practices, try about ten
years earlier than that and on the other side of the Atlantic.
Of course, for all their willingness to dissolve the odd
pilot in rocket fuel, the Germans lost that war.
The planes that the Germans were bringing into service were more dangerous
than what the Allies reserved for test pilots. The 163 had a tendency to
burst into flames on landing. I doubt if they'd have quibbled about broken
ribs. In fact, saying "I've got sore ribs, I think I should skip this one"
would have gotten people shot.


J/
Robert Sneddon
2006-05-24 15:27:36 UTC
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Post by James Nicoll
Post by Robert Sneddon
One case I read of where someone expected to get badly hurt and went
ahead anyway was where an ejector seat test firing broke the subject's
arm. The experimenter took the next test shot under the same
circumstances and indeed broke his arm the same way, but they figured
out why it had happened and the seat was redesigned so it didn't happen
again.
If you want really risky test practices, try about ten
years earlier than that and on the other side of the Atlantic.
In those cases the chances were non-zero that they would survive their
experimental flights unharmed. The engineer working on the design of the
ejector seat strapped himself in *expecting* to break his arm. Indeed if
by some mischance the test had failed and didn't break his arm he would
have been disappointed because he wouldn't understand why the previous
test had broken the subject's arm. As it happened he successfully broke
his arm.
--
To reply, my gmail address is nojay1 Robert Sneddon
Westprog
2006-05-24 15:22:27 UTC
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Post by Robert Sneddon
Post by Westprog
Post by Derek Lyons
They
considered death or dismemberment with less dismay than we do today -
but they did not go forth without due consideration.
Yeager. Broom handle.
The broomhandle was there to close the door; he had crocked his ribs
and couldn't latch the cockpit door otherwise but the damage to his ribs
wouldn't affect his ability to fly the plane otherwise. He didn't expect
the plane to fall apart or for himself to get killed, although it was a
risk and he was about to attempt something nobody else had done before
him.
It's not as gung-ho as the barnstormers, but it's certainly not pure
regulation behaviour. Whether you call it reckless or not is a judgement
call. He certainly didn't tell anyone.
Post by Robert Sneddon
One case I read of where someone expected to get badly hurt and went
ahead anyway was where an ejector seat test firing broke the subject's
arm. The experimenter took the next test shot under the same
circumstances and indeed broke his arm the same way, but they figured
out why it had happened and the seat was redesigned so it didn't happen
again.
J/
Derek Lyons
2006-05-24 17:55:33 UTC
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Post by Westprog
...
Post by Derek Lyons
The match up only exists in your version of historical reality. To
find actual reckless test pilots, I have to go back to the 1920's *at
the latest*. By the 50's they were not reckless at all. They
considered death or dismemberment with less dismay than we do today -
but they did not go forth without due consideration.
Yeager. Broom handle.
Single exception != general rule.

Actually reading a real history of the X-1 program, rather than the
semi-fictional 'Right stuff' plainly shows a steady and reasoned
progession towards the Mach 1 flight. They didn't just hook it up one
day and go.

D.
--
Touch-twice life. Eat. Drink. Laugh.

-Resolved: To be more temperate in my postings.
Oct 5th, 2004 JDL
William December Starr
2006-05-22 06:07:19 UTC
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James put in spoiler protection so I guess I should too:
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Long Way Home has much the same plot device. In that, the drive
isn't a warp drive as the scientists think, but instead converts
the ship and crew to a wave of some sort. It then travels at the
speed of light, but no time seems to pass to the crew, so they're
fooled into thinking it's instantaneous.
How does it stop?
--
William December Starr <***@panix.com>
Joseph Nebus
2006-05-22 06:17:55 UTC
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Post by William December Starr
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Long Way Home has much the same plot device. In that, the drive
isn't a warp drive as the scientists think, but instead converts
the ship and crew to a wave of some sort. It then travels at the
speed of light, but no time seems to pass to the crew, so they're
fooled into thinking it's instantaneous.
How does it stop?
Somebody pulls the emergency brake cord.
--
Joseph Nebus
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
David Johnston
2006-05-22 07:05:00 UTC
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Post by William December Starr
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Long Way Home has much the same plot device. In that, the drive
isn't a warp drive as the scientists think, but instead converts
the ship and crew to a wave of some sort. It then travels at the
speed of light, but no time seems to pass to the crew, so they're
fooled into thinking it's instantaneous.
How does it stop?
You only put so much energy into it. Once that energy runs out, you
revert.
Robert Sneddon
2006-05-22 23:30:22 UTC
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Post by William December Starr
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Long Way Home has much the same plot device. In that, the drive
isn't a warp drive as the scientists think, but instead converts
the ship and crew to a wave of some sort.
How does it stop?
The extension cord pulls loose?
--
To reply, my gmail address is nojay1 Robert Sneddon
TB
2016-08-11 23:56:47 UTC
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Post by Default User
Post by Jordan
"Out Around Rigel" by Robert H. Wilson (c. around 1930)
Extensive SPOILERS
My reply has spoilers for Poul Anderson's Long Way Home
Post by Jordan
*
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Munch of Our Around Rigel.
Post by Default User
Long Way Home has much the same plot device. In that, the drive isn't a
warp drive as the scientists think, but instead converts the ship and
crew to a wave of some sort. It then travels at the speed of light, but
no time seems to pass to the crew, so they're fooled into thinking it's
instantaneous.
They do run one test, sending animals out to around Pluto. Initially
there's trouble finding the test ship as it's out of position, but they
seem to just shrug and not worry about that. Normally, scientists and
engineers would be extremely worried about that, but they load up and
head on out into the cosmos.
The scientists did several tests of the super drive in the solar system, sending craft with lots of instruments several light hours out. The instruments said that no time had passed on the test craft, but the craft kept arriving way out of position! I assume that this is in part because the test craft were moving at only the speed of light! However, when the craft WERE found, wouldn't the experimenters have noticed that the clocks on the test craft were several hours BEHIND the clocks on the space ships which found the test craft? (Time didn't pass on the test craft, but did pass for the solar system as a whole!).

Then the Explorer went out with the task of fixing the positioning problems. The crew spent a year working on the drive, becoming more and more accurate. Then they came to the Holat system. The Holatans came up with the vital improvements that fixed the positioning problems. To verify that the positioning problems had been resolved, I assume that the Explorer crew would have jumped from Holat to several light hours away, then jumped back to Holat! At THAT point, the crew should have noticed that A: Holat was not where it was supposed to be, and B: Explorer's clocks were way behind the clocks on Holat! This would soon have led to the crew realizing that their drive, far from being instantaneous, only goes at light speed! Yet that obvious and logical sequence of events failed to happen!
TB
2016-08-12 02:12:51 UTC
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Post by Jordan
<ways to detect time dilation>
Well, see I don't know for sure (not having read the story in a long
time) whether or not the drive was merely NAFAL or actually FTL _for
all spacelike trips_. What I mean by that is that it is possible that
for short hops the drive was indeed FTL (simply not as fast as they
thought) but that for longer voyages it was merely NAFAL. There must
have been _some_ reason why the designers thought it was an FTL drive,
or it's just _too_ stupid to believe.
It's possible that the designers saw a simple power-speed-distance
relationship that obtained for short flights and wrongly extrapolated
it to longer ones. And the actual curves may have been complex ones,
possibly with discontinuities. Because if the time difference shown on
the Pluto hop had _exactly_ corresponded with that of a NAFAL flight,
then the engineers would have immediately grasped what was happening.
The positioning errors were so great that it may have taken days to find the craft, thus obscuring the outside the craft timing measurements. I got the impression that the errors were far greater than the errors that would result from the time factor.
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