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 Post subject: Sci-fi power plant ideas PostPosted: 2012-07-14 09:14am
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I need some fluff about power plants of my (fictional) spacecraft.

Since they are supposed to run engines that have to pull the spacecraft at tens-to-hundreds of gees (in ways that don't destroy it/hamper the crew, more details on how are not relevant here), they have to be wildly over the top power-wise (hundreds of Terawatts at minimum), but still not easy to recognize as bullshit like say singularity power plants from Star Trek (where any black hole small enough to not rip the ship to pieces won't last minutes before going BOOM).

The civilization needing them can make and throw tiny (mass) black holes somehow (and such black holes are very short-lived and go BOOM as Hawkins predicted), but cannot play with gravity otherwise.

I don't need horribly in-depth explanations, just a general concept on how they get their power and general drawbacks.

I thought of Mass Conversion and FTL Wireless Extension Cord. I think either fusion or antimatter are far too inefficient or dangerous for these levels of power (the amount of wasted heat is totally ludicrous, and the radiation flux is really over the top). And I find a bit lame using an element not on the periodic table as ludicrously-high-energy fuel.

I did think about something using quntum fluctuations but even assuming it does not violate physics (not that FTL Wireless Extension Cords aren't total bullshit, but I'd rather find something with more sense), I have some doubts about the size of space I need to farm energy from to get those levels of power. As long as it is "the same star system" it's kinda OK, but farming the wole galaxy and a lot of intergalactic space for each ship is a bit too much.

So, can anyone help? :mrgreen:



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 Post subject: Re: Sci-fi power plant ideas PostPosted: 2012-07-14 09:51am
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my personal advice would be to not specify the power plant beond that it gives X amount of power and give some draw backs to not make it a story breaker.



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 Post subject: Re: Sci-fi power plant ideas PostPosted: 2012-07-14 10:06am
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My advice would be to not even do what LR said. There is no point in having a technobable explanation for your system. And no need to define drawbacks and numbers (this ain't a RPG manual). Instead you should define your system in terms of what you want it to do. Like say "cross the galaxy in 5 days". Once that is done, if you really want consistency come here with it and we can calculate the power and stuff by deduction.



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 Post subject: Re: Sci-fi power plant ideas PostPosted: 2012-07-14 10:16am
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Didn't I say it was for a game (not a RPG but more like a 3D RTS on paper)? Dumb dumb sumb me. I'll say it now. It is for a game.

I'm looking for some kind of way to have two or three different kinds of power plants (with different strenghts and drawbacks) without completely making shit up. (making shit up 100% tends to give me a stinking concept since I need something to start from)

So again I ask for a few lines of fluff that does not look totally wrong and some strenghts/drawbacks for sci-fi power plant concepts.



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 Post subject: Re: Sci-fi power plant ideas PostPosted: 2012-07-14 10:24am
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Well considering that a) there is nothing in our universe that can give you the kind of power you need and b) FTL is impossible you will have to make shit up anyway. Especially since you have thrown out the only thing that comes remotely close in your OP.



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Warning: I am an amateur writer/roleplayer and as such my posts are liable to contain text that would fit better into a work of literature than a conversation. Hence (unless I am in debate mode) be sure to read my posts with care and not take everything I say at face value. It might be (and at times is) full of stylistic exaggeration for the sake of explaining my point. Thank you.

NOTIFICATION: From this point on all my posts are censored by the thought police.

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 Post subject: Re: Sci-fi power plant ideas PostPosted: 2012-07-14 10:34am
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someone_else wrote:
I need some fluff about power plants of my (fictional) spacecraft.

Since they are supposed to run engines that have to pull the spacecraft at tens-to-hundreds of gees (in ways that don't destroy it/hamper the crew, more details on how are not relevant here), they have to be wildly over the top power-wise (hundreds of Terawatts at minimum), but still not easy to recognize as bullshit like say singularity power plants from Star Trek (where any black hole small enough to not rip the ship to pieces won't last minutes before going BOOM).

The civilization needing them can make and throw tiny (mass) black holes somehow (and such black holes are very short-lived and go BOOM as Hawkins predicted), but cannot play with gravity otherwise.

I don't need horribly in-depth explanations, just a general concept on how they get their power and general drawbacks.

An idea I saw recently suggested by real-world scientists as a (fairly far out) black hole based space drive/power source is to use a micro black hole that's just on the verge of "going BOOM". The idea is to let it reach that state, and then feed it matter as fast as it's decaying so it acts essentially as a matter-to energy converter; matter goes in, Hawking radiation comes out. Obvious drawbacks would be an inability to shut the thing off, and it's inherently unstable; anything goes wrong with the matter feed and we're right back to it going BOOM.

On the other hand,if your civilization can make black holes on the spot like you seem to be saying, they may be able to just make them very low mass and capture the energy as they dissipate; a poof rather than a BOOM as it were.



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 Post subject: Re: Sci-fi power plant ideas PostPosted: 2012-07-14 10:38am
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my advice would still to keep it simple, especially for an RTS, you don't have to really say "how" it makes power just that it does, something like say a "crystal power plant" you don't have to say how you get the power from the crystal just that you do.

as for pros and cons you could have something you get alot of power compared to the cost with one plant but it can be built/placed only on certain very specific spots on the map like the thermoplasma generators in the Dawn of War game, while another gives less power compared to the cost but can be placed everywhere.

ofc the details are gonna depend on how you're gonna use power as a resource.



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 Post subject: Re: Sci-fi power plant ideas PostPosted: 2012-07-14 11:21am
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I've kind of gone through a similar process myself, and the best advice I have for you is simple:

Cheat.

Use fission/fusion/antimatter/whatever-semi-plausible-exotic-power-plant-you-think-of, to drive engines of similar parameters. And then just have a "warp engine/warp field generator" that generates a warping effect around the ship. Said effect will allow the ship to more-or-less 'cheat' by warping spacetime to allow an acceleration of, say, a milligee or centigee, to become equivalent to many tens or hundreds of gees. Since you're more-or-less going with applied handwavium at this point, this is something that, while it is handwavium, at least sounds semi-plausible to*.

You can also extend it to be the FTL drive to boot, though more knowledgeable people will know that this is completely impossible.

*To my [very limited] understanding, using a space-warping device as a propulsion system/component to boost acceleration power isn't exactly impossible- or even so energy-intensive that it would require more energy than is contained in, say, most of the universe.



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 Post subject: Re: Sci-fi power plant ideas PostPosted: 2012-07-14 11:38am
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Simple answer, just ascribe it to some sort of 'matter ot energy' conversion and leave it at that.

Here's the thing. I know people love to fixate on details and stuff, but each detail you add to a story is one you have to keep track of in the future, and the more details you add the more complicated things get. Also technologies that get detailed (including power outputs) can create problems of 'unintended consequences' for an author (hell any technology can) - so that also means that unless the author spends a hugetastic amount of time worldbuilding prior to writing (and doesn't change their mind, or have outside factors change things, or stuff like that.) tripping yourself up again becomes an issue.

heck if you get really obsessive about details (like how many terawatts it puts out, which leads to thermodynamic concerns, which leads to fuel concerns..) you could actually reach a point where you spend more time 'building' the setting with all the analysis and number crunching and research that little or no time gets devoted to story. (This is my theory as to how David Weber's writing has evolved.)

If you're willing ot keep the numbers on the lower end of what you stated you might pull off 'unrealistically efficient fusion', although fuel usage is going to be rather high. On the othre hand hydrogen is plentiful.



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 Post subject: Re: Sci-fi power plant ideas PostPosted: 2012-07-14 01:02pm
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Lord of the Abyss wrote:
An idea I saw recently suggested by real-world scientists as a (fairly far out) black hole based space drive/power source is to use a micro black hole that's just on the verge of "going BOOM". The idea is to let it reach that state, and then feed it matter as fast as it's decaying so it acts essentially as a matter-to energy converter; matter goes in, Hawking radiation comes out. Obvious drawbacks would be an inability to shut the thing off, and it's inherently unstable; anything goes wrong with the matter feed and we're right back to it going BOOM.
A good idea for the matter converter-like power plant. But what I said for the Deridex's power plant from Star Trek applies. The black hole has to be too damn big and the spacecraft will be under significant tidal stress.

Purple wrote:
Well considering that a) there is nothing in our universe that can give you the kind of power you need and b) FTL is impossible you will have to make shit up anyway.
The point is that I need some cool short fluff to write in descriptions and to inspire me in making the system behave in weird ways without having to come up with that myself (since I'm clearly unable to).

For example, the engine works by magically generating tiny (mass) black holes at some megameters from the ship, these pull the craft (I did some calcs and it's doable to do so without tidal stresses), but since they are so small they go BOOM in seconds, so they shine like a fucking star but are too distant to damage the vessel behind its shadow shield. This is basically a reverse-orion ship concept. Incinerates missiles and whatever is close to the black hole, can move multiple ships if they stay in formation, is fuelless but has an OBVIOUS signature in both mass-based sensors and more common IR telescopes. The main difference between this and a photon drive is that this allows the ship to accelerate at any rate without gee-forces. Of course requires fucktons of energy more than even a photon drive since cannot break conservation of energy.

Now, this is still based on kinda magic, but the effects after the "A miracle happens" try to follow physics somehow. Note that I didn't lose any time explaining how it generates those black holes (which is magic), just weird stuff that happens when it is in operation and is relevant to the player's choices.

And yes I left usual fusion/antimatter out on purpose, I'd like to keep the player aware that fusion and antimatter are NOT going to provide power levels needed by ships of that techlevel to go swoosh. Because you know, they really cannot do it.

Quote:
Use fission/fusion/antimatter/whatever-semi-plausible-exotic-power-plant-you-think-of, to drive engines of similar parameters.
I know no semi-plausible power plant at these power levels, hence I asked here from where can I take such amounts of energy without having to resort to what is basically a fancy battery of accumulators or FTL Wireless Extension Cords From Home.

Quote:
as for pros and cons you could have something you get alot of power compared to the cost with one plant but it can be built/placed only on certain very specific spots on the map like the thermoplasma generators in the Dawn of War game, while another gives less power compared to the cost but can be placed everywhere.
Which yelds very lame concepts as you can see. I need something to take some inspiration from to make up cool weird things. I'll still make up lots of things, but at least I have something decent to start from.

Besides these are power plants mounted on a vessel to make it do its job, not fixed structures on a map.

Quote:
heck if you get really obsessive about details (like how many terawatts it puts out, which leads to thermodynamic concerns, which leads to fuel concerns..) you could actually reach a point where you spend more time 'building' the setting with all the analysis and number crunching and research that little or no time gets devoted to story. (This is my theory as to how David Weber's writing has evolved.)
I just want to know about the order of magnitude. Everything is going to be massively eyeballed and handwaved anyway, but I'd like to avoid making gross mistakes like Total Annihilation lasers (there was some talk about the stupid effect of their tank main laser gun on a tree if I'm not mistaken).

Quote:
If you're willing ot keep the numbers on the lower end of what you stated you might pull off 'unrealistically efficient fusion', although fuel usage is going to be rather high. On the othre hand hydrogen is plentiful.
Fusion of normal hydrogen is horribly inefficient, only stars can do it to produce energy. Kinds of fusion that can be done and even become 'unrealistically efficient' require He3 which isn't out there in so huge quantities. The other fusion reactions have a neutron output that would be totally insane to bring to these power levels.



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Stereotypical spacecraft are pressurized.
Less realistic spacecraft are pressurized to hold breathing atmosphere.
Realistic spacecraft are pressurized because they are flying propellant tanks. -Isaac Kuo

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 Post subject: Re: Sci-fi power plant ideas PostPosted: 2012-07-14 01:37pm
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someone_else wrote:
Quote:
as for pros and cons you could have something you get alot of power compared to the cost with one plant but it can be built/placed only on certain very specific spots on the map like the thermoplasma generators in the Dawn of War game, while another gives less power compared to the cost but can be placed everywhere.
Which yelds very lame concepts as you can see. I need something to take some inspiration from to make up cool weird things. I'll still make up lots of things, but at least I have something decent to start from.

Besides these are power plants mounted on a vessel to make it do its job, not fixed structures on a map.

you're making this for Fleetbased RTS game right? Then figure out how you want the powerplants to behave during gameplay, as in the game that's the important part, once you got that figured out, you can write the fluff to match the gameplay (with some tweaks here and there).

also remember to limit yourself so that you design something that's actually possible to make and run within reason and for heavens sake quit obesessing over the minor details like what powerplant is called/runs on.



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 Post subject: Re: Sci-fi power plant ideas PostPosted: 2012-07-14 02:35pm
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Quote:
Then figure out how you want the powerplants to behave during gameplay, as in the game that's the important part, once you got that figured out, you can write the fluff to match the gameplay (with some tweaks here and there).
As if it was hard. They produce X power per X "bulk points" of generator depending on how i feel like it when putting down numbers. The important part is that they need to have some intersting quirks that make them much more different than their stats (which are bound to be similar regadless of how you shuffle them due to game balance) and for that I need to take inspiration from something. I'm unable to come up with so cool quirks on the spot.

in my above post I talked about one kind of engine in the game:
the engine works by magically generating tiny (mass) black holes at some megameters from the ship, these pull the craft (I did some calcs and it's doable to do so without tidal stresses), but since they are so small they go BOOM in seconds, so they shine like a fucking star but are too distant to damage the vessel behind its shadow shield. This is basically a reverse-orion ship concept. Incinerates missiles and whatever is close to the black hole, can move multiple ships if they stay in formation, is fuelless but has an OBVIOUS signature in both mass-based sensors and more common IR telescopes. The main difference between this and a photon drive is that this allows the ship to accelerate at any rate without gee-forces. Of course requires fucktons of energy more than even a photon drive since cannot break conservation of energy.

Starting from a decent concept allows me to design systems that act in weird ways that would be impossible to put down with the standard "fluff is almost an afterthought" way of thinking.
How much reactionless engines like that you find in fiction? They are mostly put down like you say, "make them do what you want them to do". The result is at most a glowy thing with some (lame) limits that are clearly there for game balance, not something that has limits that are clearly its own like the above.

Cool and weirdness factor is important if you want to stand out from all the SW clones out there, you know. :mrgreen:

But I understand that this nest of rational nitpickers (me included) isn't the best place to get good concepts for an illogic creative process. :lol:



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Stereotypical spacecraft are pressurized.
Less realistic spacecraft are pressurized to hold breathing atmosphere.
Realistic spacecraft are pressurized because they are flying propellant tanks. -Isaac Kuo

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 Post subject: Re: Sci-fi power plant ideas PostPosted: 2012-07-14 10:22pm
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well the thing is that when designing an RTS most will about these things in roughly this order
  1. Multi-player gameplay
  2. single-player gameplay
  3. story
  4. flavor fluff

personally I'm in the minority in that I don't care much for multi-player, however even I won't focus much on the flavor fluff and it certainly wouldn't effect my desession to get a game either way.

if you really want a hook to get the audience/buyers attention I'd suggest making it so that fluff you make has some impact on the story, the gameplay or preferbly both.

for example if the power source has be carefully controlled or it explodes, make it so that your factions deal with that differently, for example one faction builds large hard to kill ships to make sure that ships won't get damaged enough to loose control on the powerplant though ofc means these ships will more expensive and so there's gonna be fewer of them while a second faction thinks since the ships gonna go boom anyway it's best to make sure you don't loose too much when they do and uses predominantly drones or other light exapendble ships with small crews that they won't loose too many crewmembers or resources when a ship goes boom.



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 Post subject: Re: Sci-fi power plant ideas PostPosted: 2012-07-15 11:05am
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Other ideas for propulsion systems may be:
  • Some super-advanced exploitation of the Casimir effect (sometimes labeled "vaccum energy"), perhaps using fractal-shaped "plates" to maximise their surface.
  • Wormholes whose one end is the propulsion nozzle and whose other end is in the core of a star or even at the beginning of the Universe, just before the big inflation. (I got this idea from the "Revelation Space" series).

But if you don't want to use technobabble or handwavium to "explain" the drive's workings, you can stil shroud it with mystery about the exact workings, which are "too complicated to be ever understood by baseline humans" and/or require a powerful AI to keep the complicated and unstable physical processes in check. Or go even further and describe them as somehow horrific. In fluff, athmosphere is more important than scientific accuracy.

edit: fixed the list formatting

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 Post subject: Re: Sci-fi power plant ideas PostPosted: 2012-08-06 06:56pm
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Number Theoretic wrote:
Other ideas for propulsion systems may be:
[list]
[*] Some super-advanced exploitation of the Casimir effect (sometimes labeled "vacuum energy"), perhaps using fractal-shaped "plates" to maximise their surface.


I actually used this idea in a universe my friends and I are currently working on, in the setting, the civilization in question figured out how to weaponize vacuum energy fairly quickly, but is was another few thousand years before they figured out how to use it for a reliable power source because of it's inherent instability.



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 Post subject: Re: Sci-fi power plant ideas PostPosted: 2012-08-10 06:52am
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Idea for a second drive that uses the same technology base (to stay in-universe consistent), which creates eitehr a spinning black hole or a couple of these black holes, which spin around each other so that they create a wormhole due to their overlapping event horizons. (Analog to a Kerr black hole.)

So you got a drive that is not visible to sensors at the target point, but takes time to set up, and only allows 'jumps' instead of constant flights.
Drawbacks: if you do the math wrong, you can end up in a different place, or if the drive is damaged, it might shut up too early, catching you with black holes that go bang or come so close that the tidal forces rip you apart.

Take your pull-me black hole drive, the standard "feed me and I give you energy" drive, and this one, and you have three distinct factions/types of ships.

One with few, but huge gigantic ships to contain the black hole, which are armed and armored to the teeth.
One with average ships that are pulled - easy to track. (Probable as civilian application of the tech.)
One with small and long ships, so they don't need too big wormholes to fit through, but can show up everywhere, anytime, due to their jump capabilities.

Good variety, and all use the same technology base - a tech to create black holes. Voila, a consistent universe.



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 Post subject: Re: Sci-fi power plant ideas PostPosted: 2012-08-10 02:53pm
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Me Likez It. Can be dialed down to be a "teleport-like" engine (always cool to have since it's much more different tactically than the usual rocket-like engine) or dialed up to become a fully-fledged FTL drive.
Will do a bit more research to see eventual issues and drawbacks.

Thanks a lot :luv:.



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Stereotypical spacecraft are pressurized.
Less realistic spacecraft are pressurized to hold breathing atmosphere.
Realistic spacecraft are pressurized because they are flying propellant tanks. -Isaac Kuo

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Good art has function as well as form. I hesitate to spend more than $50 on decorations of any kind unless they can be used to pummel an intruder into submission. -Sriad

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