Translating Non-standard modern ships to Sci Fi.

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Translating Non-standard modern ships to Sci Fi.

Post by Steelinghades » 2020-06-30 04:03pm

This thread is rather simple, how would you personally go about translating various naval vessels that are basically completely ignored in Sci fi into a sci fi setting? I'm talking about things like Littoral combat ships or LHAs, or even things like Japan's Helicopter destroyers. They're completely missing so I feel It could be rather interesting to see a series take advantage of such rarely used naval ships.

Discuss.

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Re: Translating Non-standard modern ships to Sci Fi.

Post by Formless » 2020-06-30 04:34pm

I wouldn't. Space is its own unique environment that has little in common with the sea and ocean environment, and therefore requires fighting vehicles designed specifically for space. If it has anything in common with environments we already fight in, its got more in common with the sky. But not that much.

In general, combat spacecraft are defined by their primary weapon, the kinds of defenses available to them, the kinds of engines available in the setting, whether stealth is a viable option in the setting, and what kind of infrastructure exists in the setting. A series like Gundam where most colonization takes the form of giant space stations will create a form of warfare very different from a setting like the Expanse where more effort goes into terraforming planets, because one will put emphasis on massive boarding operations to capture space stations and space fortresses intact and the other will have more emphasis on planetary bombardment and the complexity of landing troops from orbit. Not that there is no overlap, because there is. A Gundam like setting will also have an easier time justifying space fighters than the interplanetary setting, as space stations can more easily justify deploying small(ish) vehicles to defend them (think space-shuttle sized) while interplanetary warfare will place emphasis on warships that are as big as possible, as there is no real reason not to make the engines as big as possible. It also gives the warship more redundancies, bigger reactors that can power bigger energy weapons or kinetic weapons (either a gun that fires smart bullets that home in on their targets, or a gun that fires hypervelocity dust), and can hold more missiles. Note that a lot of writers disregard the current laws banning nuclear weapons in space, and that enables speculation on special kinds of nukes like nuclear pumped lasers and explosively propelled projectiles inspired by the Orion drive. These are equalizers that allow a smaller ship to punch far above their weight, and are especially tempting to use on either stealthy vessels, or vehicles intended to stay in a planetary orbit-- the closest thing you are going to get to a Littoral combat ship. Spaceplanes might also play a role in planetary defense, as will satellites, further showing the difference between a wet navy and a space force.

You can tweak assumptions all day (interstellar warfare and FTL further complicates things), but at the end of the day a space force isn't going to look like a wet navy. Because space isn't an ocean.
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Re: Translating Non-standard modern ships to Sci Fi.

Post by Eternal_Freedom » 2020-06-30 04:45pm

Pretty much that. Although I'm not sure that LCS and LHA's etc are missing from sci-fi settings. There are plenty of examples of "assault ships" in SF, Star Wars has the Acclamator-class for instance, a ship designed to deploy troops via embarked gunships which is a reasonable fit for a helicopter assault ship. LCS can probably be approximated as shorter-ranged system defence vessels seen in some works (certain types of DropShip in BattleTech for instance).

We just don't call them some approximation of LHA/LCS because for the non-military audience "assault ship" or "frigate" or "Corvette" is enough to get the role across.
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Re: Translating Non-standard modern ships to Sci Fi.

Post by Lord Revan » 2020-06-30 04:51pm

Only non-standard ship I could see showing up in scifi is a landing craft, since if you got assets worth fighting over on planets you'll have to get "boots on the ground" (in what ever form it'll take) as indiscriminate orbital bombardment is really only good if you've desided there's nothing worth having on the planet and you just want to kill everyone there.

We got remember that non-standard really means "specialized" in this context and as Formless said roles for a space navy are different from a wet navy. the standard categories for ships are rather vague and are more about what role the ship fills in the fleet rather then specific designs, while non-standard ships generally fill a certain very specific and clearly defined role.
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Re: Translating Non-standard modern ships to Sci Fi.

Post by Batman » 2020-06-30 07:33pm

There IS no littoral combat in space (unless you take this to mean 'close to the real estate I care about') because there are no 'shallows' in space. You stay in orbit or further out you can bring a fucking Death Star. Space is BIG.
As for landing ships, there's as mentioned the Wars Acclamator, the Aliens Sulaco, the BT flat out named so dropships, the various iterations of Starship Troopers' ships launching dropships, about the only major franchise that doesn't seem to have them is Trek and that's likely due to them not really having ground troops to begin with.
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Re: Translating Non-standard modern ships to Sci Fi.

Post by chimericoncogene » 2020-07-01 10:31am

Well, we often don't see that many fleet auxiliaries in sci-fi. Underway replenishment vessels, tankers, minesweepers, oceanographic vessels, modified "fishing trawlers", electronic surveillance ships, satellite tracking ships, expeditionary transfer docks (designed to transship from Ro/Ros to LCACs), hospital ships, repair ships, ice-cream barges, mobile drydocks and so on and so forth. Then of course you have military cargo ships of every shape and description.

FractalSponge has some great auxiliaries, and Star Wars typically is a bit more fleshed out in this respect (the Clone Wars has hospital ships, at least), but more auxiliaries would be nice.

Space-based analogies for these may be possible, depending on the setting.

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Re: Translating Non-standard modern ships to Sci Fi.

Post by Beowulf » 2020-07-01 10:33am

LHA is a hull code. The type is an amphibious assault ship. And there's plenty of ships doing that job, under that name (or at least as assault ship) in different sci-fi universes.

Japan's helicopter destroyers are unlikely to have an analog, in that they're specialized for a role fighting a ship class that doesn't exist in space. But more generally, they're pocket carriers. Which there's are plenty of in SF.
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Re: Translating Non-standard modern ships to Sci Fi.

Post by Formless » 2020-07-01 05:43pm

So now that we've established that the "non-standard" ships of a wet navy are actually specialized ships meant for specific roles that may not apply to space, or auxiliary vessels which may or may not need to be replicated in space, what kinds of specialized craft would a space force need given its environment?

Off the top of my head (with examples from fiction so we can see whether these ship types are actually being represented):

1) observation platforms. Think satellites similar to those we use today for astronomy, only specialized for military purposes instead. They would most likely be automated, be inserted into orbits around the sun or planets during the buildup to a war, have stealth technology to avoid being spotted and shot down in the opening salvo of the war, and are critical to the arguments people make against stealth in space (ironically, given they have to be slipped into orbit without being noticed themselves). Some people argue that a setting like The Expanse that is saturated with ships all around the system will have so many sensors scattered around the system that these observations platforms will be unnecessary and that stealth will be effectively impossible, but as Mike's posts in this thread point out, that is because people don't understand how big and delicate these sensor platforms have to be to see through most stealth setups. Also, the sensors have to be steady as a rock, which they won't be on a manned sensor platform like a spaceship, and even then detection times can be agonizingly slow. Hence, specialized sensor platforms are a must in any realistic scenario.

Also, despite what some people have said about how saturated settings like The Expanse will be with sensor platforms, a neutral party cannot give a belligerent their sensor data without violating their neutrality and being treated as an ally of that beligerrent. Some people don't seem to understand how neutrality works, or forget that The Expanse has more than two major factions that are all suspicious of one another. In any setting that well developed, its quite likely at least three factions will appear, if not more than three. So again, every military will need their own sensor platforms, and they will be targets.

An example of a dedicated sensor platform in SF would be the Argus Array in Star Trek; although it is technically a scientific installation rather than a military one, the Federation's enemies are shown to be suspicious of its true purpose in the episode it is introduced in. Also, its part of a setting with FTL sensors, but that's a detail.

2) Strategic interplanetary weapons platforms and ships designed for refocusing laser based versions of the same. Projectile weapons have no absolute range limit, only a practical limit based on whether or not they can actually hit the target. Laser weapons have a limit based on diffraction, but you can refocus the beam about six or seven times, allowing interplanetary lasers that can hit targets as far apart as Earth and Mars. Matterbeam has more details on this kind of weapon on his blog. Also, in theory you can make a free electron X-Ray laser if you have a particle accelerator about a kilometer wide; as discussed on Atomic Rockets, such a weapon in Earth Orbit could destroy targets as far away as Jupiter, and fatally irradiate targets out in the Kuiper belt and beyond.

Examples of such interplanetary strategic platforms in SF include the Martian nuclear missile platforms and Earth's interplanetary railguns in The Expanse (for some reason the Expanse writers kept avoiding laser weapons...), the Solar Ray from the original Mobile Suit Gundam, the colony laser from Gundam Seed, and in Star Wars there are interstellar FTL analogues to the same such as Starkiller Base in the Disney canon and the Galaxy Gun from the old EU. Also, many "hard" science fiction authors have used RKV's as an interstellar variation of the same concept, and some people have proposed that an interstellar laser can actually be made by a civilization that has constructed a Dyson swarm (and that such a laser is more plausible than an RKV, for reasons I won't get into).

3) Stealth craft. I won't belabor the point about these being possible; rather I will simply point out the various roles that they can play even in Hard SF. First would be observation platforms, both for seeing targets all around a solar system and for close in spy work around a planet (just like modern spy satellites). Next is strategic platforms: similar to a nuclear submarine they allow a tactical or strategic strike with less warning than the above types of strategic platforms do. These vehicles need long term stealth technology, like the stealth steamer design that Matterbeam describes on his blog. There are also shorter duration stealth designs which could be used to intercept and harass fleets in a similar manner to WWII submarines. I must stress that just because they plat a similar role does not mean the dynamic is the same as a WWII submarine: because of the unique environment of space, stealth in space requires a combination of aircraft stealth technologies (for fooling radar), and specialized technologies to hide or disguise a spacecraft's heat signature, which is unique to the environment of space. Amusingly, on Atomic Rockets one of the proposed stealth ships is a stealth carrier that carries stealth space fighters. This on a site that has long espoused that both stealth in space and space fighters are nonsense tropes, but here we are. You don't necessarily have to put humans on the fighters, as the designer stresses it just doesn't hurt to do so like you might expect. And I personally would do so, not only for dramatic purposes (humans like to read about humans), but unless you have AI in your setting that can make the big decisions like a human can, a stealth craft is likely to keep communications with command at a minimum to help stay hidden, so human commanders and even fighter jockeys may well be called for.

Stealth craft are quite common in fiction, especially Star Trek where fictitious cloaking technology exists. In fact its so common that I will simply refer to the TVTropes page for examples.

4) Motherships. Obviously this could be an analogue for an aircraft carrier, but actually one difference between space and a wet navy is that any ship can be a mothership in space. There is no waterline and no gravity, so nothing is going to sink and nothing is going to fall out of the sky. Anything can deploy anything from probes, satellites, shuttles, fighters, drones, etc. Spacecraft can also be multi-staged, so if you want to have big engines for traveling interplanetary distances but keep the ships that actually enter fights relatively small (or even fighter sized) you can just have the ship separate into smaller ships once the battle commences. Really, the main reason not to do so is the redundancies and greater power generation that a bigger ship has, but then again having lots of smaller ships in battle implies a kind of redundancy, and if you like to use nuclear missiles... like I said before that does allow a ship to punch well above its weight class.

Examples of fighter carriers are abundant, but the only example of a multi-part ship that separates when in combat that I can think of are some Federations ships from Star Trek, of all things. The Galaxy class could do this of course, but the special effects shot of the saucer separating was so expensive that they only did so on a handful of occasions. The Promethius from Voyager however was the true realization of this concept, as all three pieces are gunboats in their own right, complete with their own individual warp drives so that its technically three starships in one.

5) Orbital fortresses. Think a militarized space colony or asteroid colony. Since they aren't for civilian purposes, they may or may not have gravity, and are more likely to be multi-level in order to take full advantage of their volume. This is where fleets are launched, where troops are trained, where command centers are kept, can also serve as strategic weapons platforms, and so forth. These are analogous to island bases in a wet navy, but with two critical differences. First, they are built rather than found (although with the caveat that asteroids are naturally occurring, but will have to be moved into position to serve the purpose, and then hollowed out to serve as a space station). Second, they can be moved if necessary, making them like any other spaceship, but bigger. MUCH bigger.

Plenty of examples here. Babylon 4, Deep Space 9 (though by necessity rather than design), and several examples in the Gundam franchise that are hollowed out asteroids. The ultimate example, though, is the Death Stars, which double as strategic weapons platforms.

6) Fighter-like craft meant to patrol the space around space colonies and space fortresses. Like I said before, space fighters are actually justified in any setting with O'Neil cylinders and similar vast space stations. Plenty enough examples of space fighters exist in fiction, so I don't see the need to point them all out. What does need to be pointed out is that unlike in a wet navy where fighter aircraft have become one of the main ways of sinking enemy ships, fighters in space are a more specialized weapons platform, at least in Hard SF, and Seaskimmer once pointed out how the Space Shuttle actually fits on the curve for how much bigger fighter aircraft have gotten over time. So expect space fighters to be about that size, more of a space gunboat really. And they can also serve the roles of border patrol and coast guard duties. Space isn't an ocean, so anything that moves through space can just as easily be analogous to a boat as an aircraft, or even have analogies to ground vehicles like tanks. Schlock Mercenary is an example where instead of fighters they had spaceworthy tanks.

7) Boarding vehicles. These can be small pods that let marines enter a spaceship like in The Expanse, to vehicles that themselves enter a spacecraft like the Mobile Suits from Gundam. Like I said in my first post, it depends on what kind of infrastructure is used in the setting. I don't recall whether it was Seaskimmer or Starglider, but years ago one of them proposed that Space Fighters that look like aircraft were justified in settings with O'Neil cylinders because they would actually be aircraft, meant to fight in the open spaces of an O'Neil cylinder. If you know how big an O'Neil cylinder is, this starts to make a lot of sense. Perhaps they would be more like helicopters than jet fighters, though. I'm not sure which would be better suited for that environment.

8) interplanetary missiles. Similar to cruise missiles, its no strictly necessary in space for a missile to be carried by a ship. It can fly on its own if you want it to. Also drones and other unmanned craft; though people don't like them because we prefer to read about humans, not robots.

9) Landing ships for planets. Everyone has already pointed these out, so I will just point out one thing that no one else has. Since every planet is different, landing craft will have to take the local conditions into account. Does the planet have a thick atmosphere or is it a near vacuum like Luna; does the planet have Earth like gravity, or is it a smaller planet like Mars; does it have oceans you can land in, or is it rocky terrain as far as the eye can see? All of these things alter the requirements of the landing craft or open up options that are unavailable for other planets (such as water landings). Most science fiction ignores this, but then again, most science fiction treats invading a planet like it was invading an island. Really, once a war comes to the surface of a planet it becomes a whole other war, IMO. The same kind of war we're used to fighting today, except one faction will likely have the advantage of having ships in orbit and the other won't unless the have reinforcements coming. I think Gundam is the only franchise I know of that really gets this, although the case could be made for Warhammer 40K.

10) Orbital bombardment ships. Now, I disagree with Lord Revan on this: you don't have to be genocidal to use orbital bombardment. The original "rods from God" concept was an alternative to conventional bunker buster bombs, not a WMD. It can be scaled up to destroy whole cities, but that isn't necessary. Orbital artillery can be very precise if you want it to be, although there will always be a delay compared to conventional artillery or bombing the enemy with aircraft. Also, if the planet has an atmosphere you can't use energy weapons for this purpose. They just don't penetrate atmospheres very well, unless you want to get into maser weapons (which are more useful for defenders on the ground shooting attackers in space than the other way around).

Orbital bombardment in fiction is usually done by regular ships, but that isn't necessarily the best way to go about it. Again, energy weapons don't penetrate atmospheres very well, and projectiles that work in space aren't ideal for dropping on a planet (especially space-dust accelerators; obviously they won't work in an atmosphere at all). Its better for a ship in space to focus on one or two kinds of weapon systems, and those weapon systems will work best in a vacuum. Meanwhile, orbital artillery could be bulky enough you may not want all vessels to carry them. Having them delivered by the auxiliaries after you have dominance over a planet's orbital space makes just as much sense to me.

That's all the specialties I can think of at the moment, but I'm sure when you get into auxiliary craft there could be more. As you can see, though, most of the specialties are in fact covered in fiction pretty well, if not quite to the level of detail I might prefer to depict. But then again, you don't want to bore an audience with more details than they can keep track of, so you want to only introduce a specialized craft when they become relevant, and only then. Remember that movies, TV shows, and novels aren't like a video game where the player is rewarded for learning how to use every unit at their disposal. Conservation of Detail is a very important principle of fiction writing, and I've found that many of the most boring stories I've encountered were boring precisely because the writer went overboard.
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Re: Translating Non-standard modern ships to Sci Fi.

Post by Batman » 2020-07-01 06:25pm

As for why 'The Expanse' chose to forego laser weapons, I don't know about the books but for the TV series I could imagine they chose to omit/not introduce laser weapons because the series tries a relatively realistic depiction of semi-hard SciFi space combat, and realistic laser battles don't look. At all. As in even visible wavelength lasers are invisible in space except at the receiving end or somewhere in the beam's path and that's not very exciting.
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Re: Translating Non-standard modern ships to Sci Fi.

Post by Lord Revan » 2020-07-02 05:19am

Formless wrote:
2020-07-01 05:43pm


10) Orbital bombardment ships. Now, I disagree with Lord Revan on this: you don't have to be genocidal to use orbital bombardment. The original "rods from God" concept was an alternative to conventional bunker buster bombs, not a WMD. It can be scaled up to destroy whole cities, but that isn't necessary. Orbital artillery can be very precise if you want it to be, although there will always be a delay compared to conventional artillery or bombing the enemy with aircraft. Also, if the planet has an atmosphere you can't use energy weapons for this purpose. They just don't penetrate atmospheres very well, unless you want to get into maser weapons (which are more useful for defenders on the ground shooting attackers in space than the other way around).

Orbital bombardment in fiction is usually done by regular ships, but that isn't necessarily the best way to go about it. Again, energy weapons don't penetrate atmospheres very well, and projectiles that work in space aren't ideal for dropping on a planet (especially space-dust accelerators; obviously they won't work in an atmosphere at all). Its better for a ship in space to focus on one or two kinds of weapon systems, and those weapon systems will work best in a vacuum. Meanwhile, orbital artillery could be bulky enough you may not want all vessels to carry them. Having them delivered by the auxiliaries after you have dominance over a planet's orbital space makes just as much sense to me.
My point was against the idea that orbital bombardment is a silver bullet that eliminates the need for any ground forces, now as augment similar to current naval bombardment (or airstrikes) yeah for that orbital bombardment is good, but not as replacement for a ground invasion, planets are just too big for that to work without going fully genocidal.
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Re: Translating Non-standard modern ships to Sci Fi.

Post by Knife » 2020-07-11 11:17pm

Honestly, LHS, LST's, and other brown navy ships are more like what you'd see. Granted, I'd see more a submarine as an equivalent, but brown water navy ships like Marine landers or mini carriers close to actual models of space ships. You've have, at the very least, a combination of ship born navy and marine landers for the target planet. You'd have a combo of space placed secondary vessels and marine recon for the target system. You'd have the dedicated men and women to recon the planet, and equipment to fortify the colony.
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Re: Translating Non-standard modern ships to Sci Fi.

Post by Jub » 2020-07-12 07:15pm

Lord Revan wrote:
2020-07-02 05:19am
My point was against the idea that orbital bombardment is a silver bullet that eliminates the need for any ground forces, now as augment similar to current naval bombardment (or airstrikes) yeah for that orbital bombardment is good, but not as replacement for a ground invasion, planets are just too big for that to work without going fully genocidal.
Why do you need to invade at all? As long as you control the orbit of a planet the enemy can't launch anything, can't trade, and likely can't even radio for help as you've wiped their satellites. Now you just slowly pick off their launch platforms, industrial bases, etc, and wait for them to tap out. When you finally land boots on the ground you let them know that you'll burn cities for each soldier lost and force compliance.

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Re: Translating Non-standard modern ships to Sci Fi.

Post by Batman » 2020-07-12 07:33pm

What if they DON'T tap out? What if they're so fanatical they'd rather risk total obliteration than give in?
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Re: Translating Non-standard modern ships to Sci Fi.

Post by Lord Revan » 2020-07-12 08:05pm

Or are simply self sufficient enough that they won't quickly run out of essentials and at some point you've destroyed so much that it actually did cost you more then you would gain from it. It's the same reason why military aircraft didn't make ground troops obsolete.

Orbital bombardment is fine if all you want is to destroy and annihilate but if you have conquest in mind you'll have to deal with the after effects of said conquest as well. Same deal with maintaining dominance via orbital firepower, at some point you'll be left with so much to rebuild that it's not worth it anymore.
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Re: Translating Non-standard modern ships to Sci Fi.

Post by bilateralrope » 2020-07-12 08:15pm

Or there is someone stronger that you who is currently staying out of the conflict while it's limited to military assets being destroyed, but will get really angry if you intentionally cause mass civilian casualties.

Or maybe the civilians are quite willing to surrender. But their oppressive government is willing to let them burn.

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Re: Translating Non-standard modern ships to Sci Fi.

Post by Jub » 2020-07-12 08:58pm

Batman wrote:
2020-07-12 07:33pm
What if they DON'T tap out? What if they're so fanatical they'd rather risk total obliteration than give in?
Then you either make the hard call and send them back to the stone age or you maintain a permanent blockade and build automated systems that destroy anything that tries to leave the planet's atmosphere. They get to sit at the bottom of their planet's gravity well as every other rock in their solar system is mined out and converted into a Dyson swarm around their star. They get to sit back and watch as they become irrelevant in their own home system.
Lord Revan wrote:
2020-07-12 08:05pm
Or are simply self sufficient enough that they won't quickly run out of essentials and at some point you've destroyed so much that it actually did cost you more then you would gain from it. It's the same reason why military aircraft didn't make ground troops obsolete.

Orbital bombardment is fine if all you want is to destroy and annihilate but if you have conquest in mind you'll have to deal with the after effects of said conquest as well. Same deal with maintaining dominance via orbital firepower, at some point you'll be left with so much to rebuild that it's not worth it anymore.
YOU DON't FIGHT WARS IN SPACE FOR RESOURCES! The only reason you're fighting is because of unresolvable philosophical issues or because you literally want every last spec of carbon, hydrogen, gold, iron, etc. in the entire galaxy. If you're in for the later goal, you probably don't have any qualms about genocide or sterilizing planets before they can develop intelligent life.

What is the point of conquest when any interstellar civ worth a damn will have the ability to make habitats as good as or better to live on than a planet?
bilateralrope wrote:
2020-07-12 08:15pm
Or there is someone stronger that you who is currently staying out of the conflict while it's limited to military assets being destroyed, but will get really angry if you intentionally cause mass civilian casualties.

Or maybe the civilians are quite willing to surrender. But their oppressive government is willing to let them burn.
If there exists a stronger race you shouldn't start a war period because going to war proves to them that you aren't a neighbor that can be trusted. If you're at the end of a defensive war, and your enemy is pinned to their home planet, you've already had to murder trillions of their citizens as you remove their outposts, the start of their Dyson swarm, and whatever other worlds they have an industrial base on. What's another planet's worth at that point?

You're also left with the option of a permanent automated blockade that keeps them confined to their one rock never again to touch the heavens.

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Re: Translating Non-standard modern ships to Sci Fi.

Post by bilateralrope » 2020-07-12 10:53pm

Jub wrote:
2020-07-12 08:58pm
If there exists a stronger race you shouldn't start a war period because going to war proves to them that you aren't a neighbor that can be trusted.
They can trust you if they have a military that can hold you off.
If you're at the end of a defensive war, and your enemy is pinned to their home planet, you've already had to murder trillions of their citizens as you remove their outposts, the start of their Dyson swarm, and whatever other worlds they have an industrial base on. What's another planet's worth at that point?
So you defend genocide by saying that it's ok, because you've already been committing it for a while. Nice circular reasoning you've got there.

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Re: Translating Non-standard modern ships to Sci Fi.

Post by Jub » 2020-07-12 11:03pm

bilateralrope wrote:
2020-07-12 10:53pm
They can trust you if they have a military that can hold you off.
It doesn't take much effort on your part to use your Dyson swarms to turn your stars into WMDs capable of killing large chunks of their home systems. Or sending ram ships at fractions of C speeds into their systems to smash large and time consuming construction projects. Just because they will crush you in return doesn't mean that you're immune to whatever petty and childish act of genocide they may justify against you.
So you defend genocide by saying that it's ok, because you've already been committing it for a while. Nice circular reasoning you've got there.
That's the reality of a war between interstellar powers who've committed to expanding via von Neuman-style colonies and setting up Dyson swarms in their ever-expanding sphere of influence. Either you don't fight at all or you commit to killing trillions or quadrillions or other sentient beings.

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Re: Translating Non-standard modern ships to Sci Fi.

Post by Jub » 2020-07-12 11:38pm

Let's break down interstellar war in a hard sci-fi setting.

1) It won't be between equal powers because even a decade of technological difference means one side ought to have an insurmountable technological edge against the other. More likely there will be a hundred or thousand-year gap in the time it took intelligent life to reach the stage where they've become capable of interstellar colonization let alone interstellar war.

2) It won't be for resources unless one side wants literally every atom in the galaxy for themselves or every star is already colonized and somebody is still stupid enough to think they don't have enough.

3) They will be messy and expensive in a way that makes every war in Earth's history combined look like a good-natured snowball fight. There isn't any way around that as any given system may have trillions of people living in millions of space habitats and your only recourse is to either have them surrender or start blowing O'neil cylinder size habitats out of the sky until the enemy has surrendered or they're all dead.

4) If both sides have a Dyson shell you may well see each side using their stars as WMDs backed by relativistic kinetic weapons, bioweapons, von Neumann swarms, and all other manners of automated death that will keep coming long after one or both sides of the war are dead.

5) In no case will the resources gained by occupying the enemies systems be worth the losses you've taken and the resources you've diverted away from expansion.

The only reasons to go to war over interstellar distances in a hard sci-fi setting are that they want to exterminate you or you want to exterminate them. Any other reason doesn't past the cost-benefit analysis smell test.

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Re: Translating Non-standard modern ships to Sci Fi.

Post by Formless » 2020-07-12 11:46pm

Jub wrote:YOU DON't FIGHT WARS IN SPACE FOR RESOURCES! The only reason you're fighting is because of unresolvable philosophical issues or because you literally want every last spec of carbon, hydrogen, gold, iron, etc. in the entire galaxy. If you're in for the later goal, you probably don't have any qualms about genocide or sterilizing planets before they can develop intelligent life.

What is the point of conquest when any interstellar civ worth a damn will have the ability to make habitats as good as or better to live on than a planet?
I think you are assuming a bit too much. Resource wars aren't necessarily about scarcity of resources like people think, but rather about access to those resources. In many cases, a resource is plentiful on paper but not in practice. For instance, in an interplanetary setting I can very well see water wars being possible due to the difficulty in finding potable water nearer to the sun-- and keep in mind that water is important not just for biological puposes but also radiation shielding and chemical industry. You need water to make polyethelene, which is one of the best materials for shielding a station or spacecraft from Galactic Cosmic Rays. Sure, you can find plenty of water on Jupiter's moons and Saturn's rings, but in the early days when people are just colonizing the Moon, Earth's lagrange points, and Mars it will be a very important and non-trivial resource to access. Luna may have it in some craters and Mars has it locked away in its polar ice caps, but getting it offworld will be energy intensive, so colonists will definitely be looking for icy asteroids. Again, there is water trapped in them, but because it tends to sublimate out the closer you get to the Sun the less water you are going to find nearer to the inner planets. The far end of the asteroid belt will have more asteroids with high ice content (because we think some asteroids are former comets) but the distance you have to travel makes it non-trivial to access that water. The Kuiper belt and Oort cloud has the lions share of water in the solar system, but aside from comets on eliptical orbits that enter the plane of the Earth and Mars, that trip is absurdly long for near term colonization efforts to take advantage of it. You might eventually see specialized O'Neil style colonies made specifically for the outer solar system just to stay out there long term to gather and trade in water ice, but that's a long time in the future, and those colonists will have their own agendas and needs. They may be the underdogs like in The Expanse, or the opposite might be true and they become the economic elite due to their control over the pipeline. And even once you have a pipeline set up for transporting water ice from the outer solar system to the inner solar system, that pipeline is potentially fragile and politically important. Politics won't simply go away no matter how utopian you want to be about it, especially if you want to play around with transhumanist/cyberpunk themes in your story. That is why resource wars happen, not scarcity per-say.

You can do a similar excercise for many other resources in space. Some people assume that radioactive materials like uranium will be spread evenly throughout the solar system, but what if they're not? I don't think astronomers have been able to study the subject, and if it isn't then wherever the uranium is concentrated will become a potential source of conflict and inequity, both because of the potential for uranium to be weaponized and because of its uses in energy creation and propulsion. This is going to be true of any vital or valuable resource that is concentrated in some parts of the solar system but not others. And in an intergalactic setting, that becomes true of resources that are found in one part of the galaxy but not others. Think of Dune. The Spice drives conflict not because its scarce, but because its only found on one planet and so whoever controls that planet controls the entire galactic economy. Everyone knows this, so everyone bickers and schemes and fights for control of Arakis. That's how resource wars actually work. They're about control, not scarcity.
You're also left with the option of a permanent automated blockade that keeps them confined to their one rock never again to touch the heavens.
This proposition is absurd on its face, because all it takes is a third party to decide "fuck your automated weapons platforms, they are unethical, immoral and a navigational hazard", so they are going to blow the shit out of them and whoever deployed the damn things. And now instead of a war with a planet, you are at war with someone willing to possibly blow holes in your O'Neil cylinders and domed cities because they know you practice Total War, and the only possible way to fight against that kind of threat is with Total War. Space is not a place where you want to practice Total War. Especially if the only world you have that is naturally inhabitable is Earth, as the colonists out at the asteroid belt, Jupiter, Saturn, and the Kuiper Belt will feel they need the biodiversity of the Earth intact in order to survive the coming centuries despite their wealth due to water money; so if the Martians blockade Earth permanently, they will cut the Martians off from water and send warships to start capturing Space colonies and asteroid mines supplying Mars with water. The same applies if its Zeon trying this in a Gundam style setting-- in fact, in Gundam it is precisely the moment they decided to drop a space colony on Earth that the political zeitgeist turned against them because other space colonies now saw them as a threat rather than a political ally against the Elitists running Earth. Do you see why this is a bad idea yet or do I have to spell it out even further?

Besides, these settings will have pretty damn unimaginable population sizes due to the vast expansion of habitable land that humanity has access to, which means greater room for internal division among the populace waging the war. So committing to such a long term blockade is just infeasible. And if you think it could last long enough to see a Dyson swarm evolve around a blockaded planet, I may even go so far as to call it wank.
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Re: Translating Non-standard modern ships to Sci Fi.

Post by Jub » 2020-07-13 12:15am

Yes, war does make slightly more sense in a single system setting where one faction seeks to monopolize a resource that they currently have a large stockpile of, but it also behoves that same faction to realize that those who are sunward of them have a far easier time generating power and can very easily send beams of deadly radiation at them if they press that advantage too hard. They also control 99.9% of the mass in the solar system so while Jupiter seems like hot shit in the near tear the sun will eventually be the only place worth living.
Formless wrote:
2020-07-12 11:46pm
I think you are assuming a bit too much. Resource wars aren't necessarily about scarcity of resources like people think, but rather about access to those resources. In many cases, a resource is plentiful on paper but not in practice. For instance, in an interplanetary setting I can very well see water wars being possible due to the difficulty in finding potable water nearer to the sun-- and keep in mind that water is important not just for biological puposes but also radiation shielding and chemical industry.
There are millions of tons of water on Mercury, let alone the oxygen locked up in its rocks. Combine that with the free hydrogen you can syphon from the sun and you're not hurting for water. Or do you really think people are going to war because Mercury and the rocks that orbit close to the Sun aren't water-rich enough?
You can do a similar excercise for many other resources in space. Some people assume that radioactive materials like uranium will be spread evenly throughout the solar system, but what if they're not?
Give me one reason why they wouldn't be and I'll consider the question.
Think of Dune. The Spice drives conflict not because its scarce, but because its only found on one planet and so whoever controls that planet controls the entire galactic economy. Everyone knows this, so everyone bickers and schemes and fights for control of Arakis. That's how resource wars actually work. They're about control, not scarcity.
There simply isn't any reason to believe that such a resource exists in reality. Let alone the psychic nonsense and FTL travel that make Dune work as a setting.
This proposition is absurd on its face, because all it takes is a third party to decide "fuck your automated weapons platforms, they are unethical, immoral and a navigational hazard", so they are going to blow the shit out of them and whoever deployed the damn things. And now instead of a war with a planet, you are at war with someone willing to possibly blow holes in your O'Neil cylinders and domed cities because they know you practice Total War, and the only possible way to fight against that kind of threat is with Total War.
Why didn't they say that about the other side when the war started? Why didn't they make it clear that if a war starts they'll cut trade lanes to both sides? It's not logical to start a war in space but if you do start one there's zero reason not to play for keeps.
Space is not a place where you want to practice Total War. Especially if the only world you have that is naturally inhabitable is Earth, as the colonists out at the asteroid belt, Jupiter, Saturn, and the Kuiper Belt will feel they need the biodiversity of the Earth intact in order to survive the coming centuries despite their wealth due to water money;
Were they too dense to grab DNA samples and bring a seed bank with them before they left? If so they deserve to get fucked and if not they just need a decent exo-womb and some cloning knowledge to grow anything they might want. It's even easier if they can synthesize DNA and only need digital samples.
so if the Martians blockade Earth permanently, they will cut the Martians off from water and send warships to start capturing Space colonies and asteroid mines supplying Mars with water.
Mars has shit tons of water though and there's very little reason to live on Mars itself when you can live in orbit and strip mine Mars faster than Earth can mine itself due to not needing to worry about an existing biosphere.
The same applies if its Zeon trying this in a Gundam style setting-- in fact, in Gundam it is precisely the moment they decided to drop a space colony on Earth that the political zeitgeist turned against them because other space colonies now saw them as a threat rather than a political ally against the Elitists running Earth. Do you see why this is a bad idea yet or do I have to spell it out even further?
The same Gundam that has magic radiation, humanoid mecha, and nonsense like new types is your example...
Besides, these settings will have pretty damn unimaginable population sizes due to the vast expansion of habitable land that humanity has access to, which means greater room for internal division among the populace waging the war. So committing to such a long term blockade is just infeasible. And if you think it could last long enough to see a Dyson swarm evolve around a blockaded planet, I may even go so far as to call it wank.
How are you going to threaten a self-sustaining O'neil cylinder that only needs to top up on water and hydrogen ever few hundred years? Your options are basically limited to trying to form a political alliance to cut them off from the communications network or blowing them up. The very fractured factions idea you've touched upon means that even if you won't trade with them somebody else will.

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Re: Translating Non-standard modern ships to Sci Fi.

Post by Formless » 2020-07-13 05:04am

Jub wrote:Yes, war does make slightly more sense in a single system setting where one faction seeks to monopolize a resource that they currently have a large stockpile of, but it also behoves that same faction to realize that those who are sunward of them have a far easier time generating power and can very easily send beams of deadly radiation at them if they press that advantage too hard. They also control 99.9% of the mass in the solar system so while Jupiter seems like hot shit in the near tear the sun will eventually be the only place worth living.
I'm... sorry, but have you ever done the research about what it takes to make a free electron X-ray laser? Depending on the technology in the setting, it may not actually be possible, or you may not be able to build one without sparking a war with the outer planets before your strategic weapon is done. They will be watching and spying on you if there is any kind of tension between your two colonies. And any laser of a lower frequency would be completely useless, because the visual spectrum lacks the energy density to hurt things over interplanetary distances. Remember, lasers lose intensity due to diffraction over a distance, so just because you can light up a spacecraft in orbit of Jupiter doesn't mean you can damage it. Instead of a point of light the size of a football like you want the laser to be, you get a huge spotlight bigger than the spacecraft itself. Yes, even if that spacecraft is a full sized O'Neil cylinder. The irony is that this means lasers have an absolute range limit while projectiles, which follow Newton's first law of motion, do not.

Oh, and particle beams have the same problem, plus a few more because of electromagnetic charge. And I'm not certain they could even pass through the Jovian magnetic field anyway.

But wait! What if you send a relay that re-focuses the laser closer to the target? Well, that can certainly be done, but the problem is that every time you do so the laser loses some of its energy. So you can only re-focus it about six or seven times, so that only brings the range up to... about the distance between Earth and Mars, not Mars and Jupiter. Oh, and the elements that re-focus the beam are technically warships anyway, which could just as easily bring their own weapons instead, and probably have to because the Jovian colonists are going to be shooting back once they realize you are at war with them. The delay between firing the laser and it reaching the refocusing lenses is significant enough that they are only useful for strategic attacks, like orbital bombardment of airless moons. Oh, and you better hope they don't decide to send some trojan asteroids falling towards your base on Mars, because you are literally downhill from them in the Sun's gravity well. You have to take the downsides of being close to the sun as well as the upsides.

And take into consideration as well that if there are colonies around Saturn, they will be distant from the Jovian colonists in space and therefore politically and culturally distant as well. How you deal with one outer planet will inform how the others see you, though they won't be a unified block by necessity. They all, however, will have certain common interests such as the water trade and a need for Terran biodiversity in order to thrive long term. So any war with one will likely spark tensions with another, and at any given moment Jupiter and Saturn are in very different parts of the sky, so if you feel like you have to fire at one, the other will be on a different vector should they decide to enter the war, complicating any war plan, even one where you have an X-ray laser at your disposal. It can only fire in one direction at a time, after all, and you won't be the only one able to build such a thing.

Point is, you shouldn't get cocky about fighting a dedicated colony in the outer solar system. They have many important strategic advantages, but will still have interests in the inner solar system economically, socially, and biologically. Space colonization may be intended to help keep Humanity from going extinct, but that doesn't mean we can afford to lose Earth's ecosystem entirely in a realistic future. And the people most aware of that will be the people most distant from Earth, and thus the most vulnerable if its biodiversity is damaged. The Expanse definitely gets this right.
There are millions of tons of water on Mercury, let alone the oxygen locked up in its rocks. Combine that with the free hydrogen you can syphon from the sun and you're not hurting for water. Or do you really think people are going to war because Mercury and the rocks that orbit close to the Sun aren't water-rich enough?
Do you actually know how those extraction processes work, or are you just assuming they are easy because it sounds easy to you?

Look, your first mistake is thinking that just because the resource is there it is easy to extract it. But even landing on Murcury is a pain in the arse, and has never been done because the fucking planet is so close to the fucking sun. Once you are there, the only part of the planet that can be lived on are polar craters that are eternally in shadow, keeping them absolutely freezing. On the upside, that's also the only reason water can even exist on Murcury in liquid or solid form, so you will be able to access frozen ice. However, the entire colony will have to face numerous challenges due to simultaneously living in perpetual shadow, yet if you put mirrors up to reflect sunlight into the crater that mirror will be amazingly hot from the intensity of the sun. But okay, that can be solved. What about the oxygen?

This brings us to your second mistake. The very fact the oxygen is locked up in rocks means its not accessible, dumbass! We're talking about oxidized compounds here, not free gaseous oxygen you can just drill a hole into the planet and pump out like it was oil. You have to go to great pains to extract it chemically from the rock it is bound to, and the process takes energy to achieve. Oxygen is a very reactive element, which means it binds pretty tightly to many of those elements in those rocks. Its not impossible, but you are going to far more effort to get oxygen from rock than to grab water ice from a passing comet and extract oxygen from that via electrolysis; or in other words doing things in the reverse order you propose. Especially because-- and this is important!-- the oxygen is locked up in rocks all over and inside of the planet. Its difficult to extract because it isn't concentrated anywhere. Instead its pretty much everywhere in the most useless way possible.

But the real kicker is the part about hydrogen. Oh, lordy, your idiocy on that one is legend. What the sun spews out isn't hydrogen, its solar protons. Hydrogen nuclei flying away from the sun at hundreds to thousands of kilometers per second. They are actually a significant radiation hazard that space colonies and spacecraft have to be shielded against because they can easily kill organisms like humans that aren't protected by a strong planetary magnetic field, such as Earth's. So if these aren't hydrogen atoms, where are the electrons? For some reason, the sun emits them about 30 degrees above and below the Earth's orbital plane. I don't understand the physics behind that, they just do. But even if the Sun was spewing out whole hydrogen atoms, it wouldn't matter. You could not possibly make it worth it to collect them, both because of their velocity, but more importantly because they cover a volume far too diffuse to collect any useful amount of hydrogen! Once again, just like trying to extract oxygen from rocks, its far easier to just collect water from other parts of the solar system and extract hydrogen from it via electrolysis. This is actually what I was talking about when I said that water is important to the chemical industry that would be needed in space, but you apparently haven't done the same amount of research on the topic of space colonization that I have done, or you would have known that this is why asteroid mining companies (yes, they already exist) very much want to find asteroids with high concentrations of water. Its not all about the platinum and rare earth elements, the water is very, very useful as rocket fuel, which in turn makes it easier to return those rare earth elements to Earth.

Point is, I don't think anyone would even bother colonizing Mercury because many of the necessary resources will have to come from elsewhere, and there is no economic benefit to colonizing that planet over objects farther away from the blazing heat of the sun.
Give me one reason why they wouldn't be and I'll consider the question.
Obviously the concept of "speculation" is alien to you. Even though it is the basis for the entire genre...

Look, the fact that Uranium is not evenly distributed on Earth itself means we cannot assume it is evenly distributed throughout the solar system as well. In fact, its believed that all the uranium we have on Earth's surface today-- and possibly the gold, platinum, and rare earth metals-- probably wasn't there at the moment the Earth formed, because all that uranium would have sunk to the Earth's core and is what is keeping it warm even now. The uranium we find on Earth's surface must have come from cosmic events, such as the collision of neutron stars in Earth's trajectory through the Galaxy, which would have created uranium through something called the R process (basically, when degenerate matter escapes a neutron star colliding with another neutron star, it reverts back to normal matter, primarily heavy elements). The solar system may have flown through such a cloud of heavy elements, peppering the Earth and other planets with the uranium we find on Earth today. But like I said, it isn't found evenly distributed on the planet for whatever reason, so we can't assume its evenly distributed on the rest of the planets either. For further consideration, consider that not all moons, planets, and asteroids have the same material composition. We know for a fact that their density changes, and their elemental compositions differ. Mercury has more metal in its core, which is why its smaller than Mars but has the same gravity. The Galilean moons are very different from each other in terms of composition and structure. We even have a whole categorization system for asteroids that sorts them by material composition. Simply put, the solar system is not homogeneous. Period.
There simply isn't any reason to believe that such a resource exists in reality. Let alone the psychic nonsense and FTL travel that make Dune work as a setting.
If what you just said was true, then water wars wouldn't be a thing. But they are a thing. And they are a thing because water has to move from place to place, and humans have been interfering in that movement for thousands of years. You aren't comprehending the basis of the argument. If I had brought up Helium-3 would you have been so quick to dismiss the concept? Because we know helium-3 isn't everywhere in the solar system. We know that because the shit is extremely rare on Earth. And yet it would make for excellent fusion fuel. If you can find a whole bunch of it in one place but little of it elsewhere in the solar system, it becomes something people will compete for access to. There are other fusion fuels, but that aren't all as convenient as Helium-3.
Why didn't they say that about the other side when the war started? Why didn't they make it clear that if a war starts they'll cut trade lanes to both sides? It's not logical to start a war in space but if you do start one there's zero reason not to play for keeps.
Do you not understand how neutrality works? I'm not doing all your homework for you, this shouldn't be a question I have to answer. If you are going to discuss the causes of war, you must first understand the basic political concepts surrounding war. A neutral nation can trade with whoever they want. Its only when they exclusively trade with one belligerent in a war that the other side tends to get pissy with them. Seriously, go buy a history book, then get back to me.
Were they too dense to grab DNA samples and bring a seed bank with them before they left? If so they deserve to get fucked and if not they just need a decent exo-womb and some cloning knowledge to grow anything they might want. It's even easier if they can synthesize DNA and only need digital samples.
Get back to me when you have studied even a small fraction of the basic biological science needed to even begin explaining to you the difference between a digitized(!) DNA sequence and a living organism, let alone a whole fucking ecosystem, you complete wanker. :roll:
Mars has shit tons of water though and there's very little reason to live on Mars itself when you can live in orbit and strip mine Mars faster than Earth can mine itself due to not needing to worry about an existing biosphere.
I already said it takes non-trivial energy to move water ice out of the gravity well of Mars or the Moon, please for the love of god read before posting. Especially if what you are going to post is fucking quote spaghetti, which is the most obnoxious form of argumentation known to man. It is not necessary or useful for you to respond to me sentence by sentence, especially if you are just going to argue something I already wrote the counterargument to!
The same Gundam that has magic radiation, humanoid mecha, and nonsense like new types is your example...
Who gives a shit? The example illustrates a STRATEGIC AND POLITICAL aspect of the argument, you dumbfuck. If I had used the Death Star as my example instead, bringing up the existence of The Force in the setting would be just as irrelevant. Are you trying to pad your word count to impress me? Because it only makes you look sad, and wastes everyone's time.
How are you going to threaten a self-sustaining O'neil cylinder that only needs to top up on water and hydrogen ever few hundred years? Your options are basically limited to trying to form a political alliance to cut them off from the communications network or blowing them up. The very fractured factions idea you've touched upon means that even if you won't trade with them somebody else will.
Says the guy who proposed blockades as an alternative to orbital bombardment of a hostile planetary civilization, and who brought up Dyson swarms, a concept that stems from extrapolating resource usage trends into the distant future. :roll:

Idiot.
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