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  1. #76
    I like SF. SF is cool. Steven L Jordan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pennarin View Post
    This entire conversation has been rather meta, and unsatisfying.
    Trust me, it's been unsatisfying to me as well. I'd hoped to stimulate useful conversation, not listen to argument for the sake of argument, science deniers and defense of indefensible tropes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pennarin View Post
    At this point I'd suggest to create another thread altogether, with a similar subject but different premise.
    Whatever idea you'd like to examine... feel free to start one.
    Last edited by Steven L Jordan; August 13th, 2012 at 03:40 PM.

  2. #77
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    Steven, I think part of the problem of you trying to get a proper discussion going is that everyone now looks for a theory before they try building anything and if they can't find a theory then as far as they are concerned it can not be built.

    To me, as a now retired engineer, this attitude is totally back to front. If the Victorians had waited for the theory to emerge there would a very different world today because most of the inventions of that time would never have been made.

    One of the questions we should be asking ourselves is why we have allowed this state to be perpetuated. As an engineer I don't need to know the theory of how a thing works, I am quite satisfied that it does and can therefore be used to do its job.

    We have let theorists take over the running of science, even Einstein got it wrong, when they should be explaining what the engineers are doing after they have done it.

    We will never have more than a token space presence until some engineers start thinking 'out of the box' and produce something really new. For example there has to be a better way of getting into space than riding what is essentially an exploding totem pole. NASA is going backwards in their thinking not forwards and until the reverse that there will be stagnation.

  3. #78
    Webmaster, Great SF&F owlcroft's Avatar
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    Scope and scale.

    [I]t's one thing to say "we don't know everything"--which, of course, we don't--and another to ignore the facts we do know about science and nature, and assume we'll simply find a workable brute-force method and "prove those facts wrong".
    While it is commonly said that new science typically builds on rather than "proves wrong" old science, the truth is that typically--and more and more so as our progress accelerates--the "expansion" of scope is so huge that it amounts to a whole new world revealed.

    Picture the world a mere couple of centuries ago. Now look at what is routine in our world, and ask yourself how much of that would have been, if depicted in a fiction, regarded by even the learned of 1812 as impossible, nonsensical poppycock? Probably most or all of it. Despite the fact that no one has exactly "proven Newton wrong".

    And, as I say, the pace accelerates.

  4. #79
    A chuffing heffalump Chuffalump's Avatar
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    Personally I always liked Harry Harrison's (I think) Bloater Drive. He expanded the ship to the same size as the galaxy and then shifted the centre of gravity before contracting back to normal size. The shift in C.O.G. caused the contraction to centre in a different part of the galaxy. Hey Presto FTL.

    Totally impractical but entertaining anyway.

  5. #80
    I like SF. SF is cool. Steven L Jordan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ivanj View Post
    One of the questions we should be asking ourselves is why we have allowed this state to be perpetuated. As an engineer I don't need to know the theory of how a thing works, I am quite satisfied that it does and can therefore be used to do its job.

    We have let theorists take over the running of science, even Einstein got it wrong, when they should be explaining what the engineers are doing after they have done it.
    Quantum theory is the basis for all modern electronics. Despite the fact that we don't know exactly how it works, we know enough to use quantum effects to run our gadgets.

    Quote Originally Posted by ivanj View Post
    We will never have more than a token space presence until some engineers start thinking 'out of the box' and produce something really new. For example there has to be a better way of getting into space than riding what is essentially an exploding totem pole. NASA is going backwards in their thinking not forwards and until the reverse that there will be stagnation.
    Agreed: A better system than current rocket tech is needed to make ground-to-orbit transportation (and the return) more workable and controllable. (I elected to skip this particular issue in my Verdant series.)

  6. #81
    Registered User Pennarin's Avatar
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    As an aside, wasn't there an old system of propelling a pusher plate-equipped craft from below using x-ray lasers, until orbit is achieved? It's been used in many SF stories, but is wholy unrealistic now because of - IIRC - the energy needed. The advent of fusion energy should deal with that part.

  7. #82
    I like SF. SF is cool. Steven L Jordan's Avatar
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    That's a possibility. Another is railgun technology... if we can sacrifice craft control. I do think we might still have room for enough engine improvement, allowing us to better power ourselves into orbit... but we should look to other ways of getting spaceborne as well.

  8. #83
    Registered User Pennarin's Avatar
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    Reynold's new Blue Remembered Earth has a giant underground railgun that shoots a payload that is then fired upon by several lasers that circle the railgun tube along it's length. I imagine the tube is also in vacuum and it's cap opens at the last second.

  9. #84
    I like SF. SF is cool. Steven L Jordan's Avatar
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    I think the ultimate method would be a space elevator for human and cargo transit, and including a space skyhook that spacebound ships would attach to, to be lifted into orbit and possibly returned to ground as well. That would remove a lot of the control issues generally required for powered flight and re-entry, allow non-aerodynamic craft to leave and re-enter, and replace explosive rockets with any safe power source that can run a railgun-type system.

  10. #85
    Quote Originally Posted by Steven L Jordan View Post
    Quantum theory is the basis for all modern electronics. Despite the fact that we don't know exactly how it works, we know enough to use quantum effects to run our gadgets.
    I'm not sure what you mean by this? As far as I know, quantum theory isn't used for any electrical devices, modern or otherwise. Things like using quantum entanglement for communication and quantum computing are still theories.

  11. #86
    I like SF. SF is cool. Steven L Jordan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by phil_geo View Post
    I'm not sure what you mean by this? As far as I know, quantum theory isn't used for any electrical devices, modern or otherwise. Things like using quantum entanglement for communication and quantum computing are still theories.
    Yes, quantum entanglement, quantum computing, etc, are still theoretical; but the basic actions and interactions of subatomic particles are also considered part of quantum theory, originally developed in the early 20th century, and guided our development of integrated circuit technology even before we were sure what exactly was happening down there.

  12. #87
    I like SF. SF is cool. Steven L Jordan's Avatar
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    Sorry, double-post.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steven L Jordan View Post
    Yes, quantum entanglement, quantum computing, etc, are still theoretical; but the basic actions and interactions of subatomic particles are also considered part of quantum theory, originally developed in the early 20th century, and guided our development of integrated circuit technology even before we were sure what exactly was happening down there.
    My bolding added.

    There is why I say we should let the engineers start to 'bend tin' before the theory is set. We might be surprised and pleased at what they produce.

  14. #89
    Not to beat this to death, but I'll say that I have worked on IC circuit design, and we never considered anything about quantum theory when doing it. Classical physics wass more than enough to give us headaches. Quantum effects are just too small to be of any practical use in essentially anything that has been produced to date in any field.

  15. #90
    Registered User mylinar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by phil_geo View Post
    Not to beat this to death, but I'll say that I have worked on IC circuit design, and we never considered anything about quantum theory when doing it. Classical physics wass more than enough to give us headaches. Quantum effects are just too small to be of any practical use in essentially anything that has been produced to date in any field.
    This point is very similar to Pi, and how the Von Daniken crowd uses this value being 'built into' the Great Pyramid proves ET helped us build the pyramids (since the Egyptians did not know of it).
    Fact though any structure built using a wheel as a measuring unit will have Pi 'built in'. Knowledge of Pi, or even the concept is not necessary to the practical aspects of the structure and its construction.

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