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September 19 2007

Hard SF in Joss Whedon's Firefly. A blogger ponders on how 'Verse engineers could have increased a planet's surface gravity.

Interesting. I always enjoy reading articles and essays on the science of science fiction... as long as they're not designed to take the fun out of it.
Interesting blog. I find myself really liking the term terraformed because it explains everything (even if it really doesn't) that I need to know without making my head hurt.

Love stuff like this, it's like extra fun bolted on the side of the already fun-tastic science fiction.

Not sure about shrinking the molten core large amounts, wouldn't that have some effect on convection currents and therefore the planet's magnetic field ?

(which we'd need in order to avoid solar radiation and with it that nasty death stuff. It Comes From Outer Spaaaaccce ! Yep, it's Sp-death ;)

Also, what about angular momentum ? Wouldn't the planet spin faster too (since momentum's conserved but the radius is reduced) ? So a bigger coriolis effect, so batten the hatches for the mother of all storms ? On the plus side, maybe that thing with the bath water draining anti-clockwise in Australia would actually be true ('cept it'd be Sp-Australia obviously ;).
We're doing all this to increase gravity so we, uh, don't lose bone density? After we already made a major interstellar trip? I think I'm putting my ultra-long-term investment in medical advances instead.
Well, dreamlogic, your HMO may have issues with the laws of gravity. Check the fine print before you venture my friend;)

I also love this stuff and understood everything Saje mentioned. Guess I was paying attention in class after all. First, a molten core planet tends to become stable after its first billion birthday, that's the theory anyway. Mankind would not be able to effect that core in anyway to cause it to "shrink". Way out of our paygrade.
They have access to artificial gravity and inertial control. That might allow them to attract and bind lots of dark matter to moons, sufficient to produce Earthlike gravity.
Call me cynical, I've always thought the access to artificial gravity in scifi shows had more to do with the notorious lack of variety in gravitational fields at Earth filming locations than any sincere hard scifi extrapolation.

Good point about HMOs, Madhatter. No reason why Blue Sun can't make medical treatment more expensive than probably impossible gravity terraforming. It's not like they're operating under the constraints of any natural or human laws.
I'd say you need to know how they handle gravity in a small cargo ship (with a flick of the switch), before you worry about about surface gravity. The Alliance could afford an expensive city-sized "mass mover" to change the planet gravity in the old fashion way. Or considering what we've seen in the series, I could see the Alliance dropping asteroids from orbit. (Probably on top of the terraformers who were complaining that the gravity was too light.)

As much as people bash Star Trek for its technobabble, I remember reading a "Making of" the original series, where Rodenberry stated that drama has to come before scientific integrity. His argument was, how often do you hear a policeman explain the chemical process of gunpowder explosion before pulling out a gun? Or do you see a shot fired, and just accept what happens (bullets hurt/kill).
'Star Trek', much as it might trick the average viewer with all its singularities and graviton emitters, isn't hard sci-fi, it's very much soft or social sci-fi in sciencey clothes (and none the worse for it) in much the same way as 'Firefly'. For that sort of story the characters etc. are definitely more important. For hard sf the characters are important but the science is equally so IMO (and it's almost always the focus of the story).

(inertial dampers are hard with what we know, transporters are impossible with what we know - and pretty much the entire Next Gen universe is, ideologically at least, based on a variant of transporter technology)

We're doing all this to increase gravity so we, uh, don't lose bone density?

Bone density, schmone density, we need gravity to play Sp-Basketball a la 'Bushwacked'.

But yeah, the artificial gravity seems useful mainly for avoiding filming the entire show on the Vomit Comet in 30 second chunks - 'chunks' being the operative word ;) - cos if they can control gravity to the switch it on/off extent you'd think they'd have some pretty amazing tech floating around (ba dum dum ;).

Course, the great thing about the 'verse is, Joss can always say "That tech was around, just only for rich folks. Those on the rim ? Not so much" and we're all out of legs to stand on.

(and AFAIK, dark matter isn't necessarily any denser/more massive than the other kind Vrykos, could be wrong of course but I don't think we know what it's made of yet. They'd be better dropping neutronium into the centre of their moons. And by 'drop' I mean 'place very carefully'. Also, by "their moons" I mean "someone else's moon first to see what happens" ;)

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