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Re: Re: starship-design: Re: Perihelion Maneuver

In a message dated 12/1/97 10:05:27 AM, lparker@cacaphony.net wrote:

>On Monday, December 01, 1997 7:35 AM, Isaac Kuo [SMTP:kuo@bit.csc.lsu.edu] 
>> Huh?  What?  You're saying that car speeds are governed by highway
>> speed limits on race tracks?
>IMSA and NASCAR have required governors on race vehicles for years...
>> The size of the engines are smaller, but not much lighter.
>Hmm, you should try to lift the four cylinder engine in my old Willy's 
>> >Theres no reason to since the military personel of today can't point
>> >significantly more acurately then those of 40-50 years ago.
>> Actually, there is every reason to increase the performance of small
>> arms in terms of reducing ammo size/weight, which has a dramatic
>> impact on logistics.  (It also allows carrying more ammunition and
>> weight).  Also, if ammunition size/weight can be dramatically reduced,
>> it allows firing much larger bursts, which _does_ increase hit
>> probability.
>Actually, when the US Army went looking for a new weapon to replace their 
>WWII vintage rifles their was quite a bit of heated debate. It seems that 
>of all the ammunition expended in WWII only one round in a million actually 
>hit someone. One faction wanted to purchase a more accurate semi-automatic 
>weapon and force the troops to learn to AIM them.

The army finaly realized they could put a chep camera on the gun and a
display in the helmat and let the solders fire the gun at arms length while
behind cover.  Also such a scoped, computer corrected sight would be easier
to aim.  Er.. assuming you know where they are and don't just want to fire in
the direction to keep their heads down.

>The other faction claimed that the lives of our soldiers were more 
>important than hitting a target and that this would be best achieved with a 
>fully automatic weapon that would at least (hopefully) force the enemy to 
>keep their heads down whether we hit anything or not. As you can see, the 
>M14 lost and the M16 won. Guess which weapon is preferred by special forces 
>snipers and civilian competition shooters?

Actually M16s are popular among competition shooters, and snippers have newer

As an aside.  Why did they arm trops in a jungle fight with long barel, light
bullet, machine guns?  Its not lkike they could ever see anything fartherr
then 6 feet from them.

>I think the prevalence of alternative arms (mostly illegal)in Vietnam may 
>have finally changed the minds of the powers that be. Evidence the Squad 
>Automatic Weapon competition. The Army has since decided that only a few 
>troops actually need fully automatic weapons and has changed their 
>strategy. Meanwhile, we are stuck with all of those M16s..

I just read that the next gun will still be a selectable full/semi-auto rifle
firing the M-16s bullets.

>> However, the physics of aerodynamics and chemistry of explosives has
>> prevented us from making any dramatic advances in small arms.
>> Logistics concerns _have_ prompted reducing ammo size/weight, but
>> at the expense of performance.
>There have in fact been a plethora of advancements in both weapon and 
>ammunition size, weight, and performance. These in turn have necessitated 
>improvements in armor and tactics as well. Even so, modern body armor is no 
>match for the weapons that are now freely available on the market - weapons 
>that have been developed in the last few years. Just ask your local 

And past that the bullets big game hunters use make those look like cap guns!

>Now to try and put this back on topic...


>Scientific and technological advancements tend to run in cycles, short 
>spurts followed by a period of consolidation and incremental improvement. 
>Most theorist think that we are nearing the end of a slow period and should 
>begin seeing new breakthroughs in the next twenty years. If for no other 
>reason than the sheer amount of new information that we are acquiring.
>Looking back at the past fifty years, only a few of the advancements we 
>have made were even dreamed of, most were simply so far beyond the bounds 
>of what was then known as to be inconceivable. I remember when the laser 
>was invented. There were all sorts of predictions of the things it would do 
>for us, a lot of which never happened. There have been many other things it 
>has done though, things that we never even dreamed of then, simply because 
>there were too many layers of technology missing.
>Today's innocuous idea may become tomorrow's wonder invention, there simply 
>isn't any way to tell in advance. The only thing that is certain is that 
>things will have changed enormously fifty years from now, and other than 
>perhaps the broadest of outlines, we cannot really predict what will 

Agreed.  Best we can do is pick likely or unlikely advances, and keep to
systems that seem to have a good mix of simplicity and performance.

For example:

If we wait for physics to come up with major changes (zero-point energy,
inertia damping, gravity control, etc..) we could get fantasic increases in
performance, speed, etc.  But we haven't a clue what might be discovered and
perfected in the next 50 years.

Anti-matter ships have great performance, and use known physics, but carrying
hundreds of tons of the stuff for decades is a major problem (and danger to
nearby solar systems!), the engine designs have serious problems compared to
fusion, and the manufacturing expence for the fuel would seem to dwarf the
other ideas.  But if we could cut the cost down, or create antimatter on
demand with a light low power systems (might be possible with some theorized
physics tricks) it would be great.

Bussards laser sail idea is light and efficent, but the drop sail idea
requires you to keep hundreds (or thousands?) of square miles of unanchored
foil precisely shaped into an optically precise form focused on a high speed
moving and manuvering target, that it can't see.

Fuel/sail avoids a 160,000 to 1 fuel ratio of a pure fusion rocket, and uses
cheap and plentifull fuel.  But it requers a massive array of solar powered
microwave sats in our solar system.

All in all we are down to designs that seems extreamly expensive, but
possible.  Or ones the requre unknown physics or technology.

Beter designs or tech could be usefull at this point.