Monday, July 17, 2017

The Real Science Behind Louis Shalako's Tactics of Delay.

Louis Shalako

The real science behind my new novel and online serial, Tactics of Delay, is interesting, and yet I can only put so much info-dump into a military science fiction novel, which is a genre already tending in that direction. Quite frankly, it happens or it’s just too vague, with nothing scientific at all on which to hang the reader’s suspension of disbelief.

(This is why they always show an engine room, even though it’s just a bunch of lights on a panel and a dull hum in the background, with people standing around talking technical mumbo-jumbo. It gives readers or viewers something to relate to which has some familiarity in their everyday life.)

There’s a great deal of information to be put across, only so much of which can be conveyed by action, or exposition in dialogue. In a novel, I can’t just show them a picture or two and move on.

Even in this little blog post, I can only scratch the surface.

Explaining things in a military briefing, or working it in, bit by bit, paragraph by paragraph, as the story goes along, has its limitations.

You can only put so much in a ‘bit’, right? It is, by definition, just a tiny little bit of information mentioned in passing.

One of the technologies involves ‘tight-beam’ communications. This involves data encoded in a very short, relatively high-powered laser pulse. You don’t want the enemy to catch that, even if they can’t decode it. It is a piece of ‘predictive’ information. It can be analyzed, compared to other such bits of data, and, extrapolated into the future, it can give you away to predictive technologies. It’s fired at a receiver which for the sake of discussion is very much like a McDonald’s drinking straw with a sensor or pickup at the bottom of the tube. The transmitter is equally directional. You don’t want that signal going anywhere else but at your target. Assuming ship-to-ship or planet-to-planet communications, the signal is sent from one moving target to another moving target at vast distances. As an example, at billions of miles, a signal sent at noon from one location would be intercepted by another moving target at six o’clock that evening. This is ‘transit time’ at high-planetary/low-stellar distances. This requires predictive mathematics of the highest order. It requires perfect synchronization of the chronometers aboard both ships or on both planets. You have to know when and where the other guy is going to be. It also requires some scheduled interval for communications, in other words such long-distance communications would be planned ahead of time.

Considering the small size of the receiver tube, the shortness of the burst and the coding of the signal, such communication would be fairly secure from outside interception. This is simply unnecessary, even undesirable for civilian ships operating in peacetime, but utterly vital for war-craft, whose movements would be confidential, perhaps even in peacetime.

That depends on the current diplomatic situation. More on ‘soft science’ below.

If two ships were in close proximity, other methods of communication would be used minute by minute, including good old fashioned low-powered radio, or even flashing lights using something very much like Morse code. It doesn’t have to be in the visible spectrum, and the systems would be electronic. If you’re close enough, you can look out the window and wave at the other guy.

One of the things that sets space opera apart from ‘proper’ science-fiction is of course Faster than Light Travel, (FTL).

The general consensus among scientists is that FTL is, and always will be impossible.

This makes life a little more interesting for writers of science-fiction and space opera.

Readers love FTL, and that’s a consideration too. However, Chinese scientists have recently ‘transported’ a particle from Earth into Low Earth Orbit, and quantum science is advancing. 

What we once thought to be an immutable truth may turn out to be mistaken after all.

So that’s all I got to say on that subject.

Okay, somewhere in the story, I mention that Denebola-Seven has an orbit that is a bit egg-shaped. This is by no means impossible if one imagines a massive planet in an outer orbit, one that is going at such a speed that the two planets are in conjunction for long periods. 

Massive Planet-B will always be pulling Deneb-Seven outwards, even as both free-fall around the star. This only takes two bodies into consideration, and there may be others, including a couple of small moons of the planet itself. As they go around the planet, they will exert a force. This alone makes an orbit wobble. In this particular case, the narrow end of the orbit lies closest to the star Deneb. I also think this sort of orbit would be periodic. This is certainly true in geologic or systemic time-scales. That other planet would be unlikely to match speeds for all of eternity, for other bodies are also acting on it. Simply put, all orbits decay over time.

This is what we call 'entropy', the tendency for disorder to accumulate.

The fact is that all orbits wobble to some extent, with every single body in the system affecting every other body in the system to some degree, however great or small, depending on mass, velocity and orbital distance. Once the outer, more massive body had caught up to and passed Deneb-Seven, the orbit would revert to what would be considered a more ‘normal’ orbit.

Not unexpectedly, the troops are using Virtual Reality headsets and goggs, the Confederation has a surveillance satellite and both sides have battlefield drone aircraft. They have armoured vehicles, but it’s not steel armour anymore—it’s a tungsten-ceramic of the author’s own invention…(snork). And of course it’s sloped at the proper 60-degrees.

There are the softer sciences. While the latest in technology would undoubtedly be used in any conflict involving the wealthy, Home Worlds, with tens of billions in population in some cases, out on the fringes of human expansion, the planet Denebola-Seven has barely a million inhabitants. That’s not much of a tax base, and so they have contracted with The Organization, a private mercenary outfit, also associated with the Confederation, (a member planet in their own right). The Confederation is a political entity. But on such a planet, robotic soldiers, tanks, large numbers of ships and aircraft, massive space-based actions are insupportable because it all has to be paid for.

(I’ve been wracking my brains for a name, for the planet or group of planets where the Organization stems from, but really haven’t come up with anything good. Call it an intra-stellar commercial entity of mysterious origin, one with offices on fifty planets, and we'll leave it at that.)

If war is always a gamble, the gambler with the biggest wallet has a distinct advantage.

This is true because they can afford to take losses, for longer than their opponent. With their ten-to-one advantage in manpower and equipment, the Unfriendlies fit into this category. This is because the stakes in any game are only so big, this is, oddly enough, by mutual agreement  between warring parties. 

There is much soft science here.

They call it gambling because there is nothing guaranteed and you can always play so badly as to lose…the real skill lies in starting off with a smaller wallet, playing very well for as long as it takes, and then going home with some of that other guy’s money.

What’s interesting about this story is that the participants only have so much information.

They don’t always know everything that’s going on, and yet they’re facing, and coping with, information overload.

There will always be the battle for the hearts and minds of the people. This is one battle the Unfriendlies probably can’t win and they know it—more soft science.

As far as genetically-engineered super troops, humanity is expanding into the stars, money is hard enough to come by at the best of times, and resources are spread thin enough that it really isn’t necessary. A book is only so long and chemical, biological and nuclear warfare are mentioned only in passing, but then, they are hardly necessary considering the small size of the forces involved.

The Organization relies on training, and Confederation troops are some of the best-educated in the Galaxy.


Oh, look, I’ve got all these books on Kobo. (Sorry. Almost forgot the plug.) Some are science-fiction, then there’s mystery, fantasy, horror, a WW I memoir, all kinds of crazy stuff.

Thanks for reading.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please feel free to comment on the blog posts, art or editing.