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Monthly Archives: August 2009

One day there will a global wifi network that you can reach from anywhere in the world. I’m really wishing that day would come soon.

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Going to Europe, brb.

I talked a bit on why colonise planets, now lets move on to which planets to colonise.

Well, first you need a star, no point colonising anything that’s 4 Kelvin on a good day, but even with a large solar body in the area you really want to aim for something in the Goldilocks Zone. In this area liquid water can exist on the surface and the planetary body can hold atmosphere, though so far no world found in this zone has actually possessed any form of eukaryotic life. In Vast Worlds, you can also aim to colonise in a much broader range (generally referred to by the scout core as the Sweat Spot) which, not possessing natural liquid water, can be altered by biological or mechanical means to support life.

This, for the purposes of the story, gives you a planet in a Sweat Spot every forty light-years or so, but a few other factors tend to drive this number up. Gravity is a big problem as it is phenomenally expensive to run Grav’ panels twenty four seven and it rather defeats the point of living on the ground, so worlds tend to have a surface pull of about .75 to 1.25 G, any more and it starts to get extremely difficult for terrestrial life to survive and humans tend to fall apart under lifetimes of high or low G.

Also to consider is the makeup of the system. If the heaviest element for a couple parsecs is Lithium then you are going to have to ship in water, and that gets uneconomical fast. Likewise, if the topsoil is ninety percent uranium you don’t have a prayer of settling anything permanent.

Element mix also affects the cost of colonisation. Too much water can doom a colony because to get a surface you’d need a temperature of -5 and even then the majority of the land is under a glacier. Likewise, have too much nitrogen and by the time the air is breathable the pressure is at ten bar. There are at least a dozen such worlds, some with small outposts, which are all slated for colonisation ‘when the money is there’. Privately, the governments and corporations controlling these just want to make sure no one with a clever idea takes the planet while they still consider it unfeasible.

Finally, we have rotation. Now this is often the final nail in the coffin for a prospective Sweat Spot world. Too much spin sends the tectonics crazy and tends to give you weather than can scour a mountain down to the bedrock. On the other hand, too little spin and you get wild temperature fluctuations and a day night cycle that will kill all photosynthetic life unless it is modified to an extent it might as well be alien.

Getting a planet in these bands is understandably rare, which is why they are so highly prized when they are discovered, and why you can get a mini-turf war when a good world is found. After all, it is not who finds a world first who owns it; it is those that survive long enough to call the surface home.

One of the things that comes up a lot in far future fiction is the question of why live on a planet? They aren’t actually very nice places, the temperature fluctuates, bacteria run rife, they are incredibly high maintenance (if you want a developed society) and they are pretty difficult to get anywhere near Earth standard.

Contrast with living in space where you:

  • Have access to plentiful raw materials (in the form of asteroids, comets, maybe even moons and planets after a while)
  • Have access to large amounts of solar energy without that nasty atmosphere getting in the way.
  • Can reach anywhere in the solar system with an ion drive and a solar panel.
  • Have a theoretically infinite area to expand into.
  • Have perfect control over your environment.

Now, in Vast Worlds people live on planets, and most are actively terraforming them, so why is it logical?

Well, partly it isn’t, living in space would theoretically be better than living on planets, in the long term, but there are several key facets of the Vast Worlds universe that make gravity bound living desirable.

First, we have Null panels, or rather the energy efficiency they can bring. Basically, the power generation technology of the universe is a hundred years ahead of its time and this changes the economics quite significantly. Power to refine materials, power to light homes, power to terraform planets and travel interstellar distances is not only available, but in surplus, and this means that there is no reason to be in space for power and material reasons, only living area and environmental control are important, and that brings me onto my second point.

Populations in Vast Worlds are not huge; it is only a hundred years hence after all, and the amount of interstellar travel means that humanity is fairly diffuse. On average there are about 50-100 million people per solar system[1], which even my modern densities is only about a small country. A planet of roughly Earth area can support many times that, and have room to grow for millennia.

Then, we have environmental control, which is actually common between space and terrestrial living in this incidence. The humans of Vast Worlds have found no naturally habitable planets at this time. There have been those that technically possessed liquid water, or could support life if the greenhouse effect wasn’t quite so bad, but so far life hasn’t been found outside of the prokaryote stage. So producing oxygen, water and food in gravity is fairly similar to producing it out of gravity, and thanks to Grav’ panels it’s almost identical.

This leads to the final reason for terrestrial living. The humans have no experience with living in space but plenty for living on and terraforming planets. In the end the picked planets and lived with the gravity, plus got a whole new biosphere out of it just in case anything destroyed Earth.


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[1] Quite a lot are around Sol, though not necessarily on Earth.