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Regarding FTL in the World of Crimson Dark

Posted: Fri Feb 11, 2011 9:17 am
by Strain Of Thought
So, hey! Been reading this comic since I don't know when- I think around the time Websnark first blogged it, so... Chapter 3? Maybe Chapter 2?- and so the inevitable has come to pass at last and I have finally, finally registered for the forum.


Anyway, got into a discussion about webcomics with someone on the internet today, found out they were in Australia and immediately pointed them to this native creation, as I think David needs all the local fans he can get what with being cut off from the North American convention circuit, and the upshot was that I ended up re-reading the archives. A few things stuck out. The primary thing was that the comic's writing has evolved tremendously since the beginning. The dialogue feels a lot more natural and the characters much more alive- Kari, especially, who started out as a bit of an angsty Mary Sue protagonist, has evolved into an outstanding supporting character. I sincerely feel that CD has become an ensemble story, and it's so much more fantastic as a result.

The other big thing that stuck out was not so good. The ship designs do not seem to make any kind of consistent sense. The Scarborough's "variable alignment stabilizers" finally pushed me to the point that I had to come here to ask some questions about that. Have any rules at all been established for how stabilizers work, and consequently how they should be shaped, or are they just being tacked on in whatever way looks nicest? Because I am a champion bullshitter, and coming up with excuses for why my favorite SF properties still make sense is second nature for me, but I'm reaching the point where I'm having trouble doing that with CD's ships: while re-reading the archive, every time I came up with a new theory, the next ship introduced would spoil it.

Re: Regarding FTL in the World of Crimson Dark

Posted: Fri Feb 11, 2011 10:59 am
by Lokekar Kra
As far as I have gathered a single large stabilizer seems to work best for longer jumps. Greater efficiency or something of the like. Where as a smaller stabilizer/profile is better for short range jumps.

I recall David saying that even after a couple hundred years of using the technology it is still not fully understood and developed. Giving rise to why the behemoth ship could be used to transport non jump capable ships as some sort of bridge and it not be a given fact. The VAS also give credence to the idea people still know relatively little about jump technology. The major space power is using them on all its warships while out in the periphery people do not even know it is practical. Obviously people had not thought they were practical or perhaps newer refinements have made them practical.

Partly I think this is also why the Alliance has 'better' jump tech, their ships generally have a smaller profile than the Republic. I wonder if that means they make a long jump to a point 'just out of sight'. Then use a short jump to a precise point, leading to less possible drift on final appearance.

Re: Regarding FTL in the World of Crimson Dark

Posted: Fri Feb 11, 2011 11:16 am
by charles
Indeed. The writing is fantastic. If you really want a good example of David's writing, join the Supporter's club. Sure he's got wallpapers in there, which are nice, but a lot of artists make them and there's only so many wallpapers I can take. The gem are the extra stories he's written in there and they're not just good for getting some indepth knowledge beyond whats in the comic, they're excellently written (even the older ones) and just flow beautifully.

On Stabalisers. Here's something I've gathered together but there's more information to gather yet so it's by no means complete. I know David's explained Stabalisers quite nicely somewhere (probably in a news post under a page) but I haven't come across it yet. There's another post he's made on the Scarborough's Variable allignment stabalisers which explain why they're beneficial.
FASTER-THAN LIGHT travel through space is achieved through a series of "JUMPS", inititated by a starship's "JUMP DRIVE".

Jump Drives
Jump Drives generate a pocket of narya particles which temporarily shift a vessel into a hyperspacial dimension commonly known as "riftspace". The riftspace manifold is relative to, but dimensionally distinct from the space-time continuum. An object in riftspace acts as though the speed of light and gravitational constant of the universe were fluid and changeable. The result is that a vessel can travel at an unremarkable speed relative to riftspace, but appear to be travelling at many times the speed of light relative to the spacetime continuum. Technically speaking, the vessel is not moving "faster-than-light" because, as far as it is concerned, light is moving even faster.

Though a vessel travelling through riftspace is affected by spacetime, the vessel is effectively insubstantial and highly maleable. As a result , without precise calculations, a vessel can easily be smeared across space by any substantial gravitic mass (such as a star) - such a vessel would return to normal space as a cloud of dust or gas.

The calculations required for each jump can take minutes or hours, depending on the complexity of the jump. Jumping without properly calculating a course is tantamount to suicide. For safety and efficiency reasons, the standard practice is to calculate inter-stellar jumps from one system's edge to another, and then to calculate a second sub-system jump to reach the desired planet or station.

Jump Drives Explained
In its solid form, an ice-cube can't get to the other side of a sponge, but if we melt it, it can filter through the gaps in the sponge's structure. Once through, the ice-cube can then be re-frozen into it's previous form.

Jump-drives change the structure of the spaceship so that it is able to pass through the gaps in space, aka "riftspace". But there's a problem. A re-frozen ice-cube will have had all of its molecules rearranged while in liquid form. That's alright for water, but bad news for a Starship and its crew.

Stabalisers help to maintain a ship's basic structure while moving through riftspace. Stabiliser technology, though centuries old, is still in its infancy. They are the primary limitation on a ship's maximum jump speed and distance. There are many different approaches to stabiliser design, and they can vary considerably in appearance from one ship to another with some Starships employing wings while others use nacelles.

Jump Calculations
Even with stabilisers, ships are still highly maleable and vulnerable to the effects of gravity: stars, planets, asteroids, etc. Therefore complicated calculations must take place before each jump. This ensures that the ship, and its crew, won't end up smeared across hundreds of kilometres of space as a cloud of dust.

Jump Signatures
When a ship jumps into a system it produces a significant burst of energy, essentially an EMP. The exact nature of this burst depends on a variety of factors, such as the ship's size and mass and the configuration of its jump stabilisers. The burst is therefore distinct to each ship class, and has become known as a jump signature since it is possible to quickly identify an incoming ship's class if you have remote sensors rigged to scan for the right data. Ships which have undergone extensive modification, such as Niobe, will have a unique signature. This can be a pro and a con. It means that Niobe won't register as a Tantalus class Corvette, allowing for a degree of anonymity, but if someone knows Niobe's unique signature then they will be able to identify her immediately.

The first successful test of Fast Than Light travel was conducted in the year 2124 and lead to new optimism about interstellar travel and colonisation but is was not until the year 2146 that Faster Than Light travel was finally certified as "Safe for human travel", and the I.S.E.A. announced a "new era of hope for humanity, as we finally embrace our destiny among the stars". Surveyors started using the technology to search nearby systems for planets that were suitable for colonisation.
David wrote:
Mercy Machine wrote:Variable geometry stabilisers eh? Perhaps so that Scarborough can dock in some sort of tunnel back on Golgotha? Incidentally, Mensk plainly had no poetry in his soul. How could you name a ship that looks like that after an unfashionable sea-side town in the north of England? Something like Peregrine or Kestrel or Tercel would be more appropriate.

"The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils."

A fitting epitaph.
The closed position if for docking and inter-stellar travel, the open position is for sub-stellar travel. Larger, more prominent stabilisers are more effective, but by increasing the ship's profile they also add to calculation time. There's a balance to be struck between designing stabilisers so that they are effective at sub-stellar jumps (which are much slower and more complicated due to the abundance of gravitic bodies) without being so large and elaborate that they make inter-stellar jumps slower and more complicated than necessary. Variable stabilisers are a more elegant solution.

H.M.S. Scarborough was one of the ships of the First Fleet which brought the first convicts to Australia over two hundred years ago. I am descended from a convict named John Nicols who was transported aboard the Scarborough.

When the first colonial fleet was sent to Tau Ceti in 2163, one of the ships was named Scarborough by another descendent of John Nichols (there are actually quite a few of us out there) - and Mensk was descended from one of the colonists aboard that ship. Mensk was always very proud that his family was descended from the First Colonists.
So what this means is that there are two things which can increase the time it takes to calculate a jump
1. The profile/size of the ship
2. Gravatic bodies (stars/suns and planets, etc)

Now Larger stabalisers help a ship deal better with gravatic bodies and can cut down on calculation time but, obviously, the larger or more spread out they are the greater the profile of the ship that needs to be navigated through riftspace so if they're too big it can actually add to calculation time rather than reduce it.

Inter-stellar travel (travel from one star system to another star system) is generally through open space, so there are very few Gravatic bodies and forces that need to be factored in, so calculations for jumping can be quite quick and is more affected by the size of the ship it needs to take into riftspace.

Sub-stellar travel (travel within a star system, between planets, etc) will be dealing with a lot of gravity from asteroids, commets, planets and the system's star, so these add to calculation time much more than the ship's profile and its a short jump anyway.

Variable stabalisers give the obvious advantage of being able to extend wide for faster calculations on sub-stellar travel close to Gravatic bodies while staying in close for Inter-stellar travel over long distances with little Gravatic bodies exerting any serious forces.

The other obvious advantage is being able to bring the stabalisers in to decrease the profile of the ship and make it harder for guns to hit or simply easier to dock with stations or other ships (Niobe seemed to take up so much space when docked to Espenson Station that its unlikely a ship could have used the dock immediately to the left of it).

Beyond that, I seem to recall mention that the designs of the Stabalisers vary in style depending on the profile of the ship's hull and various theories and implementations of the jump drive systems on the ships AND, of course, you've got to give some room for artistic license in the ship's designs.

Re: Regarding FTL in the World of Crimson Dark

Posted: Fri Feb 11, 2011 12:19 pm
by charles
On the "Jump Bridge" you might have seen. My theory on that is this:

I speculate that this technology actually involves two such ships or stations which work together to send objects safely through riftspace between them. Since the ships involved in the only known test of the technology had no jump drives or stabilisers, I further speculate that the sending/receiving of ships actually use jump drives to create a sort of temporary tunnel through riftspace between them. Leading back to the example of the icecube melting through the gaps in a sponge and refreezing, Jump Bridges would actually be the equivalent of creating a temporary hole in the sponge to pass the icecube through without melting it at all.

P.S. While the Jump Drive creates a pocket of Narya particles to shift a vessel into riftspace, Jump Bridges create a tunnel through riftspace consisting of Nenya particles *LOL*

Re: Regarding FTL in the World of Crimson Dark

Posted: Fri Feb 11, 2011 7:46 pm
by Strain Of Thought
Well dang guys those are some pretty long and detailed responses. Thank you for the effort you have put into them. I have read them, but unfortunately they don't clear up a whole lot for me.

I know this sort of heckling is a bad way to approach discussion, and I should raise individual objections and ask for specific answers rather than making a sweeping statement about it not making sense. But really the whole dang system looks like such a dog pile of contradictions to me that I didn't know where to begin- and even some of your explanations appear to contradict each other within a single paragraph. But, this quoted stuff is easier to get a toehold on, so let me start with one individual bit of quoted text that drive me nuts:
"Stabiliser technology, though centuries old, is still in its infancy."
I've seen this more than one place in the comics and extras, and it drives me nuts every time. The Darani are explicitly involved in large-scale research and development programs for starship technology, which have been shown to be the inheritors of multiple generations of previous design philosophies through example ships, and it's just been explicitly stated that the Darani are /not/ technologically advanced in comparison to human interstellar civilization as a whole. The idea that a technology could still be in its "infancy" after "centuries" of industrial investment with a modern understanding of the value of technological progress is absurd. The existence of revolutionary new variable alignment stabilizers implies a pre-existing long-term status quo; that's not a technology in its infancy, that's a technology in its 40's having a mid-life crisis.

My first thought upon reading this sentence, and every time afterward, was that it's an intentionally prepared excuse by the author for why the ship technology is going to be inconsistent- sort of the author saying "I don't have any idea what I'm doing because the characters don't either!" That's a terrible, terrible approach to writing, I've seen it done too many times before and seen it ruin good stories. If it keeps going on here I'm going to have to start coming up with some sort of alternate setting interpretation where the vast majority of people living and working in space have superstitious religious fears about FTL and as a result FTL technology has been repeatedly set back over the centuries by inquisitions and witch hunts by religious leaders leading to the destruction of developed engine systems and the dissolution of university physics departments. I mean, David said the Darani ship designs were inspired by cathedrals, didn't he? Maybe the holy scriptures mandate that a specific ratio must be maintained between the length of a ship's stabilizers measured from the longitudinal axis and the breadth of its Narya particle emitters, and that ten percent of the mass of any ship be gopher wood.

What really irks me about this assertion is that it's completely unnecessary! I understand the desire for artistic license to create a wide variety of ship designs, but variety in utilized technological designs is *not* an indication that the underlying technology is poorly understood- look at the immense variety in types of sail-powered sea vessels in use world-wide the 18th century, literally called the "Age of Sail" by historians, after sails had been in use by man for over three millenia. Variety can mean a technology is at its height! It can mean that a technology has proven so useful, reliable, centrally necessary, and thoroughly understood that it's worthwhile to innovate specialized versions of that technology for every possible application, with their own sets of strengths and weaknesses. It can mean that an underlying technology is so dependable that it's okay to experiment with poorly understood, potentially inferior designs because they can be over-engineered to still be functional if they fail to achieve their intended capabilities.

Whew, okay. That was three big paragraphs regarding one sentence. Gonna take a breather now.

Re: Regarding FTL in the World of Crimson Dark

Posted: Fri Feb 11, 2011 10:41 pm
by Lokekar Kra
I actually think of sails when the statement about infancy was first mentioned by David. Humanity did have sails for a couple of millennia but it took that several millennia to come up with both a design for ships and sails that work well across deep ocean. The people promoting new ship designs and sail plans had plenty of hecklers saying that the traditional method was good enough.

Infancy does not mean necessarily a short time to me, rather things are not even close to well developed. There is still plenty of area for experimentation and discovery. Sails again are a great analogy. Even today for sail driven ships there are still a variety of plans used. There is no one single answer as far as I have discerned even for a given scenario. That is just with sails after its golden age. Throw in the other methods of powering a ship, diesel or nuclear for example, and sails seem infantile for powering a ship even though they are well developed in their own right.

I do not know which holds true for Jump Tech, but to me it is plausible. Especially since it took 22 years after being demonstrated it was doable to be deemed safe enough for 'human' transit. That kinda implies there are a lot of government regulations regarding commercial development of Jump Tech. Once you throw in red tape all sorts of things that could be highly profitable for a private company to explore suddenly become a nightmare. Stifle private research and it is left up to the government to do the research. That sort of research then will not happen till a war is going and the government feels it has a need to improve tech that has military applications. And even then all the possibilities will not be fully explored, just the ones that seem the best to the government.

Re: Regarding FTL in the World of Crimson Dark

Posted: Fri Feb 11, 2011 11:10 pm
by charles
Yeah, I must confess that I've often felt that humanity has progressed rather slowly in Crimson Dark, considering its something like 681 years in the future. However there are a few things that could explain it in parts.

Looking at battery technology, it was predicted back in 1903 that we'd all be driving around in electric cars relatively soon, however battery technology simply didn't progress past the lead-acid battery until just recently and even then the advances are limited by rare metals required for the newer technology, so its quickly become expensive. There's also very little in sight for the distant future on replacing fuel for travel by air or transport of heavy cargo by trucks, etc.

Back on your sailing example. We've been sailing since at least the 5th millenium BC, but as you pointed out, it wasn't until the 18th century that it really took off and a large variety of sailing ships, using many different designs, came out and we begun to really understand the properties of sailing under windpower thanks to this. Now-a-days the sailing vessels are all relatively standardised in their design, thanks mostly to the advances made in the 18th centry through trial and design. Even then, we didn't really have a good understanding of what we were really working with, which was wind and air. We didn't even get a powered aircraft until the 20th centry as we gained a better understanding of aerodynamics and how to create lift with wings, etc.

Starships with jump drives were likely few in number and design to begin with (first invented 544 years before present CD time). Obviously, if you want to experiment and trial with this sort of technology, its likely to get very expensive because you're needing to create entire ships since the profile and structure of the ship is so important to it's overall capability much like a sailing ship will differ in it's implementation depending on it's size and how the simple shape of the ship can affect it's overall performance.

It's important to ask the question of WHY significant advances were made in sailing during the 18th century but remained crude and slow to improve for around 7 thousand years. The answer is that other lands were discovered far away, such as America and Australia. Before that, the sailing technology only really needed to worry about short distance travel but now we were talking vast distances and greater frequency together with battles over the water for these lucrative trades.

Despite the fact that FTL was invented in 544 years ago, it wasn't until 460 years ago that they worked out how to perform terraforming and there was a greater reason to travel significant distances, outside the Solar System. Even after that, it was essentially all under one nation, so they had little need for war ships and the like. It would have mostly been commercial and its unlikely they cared too much about a few calculation times and pinpoint accuracy for jumping. Put the Stabilisers at the most effecient size and setting for the ship and away you go. A mere 219 years ago, we see this single universal body, the Earth Alliance, break up and begin a war which actually became fought in space. Suddenly you're getting some larger ship designs for large scale battles, not just pirate skirmishes, and jump calculation times, together with accuracy likely become more important. 16 years later the War ends and relative peace is maintained except for the first Cirin-Darani War about 80 odd years ago and now the latest ramp-up to war.

Effectively they're in much the same state for Jump technology and design as nations were with sailing technology and design in the 18th century where sailing was hundreds of years old, but the technology was still in it's infancy. There's a lot of progress being made in the here and now of Crimson Dark thanks to the trial and design of many new ships which are likely proving various concepts but there's still a good deal they don't understand about riftspace, much like people in the 18th century still didn't understand the science and properties surrounding air and wind making their use of it for travel, rather crude and in it's infancy compared to our jumbo jets of today.

The Cirin Alliance, for whatever reason, have obviously been concentrating on this technology and the science behind it, and appear to have made some leaps and bounds beyond simple jumping to creating bridges. Possibly a comparison can be made between understanding air and wind enough to create better ships and understanding it enough to create aircraft.

EDIT: While creating this I see that Lokekar has beaten me again with what is likely the same answer but in a much more concise format... Curse my text walls.

Re: Regarding FTL in the World of Crimson Dark

Posted: Sat Feb 12, 2011 5:50 am
by Lokekar Kra
Sure... I somehow get the credit by being first...

Anyways the other important factor is how well they can experiment within riftspace and the transitions to and from riftspace. Dr. Feingold is quoted as saying that all the scientists in the world could easily spend the rest of their lives to just studying turbulence and they would probably not be any closer to being able to describe or simulate it effectively. Take smoke from a cigarette for example: the initial flow of the smoke we call laminar, and that we can describe quite well, once it starts to disperse it is turbulent and we really can not describe or predict what happens then. We know it conceptually but that is a far cry from being able to replicate it and take advantage of it. The bumblebee is another great example. Scientists discovered that according to standard knowledge the bug should not be able to generate enough lift to fly. Today the theory is that the peculiar way the wings actually move create a vortex that generates much more lift than would otherwise be possible. We still do not see planes that either try to imitate that or actually put it into practice. Partly that is due to how we like fixed wing aircraft so much, but what about helicopters? My point being even things we all are familar with are still confounding scientists even after the knowledge they have amassed so far.

Re: Regarding FTL in the World of Crimson Dark

Posted: Tue Feb 22, 2011 1:46 am
by Aegeus
I took a look through the ships and tried to come up with some Fanon for why they have stabilizers the way they do. There's some general themes in the design of each ship. Military ships tend to have short stubby stabilizers (the Horizon is a good example, and the Castellan and Gerushda hardly have anything), while Niobe and Scarborough have broad wings, and freighters seem to have a middle ground with one or two long fins sticking out. Why would they want stabilizers that look like that?

For military ships, it's obvious - they want to present the smallest profile, with no big wings to tear up and prevent them from jumping out after a battle. Niobe and Scar usually end up having to jump out in the nick of time, so maybe their big wings let them prepare to jump quickly but at the risk of getting hit and resetting their calculations. Freighters use shorter wings because they want something durable and they won't need quite as much speed as Niobe.