Terraforming in a nightmarish way...

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Terraforming in a nightmarish way...

Postby HalC » Sun May 05, 2019 5:07 pm

As I consider the "Ancients" and what they could do, I got to thinking - what could the Third Imperium do with its current TL 15 technology. The thought that sparked this process was based on an Old Larry Niven novel, in which a man uses a ship to approach a given velocity, use a black hole as a sling shot, and return to Earth in its far future.

The man discovers that Earth and Venus aren't in the orbits that he remembers and worries that he isn't in Kansas (so to speak). Later on, the author describes a technique for tugging a world out of orbit using the mass of another world - thereby keeping earth at a comfortable temperature rather than have it get hotter and hotter as the sun burns its hydrogen, then helium, and some elements of carbon.

Which brings me directly to terraforming in the year 1105.

Imagine if you will, spotting a world that is just too cold for comfortable habitation. The world just isn't close enough for that comfort zone that most humans like to see on their world. Now imagine that there is a world between the main world and the sun, that is largely a piece of rock and way too hot to be comfortable. Net result is that you mount a few reaction-less drives on that world to stop its spin. Then you use the drives to impart a higher velocity for the world in question - forcing it by the laws of physics, to move further away from the sun. Now imagine using the huge (did I mention HUGE!) mass as an attractor for the main world. You use the mass you can move (and life on that world once you start to move it out of orbit - is going to be hellish) to gently nudge the main world out of its orbit into a faster orbit (and thus too, begin to move away from the sun) or to slow the main world (causing it to fall intowards the sun for a closer orbit).

You don't want to mount those reactionless drives on the main world, because you'd need to stop it spinning in order to apply the precise force necessary to rearrange the system's orbits.

Anyone see an issue here that would make it unlikely that the Third Imperium might consider rearranging the star systems to suit their desires? If this can be done at TL 15, what would or could the Ancients have done with say, TL 18 or 20 or what have you?

Just musing aloud.
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Re: Terraforming in a nightmarish way...

Postby Moppy » Sun May 05, 2019 5:29 pm

Weather control is TL 12.

I don't think they have the thrust to move a planet. Planets are pretty big compared to even a 1m dton tender.

Nuclear winter is probably terraforming for some alien species somewhere :-)

I do NOT understand why you need to stop the thing spinning. Certainly the physics doesn't require this, so perhaps it's a Traveller-lore reason related to how the maneuver drive works?

edit: They can probably build artifical islands or dig out the ocean a bit, that's all possible today. I am not sure if that counts as "terraforming".
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Re: Terraforming in a nightmarish way...

Postby Juums » Sun May 05, 2019 8:52 pm

I suspect the biggest issue to the Third Imperium's "rearranging" star systems on any meaningful scale is that it renders a lot of the existing narrative elements of the setting obsolete. As, if the Third Imperium is capable of organizing engineering projects that require the amounts of resources necessary over the centuries necessary to reorbit an Earth-massed planet for terraforming purposes, it's capable of harnessing enough energy that it might as well be a post-scarcity economy (if it is not outright) and is, from a social engineering perspective, essentially alien in its ability to organize and sustain century-long projects without social disruption. As the Third Imperium setting has always been about evoking the Golden Age of Sci-Fi in which humans from Earth venture out into the stars to find other humans who, despite their funny accents and unpronouncable names, are governed by more or less the same fundamental nature as the players are, the two just don't mesh together at all.

That said, the important caveat here is "on any meaningful scale". I certainly think the Third Imperium is capable of, for example, organizing a terraforming of Venus which dismantles one of the less prominent icy moons of the Outer Solar System and inserts it into the Cytherean atmosphere over a period of decades. In my current world-building project, the victim was Triton, so we'll use that. I don't think the Third Imperium has the ability or will to, in this hypothetical, to attach enough grav-drives to Triton to make it mobile and crash it into Venus in one go.
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Re: Terraforming in a nightmarish way...

Postby ShawnDriscoll » Mon May 06, 2019 1:02 am

All worlds die out at TLs matching Earth ca. 2030 because of global warming.
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Re: Terraforming in a nightmarish way...

Postby Galadrion » Mon May 06, 2019 4:23 am

Moving a planet, particularly shifting its orbit, is probably unreasonable at Imperial tech levels. I'm going to be referring to MongTrav 1, here, but the rules sound reasonable, so follow along.

In Supplement 14: Space Stations, the maximum hull size available (and thus, pretty much the largest mobile artificial structure) at TL15 is 1,000,000,000 displacement tons. Terra, by comparison, is approximately 80,000,000,000,000,000,000 displacement tons - roughly eighty billion times the size of the largest space station the Imperium is likely to build. And while Terra is on the largish size for habitable planets (UWP Size classification 8), it's not that large compared to the smallest of these bodies - a Size 8 world is only about 500 times the size of a Size 1 world by volume. So even a Size 1 planet is going to be more than a hundred million times the size of a huge space station. Making these things mobile is not going to be simple or reasonable project, and probably isn't going to be though worth the cost unless there is something really odd going on.

So, terraforming... what would be the simplest way to alter a planet? Well, leaving aside the Starport classification and the Population, Government, Law Level and Tech Level codes in the UWP, how could the rest of it be altered?

Changing the Size code is pretty much out of the question at Imperial tech levels. Moving enough material to change the size classification of even a Size 1 world to a Size 2 (increasing the volume of the original world by a factor of eight!) would tie up a fleet of superfreighters for centuries. Not a reasonable project, really.

Altering the Atmospheric code is a lot more likely - after all, a lot of our current doomsayers are accusing the human race of doing this to our planet right now, saying that we're moving our atmosphere from a Standard one to a Standard, Tainted one. (Whether you believe them or not is a different question - as near as I can tell, the evidence is not clear-cut and it's been fairly heavily distorted and obscured on both sides of the argument.) But tainting an atmosphere is not likely to be what you want to do; removing a taint would be more likely - a not insignificant project, but possibly doable... if the contaminants aren't being continually renewed. If they are being renewed (ongoing pollution, volcanic action, whatever) then the amount of inertia in the system is likely to be more than even Imperial Tech Levels can overcome. And as for actually changing the density of the atmosphere... again, you run into the problem of the sheer scale of the project. You'd have to bring in superfreighter-loads of atmospheric gasses (or remove them) over the course of centuries to make any difference - with the added problem that the current atmosphere of any given planet is the equilibrium state; natural processes are going to push it back towards this level.

Hydrosphere is really the only code I can see as reasonably alterable at Imperial tech levels, and even that's not going to be easy or cheap. And probably not something you're going to want to use on any already-inhabited planet. The simplest way I can see to change things would be to get one or more icy-body asteroids and bring them to your target planet. The problem is in the delivery - if you're bringing them to the planetary surface as freight/cargo, you're going to need a huge fleet to accomplish much in a reasonable timeframe. To arrange "delivery" more expeditiously, you pretty much have to let the asteroids "land" themselves - for some idea of the effects, read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and bear in mind that Heinlein was talking about much smaller masses.

No, I can't see global-scale terraforming being readily available even at TL15. I'd put it closer to TL20 for any method you'd use on an already-inhabited world.
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Re: Terraforming in a nightmarish way...

Postby Condottiere » Mon May 06, 2019 5:15 am

Timescale would be the real variant.

Over millions of years you could arrange the orbits of various planetoids to rendezvous, adding dynamism (and volcanism) to otherwise lifeless rocks, plus what's really required, a magnetic field.

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