Terraforming in a nightmarish way...

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HalC
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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.
Moppy
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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".
Juums
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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.
ShawnDriscoll
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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.
Galadrion
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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.
Condottiere
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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.
steve98052
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Re: Terraforming in a nightmarish way...

Postby steve98052 » Tue Aug 20, 2019 11:43 pm

On a slow, "our system's star is warming and we need to move farther away" time scale, the job can be done without superscience.*

The idea is to send rockets with fission power plants to comet sized iceballs, use the ice as reaction mass, and change the iceballs' orbits so that they pass close to the inhabited world and a gas giant, ahead of the inhabited world to transfer a tiny amount of orbital energy to the planet and expand its orbit, and behind the gas giant to transfer orbital energy to the comet. Doing so, the comet carries orbital energy from the gas giant to the inhabited world. The fission rocket merely guides the comet against disruptions such as unbalanced outgassing when it's close to the star.

To change a world's ocean percentage is also within our means. We're doing it now, my raising the sea level so that land is inundated. Reducing ocean coverage could be accomplished by triggering climatic cooling so that glaciers lock up part of the ocean volume.

* By "superscience", I mean things that violate basic science as currently understood, such as antigravity, faster than light travel, or even laser weapons that ignore diffraction. I would call things that we can't build because we haven't figured out how "super-technology", for example fusion power plants that generate net positive energy.
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Re: Terraforming in a nightmarish way...

Postby phavoc » Wed Aug 21, 2019 12:10 am

In theory, it could be done. However don't forget, as a sun (like ours) changes from a yellow start to a red star it will start expanding. And it will keep expanding for quite some time. So whatever means was used to move the planet into a further, stable, orbit, would have to be repeated many time.

So as I see it the problem would be continually replicating the process over many millions of years. Not to mention the little fact that our solar system isn't empty of other planets or objects. It would probably be easier, as a civilization, to simply build many massive orbital habitats and move entire species and things off the Earth and then let the space habitats adjust their positions as needed. Actually, if you placed them above and below the plane of the eliptic they would be free of other orbital objects and they would only need to adjust their relative position as the sun expanded. But I doubt they would last the tens of millions of years necessary to make this happen.
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Re: Terraforming in a nightmarish way...

Postby Moppy » Wed Aug 21, 2019 1:22 am

If you're going to build self-mobile orbital habitats with the same combined size as the planet, why not just put an engine on the planet and save the cost of the hulls?

I believe steve98052 was talking about a hard sci-fi solution. While an artifical planet isn't impossible, it's a bit less hard sci-fi. Accumlating the material and engineering the structure is more difficult than just launching small satellites and waiting a thousand years. We can assume that once the gravity conveyor is setup, it will continue to operate as the star expands, so it needs to be started and stopped only. Assuming of course that stellar expansion has some fixed or predictable speed, I actually don't know if that's true.

edit: I guess you could make thin habitats with a lot of surface area. But not a ring world, as they're unstable.
phavoc
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Re: Terraforming in a nightmarish way...

Postby phavoc » Wed Aug 21, 2019 2:11 pm

Never said building habitats that had the combined size of a planet. That would be rather... large. I just said large habitats. They could be O'Neill cylnders, a regular boring torus, or any other shape. The idea being that it would be easier than to try and move a planet (which even in Traveller terms is impossible). Ones that were kilometers in length/width. Certainly NOT planet-sized.

And, unless you could erect a field around the planet, putting engines on it is impractical - at best. Planetary rotation is necessary, and if you stopped it the ecological damage would be substantial. Then you have the idea of putting engines ON the planet, and with an atmosphere your engine output would be ejected into the atmosphere itself. Even magical reactionless engines are going to cause a problem within the atmosphere itself (air, yanno). Maybe you would put an orbital facility outside the atmosphere and anchor your engines there. I think the amount of risk and engineering to make that happen would be better served in building your habitats and saving the flora and fauna of the planet in question on those stations.
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Re: Terraforming in a nightmarish way...

Postby AndrewW » Wed Aug 21, 2019 2:32 pm

phavoc wrote:
Wed Aug 21, 2019 2:11 pm
Never said building habitats that had the combined size of a planet. That would be rather... large. I just said large habitats. They could be O'Neill cylnders, a regular boring torus, or any other shape. The idea being that it would be easier than to try and move a planet (which even in Traveller terms is impossible). Ones that were kilometers in length/width. Certainly NOT planet-sized.
It's possible in Star Wars with a giant repulsor.
phavoc
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Re: Terraforming in a nightmarish way...

Postby phavoc » Wed Aug 21, 2019 4:08 pm

AndrewW wrote:
Wed Aug 21, 2019 2:32 pm
phavoc wrote:
Wed Aug 21, 2019 2:11 pm
Never said building habitats that had the combined size of a planet. That would be rather... large. I just said large habitats. They could be O'Neill cylnders, a regular boring torus, or any other shape. The idea being that it would be easier than to try and move a planet (which even in Traveller terms is impossible). Ones that were kilometers in length/width. Certainly NOT planet-sized.
It's possible in Star Wars with a giant repulsor.
True. In SW it's also possible to shoot energy beams that are many times the speed of light and destroy a planet many light years away (and to build a giant laser in a planet, and to make planets move through hyperspace, etc, etc.

It's Star Wars - epic space fantasy. Oh, and let's not forget etheric rudders which allow small snub fighters to maneuver in space like it's an atmosphere. SWOTL in Spaaaacccceeeee!

(I really LIKED SWOTL - wish they would upgrade it with today's graphics)
Moppy
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Re: Terraforming in a nightmarish way...

Postby Moppy » Thu Aug 22, 2019 12:17 am

For moving a planet you can put an engine on a tower so its exhaust is above the atmosphere. If polar it won't affect the rotation. To steer you'd have other engines elsewhere (equator?). With computer control you can preserve or manage rotation when steering. If it changes very slightly over a long time, you can deal with the effects. (edit: I'm sure you can move it without changing the tilt via equatorial? angled? engines but the pole seems the best way to get a lot of speed in the few minutes I've been thinking about it).

Fully in real science mode, there's various plans for steering asteroids away from Earth by using the gradual effect of gravitation from orbiting satellites (the satellite floats along next to the asteroid, and they gradually attract each other).

I think steve98052 was suggesting sending comets on an orbit that sent them past Earth and a gas giant, so that it accelerates Earth, and then regains its lost momentum from the gas giant, to make a self-sustaining cycle. I haven't done the maths for that but it probably works. It's certainly fully within hard sci-fi if the math works out.

I think space in Star Wars is a thin, toxic gas and not a vacuum.
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Re: Terraforming in a nightmarish way...

Postby steve98052 » Thu Aug 22, 2019 6:33 am

Here's one of many articles on the subject of adjusting the Earth's orbit by transferring orbital energy with comets or asteroids:

"Nasa aims to move Earth
Scientists' answer to global warming: nudge the planet farther from Sun"https://www.theguardian.com/environment ... matechange

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