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Old August 29th, 2003, 04:47 AM
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You hear it every day. Computers are getting more and more powerful. Antimatter as a useful tool is a few decades away. Electronic warfare is the prefered way to win an engagement. Nuclear propulsion (not necessarily fusion) is the most efficient way to travel the solar system. There may be lots of planets out there, but the idea of finding intelligent life at a similar TL to our own is insane; they'll never notice us because they are either bacteria or god-like, if they even exist.

In 1977, computers were only just starting to shrink and become affordable enough that normal people would want to buy them. Even then, it wasn't until about 1999 that PCs started coming home in the millions. How was anyone supposed to predict that their power would grow so much? Computers in Traveller have NEVER represented real life, near as I can tell. With computers getting so much faster, holding so much more, and modern computers being far more powerful than TL-15 jump-computers, I think this is an area that needs some reworking. Ok, a major overhaul.

Redoing computers also means rethinking a few other things that require computer-intensity. The jump drive is the most significant thing. How complicated is it to plot a jump? Wait 18 months and it will take half the time. Assuming Quantum computers turn out to be a pipe dream (a QC could calculate any jump instantly), let us suppose that increases in computer power will take a sharp nosedive pretty soon. There are indications that in 10-20 years, we won't be able to go any faster. Why not plot now as our baseline (I like to call it TL10, because it's a nice number to use for a median... maybe that's the GURPS influence?) and figure out computer power by powers of 10. JUST FOR EXAMPLE, we'll use Hertz as our meter stick.

My 20-year old C64 ticks away at 1 MHz. A current Athlon processor can get to about 2000 MHz. (Sorry, P4 is too low on the IPC in my book. P3, ok, but it's too old.) That's a 2000-fold increase in just 20 years. It's been like that for a while too. We could break that into 3 tech levels right there, since each increase by 10 is our TL ruler (in this example). Going back 6 more TLs would take about 40 years, to 1940, the birth of computers (close enough), if they operated at 1 Hz. It looks like 1940 is TL1! That just means powers of ten weren't sufficient, so we'll use powers of 1000.

The introduction of computers (at 1 Hz) then becomes a TL 7 achievement, so 1940 is TL7. This isn't terribly far from the OTU level for WW2, is it? We can probably find a way to divide up time before that, but let's not focus on that just yet.

In 20 years, when we finally reach the limits of semi-conductor lithography (or whatever it is that will hold us back), that's a whole 'nother tech level. We can be reasonably sure we'll have fusion power by then, maybe military lasers (besides dazzlers), gauss weapons, and all kinds of stuff that's TL8 in OTU, and at just about the right time too.

All those tools are going to be so nifty, we're not going to be able to invent anything else for a while, until we're done playing with THESE toys. It could take a hundred years to get to TL12 (OTU TL9), where we will have at least sub-light interstellar ABILITY (though practice remains a function of making a profit). We could almost use the OTU progression here. (However, I like the idea that the Imperium is a nice, round TL-20, which gives us 10 TLs between today and then. Call it the 10-step program to founding a massive galactic civil war.)

And we'll say that each TL brings about a 1000-fold increase in computer power. We could say it's every other TL if we want to slow things down even more.

Obviously, we need Jump Drives to have a modern computer to run them. Otherwise, why by modern computers? So that makes Jump a really complex thing to figure out. Jump should take time to calculate. Longer jumps should take longer. Seeing as how you have to plot AT LEAST 4 dimensions (3 spacial, and time), it seems like we could argue that the calculation gets more complex by a factor of 4. That is, if it takes a computer an hour to plot a jump 1, it should take 16 hours to plot a jump 2, and 81 hours for a jump 3. It'll take centuries to compute a jump-36.

But that's why we have more powerful computers. A TL11 computer takes a year to solve J6 (just a guess), so a TL 12 will take about 3 days, a TL 13 will take half a minute... you see now why we might want to slow the progression a little, or maybe after TL10, each TL represents only a power of 10 or 100?

Next, Power: we're all pretty sure fusion is right around the corner. Antimatter utility won't be far behind. It's not unreasonable to suppose we will have anti-matter plants in 100 years (TL12). There is plenty of room for improvement, and antimatter is hardly the fusion-killer it is in OTU. Where do you think all that anti-matter comes from? It has to be made. Every erg of energy you get from smashing antimatter into normal matter has to be put into making the stuff. Since there's always waste, you'll need about 10 times the energy.

What if you scram your antimatter? You still need fusion. It's reliable, cheap, and fuel is everywhere. Antimatter will be expensive even with giant arrays of solar collectors... who pays for those giant solar collectors, and how do you thnk they ship the final product to you?

All I'm saying is, make antimatter available early, like OTU TL10.

There are a few other power generation techniques that are higher tech, and can probably fill anti-matter's old shoes, like singularity reactors and Casimer Effect reactors.

Next, Electronics: We found out in the 1990 Gulf War that electronic warfare was the shiz-nik! It was a lot more effective than anyone thought it would be. This year's war (2003) saw further proof that electronics and smart munitions are going to be all the rage in future wars. That doesn't mean Paraguay's suddenly going to start using them... not until they sort out a few things. So there will always be a need for older weapons that are cheaper.

But what I'm trying to say is that electronics need a lot more attention. The T4 advanced space combat system (the one with all the fancy detection stuff) was a step in the right direction. yes, we also want a super-simple method, and a fairly simple method, but for those who just gotta have all the options, this needs to be explored.

Now, Propulsion: Nuclear propulsion is something that needs serious consideration as well. Am I the only one that thought switching the WHOLE imperium to HEPlaR was a BAD idea? One ship with a fusion rocket and a long range laser could plink off a whole fleet of warships equipped with those drives. For orbit and de-orbit, and use on the ground they were fine, but not as a regular space drive. I'm not entirely wild about reactionless Thruster Plates either (though Anti-gravity drive as presented in MT does have interesting limitations). Something that uses almost no power to produce prodigious amounts of velocity, on a nearly endless scale?

So we need nuclear rockets. There's a ton of information out there about them. They're very likely to be our propulsion systems for the next... forever.

Next, Summarizing: I'm not saying everything I wrote in my first paragraph is the sum of all that needs to be rethought, but it does represent a lot of what's in major need of an overhaul. I'm sure you guys can come up with a lot more.

I'm also not saying I want the game to go totally hard science, and I like the original idea of placing "today's" society into a world that has a lot of neat toys. Cyberpunk is about the dumbest place Traveller could go. Makes it REAL easy for people to relate to what's going on, and why people are the way they are. Robots don't need to be any more widespread than they are now. Death and aging don't have to go away (but considering recent advances, they might in 100 years or less). individual rights don't have to be eliminated.

A lot of the background material need not change. There can still be an Imperium, looking much like it does now. But there do need to be some thoughts as to the implacations of what we've learned in the past 25 years of realtime. the game needs to be reunited into a single point, where people can diverge from THERE with their own TU. We'll all be on the same page. No more will there be issues of which version of the Solomani is the real version. Consolidate it all. Then if we liked the 4th variation to the third idea, we can still use it.

Ok, I talked about several things, and jumbled some of them together. Sorry for the long wind. It's late. I'll let you gander at this now and I'll get some bedrest and read this later and wonder why I type in my sleep.
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  #2  
Old August 29th, 2003, 06:37 AM
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I have to say I agree with the sentiment behind this post, updating the science and tech of traveller. One of my favorites was the antimatter question so I did a bit of research (real world and game) and found quite a lot of info. Briefly, as explaned in T4 Emperor's Arsenal, cultures around TL6 can theorise and then prove its' existance. By TL8 small quantities can be made and stored briefly (the Fermi lab is currently making about a billionth of a gram per year at a cost of $80 million, it will soon have machinery to improve this by a factor of ten, one of the aims I've seen stated is to get the cost down to $5000 per microgram!), TL9 can make dangerous amounts of it(at great expense) and by Tl0 it can be stored for an extended period of time (gravitic containment backing up the very low temp/strong em fields we use now). So why the gap to TL17 power plants? And why does the Imperium not use it?
Well, my explanation is based on nuclear damper/meson screen/disintergrator tech all of which can manipulate the strong force. At TL17 it becomes possible to manufacture antimatter cheaply and have a safety system built in so that if the AM containment should go wrong the AM can be rendered inert. If you want to build AM missiles/power plants at lower TLs go ahead, but consider the effects of a weapon damage/ powerplant damage/ fuel hit. In the 3I AM probably is used e.g. in PET scanners, for manufacturing processes and ,in a very strictly regulated way, as a high energy source.

Which is all a very long winded way of saying that I now agree with the Traveller TL progression for AM, with the proviso that I can introduce a mad dictator of a TL10/11 world who is constructing a massive solar powered AM production facility in orbit around a nearby star (he's not that mad) which he intends to give to terrorists (you can fit a lot of AM in a 4t cargo hold) in order to blackmail surrounding states. Why does The Federation of Arden spring to mind?
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Old August 29th, 2003, 09:36 AM
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I agree too. But you did notice my post about revising the Traveller TLs, didn't you?
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Old August 29th, 2003, 03:47 PM
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Yes, Jame, I even commented in it a couple days ago. This idea was not (as far as I could recall) covered so well there, though. I think this takes your idea a step further. I'm after more than simply re-organizing TLs, I'm after updating the whole shebang with what we know now.

To continue harping on about antimatter, once it can be made cheaply enough, it even may have medicinal uses. You hit a tumor with it, and it warms up and cooks the tumor, leaving the surrounding tissue alone. Can really whack those big tumors and leave behind only tiny scraps that can be picked off with with standard means.

(This doesn't mean we throw whole grams of the stuff at you and watch you go up in a nuclear fireball. This means we throw in a few atoms, and when they "react", they release a lot of heat in a localized area, and kill off the tumor, or perhaps can be used akin to a very tiny laser and cut out the tumor.)

If you have a mass of fuel, and you dump some antimatter into it, you heat it up and it becomes rocket exhaust. The more antimatter you mix in, the hotter the fuel gets, and the more thrust it generates. Thus, you could design a ship that was 3/4 fuel, and use a LITTLE antimatter to go between Earth-moon, a little more to go between moon-Mars, a bunch to go between Mars-Pluto, and a whole lot to get from there to Alpha Centauri. But the mass of your spacecraft is pretty much the same with each launching. The amount of AM you're mixing in is no more than a few kg for an interstellar journey.

The anti-matter of Star Trek, where the only ratio is 1:1, may be a long way off, and in fact is probably the LEAST effecient use of AM, but we will be able to use the stuff for a variety of purposes fairly soon. The progression from TL17-TL21 shows how real reactors might improve over the course of TL11-?, as we develop better materials and techniques.

In regards to Sigg's post, I believe Nuclear Dampers are available at TL11, right? Gravity cotrol sooner than that. High-temp superconductors TL8 or 9 for our magnetics. Superdense armor... Everything he was concerned about is available at TL11 (OTU), just in time to take care of all his concerns, and make at least the TL17 reactors possible.

But the subject concerns a lot more than just the few things I mentioned. Star-system generation is one thing I thought of last night. We now know that there are a number of super-Jupiter-sized objects out there, and that they can orbit at any distance. We also know that basing orbits solely on the distances in OUR solar system is wrong (something I'm sure was done for simplification), and even that there are plenty of orbits that do not conform at all to the eliptical ones we're all used to.

I'd like to see an updated star map. I have no idea of the validity of the current one. I was able once to convert the radial coordinates we find in astronomy books into cubic coordinates, but my Y-axis was aimed along an EARTH-based point, and not at the galactic center. The local few stars looked remarkably like the local few stars represented in the official maps (particularly Imperium board game), and I think that included the orientation; I knew MY map needed to be rotated 180 degrees to put the galactic center toward the top, and it looked like maybe that map needed to be too.

There are going to be plenty of red dwarfs that don't appear on OUR star charts yet. They've been mostly ignored in canon, and I have no problem with that, since they are unlikely to have livable planets. They're too dim to really find. Proxima Centauri is like -17 in relative brightness, and even lower than that in absolute brightness!

I made a star system based around a supergiant star, and at 100 diameters, the jump barrier was at about orbit 11 or 12. No one could jump in any closer than that. The hab-zone was at about orbit 8 or 9. That's an awful long distance to go! Talk about your hard-to-conquer systems! It would take weeks to come in system, with Thruster plates, and months to years with HEPlaR. I used fusion rockets here, but I supposed they would improve with tech as fusion reactors did, if not more so.

So there's plenty of stuff that could stand to be rethought. It's a big job, but considering it's been done several times before, I have little doubt it can be done again.
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Old August 29th, 2003, 05:39 PM
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Computers CT Book 2 established that an Eniac could calculate jumps, so it must be dead easy once we figure out how. I assume that computers are an insignificant part of the bridge percentage but at higher TLs they have a "friendlier" interface, and at TL14 they can start to take over crewfunctions. TL16 for automated ships.
I assume the dtons and MCr for a "computer" in ship design refers to the sensor suite, since a better "computer" mostly affects fire control in game play.
Simple, doesn't change much, and we get to worry less about the new rules being obsolete in five years.

Power D-T reactors may be around the bend, but we have been on that bend for two generations. D-T is vey "dirty" but Traveller fusion reactors seem to be p-p reactors which are cleaner, more powerfull, and we haven't the foggiest idea how to make. I would start out with He3 reactors growing into p-p about the same time you get gravitics.

As you say, antimatter has to be made from other energy, so it is more a battery than a power source. I dig ZPE as advanced tech.

Propulsion. Rockets, even Nuclear rockets, consume alot of mass travelling interplanetary distance, take weeks or years to get there, and the math gets real complicated. It is not game friendly.
HePlar was an attempt to introduce a drive that was more believable than the CT maneuver drive without changing the game mechanics. It was an abortion.
Thruster plates aren't much better. The CT "maneuver drive" was a black-box drive. Maybe it was a Dean Drive, maybe it took advantage of Davis mechanics or Mach's Principle. We don't know for sure so it can't be outdated.

Gravitics Energy is seldom a concern, which is wrong. Deck plates involve fields a thousand times more powerful than drive plates for vehicles and at least shuld require enourmous power.
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Old August 30th, 2003, 04:59 PM
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So basically, this is more to figure out what each TL can do. Cool ! I'd help out, but my technical knowledge (which is sadly limited in the first place) tends to desert me.

But antimatter as a medical tool (and pardon me if I misread) could be late tl9, while HE^3 Fusion could be late tl8-early tl9.
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Old August 31st, 2003, 03:37 AM
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I not afraid of seeing things needing an update 25 years from now... stuff happens, and not all our assumptions are going to be right. I don't have much CT experience; MT was my first and TNE is my favorite (I'm somewhat of a gearhead, and TNE's mechanics make more sense to me), but I have read most of the CT books many years ago. I found it really hard to visualize ship construction; WAY too abstract for me.

Anyway, I'll agree that Traveller reactors appear to be p-p, judging by canon descriptions, but is it unreasonable to suspect that MM maybe didn't know everything there was to know about fusion reactions back then, and each game has since simply copied the tables? (I see little difference btwn MT, TNE, and T4 reactors, for instance.)

I had a discussion about fusion reactors and rockets with some one whose pinky knows more this than my whole body. I recall that a real-world p-p reactor would need to be about a KM in diameter. It would be toroidal (I always think of reactors as being spheres), and something that huge is going to put out a ton of power, so your ship is probably going to mount a spinal weapon the likes of which only the Death Star has seen before. Unfortunately, this person doesn't play Traveller.

Deuterium fusion seems more plausible, especially when catalyzed, but it is not unreasonable to suppose that gravity control can make p-p reactors come down in size a little. Probably not less than 100m, would be my guess, but I'm no physicist. (Then again, if we can generate enough gravity to bed the light of a laser to extend its range, maybe we CAN bring p-p to the backpack; but I'm concerned about the 625 million degree temperature.)

I loved FFS1, and wish FFS2 could have been made as lovingly. I hope FFS3 will combine the best parts of the two, and fix what they both lacked. (One of those things would be a wet-ship design system.) And I hope it will take into account things we now know.

(If little or none of the above made sense, I'm sorry; I need some sleep, and I'm going to fetch it right now.)
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Old August 31st, 2003, 06:29 PM
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I am not comfortable with fast neutrons, so I would prefer aneutronic reactions like Li-Be, He3 or p-p. D-T is a low energy reaction, but the neutrons will trash any confinement structure in a few months.

I am sure a p-p tokomac would be huge, but I never thought the tokomac architecture was very elegant. Gravity is too weak to be much help, but we will have supercoducting technology and we might be abe to manipulate the Strong Force. At any rate we don't understand the technology well enough to dismiss the existing power plants.

I think what you like about FFS is what I dislike about it. It gives the illusion of doing detail design without really representing proper engineering. It is several times more difficult than CT (or even Striker) but when I tried to design R-W TL 6-8 machines I couldn't get closer than 25-35%. You can get just as close starting with one RW example and fudging. Which means higher tech designs are pure fantasy, and I refuse to put that much effort into a fantasy.

BTW, taking current tech as level 10 is very egocentric. Making 10 the lowest level of interstellar travel makes more sense globally.
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Old September 1st, 2003, 09:53 AM
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Just a note on the medical use of AM - a very similar application is currently under research, using gamma radiation. It's called the Gamma Knife, and it's likely to enter widespread use in under ten years.

Something to think about along those lines: the extrapolation of tech in this thread is very interesting, but we have to remember that science does tend to go in unexpected directions and velocities. Jules Verne thought that TV wouldn't be invented until the 24th century.
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Old September 11th, 2003, 12:08 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Uncle Bob:
BTW, taking current tech as level 10 is very egocentric. Making 10 the lowest level of interstellar travel makes more sense globally.
You're quite right, it most certainly IS egocentric, right along with the metric system (a meter was originally defined as 1/10,000,000th the distance from the North Pole to the Equator), our measurements of time (seconds, minutes, hours, 24-hour days, 365-day years,.....), Base-10 numbers (anyone knows that coputers will be the ultimate translators, and so base-16 will be used in the future as a universal), using the English language, and all kinds of other things we all take for granted.

Why do we use those things? Because it's convenient for the players. You are probably right to say that interstellar travel should be a mark of importance, so I will suggest that there should be 10 steps to that point, because it keeps the feeling of being metric. Thus, I would accept a suggestion that J1 should be TL10. That makes it easier to identify pre-jump and post-jump civilizations; if your tech has only 1 digit, it's pre-jump.

However, since there is really no telling when we will reach the planets, much less the stars, and there may be reasons why it takes a long time to break the light barrier, I feel a little more comfortable knowing that simply making it into space on a permanent basis requires a species to make a few fundamental understandings. It's a major point in history. You have to accept that there may be others out there like you, that you can't stay in the cradle forever.

Thank you all for your input on this subject, as it has been most enlightening, and I hope to see more of this discussion soon. You've definitely learnt me something.
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