Escaping Earth 5
I met Sheila the Ship in our just completed Crew Cantina. Its a replica of the iconic USA diner from the late 40’s. Each of the half dozen tables has the miniature jukebox where the table meets the wall . Everything was a reassuring analog back then. When you flipped thru the selections you were flipping hinged cards. That’s what sheila was doing when I arrived for our meeting.
“What would you like to hear? she ask
I have always had a feeling of connection with the music of the 1930’s 40’s, with the big band and jazz of those decades. One theory I came up with is that a young music fan’s spirit freed from this mortal coil by WW2 entered then left the void of souls to enter my formative embrio. That would be late in 1945. My dad was back from Goering’s Luft Stalag resort and launched my career as another human being. Or maybe it was the records my parents played in my early years.
“We’re flying thru the void so how about ‘Flying Home ” she ask
“Fine, the Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band” I said
The band leader and his troup paid the ultimate price. Returning to England from newly liberated France their C47 “Gooney Bird” transport was lost without a trace. Somewhere over the English channel by incident or accident their fame was sealed. Somewhere on in flooded Doggerland they rest with their corroding instruments.
With that tune in the background we started our meeting. Sheila began with gravity, not the emotional kind, rather the mysterious fundamental force, a weak force. I observed that for a weak force it was damn difficult to synthesize. Electromagnetics we did a lot with but gravity and time seemed to ignore us. Science was the dog watching the clock…the dog knows something is going on…but has no clue as to just what. We know that a pair of masses will distort the space and time between them. That distortion we call gravity. To get what we are used to, standard Earth gravity, you need one Earth mass. Thats six to the 24th Kilos of mass. How much is a kilo of mass? its a lump of anything that tips the scales on Earth at sea level to the tune of ….. 1 Kilogram. Two point two pounds for those clinging to the English system. The mass of our ship, un-named as of yet, is much less. For the sake of a place holding number lets put it at half a billion pounds. That’s the weight of ship that got stuck in the Suez canal back in 2021. “Can you remember 2021?” Sheila ask. Not very well I responded. Furthermore I didn’t want to have that nasty year intrude on my fantasy. She was teasing. Back to the idea of mass and gravity. Well, we are not going to get Earth’s gravity on the ship with mass.
“How do we get gravity here? Do we really need it?” I ask a pair of questions
“We could spin it” she said, “As to our needing it, you decide” Sheila said
The ISS, International Space Station, was in orbit, in space, but only just. What they experienced was micro gravity. The tough guys and gals who personed the Space Station floated. Most got used to it but after a time it was clear ZG was not what nature intended. After a year a body started to degrade in major ways. There were mitigations, like exercise machines, but for the most part there seemed no easy fix. Well, short of artificial gravity. The only way known to do that is the “spin” Sheila mentioned.
“I don’t like spun up gravity” I said
“Why don’t you like it?” she ask
“The Coriolis effect” I said
Ah, yes, she said looking away. Turning back she said we didn’t have any other option. She knew my problem with spinning, the effect was first postulated by Riccioli and Grimaaldi way back in the 14th century. They were trying to improve artillery. Science as usual driven by the search for better and better ways of killing people. Gaspard Coriolis managed to get his name attached to the effect in the early 19th century. I’m sure it’s got its uses but to me trying to design a spaceship it’s a major pain in ass. In its simplest terms a person subject to the effect in a small system, like our ship, would feel their head was spinning. This because their head would be spinning. It no doubt could be gotten used to but not without effort and probably not totally.
Sheila said, “Of course we’re sitting here now, not floating…..”
“I know” I sighed, “At the moment our gravity is FM (Fuk’n Magic) but FM does not sit well with me”
“Ah, the curse of not enough magical thinking” Sheila smiled
“Ya, but its a bunch of half steps, not 100% science” I said
” There must be a way to make gravity. A way to make it on a ship this size. A way that doesn’t invoke the dizzy Mister Coriolis and his effect” I said ruefully.
“Let’s table that for further study. She said, “Moving on…”
Sheila took her pen and checked off gravity. Next up, The rest of the crew. Who do we need to print and in what order? I mused aloud for a while on the subject and Sheila the ship let me. Crews are creatures with multiple personalities. We only hear about an individual, with many personalities,when they start murdering people. If they mind their own business, they don’t make headlines. I imagine, and to imagine here is enough, that many individuals with several personalities who manage them well find it an asset and not a disorder. In a crew there needs to be a synergy, a net gain. Not just more hands, to use another nautical term, but greater than n times the average. More like n squared and quick about it too. Think of the top racing yachts, those very expensive boats with the top secret keels. Their crews train all year for a couple of hours of course sailing with the best in the world.
“A quantum mechanic” I offered, Sheila nodded her assent
We would need someone to keep all this fantastic and imaginary equipment buzzing and whirring contentedly.
“A navigator”, another nod from the ship
“Just to get started, lets print those from the catalog” I said
Sheila said she’d sit down with me and we could go thru the available print files for those types.
“Lets not forget the entertainment value” I added
“Oh no, never forget that” she grinned
She know my head and its contents so she knew of a memory from back in the 1990’s. One of my better jobs started when someone said, ‘the candidates are about equal technically”…but for entertainment value….”its this guy’. Funny how one characteristic can shoot you down in one interview and push you ahead in another. Not funny for the others but the market was hot…the internet was just beginning to suck up equipment. The work just grew and grew. I retired with the money salted away from a series of jobs in that company.