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Author Topic: Earth Unaware
seagull
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I just finished reading OSC's book "Earth unaware" and I must say I was extremely disappointed.

OSC is my favorite author and I have come to expect a higher standard from his writing. What bothers me goes well beyond the normal variations that you can find in any author's writing. It's not that I expect every book he writes to live up to the original Ender trilogy or the more recent Pastwatch.

What bothers me with Earth Unaware is the sloppy, and inconsistent use of scientific terms that shows ignorance and disregard for physics and Astrodymanics. I expected more from Orson Scott Card and the list of people mentioned as reviewers in the "afterward" section at the end of the book.

Knowing that the book started out as a comic and evolved into a novel helps me understand some of the process but I can not accept that as an excuse for the gross and misleading representations of spacecraft physics.

There are several places in the book where the characters decide to "stop" their ship to make repairs or slow down in order to dock with each other. That is nonsense, objects in orbit are always in motion both with respect to the sun and with respect to each other. Any ship, planet or asteroid that actually stopped would fall into the sun. A rendezvous requires matching velocities - not slowing down.

A quickship going from the Kuiper belt to Earth (or Luna) would need to decelerate reducing it's orbital velocity around the sun so it can fall in toward the inner planets. During that deceleration phase the "G force" experience of people inside the ship would be indistinguishable from Gravity as opposed to people on a centrifuge that would experience significant and disorienting Corriolis forces if the "fuge" was small enough to fit inside the ship.

When the deceleration is done and the ship starts falling toward the sun (and inner planets) a fuel optimal trajectory would simply coast in free fall until reaching close to Luna and then decelerate again to match velocities with the moon (otherwise the kinetic velocity from falling in would take it back out to the Kuiper belt like a comet).

During the coasting phase no gravity would be felt by people in the ship. But if it was urgent to get to the destination as fast as possible, for the person travelling in the ship to remain healthy and for radiation exposure to be minimized (three powerful elements in the plot) it would make sense for the ship to use more fuel and accelerate toward the Earth-Moon system instead of coasting. When it reached the turning point it would start a longer deceleration phase, by pointing the thrusters in the opposite direction but the G-force would always be there and the pilot could actually build up strength and bone calcium in preparation for surviving Lunar or Earth Gravity.

I know that OSC was only a co-writer on this book, but I expected more from him [Frown]

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Pete at Home
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I loved EA and thought it was very cinematic.

I agree that the author should have made the obvious more consistently clear for careless readers, when speaking of "speed" that he was talking about speed relative to the freaking asteroid field that they were traversing. Nevertheless, Aaron Johnson does make that quite clear at least three points in the book.

quote:
Lem brought up the rendering of the Formic ship and enlarged it as much as he could in the holospace over his desk in his room. Benyawe and Chubs floated nearby, watching him. “Why not simply shoot the thing with the glaser?” asked Lem. “Why not blast the Formics to smithereens and be done with it? None of this flying down to the surface and planting explosives. We fire the glaser and turn the ship to dust.”

“It wouldn’t work,” said Benyawe. “The Formic ship is too big and too dense. The glaser wasn’t designed for that type of mass. It was designed for rocks.”

“Asteroids are filled with dense metals,” said Lem. “Compositionally they’re essentially the same thing.”

“Let’s not forget what happened that last time we fired the glaser,” said Benyawe. “It’s too unstable. We have no idea what type of gravity field would result, if any at all. Nor can we assume that the same metals we find in asteroids are the ones used to construct this ship. The Formics may use alloys unlike any we’ve ever seen. All we know is that the surface of that ship is designed to resist collisions and high radiation at near-lightspeed, which means they’re incredibly strong. Far stronger than any asteroid.”

“If that’s the case, then what good will explosives do?” asked Chubs.

“How the ship responds to the explosives will tell us a great deal about the hull’s strength,” said Benyawe. “But that’s not the only reason why I question the glaser. Consider our speed. We’re traveling at a hundred and ten thousand kilometers per hour. The glaser wasn’t built for that. If we extended it out of the ship to fire, it would likely be struck by something and ripped to shreds. Even tiny space particles would render it useless. It was designed to fire from a stationary position. Our spacesuits have heavy shielding. The glaser doesn’t.”


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seagull
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Pete, the section you highlighted at the end is just another one of the examples of nonsense in the book.

The Earth is travelling at 30km/sec (hundred and ten thousand kilometers per hour) around the sun. Asteroids also travel at speeds with the same order of magnitude. Most objects in the solar system have prograde orbits but the relative velocities are still large enough to create huge impact craters if a collision happens. There is a higher risk of collision if you are inside an asteroid belt (or planetary ring) but otherwise the risk is not significantly larger just because of your speed. The risk would be proportional to the time the glaser is exposed but that does not have to be a long time. Compared to the risks inherent in approaching a hostile ship with superior technology the risk of "something hitting it" is negligible. The whole argument is bogus.

I also fail to understand why you think that mentioning "speed relative to an asteriod" in this context excuses the authors' manipulation of astrophysics principles to fit their plot.

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Pete at Home
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The asteroids arent thick like that in the kuiper belt, Seagul, but there's more dust and pebbles floating in between so it's dangerous to expose the glaser there. High speed.dust collisions a danger to.the glaser, not.the ship.
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Pete at Home
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Remember how they had to travel for months to the Kuiper belt just to find an asteroid?
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Seriati
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Pete, doesn't that passage make it worse? Why would the glaser be desinged to fire from a stationary position, if put on a ship? When would it ever be free of the velocity of the ship? Even an argument for stationary relative to a specific object should acknowledge that there are going to be other objects in near space.

I must admit, I'm unlikely to read Earth Unawares. Ender's Shadow really put me off on the new books. Almost to the level of Greedo shot first in how unfair it was to the original and better story.

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by Seriati:
Pete, doesn't that passage make it worse? Why would the glaser be desinged to fire from a stationary position, if put on a ship? When would it ever be free of the velocity of the ship? Even an argument for stationary relative to a specific object should acknowledge that there are going to be other objects in near space.

I must admit, I'm unlikely to read Earth Unawares. Ender's Shadow really put me off on the new books. Almost to the level of Greedo shot first in how unfair it was to the original and better story.

The glaser was a prototype mining tool. It wasn't built into the ship at all. It wasn't a weapon. The book shows it being tested on a pebble, and then on an asteroid. Someone has the idea of trying to use it as a weapon, but the response is precisely what you said: that it wasn't built in the ship properly to be used while traveling. When they tested the glaser, they were "still" relative to the general movement of the Kuiper belt.

I strongly recommend the book. Great stuff on asteroid miner culture. Feels like Firefly, if you ever watched that series.

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Seriati
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But Pete, when would a mining tool for use in space, ever be used on a stationary object? There are no stationary objects. And what they said was that they were traveling at great speed, a mining operation would also be traveling at great speed, the same speed as the object they were attempting to mine. Is there a single asteroid anywhere that isn't it motion? ETA - Or is the implication that it was pulled from a secure testing facility?

By the way, really enjoyed Firefly. Still laugh at the Firefly references on Castle. It's been really hard to share Firefly though, Fox was right about one thing, it was too slow for non-Sci Fi fans if shown in production order, of course it didn't make sense in the order they released it.

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by Seriati:
But Pete, when would a mining tool for use in space, ever be used on a stationary object? There are no stationary objects.

Technically, there are no stationary objects, sure.

But when you're in the Kuiper belt orbit around the sun, floating rougly at the same speed as most of the dust and rocks and ice in that system, a nearby asteroid that shares your speed and direction would appear "stationary," would it not? Under those conditions, safe to use the glaser.

While racing through dust and rock fields in order to get to earth ahead of an enemy spacecraft, an unprotected glaser would be less operational. The book went on to discuss how something could be built over the glaser to protect it, but that there wasn't time.

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seagull
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quote:
a nearby asteroid that shares your speed and direction would appear "stationary," would it not?
No it would not. Velocities in the Kuiper belt are an order of magnitude smaller than they are in the asteroid belt and relative velocities are indeed smaller than the orbital velocities but they are still high enough to create large impact craters on whatever objects they hit.

quote:
While racing through dust and rock fields in order to get to earth ahead of an enemy spacecraft,
That expression in itself is nonsense.
Even the Asteroid belt is very sparse. All NASA spacecraft that went to Jupiter and beyond passed through the belt with no collisions. The risk exists but at any given minute it is minuscule and dwarfs compared to approaching an "enemy spacecraft".

If you read about a soldier that argues against taking the guns out during enemy bombardment and firing back at the enemy because the guns might be hit by a meteorite, would that sound reasonable to you?

Granted, on Earth we have an atmosphere that burns up the smaller meteors. But would a sentence like that sound reasonable to you in a sci-Fi novel about a war on the moon?

I have rarely seen this level of abuse of basic physics in order to cater to unnecessary and inconsistent plot elements.

quote:
if it was urgent to get to the destination as fast as possible, for the person travelling in the ship to remain healthy and for radiation exposure to be minimized (three powerful elements in the plot) it would make sense for the ship to use more fuel and accelerate toward the Earth-Moon system instead of coasting. When it reached the turning point it would start a longer deceleration phase, by pointing the thrusters in the opposite direction but the G-force would always be there and the pilot could actually build up strength and bone calcium in preparation for surviving Lunar or Earth Gravity.
Pete, why did you choose to ignore this section in my opening post and focus on the relatively minor issue of the relative velocities?

What are you trying to say?

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