What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

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Re: What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

Postby Yakk » Mon Jan 31, 2011 3:59 pm UTC

What, exactly, can a human brain do that is fundamentally different than what a sufficiently advanced computer can do?

You could say "magic".
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Re: What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

Postby bigglesworth » Mon Jan 31, 2011 4:32 pm UTC

I think the idea was that both sides invent a method of disabling the computers of the other. These disabling methods presumably don't affect humans, leaving them to pilot the craft.
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Re: What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

Postby Robert'); DROP TABLE *; » Mon Jan 31, 2011 6:37 pm UTC

Wouldn't it be easier to disable any humans, considering how generally squishy they are compared to electronics?
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Re: What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

Postby bigglesworth » Mon Jan 31, 2011 6:43 pm UTC

We are talking about fictional science here.
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Re: What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Jan 31, 2011 6:46 pm UTC

And presumably things like jamming work more effectively at long distances than things like squishing humans.
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Re: What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

Postby Yakk » Mon Jan 31, 2011 6:51 pm UTC

Why would jamming an electronic device be fundamentally easier than jamming a human?

Today, commercial computation devices are easier to jam than humans. Hardened military? Not so much so. (Look at your electronics certificates -- they actually state that it must accept electronic interference!)
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Re: What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

Postby bigglesworth » Mon Jan 31, 2011 6:54 pm UTC

It might be fundamentally easier via a fictional principle.
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Re: What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

Postby Antimony-120 » Mon Jan 31, 2011 6:56 pm UTC

Yakk wrote:Why would jamming an electronic device be fundamentally easier than jamming a human?

Today, commercial computation devices are easier to jam than humans. Hardened military? Not so much so. (Look at your electronics certificates -- they actually state that it must accept electronic interference!)


Er...still way easier to jam than humans. Smart missiles ARE jammable, and foolable. Humans are foolable, but it's harder to do. And jamming humans (aka: Making them act contrary to what their intentions are) has been the holy grail of every crazed world dictator, and significant interest of every other politician. There have been billions poured into it. Still hasn't happened.
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Re: What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

Postby Yakk » Mon Jan 31, 2011 7:14 pm UTC

Antimony-120 wrote:
Yakk wrote:Why would jamming an electronic device be fundamentally easier than jamming a human?

Today, commercial computation devices are easier to jam than humans. Hardened military? Not so much so. (Look at your electronics certificates -- they actually state that it must accept electronic interference!)
Er...still way easier to jam than humans. Smart missiles ARE jammable, and foolable.

Ok. Jam a hardened computer in a internally powered Faraday cage with optical inputs and outputs that are not strait in-out.

You'd need to be throwing enough energy at it to melt it, basically, which would ... also "Jam" a human.

(Note that turning a human into Jam is sufficient to Jam a human.)
And jamming humans (aka: Making them act contrary to what their intentions are) has been the holy grail of every crazed world dictator,

Humans generally intend to keep living. Jamming humans isn't that hard. Dictators have been doing it for decades.

You can, today, make hardened electronics that basically requires physical destruction of the armored case in order to change how it operates. And that case can be tougher than a human.

Fooling is another question -- but even then, stick a human with the reaction time horizon of a missile, and it wouldn't even be able to target a fighter craft with no flares -- humans aren't "smart" enough to be fooled, because they cannot solve the original question of real-time IR tracking at mach+ speeds in order to collide with a target.

So that is another approach. Instead of positing that computers are dumber, make humans smarter. Like, much smarter.
bigglesworth wrote:It might be fundamentally easier via a fictional principle.

Sure -- in which case, make up the fictional principle! Humans are magical beings with souls, while computers lack free will, and as such humans can feel which way quantum branching will happen, allowing them to defeat computers by predicting what they will do. This feeling is called the Force, and users of it are called Lukes.
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Re: What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

Postby bigglesworth » Mon Jan 31, 2011 7:18 pm UTC

Alternatively, computers powerful enough to perform targeting calculations do so with small quantities of hyper-stuff, which can be jammed with a hyper-field :mrgreen:
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Re: What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

Postby Yakk » Mon Jan 31, 2011 7:26 pm UTC

bigglesworth wrote:Alternatively, computers powerful enough to perform targeting calculations do so with small quantities of hyper-stuff, which can be jammed with a hyper-field :mrgreen:

Ya, but that requires we make computers dumber than todays computers (or strangely no smarter than todays computers to any extent). Or maybe todays computers contain hyper-stuff and we just haven't noticed?

This seems non-kosher.
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Re: What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

Postby Antimony-120 » Mon Jan 31, 2011 8:41 pm UTC

Yakk wrote:
Antimony-120 wrote:
Yakk wrote:Why would jamming an electronic device be fundamentally easier than jamming a human?

Today, commercial computation devices are easier to jam than humans. Hardened military? Not so much so. (Look at your electronics certificates -- they actually state that it must accept electronic interference!)
Er...still way easier to jam than humans. Smart missiles ARE jammable, and foolable.

Ok. Jam a hardened computer in a internally powered Faraday cage with optical inputs and outputs that are not strait in-out.

You'd need to be throwing enough energy at it to melt it, basically, which would ... also "Jam" a human.

(Note that turning a human into Jam is sufficient to Jam a human.)


Er, no it isn't. There's a difference between "I can kill him" and "He can't kill me". Jamming makes an enemies weapons impotent. Killing them makes them dead. Obviously killing them makes them incapable of attacking as well, but a good part of being able to kill them before they kill you is the whole "before they kill you" part. In short, a good Offense is NOT always the best Defense, particularly not tactically, or we'd be sending our soldiers into the battlefield wearing nothing but woad.


And jamming humans (aka: Making them act contrary to what their intentions are) has been the holy grail of every crazed world dictator,

Humans generally intend to keep living. Jamming humans isn't that hard. Dictators have been doing it for decades.

You can, today, make hardened electronics that basically requires physical destruction of the armored case in order to change how it operates. And that case can be tougher than a human.


Again, that's not jamming. Dictators have not been jamming humans for decades, they have been fighting them for millennia. It sometimes works, it sometimes doesn't. But having a better weapon isn't the same thing as stopping the other guy from having a weapon, or the poor man's vote (the brick) wouldn't ever be used.

Fooling is another question -- but even then, stick a human with the reaction time horizon of a missile, and it wouldn't even be able to target a fighter craft with no flares -- humans aren't "smart" enough to be fooled, because they cannot solve the original question of real-time IR tracking at mach+ speeds in order to collide with a target.

So that is another approach. Instead of positing that computers are dumber, make humans smarter. Like, much smarter.


Not the point, I'm not suggesting we stop using missiles on fighters. But why have jet fighters at all? Why not replace all those aircraft carriers with missile carriers? For a damn good reason. Missiles lack the ability to make judgement calls and compensate for new conditions. Jet fighters are able to react to enemy forces in unknown configurations while missiles are not. When something doesn't succeed, or doesn't look like succeeding, they have the ability to abort or retry, rather than just fail.

Now that of course does require that there be a lag between "from base" to "short range" (where short range is defined as whatever range is deemed tactically capable of determining the important variables). Because otherwise your carrier can infact act as your missle platform, and you can just fire from there. But it STILL requires a human element.

Now if computers are sentient, then you have more of a problem. But the thing about it is that computers can fire guns rather well, it's selecting targets we don't trust them with.
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Re: What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

Postby Yakk » Mon Jan 31, 2011 9:03 pm UTC

Antimony-120 wrote:Er, no it isn't. There's a difference between "I can kill him" and "He can't kill me". Jamming makes an enemies weapons impotent. Killing them makes them dead. Obviously killing them makes them incapable of attacking as well, but a good part of being able to kill them before they kill you is the whole "before they kill you" part. In short, a good Offense is NOT always the best Defense, particularly not tactically, or we'd be sending our soldiers into the battlefield wearing nothing but woad.
Killing someone is sufficient to prevent them from killing you, generally. A sufficient offense actually makes defence unnecessary, unless there is value in not killing the target. If you could shoot enemy bullets out of the air, you don't need a bullet proof vest.

As such, if it is easier to kill a human than to jam a computer at the target's location, then your ability to Jam the computer at the target's location only matters if you are engaging in non-lethal warfare.
Humans generally intend to keep living. Jamming humans isn't that hard. Dictators have been doing it for decades.

You can, today, make hardened electronics that basically requires physical destruction of the armored case in order to change how it operates. And that case can be tougher than a human.
Again, that's not jamming. Dictators have not been jamming humans for decades, they have been fighting them for millennia. It sometimes works, it sometimes doesn't. But having a better weapon isn't the same thing as stopping the other guy from having a weapon, or the poor man's vote (the brick) wouldn't ever be used.
I thought I was being pretty clear in my point. Apparently I wasn't.

You defined jamming as "making a human do something other than what they want to". I took your definition, and pointed out that killing a human passes your definition. It is a bit overkill, but still...

So instead of alluding to it extremely strongly, I'll just say it. Saying "easier to jam than a human" is pointless if jamming it is harder than killing a human that replaces it. *sigh*. Right out saying it just lacks poetry. *sad face*
Fooling is another question -- but even then, stick a human with the reaction time horizon of a missile, and it wouldn't even be able to target a fighter craft with no flares -- humans aren't "smart" enough to be fooled, because they cannot solve the original question of real-time IR tracking at mach+ speeds in order to collide with a target.

So that is another approach. Instead of positing that computers are dumber, make humans smarter. Like, much smarter.
Not the point, I'm not suggesting we stop using missiles on fighters. But why have jet fighters at all? Why not replace all those aircraft carriers with missile carriers?

Because jet fighters are nearly obsolete technology already at this point? There are some pretty good arguments out there that a mixture of missiles and unmanned scouts today is significantly better than putting a human in a bomber. Of course, the military industrial complex is going to require that the US government keep on throwing money at existing contracts due to regulatory capture.

Note that US jet fighters haven't had to fight against anyone capable of engaging them in anywhere near matched air-to-air combat in decades. All of the high-tech jet fighter technology is the military and industry playing with toys. (it might be cheaper to put a fighter aircraft up there and shoot down a lower-tech fighter than to shoot the lower-tech fighter down with a missile, but I honestly doubt it.)

Air to ground attack bombers (which is a common feature added to the current generation of over-engineered fighter aircraft to make them actually do something operationally) are more practical. But those are "ground-support" craft. Even there, armed drones are probably way wiser than using fighter ground-attack aircraft, but the political power of the airforce and suppliers means that the airforce has ground-attack craft and is going to use them.

So that is another way to justify it -- politics. Maybe it is politically untenable to use non-humans in armed weapons of war? Barring an exponential crisis with enough pressure to get the politics to change, that would be more than sufficient. Maybe the organization that makes manned fighters has taken over the military procurement for spaceflight? Maybe the rules of war require that you have to place human beings in danger in order to legally use lethal force, and anything else is war crime?
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Re: What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

Postby Antimony-120 » Mon Jan 31, 2011 10:42 pm UTC

Yakk wrote:
Antimony-120 wrote:Er, no it isn't. There's a difference between "I can kill him" and "He can't kill me". Jamming makes an enemies weapons impotent. Killing them makes them dead. Obviously killing them makes them incapable of attacking as well, but a good part of being able to kill them before they kill you is the whole "before they kill you" part. In short, a good Offense is NOT always the best Defense, particularly not tactically, or we'd be sending our soldiers into the battlefield wearing nothing but woad.
Killing someone is sufficient to prevent them from killing you, generally. A sufficient offense actually makes defence unnecessary, unless there is value in not killing the target. If you could shoot enemy bullets out of the air, you don't need a bullet proof vest.


Wonderful, except shooting bullets out of the air would be jamming them. And the reason we don't just rely on "I can kill him" and walk in without armor is because even with wildly overwhelming technological superiority the other guy can still kill you on occasion. It's precisely that reason that we have bullet proof vests. They are, in this analogy, a jamming technology. You are suggesting that bullet proof vests serve no purpose to a man whose gun is bigger, more powerful, and has longer range. But that's still not true. An overwhelming offense requires at least some defense, and jamming is part of that defense.

now you're going to argue that we can shoot missiles out of the air but not bullets, but that was my point about long versus medium range. Long range runs into the issue that it can be seen coming, and things change before the weapon arrives. Those changes require a human component to take care of them in many circumstances.

Now naturally as weapons have gotten faster, medium range has gotten longer. And as I said, it is entirely possible for medium range to grow to such an extent that it effectively encompasses all reasonable ranges. In which case you don't need fighters. Just a missile, because your weapons launch platform is now your base.

As such, if it is easier to kill a human than to jam a computer at the target's location, then your ability to Jam the computer at the target's location only matters if you are engaging in non-lethal warfare.
Humans generally intend to keep living. Jamming humans isn't that hard. Dictators have been doing it for decades.

You can, today, make hardened electronics that basically requires physical destruction of the armored case in order to change how it operates. And that case can be tougher than a human.
Again, that's not jamming. Dictators have not been jamming humans for decades, they have been fighting them for millennia. It sometimes works, it sometimes doesn't. But having a better weapon isn't the same thing as stopping the other guy from having a weapon, or the poor man's vote (the brick) wouldn't ever be used.
I thought I was being pretty clear in my point. Apparently I wasn't.

You defined jamming as "making a human do something other than what they want to". I took your definition, and pointed out that killing a human passes your definition. It is a bit overkill, but still...

So instead of alluding to it extremely strongly, I'll just say it. Saying "easier to jam than a human" is pointless if jamming it is harder than killing a human that replaces it. *sigh*. Right out saying it just lacks poetry. *sad face*


Yes that is true. But so far it hasn't been. Humans in opposing militaries proove remarkably difficult to kill. You keep positing one side with a massive technological and economic advantage, but that's not actually how militaries often work. And even when they do the other side often finds ways to make their toys not work. You may not have noticed but a huge and technologically powerful juggernaught is having rather a difficult time killing all the humans on the technologically backward and economically screwed other side. I'm not taking sides in that particular conflict, I'm just suggesting that killing humans turns out to be extremely difficult.

Fooling is another question -- but even then, stick a human with the reaction time horizon of a missile, and it wouldn't even be able to target a fighter craft with no flares -- humans aren't "smart" enough to be fooled, because they cannot solve the original question of real-time IR tracking at mach+ speeds in order to collide with a target.

So that is another approach. Instead of positing that computers are dumber, make humans smarter. Like, much smarter.
Not the point, I'm not suggesting we stop using missiles on fighters. But why have jet fighters at all? Why not replace all those aircraft carriers with missile carriers?

Because jet fighters are nearly obsolete technology already at this point? There are some pretty good arguments out there that a mixture of missiles and unmanned scouts today is significantly better than putting a human in a bomber. Of course, the military industrial complex is going to require that the US government keep on throwing money at existing contracts due to regulatory capture.

Note that US jet fighters haven't had to fight against anyone capable of engaging them in anywhere near matched air-to-air combat in decades. All of the high-tech jet fighter technology is the military and industry playing with toys. (it might be cheaper to put a fighter aircraft up there and shoot down a lower-tech fighter than to shoot the lower-tech fighter down with a missile, but I honestly doubt it.)


Which is part of the point. of course missiles are cheaper if the enemy is incapable of jamming them. And the enemy in that particular case is not capable of jamming them. But also note that that case does not denote all cases forever. If the enemy were capable of using countermeasures in any appreciable amount this would be less like the U.S. in Iraq and more like a certain well funded group agains the other superpower that was around in the mid 80's (I'm talking about Afghanistan and Russia). And that was still hardly equal footing, it was merely "able to hit more than once every few thousand tries".

Air to ground attack bombers (which is a common feature added to the current generation of over-engineered fighter aircraft to make them actually do something operationally) are more practical. But those are "ground-support" craft. Even there, armed drones are probably way wiser than using fighter ground-attack aircraft, but the political power of the airforce and suppliers means that the airforce has ground-attack craft and is going to use them.

So that is another way to justify it -- politics. Maybe it is politically untenable to use non-humans in armed weapons of war? Barring an exponential crisis with enough pressure to get the politics to change, that would be more than sufficient. Maybe the organization that makes manned fighters has taken over the military procurement for spaceflight? Maybe the rules of war require that you have to place human beings in danger in order to legally use lethal force, and anything else is war crime?


All certainly possible, and no doubt, as the current usage shows, there can be cases where it's superfluous to use a fighter rather than a missile. But today's cases are not the same as all cases, and even there they are not entirely useless in modern warfare where a missile is considered to dumb to do the job by virtue of being insentient (not by virtue of bad programming).
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Re: What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

Postby Yakk » Mon Jan 31, 2011 11:25 pm UTC

The bullets are analogous to the fighters. To "Jam" a missile or unpiloted fighter, you have to shoot it down. Jamming and shooting it down are functionally identical, given that the only way to "Jam" it is to shoot it down. There is no magical thing that hardened computers are vulnerable to that you seem to be calling "Jamming". If you mean "shoot it down", use "shoot it down". If you mean something other than "shoot it down", explain what this magic is ... please? Without using the word "Jamming" as if it explains everything.

If you do point something out, could you point out how this "Jamming" would work against the computer, and not equally cripple the human that would replace it? (For example, radar jamming cripples both a human pilot and a computer).

I've just realized I asked this question before. And you went on about how mind control was hard. So maybe there isn't much point?
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Re: What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

Postby Antimony-120 » Tue Feb 01, 2011 2:02 am UTC

Jamming. ECM. The reason these are more effective against a missile ship than a fighter is that a fighter is at much closer range, and therefore the human pilot can look at the situation and take a good guess at what the best method of accheiving objectives is, how important various objectives are versus how much effort is going into protecting each of them, and the like.

Note that that is also true for trying to shoot down the missile or fighter. If a missile discovers an objective is heavily defended, it will continue on until it is shot down, a human pilot may be able to, for example, note the new defnsive positions and attempt to dislodge them, making up an entirely new objective in response to new information.
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Re: What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

Postby Yakk » Tue Feb 01, 2011 10:47 am UTC

Antimony-120 wrote:Jamming. ECM.

So, just blocking signals. Which means humans are as blind as computers would be, except at slow-and-close ranges.

Ok. So we need some fictional science why space fighters would get ridiculously close to each other at ridiculously slow speeds in order for human visual acuity to be useful, and fictional science reasons why human visual acuity is way better than anything a computer can do (ie, presume computer vision never gets any better than it is currently).
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Re: What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

Postby Antimony-120 » Tue Feb 01, 2011 5:14 pm UTC

Yakk wrote:
Antimony-120 wrote:Jamming. ECM.

So, just blocking signals. Which means humans are as blind as computers would be, except at slow-and-close ranges.

Ok. So we need some fictional science why space fighters would get ridiculously close to each other at ridiculously slow speeds in order for human visual acuity to be useful, and fictional science reasons why human visual acuity is way better than anything a computer can do (ie, presume computer vision never gets any better than it is currently).


Signal blocking is more effective with distance. So all you need is signal blocking that is effective(-ish) at a range that is shorter than the normal distance from base to base. That allows for fighters, which more in to a medium range where signal blocking is less effective, launch the weapons, and then bug out. No need for rediculously slow at all.

In fact, the idea that "we'll just show up, launch a couple missiles from afar and be invulnerable" was tried by the U.S. military in the Korean war with their jet fighters. It didn't work very well, and they discovered that the pilots needed to be trained in dogfighting at those speeds (which was previously thought impossible). In short, you're overestimating how much information you can get from a distance, and underestimating how little of the fighters purpose is simply launching weapons. There's a lot of judgement calls that are made as well, and if your computer is capable of making them it's most likely sentient, in which case we're just talking about replacing humans in general, not just in fighters.
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Re: What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

Postby Yakk » Tue Feb 01, 2011 5:37 pm UTC

I'm finding this boring. Cya.
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Re: What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

Postby Qwert » Tue Feb 01, 2011 5:45 pm UTC

I think fighters make sense if you are trying to use direct fire weapons like rail-guns, lasers, dumbfire missiles, etc, because (1) it allows for their use at ranges that disallows dodging and limits countermeasures, and (2) allows more surface area from which to launch the weapons. A big warship can only have so many guns pointed at the enemy at a time without exposing a huge target, and fighters allow them to essentially launch flying gun turrets without exposing more of themselves.
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Re: What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

Postby Robert'); DROP TABLE *; » Tue Feb 01, 2011 7:28 pm UTC

Signal blocking is more effective with distance. So all you need is signal blocking that is effective(-ish) at a range that is shorter than the normal distance from base to base. That allows for fighters, which more in to a medium range where signal blocking is less effective, launch the weapons, and then bug out. No need for rediculously slow at all.

Except a human can't withstand infinite acceleration. Once they've launched their weapons, they'd have to withstand a gigantic delta-v to get back to base.

Qwert wrote:I think fighters make sense if you are trying to use direct fire weapons like rail-guns, lasers, dumbfire missiles, etc, because (1) it allows for their use at ranges that disallows dodging and limits countermeasures, and (2) allows more surface area from which to launch the weapons. A big warship can only have so many guns pointed at the enemy at a time without exposing a huge target, and fighters allow them to essentially launch flying gun turrets without exposing more of themselves.

The only countermeasure against a railgun-like weapon is to not be in the way. Unless there is momentum-breaking forcefield technology or something, the projectile is going to cause incredible damage to anything it hits.
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Re: What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

Postby Antimony-120 » Tue Feb 01, 2011 7:53 pm UTC

Robert'); DROP TABLE *; wrote:
Signal blocking is more effective with distance. So all you need is signal blocking that is effective(-ish) at a range that is shorter than the normal distance from base to base. That allows for fighters, which more in to a medium range where signal blocking is less effective, launch the weapons, and then bug out. No need for rediculously slow at all.

Except a human can't withstand infinite acceleration. Once they've launched their weapons, they'd have to withstand a gigantic delta-v to get back to base.


I haven't ever defined distances or speeds in my arguments. So it depends entirely on what long, medium, and close range are. As I've said multiple times before, if medium range is large enough that it can be done from base (be that a plant or a large class of ship) then it will be done as such, and fighters are indeed superfluous. However IF it is unfeasable to launch attacks from a captial ship for reasons of not having sufficient information about the enemy at weapons launch, THEN there needs to ba a mobile weapons platform that closes to medium range so that the weapons can be launched from there, and it needs to have a sentient component (whether human or otherwise) to make use of the new information it receives.

Again, it all depends on whether that is the situation with the technology of the time. In many modern cases it is indeed true, though as Yakk noted I'm speaking more of fighter-bombers than I am of pure fighters, which I agree are likely not exceptionally important. In space, where sensors can track for much larger distances, it might be completely impossible to have such a situation.
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Re: What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

Postby Cobramaster » Wed Feb 02, 2011 5:09 am UTC

All right lets go back to the original question, Fighters as seen in BSG and other sci-fi are not possible without 2 things, Really good and Really small while not using a ridiculous amount of power, which is to say really freaking difficult. Now I have read sci-fi that essentially created an all new fighter system by simply filling one really big (multiple kilometers in length) ship, and filling it with lots of significantly smaller warships that have the Military grade inertial Dampeners and propulsion systems that allow for acceleration in excess of 700g without killing the crew. The range of energy weapons in this universe are realistic in that the GRASER (gamma ray laser basically) armaments and the lower powered X-ray Lasershave maximum effective ranges of ~200,000 kilometers, the Small ships can carry one plus a few missile tubes giving them around 60 total missiles and a Graser. Now the Missiles in the universe are W-ray laser platforms that Deliver a single high powered shot, or the more familiar nuclear. But the missiles have an effective range of 8-16 million klicks, of flight time with accelration rates up to 96,000g since hardware can survive a lot more than humans, though the accel drops due to the energy needs to approach c exponentially increasing.

But the only reason the Light Craft exist in warfare as carrier assets is the cost benefit of taking a single large ship that can mount 50-60 missile tubes and about the same in Energy mounts, compared to the many very cheap ships that use a significantly smaller crew to equal the Energy armament and multiply the missile load as far as salvo weight is concerned by a factor of 10.

But in no way should you confuse these ships with simple fighters given they weigh 20 thousand tons and have a crew of around 10. So not a fighter but fighters don't work in deep space. Another thing to think about with fighters is Life support systems given the time span of a battle you might not have survivors if the craft is small.
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Re: What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Feb 02, 2011 5:08 pm UTC

Cobramaster wrote:But the missiles have an effective range of 8-16 million klicks, of flight time with accelration rates up to 96,000g since hardware can survive a lot more than humans, though the accel drops due to the energy needs to approach c exponentially increasing.
Since there's a fixed limit, energy needs approach infinity asymptotically rather than exponentially.

But in any case, a subjective (for the missile) 96,000g for 3 minutes gets you to about 16,000,000km and up to 0.511c, at which point gamma is only 1.16, so Newtonian estimates for everything aren't *totally* off.
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Re: What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

Postby Technical Ben » Mon Feb 07, 2011 11:44 am UTC

bigglesworth wrote:That is, what fictional science is required that one or two-person spacecraft, launched from a larger one, are a useful weapon of inter-planetary war?

They could be used for policing. If they are not worth it in actual capital ship combat, they can still be used for other purposes.
Such as manned spying/surveillance. Intercepting shuttles or small transport craft. Perhaps just the speed of movement and manoeuvring?
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Re: What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

Postby Spambot5546 » Mon Feb 07, 2011 4:28 pm UTC

The only explanation that makes sense for manned fighters is the "computers don't work" one mentioned earlier. In fact, if we're positing a civilization with the technology for space-travel then some rule disallowing computers is the only explanation for manned warfare at all. Once we decide that we can't use computer guided missiles or computer operated guns small spacecraft begin to make just as much sense as small aircraft do in naval warfare.
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Re: What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

Postby Technical Ben » Mon Feb 07, 2011 7:23 pm UTC

Spambot5546 wrote:The only explanation that makes sense for manned fighters is the "computers don't work" one mentioned earlier. In fact, if we're positing a civilization with the technology for space-travel then some rule disallowing computers is the only explanation for manned warfare at all. Once we decide that we can't use computer guided missiles or computer operated guns small spacecraft begin to make just as much sense as small aircraft do in naval warfare.


Perhaps they get "smart" AI, but it's just rubbish at making decisions that are appropriate. So you need humans to just stop the AI from killing everything. IE, see Cylons!!! :shock:
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Re: What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

Postby bigglesworth » Mon Feb 07, 2011 8:13 pm UTC

Or (my personal sci-fi) there's a civilisation of sentient AI that split off from the human systems, and liberates any near-sentient computer that it finds being enslaved by humans. A missile capable of emulating fighter would be considered a war crime.
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Re: What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

Postby Robert'); DROP TABLE *; » Mon Feb 07, 2011 8:18 pm UTC

It's only reasonable for it to be a war crime if you're applying squishy-ethics to software. "Death" doesn't matter that much when you can backup yourself.
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Re: What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

Postby Technical Ben » Mon Feb 07, 2011 9:21 pm UTC

Robert'); DROP TABLE *; wrote:It's only reasonable for it to be a war crime if you're applying squishy-ethics to software. "Death" doesn't matter that much when you can backup yourself.

But to get a backup of said missile, they must deactivate it first. (IE stop you firing it) ;)
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Re: What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

Postby HungryHobo » Wed Feb 09, 2011 12:45 pm UTC

massive soggy bags of meat are almost impossible to justify carting around unless you go with the earlier mentioned "for honour" , "magic AI/computer suppressor" or "illegal AI" options.

Fighters themselves are less hard to justify.
It's conceivable that in any highly advanced war the ability to attack is vastly cheaper than defence.
Even in modern times a battleship can be seriously hurt by a few guys in dingies with fairly small launchers/missiles.

as technology advances battles become more about avoiding letting the enemy know where you are or overwhelming them.
you can choose between extreme stealth or a zerg rush because as mentioned earlier: in such a civilisation even the energy needed for transport would be immense, weapons would be even more potent.

Thus small, extremely stealthy or extremely low value craft make sense and motherships are just massive drifting targets.

Any war of extermination would be over before one side even knew it had begun, planets are just too easy targets for heavy rocks accelerated to near lightspeed.

So for interesting wars you're left with honour wars and wars for resources like asteroid fields where both sides leave the others home planet or populations centres alone because of mutual assured destruction.

if you go with one of the options to disallow AI then a war over an asteroid field using loads of small, stealthy fighters which fight a battle in which the best option is to stay hidden is reasonable.

The asteroids even add in enough random debris and cover to make an interesting space battle reasonable, you can't melt every rock in the field and when you spot something you have to decide if it's an enemy or a rock.
Even with AI you could have interesting battles, just make your pilots uploads of human minds controling tiny,stealthy and immensely powerful craft so that there's still humans to identify with.
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Re: What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

Postby Technical Ben » Wed Feb 09, 2011 1:15 pm UTC

Would it work for a "police" force? How good is a computer going to be to "negotiate" (Just remember Uncanny Valley. Do you want the guy holding the gun freaking out because the AI looked at him weird?). At the very least, the criminals may feel that they never want to accept commands from AI. So a human face, reasoning with them or at least being intimidating, might have an effect. Especially in Pirating and hostage situations of transport craft. "Peacekeeping" needs a personal face. Especially when dealing with problems in populated areas. Just as today, most areas could count as "fire and forget". But individual needs for different engagements can come up.
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Re: What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

Postby Spambot5546 » Wed Feb 09, 2011 2:13 pm UTC

HungryHobo wrote:Any war of extermination would be over before one side even knew it had begun, planets are just too easy targets for heavy rocks accelerated to near lightspeed.

We don't really have to snidely dismiss the possibility of space combat as "honor". The idea that future civilizations will come to some sort of detant about using orbital bombardment to destroy planets seems pretty reasonable, given that we have similar laws now about bombing hospitals and whatnot. In fact Mass Effect mentions them (and their being broken by the Krogans during the Krogan Rebellion).

Plus if we're positing a civilization that can move asteroids around it seems reasonable they'd also have the technology to shoot at them from the planet and break them up, severely reducing their impact.
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Re: What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

Postby HungryHobo » Wed Feb 09, 2011 2:40 pm UTC

Some kind of prohibition is possible though it would restrict absolute war as no side could afford to push another to the point where they have nothing to lose.
You could even justify the lack of AIs in a similar manner. AI's or self replicating machines could be banned in war.

leaving aside the problem of doing much at all about an asteroid moving at a reasonable fraction of light speed(where the attacker has months or years to put the energy into it and the defender only has seconds to stop it) there's still no shortage of ways of pretty much obliterating anything on a planet. a hundred thousand stealthy warheads coming in from every direction at once again at a decent fraction of light speed would probably do the job and would be pretty much impossible to stop.
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Re: What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

Postby zmatt » Thu Mar 10, 2011 10:49 pm UTC

To make something that resembles and handles like a terrestrial fighter aircraft you would need at the least a propulsion system that has the endurance similar to a jet turbine in space. That's really tough. liquid fuel rockets have burn times of at bets minutes and they don't have anywhere near the stability or controllability of turbines. A nuclear rocket such as NERVA would partially solve this, but it still seems like it would be an all or nothing type device and even at best NERVA only had a burn time of 20 minutes and weighed 100 tons including it's fission reactor. You would need something compact and compact cold fusion reactors are completely fictional.

To make it maneuver like a terrestrial fighter would also be very hard. Controllable surfaces like wings, flaps, elevators etc don't work in a vaccum. Although if this was a dual use device (heaven forbid trying to engineer something that complex) then it may have them. You would most likely use a complex system of thrusters that either are small rockets themselves or more likely use a compressed gas. Even then it wouldn't be graceful like an aircraft. And if you used up the propellant well....ever played asteroids?
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Re: What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

Postby Technical Ben » Fri Mar 11, 2011 12:29 pm UTC

Oh, I was going to go for fusion drives/power myself, but not if it cannot be made compact. :( What about antimatter for your fuel (compact) and some sort of really powerful ion drive? Like a Super VASIMR?
I'll probably try for a multi mode fighter for the "one stage launch craft" thread I started. It could launch into lower orbit to intercept craft or satellites.
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Re: What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

Postby zmatt » Fri Mar 11, 2011 1:23 pm UTC

Antimatter may work, but that's the most volatile fuel source you could pick. Any interruption of power or control to the containment and delivery mechanisms would mean the whole craft would explode in a spectacular way.

Cold fusion as far as I can tell is BS. Two scientists once saw some anomalous results at room temperature in 1989, and nobody has been able to replicate it. SciFi writers have hit the ground running with the idea though. for example, in Halo the reactor on the Pillar of Autumn actually gets colder the harder you run it. That shows a fundamental misunderstanding on the authors part about just what cold fusion was all about. It also violates several natural laws.

Ion drives are very efficient but having one is akin to a geo metro that is geared for 200mph. You may reach it.......eventually. They are best use din long term missions like Voyager and Pioneer where a constant thrust is required over decades. Even with two of them TIE fighters would be pretty sluggish.

That's why I mentioned NERVA. If we can get around the problem with gigantic reactors, (may not be possible), or find a suitable replacement heat source then they would allow a decent approximation of a jet turbine as far as power/weight ratios and endurance.
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Re: What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

Postby Technical Ben » Fri Mar 11, 2011 4:47 pm UTC

Oh. I never meant cold fusion. Just general massive lasers/confinement fusion.
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Re: What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

Postby zmatt » Fri Mar 11, 2011 5:38 pm UTC

Fair enough, I really don't know a great deal about the individual engineering challenges on reactors. But if we take one of the smaller reactors, like the PWR units we use in nuclear subs and other warships, they are still pretty big and heavy. And if you were to make one that is compact and still feasible would it make enough power to be worthwhile? I can't get any solid figures on the size, cost and power outputs of nuclear sub reactors (probably for good reason).
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Re: What fictional science is required for space-fighers?

Postby Technical Ben » Fri Mar 11, 2011 7:45 pm UTC

Only 50mw for this one... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toshiba_4S
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