Thread: V
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Old July 16 2009, 05:14 PM   #14
Christopher
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Re: V

Samuel Walters wrote: View Post
Christopher wrote: View Post
Who said anything about "sparsely distributed water vapor?"
My mistake. You said "you could find huge amounts of water ice around practically any star in the galaxy" after commenting on comets, moons, etc. and I took that to mean you were commenting on a more nebulous kind of phenomenon.
Reread the sentence you just quoted. You'll see it includes the word "ice." Ice is not vapor.


Here I have to disagree. Harsh weather and hostile environments on Earth as compared to the moons and comets of space? I don't see too much clamor for beachfront property on, say, Europa.
We're talking about the needs of an interstellar mining expedition, not a travel agency. Any civilization capable of traveling to the stars would have long since mastered the mechanics of operating in deep space. The problems involved in mining asteroids and comets are trivial compared to those involved in travelling across interstellar distances. Any civilization so primitive that it couldn't handle a little vacuum would not be travelling here from another star system in the first place. For that matter, any civilization that advanced would probably use mostly robotic mining equipment anyway, so life support isn't even an issue.


Besides, why build an entire mining operation from scratch (or several of them) on the frozen surface of a comet or moon when you could make use of tech and labor from an already-inhabited world (one which has a relatively mild and hospitable environment) with a decent industrial infrastructure, but is technologically inferior? Particularly when that labor force is renewable and can be used as both food and fodder for future imperialistic operations?
Because it's about a kajillion times easier to any civilization of the technological level we're talking about. Because the amount of water available on Earth's surface is a fraction of a percent of what you could get from the Oort Cloud or the Kuiper Belt, and it's vastly more energy-intensive to lug it up out of the Earth's gravity well and then the Sun's gravity well. Earth is the largest solid body in the entire Solar System. Our gravity is comparatively intense. From the perspective of a space-based operation, that makes Earth one of the least desirable planets to extract materials from. It's just not worth it for such a comparatively tiny quantity of water.

You're evidently not aware of just how easy it is to move things around in space when you don't have to worry about fighting Earth's gravity. It's said that if you can get into low orbit from the Earth's surface, that puts you halfway to anywhere, because it takes as much energy just to travel that few hundred kilometers out of our intense gravity than it does to travel on a freefall trajectory just about anywhere else in the system.

And again, it would be immensely easier for the Visitors just to go to their own cometary belt or Oort Cloud. I find it thoroughly absurd that a civilization could've so thoroughly exhausted its own star system's water reserves that it would need to travel nine light-years to find more. Water is simply not scarce in the galaxy. That's a fantasy.

And how could they possibly run out of water? It's not like water ceases to exist once it's been used. If it's polluted, it can be cleaned. If it's converted into other substances, it can be converted back. Yes, we have water shortages on Earth, but that's not because the water ceases to exist; it's because it's expensive and difficult to clean it, desalinate it, or move it to where it's needed. But the difficulty of doing those things is about a million times less than the difficulty of travelling across interstellar space.


If you were to siphon water on Earth, and didn't want to do all the labor yourself, and wanted to use your operation as a base of operations for an imperialistic agenda, where would would you go? To exploit an industrial center or to Antarctica?
If I were a member of a civilization advanced enough to traverse interstellar distances, I'd either use robots or I'd use a replicator-type technology to extract hydrogen and oxygen from materials around me and create water. You're assuming modern-day technological limitations that are fundamentally incompatible with the premise of interstellar travel.

Not to mention that your analogy is illegitimate, because we're talking about a situation where you'd have literally millions of "Antarcticas" that were hundreds of thousands of times closer than the nearest "industrial center." In that context, the "Antarcticas" are immensely more convenient and practical to exploit.


Sure, there are other options for water, but even so, do they have a ready supply of food? Labor? Industry?
Again, you're assuming a limited technology that's incompatible with an interstellar civilization. Anyone that advanced should be able to synthesize food or water and use robotic labor, and they'd have to have an incredibly robust and efficient industry that would easily outperform our entire planet's industrial output by a factor of thousands.


The point is, while I agree there could be better options for the Visitors if all they wanted was just water, it isn't "scientifically ignorant" to suggest that they might come here for their water, food and imperialistic needs -- all of which are stated in the original V mini-series and in KJ's sequel book.
Sorry, you're wrong. The water thing is just monumentally stupid on every level. As for food, it's unlikely that the life forms of one planet could gain nourishment from those of another planet; at best it would be like junk food, not very nutritious and toxic in excess. The only way in which interstellar conquest makes any sense is if it's motivated purely by imperialism. There's just no material gain that can't be met within your own star system if your technology is advanced enough to synthesize needed substances from raw elements -- and that's a given if you're capable of interstellar flight.


Besides, isn't science fiction inherently about what is possible, more than it is about what is probable?
Science fiction is not a license for sloppiness and stupidity. Would you apply that argument to another genre? Sure, maybe it's possible that, say, some of the absurdly convoluted romantic entanglements and inane plot twists on TV soap operas could happen, but just because they're not impossible doesn't mean they aren't worthy of criticism for being unbelievable and unintelligent. As a career SF author myself, I am deeply offended by the pervasive attitude in our society that SF isn't worth holding to the same standards of quality as any other genre, or that it's not "supposed" to make sense or be treated with care and intelligence. SF authors have as much obligation as authors in any other genre to make their work believable and grounded in good research. If you were writing a romantic comedy in Paris, you wouldn't say the Eiffel Tower was 50 miles tall, painted neon orange, and located atop Mt. Everest. You'd put enough basic care into it to make it reasonably consistent with reality. The same should go for science fiction as for any other genre. And saying that SF is somehow exempt from basic standards of competence and believability is an insult to the entire genre.
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