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    Kerm Telegraph Maintenance Engineer
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    The North Grove, Duna.

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  1. This is something I’ve pondered myself. Basic premise is that wormhole travel is a thing but (borrowing a concept from Greg Egan), it only allows travel at lightspeed. So yeah - how do you run a galactic civilization when communications and travel times are limited to c? Beyond a few obvious things - long-lived species, use of some kind of suspended animation etc., I didn’t really come up with anything conclusive. I suspect there’s a good story in there somewhere but it may be beyond my writing skills!
  2. Probably. As you said, the goalposts are always moving. If somebody came up with a model that moved beyond mere description and basically wrote an internally consistent first draft paper without being led through the process by its metaphorical hand - then I think at that point I'd agree that the question of whether the model was actually intelligent, or just faking it, was irrelevant. By first draft paper, I'm meaning something that sets the background for the new dataset in terms of what's been observed before, describes the new analysis, and then presents some sort of meaningful conclusion from that analysis. Is it consistent with previous results? Does it invalidate previous results. Does it have any wider repercussions? Does it suggest any new avenues of research? It's probably unrealistic to expect anything quite as pithy or insightful as Crick & Watson's "It has not escaped our notice that the specific pairing we have postulated immediately suggests a possible copying mechanism for the genetic material" but that's the kind of thing I'm getting at.
  3. Wouldn't it be more correct to say that the AI had discovered a new correlation between a set of images? I doubt it had any concept of what a tumour marker was, what a biopsy slide was, or the implications of discovering one on the other.
  4. They've got a way to go yet though. Forget the title of the article - IMO that particular picture is sort of OK in an exaggerated for clarity way. The rest of the diagrams though - and their captions - are just typical LLM mashups. Superficially convincing in that they look sort of like the real thing, but actually meaningless.
  5. I think I sprained an eyeball reading that article and the Ars Technica equivalent. Because nothing says asserting dominance like panicking at the bogeyman and bodging together a slightly larger flags and footprints mission. You won the Space Race guys. You won it on July 20th 1969. Outside of the Space Force hawks, I'm pretty sure that the public response to anything China does on the Moon is going to be a hearty meh, or a a golf clap followed by a snarky 'you're only 50 years late to the party'.
  6. My gut feeling is that journeys measured in months seem a bit short for needing regular maintenance but that's mostly because I'm used to thinking in terms of present day probes and landers which, although fairly complex, aren't as complex as a warship. Any navy folks on here will have more relevant insights I would think. For that matter, anyone in the aviation business could probably help - how much maintenance, and what sort of maintenance, do airliners need in a month? But yeah, if he needs a Space Navy to make the story work, that's all the justification required.
  7. I think you put your finger on it within the first two sentences. Everything else is going to be situational, and highly dependent on available technology. Again, as you said yourself, having a crew in the loop for decision making is an advantage - unless you have a robo-mind capable of thinking like a human. Alternatively, FTL comms could remove the need to have a crew onboard for decision making purposes. Take maintenance for example? Is it easier to have repairable systems or redundant systems if you want reliability? Is there any reason why those repairs can't be done by robot? Even present day space vessels have robots to help with maintenance - see DEXTRE on the ISS for example. Can the repairs be done 'in the field' at all? Fixing a busted nuclear reactor might be difficult, replacing a worn thruster nozzle less so - assuming that the nozzle was designed to be replaceable. Also, life support systems and crew compartments have a fairly substantial mass penalty. If you do away with those, is your warship light enough that you can give it acceptable performance with a simpler, more reliable propulsion system? For that matter, is a repairable vessel worth the extra cost and complexity? Might it be more practical to have a swarm of drone vessels and just accept that you're going to lose some over time due to lack of maintenance? What weapons are your ships using and defending against? How long do you expect the ship to need to last between engagements? Is battle damage likely to be survivable or not? If a single engagement is likely to damage a warship beyond repair then a) there may not be much point worrying about maintenance and b) you're probably not going to put a crew on it. Don't get me wrong - you can absolutely have a setting with crewed, repairable warships if you like but it's difficult to say what the advantages or disadvantages of having a crew are without knowing more about the available technology in that setting - and the rest of the setting for that matter. There are various 'soft' reasons for crewed warships that have been explored fairly thoroughly in science fiction. Are you writing in a setting where AI has been banned, such that any computer more advanced than a desk calculator is a dangerous heresy? Does your setting have a tradition of honourable combat aboard crewed warships? (True warriors don't send machines to fight for them, even if the machines could probably do a better job.) Or maybe you're leaning Starship Trooper-wards, and service aboard a warship is a necessary part of winning political privilege and influence back home, assuming that you survive your tour of duty.
  8. Pick up rock. Sneak up behind enemy combatant. As per Mr R Heinlein, this may be facilitated if the enemy mudfoot is loaded down with gear and too busy reading a vernier to notice you. Bash them over the head with rock. Steal their weapons and ammunition to use against them. Stretch goal - reverse engineer magic boom bullets for own use. Edit. More seriously, how do modern militaries deal with grenades, mortars, tanks, and all the other sundry nastiness that lie between ‘small arms fire’ and ‘tactical nuke’? Reading up on that might be a good place to start. Edit the 2nd. If you want a science fiction take on this, what you’re describing sounds like a standard Bolter from Warhammer 40K, albeit one that doesn’t require the strength of a genetically enhanced supersoldier to use. Unsure if you’ll find any way of countering Bolters other than ‘throw more bodies at the problem’ or ‘deploy space magic’, but it might be worth a look.
  9. @Vl3d Cheers for the examples. Definitely an 'eye of the reader' situation here, I think. To me, those examples were mostly callbacks to the old 'dumb kerbals' (OK, lets be nice about this 'cheerfully haphazard kerbals with ramshackle technology') and 'parts lying by the side of the road' memes from the early versions of the game, with a sprinkling of pop-culture references in there too. And I think even those memes largely came from the playerbase, or from the "It's hardly rocket science" comics put out by one of the early devs (apologies - I don't recall their name). If you see them differently, that's cool, but they weren't especially edgy or gutsy to me.
  10. As I said, I haven't played the game so obviously can't speak to the writing quality, but I have to admit that that mostly sounds pretty good to me. I could go with feel good vibes from diverse green aliens with emotions and helpful personalities, and I suspect 'cute and silly' is likely in the eye of the reader. That's all probably helped by the fact that I never really saw the KSP1 kerbals as stupid crash-puppets (and have probably spent more time writing kerbal headcanon than actually playing the game - see signature file ), but YMMV. Genuinely curious about the astronaut humor from KSP1 and Squad kerbals talking back with scientist and astronaut tongue-in-cheek jokes though, because that's not what I remember at all. Again, probably in the eye of the reader, but if you could sling out a couple of examples, I'd be interested in seeing them.
  11. To me, the soul of KSP1 was three kerbals (probably but not necessarily drawn from Jeb, Bill, Bob, and Val) in a capsule orbiting the Mun, with ear to ear grins on their faces. To a lesser extent, it was also about the 'parts found by the side of the road' attitude, which always gave me an early rocketry club vibe. Basically, imagine the British Interplanetary Society and their Soviet or German counterparts, but with the actual resources to put their ideas into practice. Small green aliens heading into the unknown for no better reason than it seemed like a fun thing to do. The actual 'parts by the side of the road' meme though, got rather overdone in my opinion, as did the junkyard aesthetic. Aesthetically, I imagined early Kerbal technology as being similar to early Soviet technology. Rugged, not too pretty, but by thunder it got the job done. If you're curious, go do a web search for the "Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age" exhibition at the London Science Museum, and check out some of those images, particularly of the early Soviet satellites. I'm quite positive that they weren't cobbled together from whatever the Soviets had lying around, but they sure do look like they could have been. I found the KSP humour and 'dumb kerbals' memes to be mostly ignorable at best or actively irritating at worst. The short descriptions veered all over the place from 'played straight' to 'humour that didn't quite land' to 'WTAF'. I'm talking about sensors powered by black magic and fuel tanks that were allegedly even more adorable than their larger counterparts and should be handled stoically and with care. I haven't played KSP2 so I don't know what its overall vibe is, but there's an awful lot of memetic fandom baggage from KSP1 that I wouldn't miss in the slightest.
  12. Each to their own, but I disagree with this. Trial and error is boring. If you want to gatekeep a quality of life feature, gatekeep it behind something I can plan and execute, like putting something in a high orbit around Eve or Laythe to measure the extent and density of its atmosphere and give me some data (or better, a visual aerobraking guide) to help me plan a landing mission. Please don't make me have to do a bunch of save scumming before my first landing, after which I'm deemed to have 'learned' how to aerobrake and can get the nice visual guide. Because I promise you that I'm not learning about heat flux or whatever, I'm just grinding through a bit of boring gameplay to avoid having to do it again. More generally, I'm not really onboard with the idea that KSP2 has to be a learning experience and the notion that the players can start with in-game tools for these skills (like calculating delta-V requirements) but just have to git gud at these skills (like aerobraking) before they're deemed worthy of unlocking an in-game tool. I say this as someone who a) doesn't have KSP2 so doesn't really have a stake in this discussion, and b) who found that the best bit of KSP1 was the learning to play part and that once I'd done that, the actual game was pretty thin. But just because I liked it, that doesn't mean that everyone should. And even then, the 'learning to play' bit was mostly about how I stopped fiddling around and learned to love the navball to do things like docking or powered landings.
  13. I wondered when those were going to turn up. And yes, you probably would, which is exactly why I mentioned needing rapid attitude changes, say for a Moon lander.
  14. I think there's no distinction between a large creature compressing itself to become small and dense, and a dense creature spreading itself out to become thin. I think this website might be helpful for calculating how much bioballoon you need to lift a given weight - actual calculator is at the bottom of the page. However, if you want some ballpark figures, then assuming you're in Earth's atmosphere and your hot air is heated to 100 o C, it requires about 4 cubic metres of hot air to lift a kilogram of mass. Going the other way, it takes about 0.1 cubic metres, or 100 litres of hot air to lift 26g of mass - which is the mass of a slightly larger than average, common frog. A 50kg human would therefore require 200 cubic metres of hot air. Assuming that hot air is contained within a spherical bag, that bag is going to have a 3.5 meter radius, give or take and a surface area of 150 square meters, give or take. I think that's a lot of membrane to manage. I think that any worries about having the organs work OK are moot because if you want to fly like a hot air balloon, then you're going to be shaped like a hot air balloon, with all your organs, limbs etc. in as light a package as you can manage, attached to a large, thin, gasbag. At most that gasbag is going to have blood vessels and perhaps very fine tendons running through it to assist with repacking, but I honestly can't imagine it containing more complex organs. I think the idea of having complex organs which can be stretched over a 3.5 meter sphere, and then squashed together into a jello-like mass, which then semi-hardens is... implausible. I think that a protein heavy diet is possible, but a balanced diet consisting of some protein, plus a lot of energy dense nutrients such as fats or sugars would work equally well. I think that you need to be less concerned about the laws of physics and more concerned with anatomy. TL:DR, I don't think this critter is going to work as a shapeshifter, unless you count caterpillars as shapeshifters because they turn into butterflies.
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