On Creating Imaginary Worlds: Science Fiction

Discussion in 'Writing Resources' started by Culhwch, Apr 24, 2007.

  1.  
    Culhwch

    Culhwch Not actually a dinosaur. Staff Member

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    As prosposed in the http://www.chronicles-network.com/forum/37340-map-creation.html thread, this thread is for discussion of creating imaginary worlds in our writings. The idea, hopefully, is that if we have any questions we can post them in here, and then the many knowledgeable and kind members of chronicles will, at their leisure and under no pressure of any kind, provide answers... or else. (Or else we'll create laughably implausible worlds, most like.)

    One ground rule, besides the regulars - I think this will work best if this thread is kept for physical/geographical questions, so lets keep them along those lines. We'll see how this one goes, and if we have need for a metaphysical/magical/political/religious etc Q&A thread we can look into it then.

    Elseways... Have at it!
  2.  
    Culhwch

    Culhwch Not actually a dinosaur. Staff Member

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    mosaix

    mosaix Active Member

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    Re: On Creating Imaginary Worlds: Questions and Answers

    Does the thread cover off-planet topics such as planetary orbits and the like?

    BTW - great idea for a thread!
  4.  
    Culhwch

    Culhwch Not actually a dinosaur. Staff Member

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    Re: On Creating Imaginary Worlds: Questions and Answers

    I don't see why not - that's a physical aspect that will affect your world, after all...

    And as this is an SFF forum, there is no need to stick just to fantasy, either, so greater planetary/galaxial/universal questions are welcome, too...
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    mosaix

    mosaix Active Member

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    Re: On Creating Imaginary Worlds: Questions and Answers

    OK first question.

    I have heard that many, maybe the majority, of star systems are binaries. I take it that the stars would orbit round a common centre of gravity? What type of planetary orbits can we expect?

    Would there / could there be:

    1) Each star having it's own set of planets?

    2) Planets orbiting in a figure of eight around both stars?

    3) Planets orbiting around both stars in an ellipse?

    4) A combination of any of the above in the same star system?
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    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    Re: On Creating Imaginary Worlds: Questions and Answers

    Mosaix: Chris would be the one to know the more recent scientific ideas on this, but I'll take a stab at it. From my reading (admittedly several years ago), I'd say that:

    Is possible, depending on how far apart the stars are. In fact, I posted a thread the other day, where they have figured out how far apart they need to be in order for the preplanetary disc to form into planetary bodies.

    is highly unlikely. The gravitational stresses of such an orbit would almost certainly preclude it; the point at which the stellar gravitational attractions would meet would tend to a) prevent planets from forming in the first place or, in the highly unlikely event of such forming (or a "rogue planet" -- should such exist -- being captured), b) cause such tidal stresses that the body would break apart.

    Depends on what you mean here. An oblong shape (like most race-tracks, for instance) is very unlikely, because the gravitational stresses mentioned above, where the forces of the two stars combine, would tend to tear such a body apart, should it ever have formed in the first place. On the other hand, an elliptical orbit similar to the solar system's, but enlarged to circle equidistantly from both stars, is -- again, from my understanding -- the most likely. This would be at such a distance that the disc of dust would be able to form a stable body to begin with, and where the gravity from the stars would jointly stabilize (more or less) a planetary (or series of planetary) orbit(s).

    That one is also highly unlikely. The gravitational and rotational stresses applied by such would be almost certain to pull any sort of body apart, from a rocky planet to a gas giant to a smaller star -- or even one larger but less dense.

    Also... don't forget that there are apparently systems which are quadruple and up, as well... These, I'd say, are unlikely to develop a planetary system... but the jury is still out on that one, I think. However, remember Asimov's "Nightfall", where the system had (as I recall) seven suns....
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    chrispenycate

    chrispenycate resident pedantissimo Staff Member

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    Re: On Creating Imaginary Worlds: Questions and Answers

    Actually, the combination of "each star with it's own planets" and "planets orbiting both of the stars" is quite likely. Take our solar system, and beef up Jupiter till it undergoes fusion. Whoomph; all of Jupiter's satelites become planets, quite possibly habitable. Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars are planets of Sol, our present sun. And Saturn and the outer planets all orbit the centre of gravity of the system, somewhere between Sol and Jupiter (closer to Sol, since we didn't add enough mass to Jupiter to rival it, but probably not within Sol)
    The Earth gets extra energy when it's between the two stars, so we get a suplementary summer winter cycle going periodically into and out of phase with our present one (so very hot sumers and cold winters in one hemisphere when in phase, and the other when out, and mild everything between) and this would be even more marked on Mars.
    The outer planets would get a considerable boost when they were in conjunction with Jupiter.
    Using Jupiter as an example this "super seasonal" cycle would be about twelve years.
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    mosaix

    mosaix Active Member

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    Re: On Creating Imaginary Worlds: Questions and Answers

    JD & Chris thanks for your input - I've got a lot to think about now.
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    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    Re: On Creating Imaginary Worlds: Questions and Answers

    Chris: Would this be the case with the latest figures on "how close is too close" for stellar bodies? Or -- because of the difference in size -- would such not matter (with Jupiter, that is)?
  10.  
    chrispenycate

    chrispenycate resident pedantissimo Staff Member

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    Re: On Creating Imaginary Worlds: Questions and Answers

    I'm assuming an evolution roughly equivalent to our solar system, with the planetary acretion disc either a little more massive or rotating a little faster so the secondary peak contains a higher percentage of the total mass; at any rate I would expect a slightly longer year.
    But we'renot talking about the sort of "ultra bright" stars whose radiation pressure could push away the dust halo required to make planets.
    I don't know how much more mass Jupiter would require to ignite – twice as much, three times (without obelique assistance) but it's not going to intefere with the formation of the other planets much.
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    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    Re: On Creating Imaginary Worlds: Questions and Answers

    Thanks, Chris!:) As I said, I've not looked into this sort of thing much in quite some time, so my memory on it was somewhat vague... so I appreciate the refresher/better information!
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    mosaix

    mosaix Active Member

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    Re: On Creating Imaginary Worlds: Questions and Answers

    Chris, is it plausible that a Jupiter-like planet could gain the extra mass by colliding with another planetary sized body, triggering the fusion process? I know that such a collision would probably involve some changes in orbit but could a star system end up with two suns in this fashion?
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    daisybee

    daisybee New Member

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    Re: On Creating Imaginary Worlds: Questions and Answers

    This thread was a great idea! A lot of interesting stuff has already been explained, but if I may ask a question?
    I confess to knowing zilch about this, but have a question about moons. If a planet had twin moons, is it feasable that they could cross paths each year? Like one year, one moon is in front of the other, and then the next they cross paths so the other is in front? This may be a really obvious topic, but I have tried to search for some information and I think my rubbish explanantion is letting me down :(
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    chrispenycate

    chrispenycate resident pedantissimo Staff Member

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    Re: On Creating Imaginary Worlds: Questions and Answers

    Normally, multiple moons will be in nested orbits (in a musical harmonic ratio, as they stabilise their distances; how's that for "music of the spheres"?)
    While it would be possible for an outer moon to have an orbit sufficiently eliptical that its perigee was lower than the apogee of the next moon in, sooner or later they would…well, possibly not collide exactly, but interact gravitationally enough to destablise each other. I doubt whether the situation would hold more than a couple of million years.
    I suppose that a recently captured asteroid could show that behavior for a short period, but beware the peturbations; there's a strong risk the instability would lead to an exceedingly large lump of rock colliding with the planet, and dinosaurs would tell you (if they were here to) that this is not a comfortable situation.
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    chrispenycate

    chrispenycate resident pedantissimo Staff Member

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    Re: On Creating Imaginary Worlds: Questions and Answers

    Or by obelisques from outer space compressing its matter into a smaller space? Mathematically, yes; the compression wave and the infall energy could trigger off a chain reaction. But why (unless you're intending to revamp our solar system) look for complicated methods of doing it, when it seems extremely likely (from the number of multiple stars we can observe) that the cosmos, given the right starting conditions, can do the job on its own. A gas-giant planet is not all that different from a small star, after all.
    And, personally, I don't like the idea of gas-giant sized bodies, just failed stars, supermaxicomets or whatever you want to call them, floating around loose in the Galaxy. I would hope they'd stay in the correct star lanes, like well behaved cosmic junk.

    Besides "some change in orbit"? You'd probably get something as eccentric as pluto. And the original moon system's orbits would be all smashed to b… all messed up, too.
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    HardScienceFan

    HardScienceFan 'what to eat' fan

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    Re: On Creating Imaginary Worlds: Questions and Answers

    [FONT=&quot]Kasting, J. F. and D. Catling, Evolution of a habitable planet, Ann. Rev. Astron.[FONT=&quot] Astrophys.[/FONT][FONT=&quot] 41, 429-463.
    There's probably lots more
    :)
    [/FONT][/FONT]
  17.  
    Anthony G Williams

    Anthony G Williams Greybeard

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    Re: On Creating Imaginary Worlds: Questions and Answers

    A while back I wrote some very simple programmes to calculate different characteristics of planets depending on their size and average density.

    For example, Mars has a surface gravity which is only 38% of Earth's, partly because it is smaller but also because it is less dense (3.9 tonnes per cubic metre cf 5.5T), due to being made more of rock and less of iron. If you wanted to design a bigger planet with the same surface gravity as Earth, then one with the same density of Mars would have a diameter of 17,900 km, twice the surface area, and an escape velocity 20% higher.

    Our Moon is even less dense, at 3.3T/m3. So an Earth-gravity planet made up like the Moon (assuming that is possible) would have a diameter of 21,260 km, a surface area 2.8x larger and an escape velocity 30% higher than Earth's.

    Earth is actually the most dense planet we know of, closely followed by Mercury and Venus. It will be interesting to see if the planet-hunters find rocky planets orbiting other stars which lie outside the 3.3-5.5T/m3 range.



    Just a few points to bear in mind...
  18.  
    pyan

    pyan Fortiter et recte! Staff Member

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    Re: On Creating Imaginary Worlds: Questions and Answers

    I'm almost sure I've read a story where Saturn is pushed into Jupiter, igniting it as a proto-star, and with all the major moons of both planets becoming a secondary system orbiting the Sun, with all the minor stuff being added to "Jupurn" as extra mass.
    Damned if I can dredge any details about the author or title, though......:confused:
  19.  
    Culhwch

    Culhwch Not actually a dinosaur. Staff Member

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    Re: On Creating Imaginary Worlds: Questions and Answers

    Okay, I'm breaking my own rule in regards to the physical/geographic questioning limitations, but as the thread is quiet I thought I might open it up to more general world-building questions...

    This one came to me after reading another thread. What kind of populations did kingdoms like England and France have during the Middle Ages? And how about cities and towns such as London or Paris, how many people would have called those home?
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    Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    Re: On Creating Imaginary Worlds: Questions and Answers

    Some figures quickly gleaned from Life in the Middle Ages, by Robert Delort (trans. Robert Allen):

    Countries

    England -- 1.5 million at the end of the eleventh century, growing to 3.5 million at the beginning of the fourteenth

    France -- 5 million in the mid-ninth century, growing to 14 or 15 million at the beginning of the fourteenth

    (I hadn't realized that there was such a huge difference between the populations of France and England.)

    The population of the entire "West" (I'm not sure what countries he includes under this designation) was about 73 million in 1300, but the Black Death came along a few years later and reduced it by about a third -- in England it may have been as high as 40 percent.

    Now to look through some of the later chapters for some figures on cities ...

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