Beta

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Aircraft Carriers In Space

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the way-beyond-the-red-line dept.

Sci-Fi 409

An anonymous reader writes "Real-world military conventions have had obvious effects on many sci-fi books, movies, and TV shows. But how does their fictional representation stack up against the evolving rules of high-tech warfare? In an interview with Foreign Policy magazine, a naval analyst discusses some of the technological assumptions involved in transposing sea combat to space combat, and his amusement with the trope of 'aircraft carriers in space.' He says, 'Star Wars is probably the worst. There is no explanation for why X-Wings [fighters] do what they do, other than the source material is really Zeroes [Japanese fighter planes] from World War II. Lucas quite consciously copied World War II fighter combat. He basically has said they analyzed World War II movies and gun camera footage and recreated those shots. Battlestar Galactica has other issues. One thing I have never understood is why the humans didn't lose halfway through the first episode. If information moves at the speed of light, and one side has a tactically useful FTL [faster-than-light] drive to make very small jumps, then there is no reason why the Cylons couldn't jump close enough and go, "Oh, there the Colonials are three light minutes away, I can see where they are, but they won't see me for three minutes?"'"

cancel ×

409 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Babylon 5 (5, Informative)

dreamchaser (49529) | about 2 years ago | (#41498651)

I always liked how space combat was portrayed in Babylon 5. It mostly adhered to proper physics of spaceflight, and the battles always seemed to be more realistic to me. I know that is subjective, but it seems it was the best of anything on TV or in the theater. Don't even get me started on Star Trek. It makes Star Wars look realistic and that's hard to do.

A good site for extrapolating from current science (2)

khasim (1285) | about 2 years ago | (#41498691)

http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/spacewarintro.php [projectrho.com]

Space is 3 dimensional.
Space is FUCKING HUGE!
There is no stealth in space.
There are no quick course changes in space.

Re:A good site for extrapolating from current scie (4, Interesting)

queazocotal (915608) | about 2 years ago | (#41498901)

Sure there's stealth in space.
See 'Space is FUCKING HUGE' - being far away is stealthy.
Being in an unexpected location too.

In addition, there is passive stealth.
Point a conical mirror at your opponent (taking care not to get glints from the sun or other local stellar object), and you are basically invisible.
(this is more annoying near planets), disguise.

Then there are active stealth systems, from jamming to cooling the surface of your craft to near absolute zero to avoid IR signatures, decoys, degrading your opponents sensors by various means, in addition to more conventional systems for shortrange combat such as radar absorbant paint.

Note that in space - radar is _short_ range only.
Yes, technically things many millions of miles away have been detected by radar, but if your opponent is using planetary sized objects as ships, you're basically screwed anyway.

RADAR and LIDAR are useful perhaps for point defense type applications, and similar.

RADAR (and LIDAR) can be boosted modestly by increasing the transmit power or recieve sensitivity.
But they rapidly run into the fact that the returned signal decays depending on the fourth power of distance.

So, if you want to take an earth-based radar, and increase the range a hundred times, you need a transmitter a hundred million times more powerful.

Re:A good site for extrapolating from current scie (3, Interesting)

nedlohs (1335013) | about 2 years ago | (#41499319)

There is no stealth. You need to dump your heat somewhere, else you cook. Sure you can arrange to dump it facing away from the other guy, but that doesn't work once he has a few observation points. As soon as you do anything other than drift your engines are seen instantly. Decoys don't work since they need to have the same mass as the actual ships/missiles/etc you are trying to hide since otherwise the other guy can tell them apart by how their acceleration is different under the same engine exhaust profiles.

Once you are at a tech level of such long range that you don't have multiple angles on the other guy you have also mapped out every object and hence you see everything new. As soon as something is hotter than it should be - because it's running life support or a computer or it makes a course change that isn't just falling under gravity you know. By the time something is anywhere close to being a threat you have multiple angles on it so the heat is visible.

Passive detection is all you need.

Actual combat ends up being whomever runs out of heat capacity loses. As soon as you need to extend the radiators or cook you have to surrender - or else have said radiators blown off and thus cook.

Re:A good site for extrapolating from current scie (5, Funny)

605dave (722736) | about 2 years ago | (#41498939)

It's not a good site for extrapolating web design theories though.

Re:A good site for extrapolating from current scie (0)

X0563511 (793323) | about 2 years ago | (#41499093)

So? That's not it's function.

"Gee, Bob! This apple tastes pretty damn good, but how was it supposed to teach me go program again?

Re:Babylon 5 (5, Interesting)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 2 years ago | (#41498759)

According to J Michael Straczyski, some guys at NASA actually contacted the B5 crew to see about the designs of the Star Fury, because that was the most realistic and maneuverable fighter-sized ship they'd seen in fiction. They also did make use of some interesting concepts, like (a) having semi-realistic tactics in space combat instead of just a free-for-all, (b) factoring in gravity of nearby planets and stars, and (c) making sure portrayed military practices bore some relationship to actual militaries.

Of course, there are some violations of physics in B5 too: Shots make noise in space, and you can hear the engine noise of passing ships.

Re:Babylon 5 (0)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 2 years ago | (#41498861)

According to J Michael Straczyski, some guys at NASA actually contacted the B5 crew to see about the designs of the Star Fury, because that was the most realistic and maneuverable fighter-sized ship they'd seen in fiction.

Sounds like the kind of thing one should take with a pinch of salt. How would NASA know any more than JMS (or vice versa) what a realistic space fighter would look like? And why would they contact them about the "design" when all they had is a 3D model? I doubt anyone bothered to work out the plumbing.

Re:Babylon 5 (4, Informative)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 years ago | (#41498969)

And why would they contact them about the "design" when all they had is a 3D model?

I believe that what is meant by that is the configuration of thrusters (giving you good moments of force and forward thrust at the same time for combat maneuvering) and the mass distribution (balancing the moment of inertia among the possible axes of rotation). They probably didn't mean the control chip serial numbers.

Re:Babylon 5 (1)

Schmorgluck (1293264) | about 2 years ago | (#41499041)

Indeed, and it wasn't for hypothetical fighters, more for work vehicle.

Re:Babylon 5 (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 2 years ago | (#41499069)

Again though, why would the B5 guys have worked any of that out? They don't have to worry about fuel efficiency, maximum output, or jerk/jolt, even if they did go to lengths to do all the physics right. Just make the wings a cool-looking shape, stick enough thrusters on each to make all the cool moves possible and you're done.

Re:Babylon 5 (5, Interesting)

robmv (855035) | about 2 years ago | (#41498895)

If I were to design spaceships for the current human capabilities I will add sound simulation to the cockpit, human detection of things in 3D is greatly enhanced by sound, see the advantage of FPS video gamers using 5.1 sound against someone using the plain TV sound

Re:Babylon 5 (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about 2 years ago | (#41499109)

Damn! What the hell was it? I recall playing a game where there was mention they were doing exactly that!

Re:Babylon 5 (3, Interesting)

Dewin (989206) | about 2 years ago | (#41499161)

That's part of EVE's lore, actually, from the few months I tried it.

Re:Babylon 5 (5, Insightful)

OzPeter (195038) | about 2 years ago | (#41498977)

Of course, there are some violations of physics in B5 too: Shots make noise in space, and you can hear the engine noise of passing ships.

If you think of the sounds of things in space as being enhanced reality injected into your cabin environment by computers that are trying to map electronic sensors into something that human senses can cope with - then it starts to make some sense.

Re:Babylon 5 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41499229)

Maybe engines work on AC electromagnetic propulsion - I wonder how that would work out on real-life if every engine had a field strength of a MRI scanner.

Re:Babylon 5 (2)

steelyeyedmissileman (1657583) | about 2 years ago | (#41499271)

You know; I've started to wonder if we're too hard on the sounds in space issue. A close passing ship? I actually could see that as causing noise.. after all, the people inside are not in a vacuum. Did the Apollo astronauts hear their engines firing? A close passing ship could cause a vibration in your ship's hull (caused by the impact of whatever material is leaving their engines or some other mechanism), which generates sound in the ears of the people inside, carried through the internal atmosphere. If we go more science fiction, a "warp drive" type system could cause bending/vibration in the hull of our or a nearby ship too. Why wouldn't we hear our own ship or a ship passing by in space?

Just some speculation.. until I get there myself, it's hard to say just what I'll hear.

Re:Babylon 5 (5, Informative)

anasciiman (528060) | about 2 years ago | (#41498763)

Since you mentioned B5, it's sad to note that Michael O'Hare (Sinclair/Valen) passed away yesterday at age 60. That makes five dead from that show now. :/

Re:Babylon 5 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41498935)

Ugh, that's way to young to go. Will be missed.

Re:Babylon 5 (2)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 2 years ago | (#41498843)

Realism is highly overrated when it comes to fiction.

Re:Babylon 5 (2)

Smallpond (221300) | about 2 years ago | (#41499191)

Arthur C. Clarke was probably the most concerned with "real" science in his works. 2001 turned out pretty good.

Re:Babylon 5 (2)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 2 years ago | (#41499321)

True, but then there aren't many Clarkes around (in fact there are none really, which is sad in itself). He always seemed to make it look he began with his premise and considered the challenges are pitfalls that might occur, rather than working backwards from the shiny explosion and shoe-horning in some science. Also, not a great deal of realism required once you get to "man flies into black box and comes out as space baby."

Re:Babylon 5 (-1, Flamebait)

Jawnn (445279) | about 2 years ago | (#41498941)

I always liked how space combat was portrayed in Babylon 5. It mostly adhered to proper physics of spaceflight, and the battles always seemed to be more realistic to me.

Agreed, and that's a big part of why Babylon 5 sucked so hard as entertainment.

Re:Babylon 5 (-1, Troll)

X0563511 (793323) | about 2 years ago | (#41499145)

No, the lack of plot that makes me care about anything going in is what made is suck so much.

Re:Babylon 5 (-1)

Brad1138 (590148) | about 2 years ago | (#41499221)

I heard it fails as drama, science fiction, and it’s hopelessly derivative.

Re:Babylon 5 (2)

rudy_wayne (414635) | about 2 years ago | (#41499031)

One thing I have never understood is why the humans didn't lose halfway through the first episode. If information moves at the speed of light, and one side has a tactically useful FTL [faster-than-light] drive to make very small jumps, then there is no reason why the Cylons couldn't jump close enough and go, "Oh, there the Colonials are three light minutes away, I can see where they are, but they won't see me for three minutes?"'

It's called over-thinking. You probably also take joy in telling small children that there is no Santa Claus.

Re:Babylon 5 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41499107)

Better for children to be prepared for a world of lies early. Less religious fundamentalism that way.

Re:Babylon 5 (1)

Chewbacon (797801) | about 2 years ago | (#41499131)

I liked Mass Effect's way of doing a few things in space warfare. There was always a consequence for whatever awesome technology was out there. Fuel constraints for FTL travel; coming out of FTL speed meant everyone knew you were there because it set off fireworks on sensors; despite the huge benefits of mass effect cores, you had to vent heat from your ship or fry your crew; and there was even issues with static charge build up from being in FTL. They took technological advances that we would think we could use without responsibility and added a level of responsibility to them. They even almost did away with fighters (they were in the story, but rare), which having them always seemed impractical to me. Warships were pretty much flying guns that fired some kind of kinetic round. They were powerful and accurate enough, you didn't need fighters.

Re:Babylon 5 (1)

TheGoodNamesWereGone (1844118) | about 2 years ago | (#41499305)

B5 got the physics absolutely right with the Starfuries, but not the big ships. Huge Omega-class destroyers wouldn't close to just a few kilometers to fight; they'd fire missiles and launch fighters from thousands of klicks out. But, that wouldn't look as good or be as exciting on screen, so, artistic license.

Nerds Ruining Entertainment (4, Insightful)

OS24Ever (245667) | about 2 years ago | (#41498655)

Can you imagine what those shows would have been like had they tried to apply science as we know it?

If you'd like a try, there is a series of books about "Black Jack" Geary that has FTL combat. It's actually quite a good read from a naval combat in space perspective with light speed weaponry + kinetic weaponry + trying to shoot at things that are moving up to 0.1c and what not. But, if you're not into that kind of thing it's got to be a horrid thing to read.

But they do address the few minutes away FTL issue, but it's because you can only enter/exit a system at certain points so unless you're going to turn around and leave you can't micro jump at them.

Re:Nerds Ruining Entertainment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41498787)

In David Drake's "Lt. Leary" series they do micro jumps all the time, including jumping in 5 lightminutes away, checking on the enemy and surprise them. But that's not really a guarantee for winning a space fight.

Re:Nerds Ruining Entertainment (1)

Type44Q (1233630) | about 2 years ago | (#41498809)

Can you imagine what those shows would have been like had they tried to apply science as we know it?

Hmm... intelligent and classy like 2001 but without the ridiculous Kubrickesque surrealism? In other words, entertaining and believable?

Re:Nerds Ruining Entertainment (0)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | about 2 years ago | (#41498877)

Or magic monoliths that advance your species if you have a good group snuggle with it. Or star babies.

Geeks obsess on the technical details of that film while ignoring the overriding fantasy of the driving concept.

Re:Nerds Ruining Entertainment (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about 2 years ago | (#41499153)

Titles/author please?

Love The "Black Jack Geary" Books! (2)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | about 2 years ago | (#41499215)

But I also enjoy reading pure Mathematics texts.

The Black Jack books are the first ones I've ever read since the "Choose Your Own Adventure" series where I felt the need to keep a pen and paper nearby. Half the time it seems that Black Jack wins his engagements because he knows how to use a protractor and his opponents don't...

Who's gonna pay for that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41498667)

FTL is expensive, that's why.

Shiny! (5, Informative)

neBelcnU (663059) | about 2 years ago | (#41498669)

We have to differentiate between "made for the screen" and books: Battlestar Galactica and Star Wars were made to look pretty. Everyone can cite their fave SciFi books, but I'll just go with Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat, who eloquently asserted that interstellar war was a complete waste of effort, then goes on to write one book where (wait for it) a bunch of folks decide to wage interstellar war.

Re:Shiny! (1)

Jarik C-Bol (894741) | about 2 years ago | (#41498773)

couple other books that take a good hard science based look at space combat are Jump Pay, by Rick Shelly, and the Leviathan Wakes from 'The Expanse' series by James S. A. Corey. It's been to long since I re-read Jump Pay to remember the FTL details, and Leviathan Wakes does not have FTL, but both detail the difficulties of space combat. Careful though, Leviathan Wakes will make you read all night and be dead at work the next day.

Re:Shiny! (4, Insightful)

X0563511 (793323) | about 2 years ago | (#41499163)

Joe Haldeman's Forever War seemed good, too.

Re:Shiny! (4, Insightful)

RockDoctor (15477) | about 2 years ago | (#41499301)

but I'll just go with Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat, who eloquently asserted that interstellar war was a complete waste of effort, then goes on to write one book where (wait for it) a bunch of folks decide to wage interstellar war.

To complete the bits you left out, and spoil the story for those who might read it... they decided to wage interstellar ECONOMIC war in combination with political manoeuvring and installed a Quisling government, BEFORE staging what looked like an interstellar war. Which was the point of the story. Once a target planet had an effective guerilla resistance (a.k.a. "insurgent" in modern double-talk), the invasion from a long way away couldn't maintain it's huge expenditure on men, materiel and transport and the invasion failed with an economic collapse in the home country.

Harrison was writing in what - the late 60s or so? So he can't have been referring to this generation's long-distance wars. Perhaps he was referring to some other long-distance war of the 1960s which ended in a damaging defeat for the aggressor nation in the face of a determined guerilla war.

And there's no antimatter fueled combat wasps. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41498679)

Yes, it's all well and good that visual identification is at the speed of light, but Dradis signals move at the speed of narrative causality.

Re:And there's no antimatter fueled combat wasps. (1)

Type44Q (1233630) | about 2 years ago | (#41498831)

Of course there aren't; the tiniest antimatter drives are used for knife missiles. :)

Playing with FTL (4, Insightful)

tmosley (996283) | about 2 years ago | (#41498685)

Three light minutes is a long way away, and the Cylons weren't infinitely advanced. They were only somewhat more advanced than the humans, who, aside from their jump drives, aren't much more advanced than us. Could you examine 360x180 degrees of sky for a kilometer long object at 54 million miles away within three minutes? I don't think so. Further, there is a reason they kept jumping away. They would make a few quick jumps and the Cylons would need a trillion times as much manpower to find them.

Re:Playing with FTL (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41498765)

Was gonna say, this guy really hasn't thought the physics of any of his points very much. On the FTL issue he's obviously totally wrong and then on the whole 'aircraft carrier in space' thing he's also probably wrong.

Re:Playing with FTL (1)

O('_')O_Bush (1162487) | about 2 years ago | (#41498851)

Actually, it is pretty easy. Any spacecraft gives off heat, and infrared radiation is easy to spot in clumps, compared to celestial bodies that aren't planets or stars.

Re:Playing with FTL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41499017)

No it's not easy, probably it's impossible. It's a tiny object in a 3-dimensional sphere that could be anywhere from 6-light-minutes in diameter to whatever the maximum jump capacity is (you have no idea how far they jumped). You can't start scanning until the light from their arrival point reaches you and you don't even know how long that will be. Could be one minute, could be 30 minutes. If you miss them before they jump again, there are no more emissions from that point and the sphere you have to search just grew exponentially. In the meantime they know exactly where you are and are actively trying to suppress their emissions from reaching you.

Re:Playing with FTL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41499055)

In fact....the pursuer has no way of knowing if they've missed you and you've jumped again or if the emissions from your current location after your first jump just haven't reached them yet. Absence of detection could mean that they didn't detect you before you jumped again, or it could mean they just need to wait a few more minutes for radiation from the first jump-point to reach you. FTL jumps do not benefit the pursuer, they benefit the pursued.

Re:Playing with FTL (1)

gQuigs (913879) | about 2 years ago | (#41498967)

**** SPOILER ***

Actually the Cylons had a tracking device on one or two of the ships, so it's even a bit worse. I got the impression that the Cylons were just messing with the surviving humans.

Re:Playing with FTL (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41499255)

That was like Blakes Seven.

"Why don't we just kill Servelan now?"

Avon: "If we kill her now, every Federation ship will know we are here. We won't even be half-way out of the star system before we are surrounded. We wait till she leaves, and go in the opposite direction. By the time she realizes we're not there, we'll be three star systems away."

If they had to be realistic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41498687)

A fighter accelerating at 9g would still take months to approach the speed of light. Even with current supersonic fighters, it takes a long time and a huge turn radius to change direction when moving supersonic. At mach 20 your minimum turning radius before blacking out would be the size of Europe.

Re:If they had to be realistic (1)

Jarik C-Bol (894741) | about 2 years ago | (#41498781)

and at .01c your turning radius (well, more like slow down, stop, and go the other direction) gets into the 'well, we don't have anything else to do this month besides turn this thing around'

Re:If they had to be realistic (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 2 years ago | (#41498879)

Stop this thing!

We can't stop, it's too dangerous! We have to slow down first!

Finding out the hard way (4, Informative)

overshoot (39700) | about 2 years ago | (#41498717)

Modest props to David Weber, who introduced carriers (for fairly good reasons, mostly having to do with life support and cost) to his Honorverse.

And then, as he spent more time working out the actual dynamics of combat in his universe, rapidly reduced their combat utility, shifted their mission roles, and generally de-emphasized them from their projected value.

Re:Finding out the hard way (2)

OzPeter (195038) | about 2 years ago | (#41498955)

Modest props to David Weber..

I'm coming to the conclusion that that David Weber is actually a pseudonym for a group of hack writers that are simply rehashing C.S.Forester books about naval warfare. That and the fact that he has at least 3 different concepts in publication at the moment:
 
1) World War 1 & 2 in space (Honorverse)
2) 18th century naval warfare (Safehold)
3) Vampires In Space (Out of the Dark .. reads and ends like it will be a series, but no second book yet)

Re:Finding out the hard way (2)

swillden (191260) | about 2 years ago | (#41499283)

Weber is the first to point out that Honor Harrington is a deliberate re-imagining of Horatio Hornblower. Her arc has continued beyond the point where Hornblower died, but that was actually a change in plans caused by angst among fans who didn't want the story to end. The stories, however, definitely go well beyond Forester's books in the complexity of the plots and on the number and choice of themes. And I agree with the GP that Weber does a great job of inventing a form of space combat that is plausible and realistic (within the bounds of his postulated physics around the possibility of gravity manipulation) -- and it actually does include carriers in space for reasons that make sense.

Safehold doesn't follow any Forester story line (or even themes) as far as I can tell, though Weber is obviously taking the opportunity to give full expression to his love for and deep knowledge of sailing -- to a degree that actually bothers many readers without nautical experience because they find his lovingly-detailed descriptions of rigging plans and sailing evolutions baffling or boring or both (Personally, I really like that aspect of the books.)

I haven't read Out of the Dark (yet).

Weber has also published plenty of books that have no relation to Forester's books, and don't involve naval warfare. The Dahak series is good, and the War God series is great fun.

Weber is one of my favorite contemporary authors. And I really like the fact that he manages to sustain a pace of three to four novels per year. That's not quite an Asimovian output (Weber would have to more than double his pace), but it's getting up there.

Carriers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41498719)

I think the only reason to have carriers in the future is to have fighters that can go into the atmosphere where huge carriers obviously cannot...

Missing the point to enjoy their their own voices (3, Insightful)

PsychoSlashDot (207849) | about 2 years ago | (#41498723)

As usual, when it comes to nitpicking science fiction, assumptions as bogus as those in the fiction get applied.

In BSG - for instance - every time we see observation of enemy ship positions, the sensors used (DRADIS) appear to be active sensors, not passive. A cylon basestar jumping 3 light minutes away from Galactica wouldn't observe its presence for six minutes. At least in that show, such vast distances weren't particularly useful.

That's where the inevitable "well, they should've" speculation comes in. Kinetic kill weapons should be used, right? Passive projectiles from far away with massive velocity just smash into where a target is/was/will be. Okay, well, the counter-speculation kicks in with "if anyone used that tactic, it would be SOP to have all ships injecting a random factor into their movement".

Blah, blah, blah. All of this misses the fundamental truth: this is all about entertainment. Accuracy isn't necessarily entertaining, and in the case of space battles, very likely wouldn't be entertaining at all if it were utterly realistic.

Re:Missing the point to enjoy their their own voic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41498779)

Yes but in this case his objections have less to do with 'inaccuracy' than with him in his judgement thinking some things about something he's never actually done and knows next to nothing about. The FTL issue he's wrong about. The use of large efficient base ships and deployment of smaller/faster/less efficient fighters is also not necessarily a bad idea, the arguments for it are just as good as the arguments against, and it's not like we have empirical data to rely on.

Re:Missing the point to enjoy their their own voic (2)

1u3hr (530656) | about 2 years ago | (#41499007)

In BSG - for instance - every time we see observation of enemy ship positions, the sensors used (DRADIS) appear to be active sensors, not passive. A cylon basestar jumping 3 light minutes away from Galactica wouldn't observe its presence for six minutes. At least in that show, such vast distances weren't particularly useful.

Also it's "dradis". Which isn't explained, but does appear to be effectively instantaneous. When they start a scan they get an image from millions of miles away in seconds. In BSG they have FTL travel, so FTL "radar" isn't out of the question.

Anyway, the incredulity came with the robot Cylon fighters not being able to hit the side of a barn, despite being designed to be killing machines and having faster ships; while the human piloted fighters could take out Cylons pretty easily. And neither side seemed to have guided missiles. It was a lot more gritty than Star Wars, but not really a lot more logical. (Especially at the fucking stupid end, but that's a longer rant for another time.)

Get a life! (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41498729)

Star Wars was a cheesy low-budget 1970s movie, not a documentary. Can't you nerds tell the difference? All this slobbering over a dumb old movie and dressing up in plastic costumes 35 years later is really pathetic.

Re:Get a life! (1)

tmosley (996283) | about 2 years ago | (#41498865)

I guess you forgot about the other five movies, and the hundreds of games, books, comics, cartoons, and other works that are all based in the same universe, many of which are still being produced.

Just because someone likes what you don't like doesn't make them pathetic. Your behavior, on the other hand...

Re:Get a life! (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about 2 years ago | (#41499043)

Just because someone likes what you don't like doesn't make them pathetic. Your behavior, on the other hand...

. . . whooshed you. [dailymotion.com]

Re:Get a life! (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about 2 years ago | (#41499077)

I guess you forgot about the other five movies, and the hundreds of games, books, comics, cartoons, and other works that are all based in the same universe, many of which are still being produced.

Just because someone likes what you don't like doesn't make them pathetic. Your behavior, on the other hand...

I think that he was referring to the habit of pointing out why much of Star Wars is scientifically impossible or makes no sense in the real world, when it wasn't supposed to be a space documentary - it's a space opera. It's like pointing out the scientific inaccuracies of Sponge Bob Square Pants.

Re:Get a life! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41498945)

May I ask what you do for entertainment, watch porn? What are you doing with your time that's so important?

Star Wars is entertainment, it's not supposed to be useful or productive time. Still, I like entertainment that stimulates my imagination. I don't like football.

Re:Get a life! (1)

Dunge (922521) | about 2 years ago | (#41499275)

While I agree with you, there's tons of new games and movies who beat Star Wars out of the water. It's becoming way too old to be still using it as the reference science-fiction movie.

And while they're at it (1)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about 2 years ago | (#41498739)

Maybe they could explain why fighters always have to fly nose-first, like an F-22 or something. And don't get me started about banking while turning...

Re:And while they're at it (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | about 2 years ago | (#41498821)

Inertial effects on the pilot, if it has one - G forces and airframe stresses still exist in space, and so do the best methods for limiting them.

Re:And while they're at it (2)

RobertLTux (260313) | about 2 years ago | (#41498905)

a couple things

1 at close ranges you might want to have the pilot actually looking in the direction he is going

2 there were a few times in B5 where they did fly "backwards" (mostly in a "just before firing guns" kind of thing)

Re:And while they're at it (1)

Greyfox (87712) | about 2 years ago | (#41498971)

Not to mention the pointlessness of having a dogfight in space in the first place, when you could just sit back out of dogfight range and go "Pew... Pew..." with a .1c railgun and projectiles the size of the fighters. Ultimately, though, I think space combat would involve both your ships' computers getting together, calculating the outcome of the battle based on the ship's capabilities and the far ship's estimated capabilities, and having one ship surrender or run away.

Smeh. (4, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 years ago | (#41498757)

a submarine is a vessel designed to hide under the water, which obscures your vision and forces you to use capricious sensors like sonar. Space, on the other hand, is wide open, and any ship putting out enough heat to keep its crew alive stands out from the background, if you have enough time to look.

In space the issue is not being hidden but being far away. Stuff shows up here at Earth all the time that we weren't expecting, and a whole lot of us have nothing better to do than to watch the skies. Warships would likely be actively trying to hide; they'd actively mask any forward emissions, they'd be painted the truest black that could be had, and that black would also be radar-masking.

in space, you don't need that doorway between the sea and the sky, because your "fighter" is operating in the same medium as the mothership. You don't need a flight deck. You just need a hatch, or maybe just a clamp that attaches the fighter to the hull if you don't mind leaving it outside. You don't need the big engines or the big elevated flight deck. And hence it doesn't make nearly so much sense to put all of your eggs in one basket

It doesn't make sense to keep your X-Wings inside of a carrier because they have their own hyperdrives and shields. But it does make sense to keep TIE fighters inside of one because they don't.

If you do a fairly simple extrapolation of current technology, what you end up with is space combat as sort of ponderous ballet with shots fired at long distance at fairly fragile targets where you have to predict where the target is going to be.

If you do a fairly simple extrapolation of current technology then you're probably writing speculative fiction. There's lots of other kinds. He's upset because all science fiction doesn't boringly extrapolate from current technology?

Babylon 5 was closer in that it understood that there is no air in space and you don't bank. But even on that show, the ships would be under thrust, and then they decide to go back the way they come, they would spin around and almost immediately start going in the opposite direction.

Right, because they weren't going as fast relative to their surroundings as they possibly could be, because it would only cause them problems later when they chose to change course. Sometimes they would presumably make trips at high V, but mostly they used hyperspace. The ships you mostly saw make turns were White stars, which are special alien technology doodads, and star furies, which were never really going all that fast to begin with, and which are fighters and thus have very high thrust-to-mass ratios.

one thing that drives me crazy is that on Star Trek, you're either on watch or off duty, when a real naval officer has a whole other job, such as being a department or division head. So he's constantly doing paperwork. Most shows don't get that right at all.

Yes, this is Roddenberry's vision of the future, where we've moved past a military mentality and people who have jobs in what is currently a military context are also permitted to have lives not centered around service.

FP: So a universe of faster-than-light travel favors surprise attacks?
CW: It really, really does. You can go and mug somebody and they never see it coming. Of course, not all faster-than-light drives in fiction work the same way, but the Cylon drives certainly had that attribute.

It also matters whether you have FTL communications, and whether FTL is fold or warp technology.

Most science fiction does not cover the whole model; at best it might cover Fleet Missions and Fleet Design in detail, with most other areas only vaguely defined.

Yes, no shit. Most science fiction is not a war novel. A war is usually a back story for science fiction.

This idea that Captain Kirk leaves on a five-year mission? We go to sea for six or nine months at a time, with continuous logistical support, and when we come back, the ships are pretty beaten up. They need refit. It's hard to imagine these spaceships going out alone and unafraid without any sort of support

Not only do the starships of Trek have the means to manufacture their own parts on board, but ships getting refit is a constant them in the Trek universe. This guy is clearly not familiar with Star Trek, even if he has watched it. That's probably why they consulted him and not me for this article, though.

Maybe nowadays you can say you have a magic power source, or nanotech to produce the materials you need. But I really get the impression that sci-fi doesn't really understand this stuff.

That's because HE doesn't really understand this stuff, and he's not really familiar with sci-fi. If he did and was, he'd know that there's lots of sci-fi that does understand this stuff.

Re:Smeh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41498965)

one thing that drives me crazy is that on Star Trek, you're either on watch or off duty, when a real naval officer has a whole other job, such as being a department or division head. So he's constantly doing paperwork. Most shows don't get that right at all.

Yes, this is Roddenberry's vision of the future, where we've moved past a military mentality and people who have jobs in what is currently a military context are also permitted to have lives not centered around service.

Not just that but it takes place 400 years in the future. Why would you think in 400 years the "Navy" would operate in the same way? Look at for hundred years in the past, did the Navy operate in the same manner as today?

Re:Smeh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41499067)

It doesn't make sense to keep your X-Wings inside of a carrier because they have their own hyperdrives and shields. But it does make sense to keep TIE fighters inside of one because they don't.

An X-Wing may have a hyperdrive and shields, but it doesn't have a toilet (the suit may have a catheter, but I don't think that's the same), a shower, a bed, or a kitchen. None of those are necessary in combat, but they come in handy when off-duty. Obviously not needed when defending a planet, but they may be needed when attacking one. They are definitely needed when blockading a planet.

Re:Smeh. (1)

WGFCrafty (1062506) | about 2 years ago | (#41499115)

A refit a year keeps the borg [wikipedia.org] far from here!

Remember in one episode of TNG, these guys named Binars (the ones who communicate with each other through auditory binary, like modems!) lure Riker away with a smoking hot holo-chick. Picard joins him, meanwhile the binars commit grand theft galaxy class.

Then they use enterprise to backup their data and reinstall their like, collective consciousness so they can save their people. THEN they justify it by saying basically "take what the fuck you need then apologize." Awesome.

Space is too big for battles (4, Interesting)

petes_PoV (912422) | about 2 years ago | (#41498791)

It's difficult to engage an enemy when they're 50,000km away (and the only part of the "ship" that's visible is small amount of IR from its power source that isn't even pointed in your direction). When the amount of fuel needed to change course is huge: either because of massive vehicles, or high velocities, the whole idea becomes impossible.

At best you might just be able to make some sort of directed energy weapon work effectively (if you can aim to hit an unknown sized target from halfway to the Moon), or possibly some sort of shotgun type projectiles. But at the sort of distances involved, your target for any sort of physical contact weapon would have so much warning that their usefulness would be small.

Generation Battles (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41498951)

You could have battles that last for generations. Each side would need 10-20 years per maneuver. They would have to instruct their children what they were attempting to do. It could make for some interesting reading.

Re:Space is too big for battles (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41499285)

There's an anime OAV series called Legend of the Galactic Heroes that, among other things, tries to tackle massive battles in space in more of a strategic manor. I have no idea how realistic it is but I loved the hell out of it.

drones (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41498795)

Considering that the f22/f35 is likely the last generation of manned fighter jets in America, I find it very unlikely that space combat will use piloted crafts.

Re:drones (1)

green1 (322787) | about 2 years ago | (#41498829)

Exactly this. Anyone who thinks war will be fought by humans in planes/spacecraft in the future is deluding themselves. In fact this is going to become a big societal problem going forward. How do you discourage world war 3 when there is almost no risk of your soldiers being hurt in the fighting?

Sure from a sci-fi TV show/movie point of view I love the aircraft carrier in space genre. That doesn't mean I think it has any realism whatsoever.

Re:drones (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 years ago | (#41499141)

Exactly this. Anyone who thinks war will be fought by humans in planes/spacecraft in the future is deluding themselves. In fact this is going to become a big societal problem going forward. How do you discourage world war 3 when there is almost no risk of your soldiers being hurt in the fighting?

Cost. All wars are resource wars.

We're getting trounced in Afghanistan, not because we're losing people (we lose more people in car wrecks), but because we're spending way too much money on it. That's how we beat the Ruskies. That's likely how the Chinese will beat us.

Re:drones (1)

green1 (322787) | about 2 years ago | (#41499293)

No, you're getting trounced in Afghanistan because of public opinion. Your government has shown time and again they don't care about the cost of it, but the people do care about the lives lost, and they don't compare it to car wrecks.

Public opinion is the only thing that usually stops wars, and while some of that is cost, much of it is lives lost, eliminating the risk to lives on your end makes it much easier to sell it to the public. And making war easier to sell to the people is never a good thing.

Ian Douglas' Star Carrier series (2)

jonsmirl (114798) | about 2 years ago | (#41498815)

Ian Douglas' Star Carrier series does a reasonable treatment of this. All of his battle scenes involve dealing with speed of light restrictions. The characters have FTL drive but it is only useful for travel between stars. Three book series is a good read.

LEGO realistic space fight vehicles (3, Informative)

Mozai (3547) | about 2 years ago | (#41498881)

It's tangentially relevant, but this is "news for nerds": there was a contest for building realistic space fighters [brothers-brick.com] . The winners were clearly function over form, which was nice to see. (Space Volvos?)

it may just be idealism (1)

nimbius (983462) | about 2 years ago | (#41498887)

but the next evolution of warfare should not be to explore new operating environments, but to deprecate it entirely.

There is stealth in space (2)

Chemisor (97276) | about 2 years ago | (#41498913)

The article falls into the common error of thinking there is no stealth in space. Yes, your ship will radiate heat and propellants, but you do have the choice of direction in which to radiate them. Your space ship's bow could be at ambient temperature and projecting active camouflage starfield while directing all radiation out the back. Because there is no atmosphere and thus no scattering, this ship would not be visible if you are looking at its bow. All the emissions are directed away from you and can not be detected by you. Active camouflage takes care of most starfield occlusion tests, and the sheer size of space makes radar impractical, making the ship almost completely invisible.

Best visual depiction I ever saw (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41498921)

The best visual depiction of space combat I've seen was in the 1980s comic book Albedo: Anthropomorphics.

Their ships -- which invariably looked like big time-release pills -- could only safely do ftl jumps far, far away from anything, and would then travel conventionally toward a planet or other destination. Combat could take weeks as the ships' computers jockeyed for advantageous positions relative to each other while conserving as much reaction mass as would be needed for their mission, and fired torpedoes (basically small drone stl ships that were guided high speed kinetic weapons). But in the end it would wrap up in seconds, with the crew wearing armored spacesuits to protect them against shrapnel from hits that at late date they knew they probably would suffer. Seemed pretty solid as well as nerve wracking.

But there's not a lot of fun action, and it would be suicidal to not let the computer all but the highest level decisions, so I doubt anything like it will show up on tv.

Hopelessly outdated concepts (4, Interesting)

Shavano (2541114) | about 2 years ago | (#41498927)

The only thing that made sense in Battlestar Galactica was the nuclear missiles. The idea of human-occupied fighters is completely 20th-century. If war is ever conducted in space, it will be all kinetic-kill weapons, nuclear bombs and maybe nuclear mines. It will never make sense to put a human (or a similarly-sized Cylon) on board a fighter with a heavy life support system and limit the acceleration to 9-gravity peaks. Dispense with the biological elements and you'll only be limited by how much thrust the engines can produce. Humans, if present at all, will be aboard missile-laden motherships only, directing the battle strategy which will be carried out by automation.

Re:Hopelessly outdated concepts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41499119)

You are basically right. However the assumption in Battlestar Galactica the AI's all turned against us, they can't let a computer fly the ship because it will just get infected and turn on them. They explained this in the first 5 minutes of the first episode I think.

Re:Hopelessly outdated concepts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41499125)

I think you might have missed the point of BSG.

The Cylon fighters didn't have pilots; and the last time the Colonies tried removing the human from the loop, they ended up with the Cylons.

The very nice book named "Digital Apollo"... (4, Informative)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 years ago | (#41498947)

...illustrates how military pilots recruited for the US space program thought they could pilot spacecrafts the same way they did with military airplanes, and utterly failed at it. Some of the fools even insisted initially on having direct mechanical control over the RCS thrusters, the way they did it with P-51 Mustangs, before they had to admit that there are too many DOFs for any sort of manual control, and gave in to feedback control systems providing such things as automatic rotation kill and a vast array of semi-manual modes to alleviate the brain from doing having to do rigid body dynamics calculations. A great read, and a vindication to all the control systems geeks out there. BTW, Armstrong, seeing a he is a hot topic these days, mastered the guidance computer and loved it, as far as I can recall.

Star Blazers (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41498985)

Are you saying that it wasn't realistic when they re-built the Yamato using Starsha's plans for a Wave Motion Engine so they could get to Iscandar to pick of the Cosmo DNA to save Earth from Gamilon?

More debris in space :-( (0)

Alain Williams (2972) | about 2 years ago | (#41499015)

Not content with messing up our own planet we are now talking about doing the same with space.

Blow something up down here and most of the bits fall back to the ground quite quickly. Up in space they continue whizzing round in orbit for years making it dangerous for anything else up there. Most of it is bits of space craft that have fallen off (and the occasional tool box), but not all. It was bad enough when the Chinese blew up an old comms satellite a few years ago [shanghaiist.com] to show how macho they were but then the USA did the same thing just to show that they were as big dicks as the Chinese.

We don't need these things up there, however: I expect that the military will get the budget to boldly pollute where no one has dropped trash before.

Updated in Star Wars prequels (1)

michaelmalak (91262) | about 2 years ago | (#41499075)

And that's why the Star Wars prequels were forced to introduce swarms of drones.

It's a common problem with sci-fi prequels -- keeping the science (and the societal norms) more advanced than the present day but less advanced than what was shown in the original episodes.

Destroying the planet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41499121)

A space-station might have vested interest in destroying all life on this planet. That's why militarizing space is a really, really, really bad idea. It might mean the end of humanity in the long run.

World War II Stays Relevant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41499139)

This Battlestar Galactica argument had been made about the Battle of Britain. If the NAZIs had more jet-powered aircraft, then they would move faster than Britain's RADAR systems could detect.

Han Shot First (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41499203)

Whatever you do, don't point out what George Lucas got wrong! He doesn't need a new excuse to change them damn things yet again.

Cylons (1)

Dunge (922521) | about 2 years ago | (#41499241)

As far as I know, the Cylons let the human ship escape willingly with spies aboard. Didn't the OP watch any episodes before writing this?

The Stars at War (1)

rossdee (243626) | about 2 years ago | (#41499243)

I liked the Stars at War series by Steve White and David Weber which had Carriers and Battleships in the fleets, and some alien races that made good use of fighters (most notably the "Tabbies" which were kind of a cross between Kzinti and Klingoms.)

Of course you have to have some way of protecting the crews of all space combat vessels from the acceleration needed to have a battle take place in a reasonable time,and of course the FTL capablity to get your ships there before everybody dies of boredom and old age.

But really the most unrealistic thing about space combat is that of having 2 or more species/civilization at close enough levels of technology at the same time so that there can be any possibilty of a balanced conflict.when it would be the more advanced race wiping out the less advanced people in very short time.

Space: Above and Beyond (3, Informative)

Arkan (24212) | about 2 years ago | (#41499277)

Before the reboot of Battlestar, there was http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space:_Above_and_Beyond [wikipedia.org] .
On all aspect of warfare in a space age, they had a pretty good vision of how everything would be done, from space dogfight between light fighters to land assault and extraction.

Re BSG (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41499295)

Regarding FTL advantage in BSG, I always just assumed that DRADIS operated on an FTL medium. After all, DRADIS always appeared to detected ships instantaneously so it must have been either an instantaneous sensor or one that operated at many times the speed of light. There are numerous examples of FTL "radar" in scifi to draw from.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?
or Connect with...

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>