Category: Homecoming (Fictional)


http://hubblesite.org/gallery/album/nebula/pr2005012b/As I said last week, the Jarnian Confederation acts only to prevent Human-occupied planets from preying on each other or on other sentient species, or to provide emergency aid. But it needs some structure to do this. The interaction of my characters with this structure provides much of the plot of my fiction.

Originally (and still to a large extent in Homecoming and Tourist Trap) the Confederation as a whole was ruled by the R’il’nai. As their numbers dwindled, the Councils were developed to provide the remaining R’il’nai with information and a part-Human sounding board. Membership was originally determined by tests to determine the fraction of traits R’il’nian-Human hybrids showed that were clearly of R’il’nian origin. Those with over seven-eighths R’il’nian traits were considered part of the Inner Council.

The Outer Council was composed of High R’il’noids, those with more than three-fourths R’il’nian traits, and was primarily an advisory, fact-finding and enforcement body subject to the Inner Council. Those with more than half R’il’nian traits were considered R’il’noid. R’il’noids were essential to the running of the Confederation and were subject to Confederation law but not to planetary law. This was primarily because of problems that had arisen in the past because of planetary laws (such as a ban on travel at the new moon, punishable by death) which prevented R’il’noids from carrying out their professional duties. At that time virtually all adult R’il’noids had the R’il’nian empathy at least to the extent that they could be trusted not to take advantage of their immunity to planetary law.

R’il’nian-human hybrids were rare, is spite of official encouragement for R’il’nian males to father offspring from Human or R’il’noid women. Such matings were often sterile. A R’il’nian scientist, Çeren, developed an in vitro fertilization method that greatly increased the production of crossbreds, and also developed a more objective method of ranking R’il’noids by the fraction of active R’il’nian-derived genes. The unintended consequences of both these developments (which were desperately needed at the time) set up the problems in my science fiction.

By the time of Homecoming the Inner Council was actually making most of the decisions to run the Confederation, though the only surviving R’il’nian, Lai, had absolute veto power at least in theory, though he rarely if ever used it. Barring that veto power, the Inner Council was ruled by a majority vote providing at least 5/6 of the Inner Council members were present and voting. Reconsideration of a vote already taken required a 2/3 plus majority. By the time of the trilogy veto power no longer exists, and this is how the Confederation is ruled and the Horizon War was started.

A very quick note. I have a guest blog up on But What Are They Eating about some of the foods my characters eat–and why those using esper talents must eat so much to avoid low blood sugar.

The Perversity of Inanimate Objects 1 4/10/10
Insulin Pumps 5/20/10
Wars With Word 5/28/10
The Perversity of Inanimate Objects 2 6/4/10
Float Chair (fictional) 6/24/10
Tricycles are not Bicycles 8/8/10
Why Temperature Remembered doesn’t match the Record 4/5/11
Does Banking Software Work? 4/21/11
My New Toy – an iPad 2 5/12/11
Before Computers 6/5/11
How do you Eat a Salad? 4/28/12
Battery Woes 5/12/12
Printer Woes 6/14/12
Adult Proof 9/8/12
Digital Cameras 9/29/12
Who Needs a Nightcap? 9/3/13

There are times when I slap myself on the head and wonder how I could have been so stupid. Not often twice in the same day, as was the case today.

I have been worried about the local predators, with no warnoff. All the while, I have of course been recording this on the computer in the emergency capsule. Today it occurred to me to check out what else was in the computer programming.

There is a library. With detailed information on how a warnoff is made. My first reaction was “wonderful — if I could get the parts.” Then it occurred to me to check whether the library had an inventory of what was in the emergency capsule.

It does. Ant the supplies include a limited number of all-purpose chips that can be programmed in a variety of ways. Including those necessary to produce a warnoff.

It may take some tuning, but it seems I shall soon have some defense against being eaten.

You – whoever you are that may be reading this – have no idea what a relief it was to know that I would soon have the basic protection I have been accustomed to since infancy. More than just accustomed to – it had honestly never occurred to me that anything would want to eat me.

All afternoon I labored, thinking that now I could start exploring a little farther from the capsule. Not too far; the capsule still provides protection while I sleep. Then, shortly before I finished the first warnoff, I had another “duh” moment. I can teleport. Not to somewhere I have never been, of course, but as long as I am eating regularly, I can teleport back to the capsule. So I can travel a full day’s distance from the capsule and still have its safety at night. Furthermore, there is nothing to stop me from memorizing the last place I reach in the evening and teleporting to that place the following morning, to continue my exploration. Why, I could cover the whole continent!

It is growing dark, and while the surviving solar cells of the capsule keep the computer going, I do not wish to use them more than necessary. Tonight I shall try to remember all I can of what I saw of this landmass as I crashed. I think the ocean was to the west, and I should try first to find it. Then work along its shores, find a river, and follow it inland. Perhaps I can find the reason the local herbivores seem to regard me as a predator.

(Earlier Parts of Jarn’s story can be found by searching “Writing — Confederation History.”)

Teleportation in Homecoming requires that energy, momentum, angular momentum and mass be conserved—all basic laws of physics. We’ll skip mass and angular momentum for right now, and just look at the situation where something is moving in a straight line.

Anything that is moving has both kinetic energy (energy of motion) and momentum, but the two are not the same. The difference is usually expressed mathematically: energy is half the mass times the square of the velocity and momentum is the mass times the vector velocity, but for many that just makes if more confusing. Let’s try this, instead. (If you don’t understand mass, think weight.)

Consider a car. Let it be a big, heavy car, say an SUV. Suppose it is coasting at a steady speed, say, 30 miles an hour to the west. Can a mosquito stop it by hitting the windshield? Not likely! The car’s resistance to having its steady motion changed is due to its momentum. This momentum has a direction—the direction the car is moving. Friction will slow it down, eventually, by transferring its momentum to the earth, but for the moment we’ll ignore that.

It also has kinetic energy. If the speed is doubled, the momentum will also double—but the kinetic energy will increase by a factor of four.

Remember momentum has a direction. Suppose we have another SUV moving 30 miles an hour to the east. Speed to the east and speed to the west cancel, so the momentum of the two-car system is zero. Their kinetic energy does not cancel, as can be seen if the two cars meet head-on—when the dust settles, they will be stationary at the point where they met. But the energy will have gone into crumpling metal (and whatever else makes up the cars) and ultimately into heat.

It is possible for two objects to bounce off of each other in such a way that energy, as well as momentum, is conserved. But if the momentum adds up to zero before the impact, it must also add up to zero after the impact. This is a common problem in billiards, though in this case the balls are most often moving at angles to each other so the vector sum of the momentum is not zero—but it will still be the same after the collision as it was before.

The conservation of momentum, in fact, nicely encapsulates Newton’s laws of motion.

Now consider Roi’s problem in teleporting to a very different location. He is moving with the planet under his feet. For illustration, let’s assume he is on the equator, at sea level, at sunrise, and wants to go to the opposite hemisphere, also on the equator at sea level, but at sunset.

Assuming he is on a planet like the Earth, he is moving toward the sun at around a thousand miles an hour, and the area he wants to teleport to is moving away from the sun at the same speed. No change in kinetic energy, but if he doesn’t do something about momentum, he’ll arrive moving about two thousand miles an hour relative to his surroundings—not a very survivable teleport!

My solution is strictly science fiction—I assume it is possible for a person (or a machine) to transfer or “swap” momentum from one mass to another. But they’d better remember to do it!

FOLLOW-ME: #scifi A person teleporting himself normally brings along anything he is touching (such as clothing) unless deliberately leaving it behind. (A person could, for instance, teleport into or out of an isolation suit.) For massive objects, a “follow-me” circuit will link the object to a small receiver carried by the teleporter, as well as providing the extra energy needed for the teleport of the object.

SCREAMER: #scifi An electronic gadget that produces a burst of telepathic noise. They can be set for various intensities, and a good telepath can to a certain extent work through one, but not easily or without special training.

AUTOMATED FOOD DISPENSER: #scifi An automatic feeder for an animal or a prisoner.

TELEPORTATION, MECHANICAL: #scifi A mechanical “jump” from one point to another. Mechanical teleports are generally carried out either in jump-gates or applied to a vehicle of some sort, such as a jump-van, as being teleported and realizing it is upsetting to most people not accustomed to the process.

TASK-COMPLETE BUTTON: A button, usually set well away from the main keyboard, that indicates a computer task is completed. Used to assure that a computer is not shut down by accident in the middle of a procedure, or that any other procedure interfering with the task is not initiated.

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