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Re: Monday Sept. 3

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  • darrellstephanie@bellsouth.net
    ... Hydraulics for the clanks is one possible breakthrough. That way you d only need something to keep the pressure up and the valves operational. I can
    Message 1 of 44 , Sep 7, 2012
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      --- In girlgenius@yahoogroups.com, Donald Brown <gadgetdon@...> wrote:
      >
      >
      > On Sep 6, 2012, at 10:59 AM, jsheikg <jsheikg@...> wrote:
      >
      > > There are four and a half practical (for mad science anyway) options for lift gas as I see it.
      > >
      > > 1)Hydrogen
      > > 2)Helium
      > > 3)Vacuum (granted, technically it's not a gas)
      > > 4)Steam
      > > 4.5)A vacuum and steam combination
      >
      > I'm not a scientist, mad or otherwise, but pulling on my science classes from long long ago - it's not the steam that provides the lift, it's the heated air (heated molecules move faster, expand to more volume - so if you put an empty bottle out in the sun (with sufficiently thin sides) it will expand and eventually pop while put it in the refrigerator and it collapses in on itself. Steam is the easiest way for us to provide hot air with comparatively low tech, but remember this isn't low tech, just odd tech.
      >
      > It's pretty clear that energy manipulation and use is pretty basic spark stuff, maybe even general engineering (the novel talks about regular science having had advances too for self-defense if nothing else). Yes, the peasants are dealing with low tech, boilers and regular steam mechanisms, but there's just no room for anything resembling a standard steam engine in most clanks we've seen. So presumably one of the basics of all the advanced tech is a highly effective "Hot air generator" that doesn't need the reservoir of water that steam tech requires. The Torchmen look like they use it as a get engine.
      >
      > If you'll let me wander a bit in my speculation and explanation (thank you, thank you, jaegers please remove the gentleman in the back opposing), I've long thought that what steam tech needed to become practical was a "steam transistor".
      >
      > The Vacuum tube made electronics possible - it was able to control a circuit with nothing more than electricity, no physical element like a relay flipping on and off. But vacuum tubes were fragile, short-lived, bulky, and put out a lot of heat (which contributed to the fragility). Some of the oldest hard science fiction would have futuristic space travelers dealing with the problems of tubes, I think E.E. Doc Smith had a story where they evacuated the air in a spaceship and turned it into a huge vacuum tube to save the day, but the downside of tubes made mechanical solutions and steam practical for a number of uses where a tube might be used but was too fragile.
      >
      > Then some guys at Bell Labs invented the transistor, and the world changed. Wiped out almost all the disadvantages of tubes - small, reasonably sturdy, long-lived, and put out very little heat. And electronics was off and running and left everything else behind. Transistors got smaller and could have multiple transistors put on a single chip of silicon, and the integrated circuit was born. If the number of transistors in the microprocessor running your computer was replaced with tubes, it would fill your house (and probably set it on fire from the heat until one burns out and you go looking for the bad tube).
      >
      > Conceptually, if steam tech had gotten the sort of breakthrough that the transistor represented, science and technology might have taken off in a very different direction. I have no idea what that breakthrough would be, but a compact hot air generator to the point of no longer requiring a boiler and thick tubing could have been the start.
      >

      Hydraulics for the clanks is one possible breakthrough. That way you'd only need something to keep the pressure up and the valves operational. I can envision a system where the pressurized hydraulic fluid (whatever they use) is simply shunted from chamber to chamber. There's going to be an entropic limit to how long you can do that before boosting the system again, but hey. That's what sparks are for, right?

      I don't see using vacuum on all of the airships because that is going to produce an obvious "sucking in," a concavity, on the part of the external skin, to varying extents depending on the composition of the skin. A total vacuum at atm pressure is going to crush all but the strongest of containers, and the weight of said container is going to completely negate any lift gained by the vacuum, no matter what you make it of. If it's strong enough to prevent crushing, it's going to outweigh the lift.

      Let me think on the hot air generator a bit.

      -Steph
    • jsheikg
      ... Not just fission but natural radioactive decay. An Alpha particle is just an electron-less helium atom. Years ago the subject came up about
      Message 44 of 44 , Sep 17, 2012
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        <snip>
        > Helium occurs anywhere there are ores containing fissile materials, as it is an end product of fission.
        <snip>

        Not just fission but natural radioactive decay.
        An Alpha particle is just an electron-less helium atom.
        Years ago the subject came up about why it was that there were no radio communications in the GG universe.
        One possible explanation is that the aether is swamped with local strong radio emissions, emissions that the clanks with no obvious means of power generation may tap.
        If Mad Science is the explanation for that radio flood then it could easily be that the radio is the byproduct of some Spark's attempt to generate helium by accelerating this natural radioactive decay.
        Or perhaps it's the other way around and the Spark just wanted to power his clanks without an on-board engine.
        Either way, huge amounts of helium could be trapped under just about any impermeable rock layer, just waiting to be tapped.
        I think this particular hypothesis is relevant considering Gil's apparently credible threat to Wooster.

        http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php?date=20060306
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