Hi all...looking for some expert help

Discussion in 'About the Members' started by mjtobias, Jan 6, 2015.

  1. mjtobias Registered Member

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    Greetings,

    I'm currently working on a fantasy series that takes place on a planet far, far away (yeah, I know), and I'm looking for some expert advice. I'd like for the planet to exist in a binary star system and have multiple moons (one of the plot points involves highly unpredictable and unstable seas and tides). I fully admit I'm not much of a scientist, though I do have an amateur's interest in quantum mechanics and basic physics and math.

    In any event, my primary goal is to get the science right. Sure, I could make up an alternate universe where our rules of physics don't apply, but that seems like it would be even more complicated.

    Anyway, I look forward to interacting with many of you and hope that some of you can help me make my world credible. Peace!
     
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  3. Kittamaru Suppose it makes sense. Wearing a bit thin. Valued Senior Member

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    Sounds interesting! What, exactly, is it that you're looking to know/find out?
     
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  5. KilljoyKlown Whatever Valued Senior Member

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    We currently don't know what kind of life might be able to develop in a binary star system and I assume you plan on having intelligent beings in some kind of society where very interesting lives can develop a good plot. From what I've heard about solar systems is ours which has planets in close to circular orbits is very rare indeed. Most other systems have planets in more elliptical orbits which I would expect in most binary systems. Try and imagine what our climate would be like even if Earth's orbit was even slightly more elliptical than it is now. You also want multiple moons. Moons tends to stabilize a planets spin on its axis at least our one big moon works that way for Earth. If not for that Earth would have a much bigger wobble around its axis and that would rapidly change the seasons and climate cycle so much so that it would be very hard to come by several thousand years of mild climate for any type of intelligent society to ever develop in the first place. You could also have a scenario where one of the moons was captured and in an orbit opposite the spin of the planet. That would make for an interesting description say 3 moons orbiting with the planets spin and one orbiting against the spin.

    Anyway please give more details about your plot. I love good science fiction and have easily read well over a 1000 SciFi books. Your idea to make the science as believable as possible is a very good thing.
     
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  7. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member

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    Most people, over 90%, won't know fact from fiction so whatever you devise you aren't going to upset to many people that watch it. Keep that in mind when developing your script.
     
  8. mjtobias Registered Member

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    Well, to respond, it's actually not a script but a book series and the setting is more like Game of Thrones...imagine earth at about 1200 CE. The humanoids who inhabit this planet deal with sword and sorcery (though "magic" is quite rare) and the central characters are teen-agers (imagine a sort of weird cross between "Divergent" and "Game of Thrones" - it's a Young Adult series). The underlying themes deal with racism, classism, sexism, and mythology/religion. Instead of the classic "good vs. evil," however, I want to explore the idea that "evil" often depends on perspective and is often the result of oppression.

    Now, as to the physical world they inhabit, it will feature several interesting species which make the world quite challenging (yes, dragons play a part, but they are not your "GRR Martin" dragons and they are mostly "mythological" throughout the series). There are five different "peoples" who inhabit a rather large island continent and while they have developed boats and ships, they fear sailing far away because of the unpredictability of the seas and tides and fear of the unknown and tall tales that have developed about sea monsters. The five different "peoples" are from different "tribes" and have their own distinct beliefs and cultures. There are two lighter skinned tribes and 3 darker skinned tribes. There is a single monarchy that claims to rule the entire continent, though it is a very tenuous rule indeed (there are quite a lot of political machinations involved - perhaps not quite as much as GOT, but enough to keep the reader guessing). The continent has a 5000-year history, mostly oral, and mostly different depending on which people tell it. Each tribe has their own language, though there is a common tongue that all the "high-bred" speak. A darker more war-like people ruled the land for the first 2000 years of this history, but a light-skinned, more technologically-advanced people (read, developed metallurgy and the use of "magic") conquered them and has ruled for the last 3000 years.

    Anyway, that's a lot, lol, but should give you an idea. Honestly, the binary star system was just something I thought was cool. I assumed multiple moons would increase the instability of the seas and tides. I'm leaning toward having long periods of mild weather (say, 7 year intervals) with long periods of harsh winters, but not quite sure how that would be achieved. I've imagined a planet rotating around a sun and the second star rotating around the two of them at a slower rate, but it seems that would wipe out nights as well as (likely) making the planet uninhabitable when the second star was opposite the planet rather than the sun. But that's why I'm here

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    BTW, my avatar is the heroine, Voxanna, a fifteen-year-old mixed race girl.
     
  9. KilljoyKlown Whatever Valued Senior Member

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    Well that description has got me hooked. I would very much like to read your finished work. Remember it's a fantasy story and much of the science is in the realm of what may or may not be possible when we can actually observe many more solar systems in a way that tells us a lot more about worlds that may support life. I can tell by the description you gave that you have a very creative mind. I very much like the Game of Thrones. I very much like the plot outline you gave. The nice thing about two stars in a binary system is that the other star in the binary could be far enough away that it's gravity and brightness may not be much of a problem. Also, it's possible it will have it own planet with life possibilities. With a little research on your part you could learn enough about elliptical orbits and axis wobble to make the kind of climate cycle your looking for.
     
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  10. mjtobias Registered Member

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    Wonderful! I'm glad you like the concept. I hope to make the story engaging, fun, thought-provoking, and entertaining! There's nothing quite like creating your very own world

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    Hopefully, with the help of some fine folks here, I'll be better informed when the actual construction occurs.
     
  11. KilljoyKlown Whatever Valued Senior Member

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    If you want help from the regulars on this forum, it would be helpful for you to start posting in topics of interest or starting new topics and develop some dialogs with other posters and let them get to know you. Believe it or not it's hard to put much effort into helping someone who may not be here very long. For many of us this forum is a big part of our social life. I like the way you post from the little I've seen of it and I'm sure you fit right in if you want to.
     
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  12. mjtobias Registered Member

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    Thanks, Killjoy! Will do

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  13. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

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    Hi. Regarding your story setting: you'll need to be careful about the science of binary systems, and whether a stable and habitable planet can exist where you intend it.

    If you intend to use our solar system as a guide, and swap Jupiter for a red dwarf, then you're looking at something 100+ times the mass of Jupiter! and 10% the mass of the main star. And that would be a small red dwarf.
    It would probably look like a very bright star at that distance, but still fairly much a dot in the sky. Nothing like you see in Star Wars on Tatooine, for example.
    Depending on the relative size of the stars, it will more than likely result in a significant wobble for the main star, i.e. the barycentre of the two-sun system will possibly be outside the volume of the main sun, and the binary system could could well prove difficult to accommodate a stable orbit between them that is also habitable.

    Much easier would be what is called a circumbinary planet, which orbits two suns, rather than be in a system with both the planet and one sun orbiting another.

    So things to consider...
    Does the planet need to be between the two suns or can it orbit both? If the former, is there a plot reason for it, or just an aesthetic?
    Do both suns need to be of some reasonable size in the sky (e.g. Our sun and something slightly smaller) or is a bright dot in the sky sufficient? Again, if the former, is this aesthetic or plot driven?
    Does the entire planet need to be habitable, or can there be zones (e.g. Polar, equatorial) that are habitable and others not, or is the entire population nomadic in that they need to keep moving around the planet as the planet moves in its orbit? In which case they would likely have evolved to cope with that - unless they are descendants of a human colony that fell into barbarism for a while, and is now on its long road back to technology etc.

    Once you establish what you can and can not work with, you may want to seek out a three-body simulator to see if its possible, and what a stable orbit might look like (e.g. Massively eccentric, reasonably circular, periodicity etc)

    Just some thoughts.

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  14. mjtobias Registered Member

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    Yes, I gathered this from interaction on another forum. It seems to me that orbiting two stars would present other problems, however, like wildly varying temperatures (extreme cold and extreme heat) though as with all things, I don't really know and may be wrong.

    There is no particular reason for the planet to be between two suns other than my desire to introduce a world that is both familiar (earth-like) and quite foreign. Of course, there are other ways to do this, but I must confess the idea of two suns has always intrigued me.

    Actually, a little of both. The setting is what would be equivalent to earth's Middle Ages, roughly 1200-1400 CE. The world needs to be familiar enough so that I don't have to describe every minute detail - apple trees, rats, flies, rainbows, et. al. are all the same. There will be different fauna and flora, however, but it can't be so different that the reader (it's for a young adult audience) grows exhausted from the Dickensian descriptions that would be necessary. At the same time, I want it to be clear that this is an alien world in another part of the universe...or perhaps another "verse" in the multi-verse.

    My setting involves a huge Pangaea-like continent on one side of the planet and a smaller continent on the other side. Each continent has islands scattered around it. Certainly, the large continent could have uninhabitable zones, though they would likely be quite small. I don't see the continent stretching to both poles, though it could extend to one or the other.

    Thanks a ton! I appreciate all the feedback I can get

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  15. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Sure. But in a universe as large as this one, there will still be zillions of planets with circular orbits. If that's what's needed for a civilization to arise, there will be lots of civilizations.

    My concern is that these planets will be quite far from each other; possibly only a few in every galaxy. Unless Tobias is going to give his people faster-than-light travel, these civilizations will never meet, and probably never even know of each other's existence... and it would have to be very fast indeed, like the "warp drive" that the spacefaring civilizations in Star Trek use. And even that is quite limited: "maximum warp" is only about 10,000x the speed of light. That sounds great until you start measuring the size of galaxies... and the even greater voids between them.
    Those seasons would be a challenge to the process of evolution, to create lifeforms that can tolerate such an enormous variation in temperature! The maximum seasonal delta on Earth is only about 100 degrees F/60C, and in the few places where that delta actually occurs, like Death Valley, living things are not plentiful.

    There have been a few events that caused a greater delta, typically asteroid collisions which pump so much dust and detritis into the atmosphere that sunlight is greatly reduced and temperatures plummet. Last time this happened, the bigger dinosaurs all became extinct, allowing birds and mammals to evolve. Next time, our technology will probably save a lot of people, but what are they gonna eat? Can we build enough indoor hydroponic farms fast enough?

    Well shit, I guess I've just given you a scenario to use for the plot in your next novel.

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    A lot of people who read sci-fi are not nerds like us. They don't know enough science to critique a novel.
    Yup.
    So the intelligent, tool-building creatures on this planet have races? What a shame. A lot of people read sci-fi for escapism, and would rather not have to deal with the daily problems of Earth in their recreational reading.

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  16. mjtobias Registered Member

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    As Star Trek has shown us, it's quite possible to be both entertaining and enlightening at the same time. Oftentimes, in the midst of escaping, we can be quite surprisingly disabused of our silly illusions.

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  17. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

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    It's not known whether a (near) circular orbit is required or not - the circular orbit gives stability of temperature, but life can survive in extremes, and could possibly evolve to cope with extremes. They would just perhaps be rather different than us.
    Planets in the goldilocks zones are abundant - likely many billions in our galaxy alone.
    It's a relatively simple exercise to develop a plot-device that accounts for the proximity of civilisations, if that is what one wishes... remnants of an ancient civilisation spreading out being one - populating planets in relative proximity etc.
    A challenge, sure, but not impossible. Hibernation during extremes would be a possible evolutionary trait that allows creatures to survive long periods, for example. Excessive heat is the killer, at least for our type of life, possibly as it is water-based. But if the climate varied between temperate and very cold, then there are obvious avenues for survival: hibernation, or simply living underground near thermal vents / volcanoes etc.
    Algae to the rescue!

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    Simple answer: no - many would die.
    But this is somewhat different scenario to a cyclical and predictable change on an annual basis.
    Granted, the main thing is that it is a good story, and that it is well written. The science can come later, I guess. But if one sets their stool out from the outset as wanting to write a novel that contains plausible sci-fi...
    Wow - that's a rather incredible generalisation on your part, I think.
    Escapism does not mean "void of any daily problems of Earth". That may be what one person wants to escape to, but others just want to escape from a world that has limited possibility to one where those possibilities may differ. Sci-fi and fantasy are rife with "daily problems of Earth" and are often set in realms and situations that aim to highlight them, exaggerate them, or simply to make the world, the environment, not quite as alien as all that, and in doing so say something about those issues, that they are not human-centric, or earth-centric, but perhaps intelligence-centric, or civilisation-centric.
    I for one enjoy reading stories that contain dressed-up versions of issues that we have today. It can put new angles on them, it can be used to discuss them, to comment on them. Sci-fi and fantasy can be just vehicles to discuss morality. That doesn't necessarily make it any less escapist.

    But if you really don't want to deal with any daily problems of Earth then maybe you should only read novels aimed at the under five?

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  18. KilljoyKlown Whatever Valued Senior Member

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    Most people seem to think a galaxy such as the Milkyway will have millions of worlds that could support life. Then they say we have a couple of hundred billion stars to work with. But I have to tell you that is not true. The lions share of stars will be in the central portion of the galaxy where they will be clumped closer together and will have greater radiation exposure making life more difficult to form in the first place. Most of the stars in the outer portion of the galaxy will be a little short on heavier elements because the star density wouldn't support very many stars that would go super or hypernova that are needed to produce the heavy elements. I can't be sure how many elements are necessary for life as we know it, but which elements could we actually live without?

    So now we have a galactic goldilocks zone and have eliminated at least 50% of all stars in the galaxy. Now of all those stars in the goldilocks zone any that were first or second generation stars would also be very short on heavy elements. Because about 90% of the stars are red dwarfs a large unknown percentage could fall into that first or second generation category.

    You might think if even 10% of the stars could support planets capable of supporting life, that would still be a lot. But of those you would still need rocky worlds with liquid water and we don't seem to be finding many of them in our star neighborhood.
     
  19. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    When my ex was working on her master's degree in literature, she took a course in children's lit. She came out of it convinced that stories for children are some of the finest ever written. I was intrigued and read a few of the books she recommended, and I have to say that I agree!

    I'll never get the closing line of "The House at Pooh Corner" out of my head:

    "Somewhere in the forest, a little boy and his bear will always be playing."

    Life really can be that sweet and simple, even for grownups.
     

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