OT: What would YOU do?

OT: What would YOU do?

Postby Tom Mazanec on Tue Nov 07, 2006 12:04 pm

This board seems to attract a lot of people across the whole belief spectrum, unlike a lot of boards I know where there is a "party line" (might be good topic for its own thread). So I would like to pose this question for you, from a science fiction story I once read.
A small team of scientists present a report to the president, basically telling him it makes an easy planet buster bomb. Put some liters of three common and easily made chemicals together in the right proportions, insert a piece of heated metal and there is a new asteroid belt between Venus and Mars. They had tested the theory with nanoscopic quantities under the cover of "H-bomb tests" and it works. The theory is completely counter-intuitive and goes against the whole stream of scientific thought.
The president has the report and all notes of the scientists immediately destroyed, and summarily executes the scientists and anyone they may have spoken with.
What would you have done?
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Postby Deckard Canine on Tue Nov 07, 2006 12:49 pm

Are you asking what we would have done as the President, as a scientist, or as someone else who happens to know what happened?
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Postby Tom Mazanec on Tue Nov 07, 2006 12:52 pm

Sorry, my bad.
As the president (though you are free to take another role as well, if you want)..
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Postby RHJunior on Tue Nov 07, 2006 2:38 pm

Bury the information under a zillion layers of "top secret," and make the scientist and his assistants "disappear"--- someplace comfortable, with all the amenities and comforts government money can buy, but heavily, heavily guarded.... and have them working like hell on a countermeasure.

Beyond that, there's nothing you can do--- and even then you're only buying time. If one scientist discovered it, another soon will as well.... especially if the materials in question really is dirt-common. With that much power at his disposal you're lucky if the scientist or one of the dozens of disgruntled interns who helped him doesn't just grab some stuff off the shelf at the hardware store and hold the world hostage.....

On the flip side, its use as a rocket propellant could literally jump-start the space race all over again. The biggest weight-expense of interplanetary exploration is fuel. You're talking about a concoction that, if its power output can be controlled, would require only a liter or two to get to the far side of the solar system and back. And its application towards basic energy needs, if you could get it to run a generator, would make extraterrestrial settlements immediately feasible.

And the surest way to diminish the threat of a planet-buster bomb is to have the human race spread across more than a single planet...
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Postby Tom Mazanec on Tue Nov 07, 2006 2:46 pm

Smart answer (as always...at least from you, Ralph).
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Postby MikeVanPelt on Wed Nov 08, 2006 12:14 am

RHJunior wrote:... and have them working like hell on a countermeasure.

Beyond that, there's nothing you can do--- and even then you're only buying time. If one scientist discovered it, another soon will as well.... especially if the materials in question really is dirt-common.


OH, yeah! As someone pointed out long ago, Mother Nature is a blabbermouth.

With that much power at his disposal you're lucky if the scientist or one of the dozens of disgruntled interns who helped him doesn't just grab some stuff off the shelf at the hardware store and hold the world hostage.....


Especially if you start killing 'em, and don't get them all.

"Liters ==> planet buster"... that's a rather interestingly large energy source. Assuming density = that of water, and based on the fact that one megaton of blast = 47 grams of matter converted to energy, we're taking one liter of stuff converted completely into energy being ... oh, approximately 20 megatons of blast. We tested bombs bigger than that. The Soviet "Tsar Bomba" test was, what, 80 MT?

Volcanic eruptions (Mt. St. Helens, Tambora) have been much bigger than that, and even extinction-level asteroid impacts, like Chixlub Dinosaur-Bane, were many times bigger than that, and didn't constitute planet-busting.

So this stuff would have to be producing energy output orders of magnitude more energy than total conversoin of matter to energy. Neat trick, that. Were they somehow tapping energy out of interbrane space?

On the flip side, its use as a rocket propellant could literally jump-start the space race all over again.


Oh, yeah... Here's where it's really interesting

Even with total conversion, even with a magical conservation-of-momentum drive converting mass directly into kinetic energy of your ship, you can't approach very close to the speed of light. At .87c, your kinetic energy is equal to the rest mass energy of your ship.

UNLESS -- your ship is, somehow, externally powered. Beam propulsion, or, in the case of the McGuffin in this story, something that somehow releases a massively huge amount of energy from elsewhere.
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Postby Anthony Lion on Wed Nov 08, 2006 1:42 am

A direct Matter/anti-matter annihilation would probably result in that amount of energy...

Of course, you can't get a litre-can of anti-matter at Wal-mart or Target...
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Postby Atarlost on Wed Nov 08, 2006 6:26 am

Take over the world. If it can be scaled down to something that can look like a thermonuclear device it can be used to make tiny, undetectable citykilling micronukes. The only way to take the technology out of circulation is to rule all of humanity with an iron hand and ban one or more of the constituent chemichals. A worldwide ban on nail polish remover or whatever and unmonitered chemists may inconvenience a lot of people, but the planet blowing up would inconvenience more, therefore I must conquer the world as quickly as possible. Stage two is to get some eggs into another basket. Head for the stars. With something this phenomenally powerful it may be possible to get subjective voyage times down to something workable even for interstellar colonization. All resources not going to preventing anyone from getting the [formerly] common chemichals required go into terraforming mars, looking for earthlike planets elsewhere, and shipping people offworld.
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Postby Anthony Lion on Wed Nov 08, 2006 7:58 am

With a strong enough propellant, and massive enough engines, you don't need to worry that much about speeds, because then you can hollow out freakin big asteroids and use them as spacecraft or cities.
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Postby Deckard Canine on Wed Nov 08, 2006 8:10 am

If the most I can do is buy time, then I would have little reason to bother, particularly with deception and force if not violence against the innocent. I would simply pray that nobody misuses the discovery. If anyone does threaten to blow up the Earth, I will try to convince them otherwise, by appeasement if necessary. Of course, if multiple people use the same threat for conflicting agendas (and chances are that at least one would follow up on said threat), then prayer is about all that's left.

This answer is extremely hypothetical. Just wanting to be President in the first place would require a very different character for me.
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