[DWJ] Tropes

Dorian E. Gray israfel at eircom.net
Thu Dec 7 16:50:18 EST 2006

Minnow said...

> >On Thu, Dec 07, 2006 at 08:08:12PM -0000, Dorian E. Gray wrote:
>>>When an author tells me that the heroine's spaceship is eleventy-billion
>>>kilometres from the other spaceship, I tend to snarl, "why can't you use
>>>light-years, you stupid bugger?", and to decide that the stupid bugger
>>>probably thinks a light-year is a unit of time.
> (oh, let's not be pikers: if one is really lucky they talk about billions
> of light-years, and can be ignored to a man, woman and bug-eyed monster. 
> A
> billion light-years away just means "further than the corner-shop".)

A billion light-years away means "further away than can be reached in a 
human lifetime", and how can you even see the other sodding spaceship at 
that distance?  Even if you have a nifty FTL drive that lets you cover those 
billion light-years in two days, why do you care how far away the other 
space-ship is until you're close enough to crash into it (or shoot at it)?

> Roger wrote:
>>Well, there's still a factor of nearly 10,000 difference between 10^9km
>>and one light year.

True.  This is why fractions are useful and units such as the light-second 

>>Of course, what matters isn't the distance at all - it's the time it
>>would take to cover that distance. Fictional spacedrives vary so much
>>that one author's quarter-AU can be a longer distance than another's
>>seventeen parsecs...

Also true.  Which is why (as I didn't mention earlier), I also get pissed 
off with distance in space in general, because who cares how far it is, 
really?  The question is, how soon can I get there?  Or, what are my chances 
of pulling off a spectacular manoeuvre and *not* crashing into it?  Or, is 
it in shooting range yet?

> I would expect one quarter of one-tenth of a nanometre to be rather 
> shorter
> than anyone's parsec, but I'm sure you're right.

On a mildly random note, my very favourite measure of velocity is furlongs 
per fortnight.  I think more writers ought to use it in their SF.  (The 
speed of light is about 1.8 terafurlongs per fortnight, btw.)

Until the sky falls on our heads...

Dorian E. Gray
israfel at eircom.net

"I will not trust you, I,
Nor longer stay in your curst company.
Your hands than mine are quicker for a fray;
My legs are longer though to run away."
-Wm. Shakespeare, "A Midsummer Night's Dream" 

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