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Old 03-05-2013, 03:26 AM   #41
Hans Rancke-Madsen
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
Default Re: Where's the Helium?

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Originally Posted by Brett View Post
Yes. Just what is it that makes them TL3 when the locals have motorbikes, cheap steel machetes, and mobile phones?
That question goes to the root of the problem with the canonical definition of tech levels, which is what can be produced and maintained locally[*]. First of all, the definition is pretty much useless for most roleplaying purposes. Who cares if the locals produce their own grav vehicles or import them? The salient point for most roleplaying purposes is whether or not they have grav vehicles at all. Secondly, there are scores and hundreds of canonical worlds that don't fit with the definition. The most common example is probably the mining colony where they dig out valuable ores with imported machines. By the canonical definition such worlds should have a TL of 0. Then there are the worlds with populations too small to maintain its stated tech level. Thirdly, the canonical link between ability to manufacture and ability to maintain and repair is a lot more tenuous than implied. A world that imports machinery in large amounts would evolve the infrastructure to maintain the imports.
[*] There's another canonical definition that is slightly different, but I've forgotten what it was and where I found it.
The alternative definition that I submit is a lot more useful is "the level of technology used by a sizable majority of the local population". A TL3 society can have rich people who imports TL15 stuff, but most of the population make do with TL3 stuff. Visitors can easily find people to repair their TLX equipment on any world with a TL of X+, but to get it repaired on any world with a lower TL requires tracking down someone who has the knowledge. It's not automatic.


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Old 03-05-2013, 07:10 AM   #42
johndallman
 
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Default Re: Where's the Helium?

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Originally Posted by Flyndaran View Post
Helium has no high tech use, only medium and low tech use. For it to even have that, it must economically compete effectively with high tech imports.
Helium has some uses that seem unlikely to go away at high tech levels. One is in gas mixtures for when humans need to breathe at high pressure, such as deep-sea diving (reducible by automation, but unlikely to go away completely). Another is as a pressuriser for reactive fluids, because of its low mass and inertness. A third is for testing gas seals, because if something is helium-tight, no other gas will escape.

However, none of these require a lot of the stuff, and it may be cheaper to produce it on low-tech worlds with natural biospheres by extraction from natural gas than by scooping it out of gas giants.
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Old 03-05-2013, 07:25 AM   #43
Fred Brackin
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Default Re: Where's the Helium?

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Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
Helium has some uses that seem unlikely to go away at high tech levels. One is in gas mixtures for when humans need to breathe at high pressure, such as deep-sea diving (reducible by automation, but unlikely to go away completely). .
Also reducible by superstrong submersible hulls. Trav tech can produce subs with very deep crush depths. Some of these have M-Drives and it calls SDBs.

Yet another reason why the playtest for GT:Starships ran 5000 messages.
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Old 03-05-2013, 09:05 AM   #44
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Default Re: Where's the Helium?

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Originally Posted by Fred Brackin View Post
Also reducible by superstrong submersible hulls. Trav tech can produce subs with very deep crush depths. Some of these have M-Drives and it calls SDBs.
Helium mixtures are used for deep diving to a maximum depth of about 300
meters, superstrong submersible hulls would not change that at all - we are
already able to build hulls for a depth of 10,000+ meters.
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Old 03-05-2013, 10:44 AM   #45
Anthony
 
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Default Re: Where's the Helium?

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Originally Posted by Hans Rancke-Madsen View Post
The alternative definition that I submit is a lot more useful is "the level of technology used by a sizable majority of the local population".
From a gaming perspective, the useful definition is "the level of technology the PCs are likely to run into", but that's pretty close to the level used by the local population.
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Old 03-05-2013, 10:58 AM   #46
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Default Re: Where's the Helium?

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Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
However, none of these require a lot of the stuff, and it may be cheaper to produce it on low-tech worlds with natural biospheres by extraction from natural gas than by scooping it out of gas giants.
It probably is, but as soon as someone creates a steady market with a viable profit, an offworld source can come in and undercut the market. Not for a long period, but probably long enough to drive the local producer either out of business or into a deep slowdown. The offworld source is only seeking short term profit (players, for example, needing a quick infusion of cash).

With that possibility no one is going to invest much in a helium extraction operation on a low tech world. A vicious cycle but it might explain some aspects of why there even ARE low tech worlds around.
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Old 03-05-2013, 11:07 AM   #47
Hans Rancke-Madsen
 
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Default Re: Where's the Helium?

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Originally Posted by Anthony View Post
From a gaming perspective, the useful definition is "the level of technology the PCs are likely to run into", but that's pretty close to the level used by the local population.
Exactly. Though I think my definition is also more useful for world-building purposes.

(Plus, the Scouts are probably not going to adopt "what technology are wandering adventures likely to run into" as their standard. ;-) )


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Old 03-05-2013, 11:39 AM   #48
Anthony
 
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Default Re: Where's the Helium?

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Originally Posted by Hans Rancke-Madsen View Post
Exactly. Though I think my definition is also more useful for world-building purposes.

(Plus, the Scouts are probably not going to adopt "what technology are wandering adventures likely to run into" as their standard. ;-) )
Reasonable scouts are far more likely to adopt the equivalent of the Human Development Index than any 'tech level'; the Traveller concept of tech level isn't credible for a setting with trade (Traveller has significant narrative roots in the cinematic British Empire, with Brave Explorers heading into Darkest Africa to encounter Primitive Tribes and amaze them with Advanced Technology, but it doesn't make sense in a thousand year old empire which hasn't expanded its borders for hundreds of years). T4 was a horrendously bad product, but as a setting M0 to M200 or so is a much better match for the original concept of the game.
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Old 03-05-2013, 12:00 PM   #49
Hans Rancke-Madsen
 
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Default Re: Where's the Helium?

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Originally Posted by Anthony View Post
...the Traveller concept of tech level isn't credible for a setting with trade (Traveller has significant narrative roots in the cinematic British Empire, with Brave Explorers heading into Darkest Africa to encounter Primitive Tribes and amaze them with Advanced Technology, but it doesn't make sense in a thousand year old empire which hasn't expanded its borders for hundreds of years).
If it's good enough for Poul Anderson, Beam Piper, and Jack Vance, it's good enough for me.


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Old 03-05-2013, 01:10 PM   #50
Fred Brackin
 
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Default Re: Where's the Helium?

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Originally Posted by rust View Post
Helium mixtures are used for deep diving to a maximum depth of about 300
meters, superstrong submersible hulls would not change that at all - we are
already able to build hulls for a depth of 10,000+ meters.
Sorry, I thought "superstrong powered hardsuits " was an obvious follow-on. Recreational scuba may remain in the period of the 3I but I doubt anybody does that to 300 meters.

I mentioned Starships but I leartned a lot about gas mixtures during the playtests for Atlantis, TS:Under Pressure and Blue Planet. What I mostly learned though is that they're a lot of trouble and still quite limited. A diving hardsuit based off of powered armor tech would probably make deep sea diving with special gas mixetures obsolete on the basis of simplicity alone.
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